Wow, where to start. As many of you know, I was really nervous about today's race because until last week, I had only trained on pavement and completed my first 5k just last month. Additionally, I have had little time to train at all over the last few weeks and only twice on the "single track" type trails that I would be racing on in this 5K.
For those of you unfamiliar with single track, here is a pretty accurate representation:
We are talking trails banked on both sides, trees encroaching the edge, thick roots crisscrossing the path. If you're lucky, a few tenths of mile might look as nice as this:
And to top it off, I almost broke my toe last Sunday and was was worried I wouldn't even be able to compete at all. But I decided I WOULD do it. I had signed up, so I would follow through despite feeling woefully under-prepared and slightly injured. Even if I had to walk it and come in last, I would get it done. Even if I came in last. Someone has to come in last: may as well be be.
So I got my bib and got ready to race!
The first mile went pretty good. I quickly realized it would be a much more challenging 5k than the first when the hills got steeper, the track got narrower and the roots started jumping out to trip me, but I kept a steady pace for the first mile.
Now enter the big trouble with this particular race....
This event consisted of a 5K AND a 1/2 marathon. I had already been slightly irked by a comment I heard one of the marathoners make to a fellow runner as I passed her to line up at the start. With a snicker: "I told you its not hard to spot who's hear for the 5K vs. the actual 1/2 marathon." I so wanted to stop and ask exactly what it was she meant by that, but it was time to race, so I shook it off and started to run.
They gave us 5kers a 5-10 minute head start (the hubby says 5 but I think it it was probably closer to 10), but as you might imagine, us 5K newbies with our 15 minute race pace had some difficulty staying ahead of the HERD of 1/2 marathoners running the same course for the first two miles. So for at least half a mile, I am dodging aforementioned tree roots, loose rocks, trying to keep my footing on uneven terrain while hugging the right side of the path as closely as possible due to the constant barrage of "Passing on your left"s.
This path is as wide as a bicycle's handlebars. Trying to fit two people on it is a challenge and definitely made for slow going for that half a mile (at least for me-the marathoners didn't seem to have much trouble). Now I will say MANY of these athletes were very polite and passed as painlessly as possible, often offering a "You're doing great" or "Looking good" when recognizing me as a struggling 5ker.
Then came a curt shout, "Passing on your left!" Ok, I hugged the right. Again, "Passing on your left!" Ok, there is a cliff and a tree on my right and if I get any closer my shins will scrape one or the other, but I snugged up a little closer to them both anyway. The finally, I hear "I said, passing on your left!" And that's when a firm female hand planted itself on my left shoulder and SHOVED me into the nearest tree. Off which I BOUNCED and then fell down amongst the rocks and roots I had been so good at avoiding the whole race (thank goodness there were no other runners immediately behind to trip over me.) I now had a freshly twisted ankle to go with my almost broken toe and a nice bleeding scrape on my other knee.
Let me make it clear, I have never been in a fight in my life and I am 33 years old. That's a long run of passivity, but as far as running goes, I will keep training. I will get faster' I will get A LOT faster. I will be able to catch the b%$% next time and beat the holy living hell out of her.
As it were, I just had to walk off the limp for a few minutes and then get back to the race. Thank goodness at the two mile mark, the 5K and 1/2 course branched off in different directions so I was at least in *my* race again and finally started passing some people of my own (politely without injuring anybody) during the last mile. Good songs on the iPod, I was able to keep at a steady jog with the exception of just a few crazy hills and one log bridge. And then I popped out out of the woods-running-and saw the finish line .2 miles away. You would think this would bring relief and elation, but I am pretty sure it was the longest .2 miles I have ever had to run. Thank goodness the hubby actually met me where the trail came out to the gravel road to the finish and ran alongside me (on the other side of the divider) cheering me on. I wanted to walk so badly and it was his voice telling to me to keep going that made me keep jogging all the way across the finish line at 47:16.
This was without a doubt the most challenging physical activity I have ever attempted and I definitely see more trail runs in my future, however I think I will stick to *dedicated* 5ks because the combined race definitely took a some of the fun out of it (and I am convinced I would have finished sooner if not for all the awkward passing herds and injury).
I finished 3 minutes slower than my first 5K, but honestly this was my better race. This race made the pavement 5K seem like an easy 2 mile training run on a cool day. Loosing *only* three minutes on it was a total shocker! And then came the biggest shocker.... As the hubby and I were making our way to the Jeep, we started hearing awards called out and he suggested we stay to see if I had won anything. I told him there was no way I was getting one, so I didn't see the point. He shook his head and insisted "You never know." And suddenly they call out my name: 3rd place in Female age group 29-34! Me! I PLACED. I got a medal to along with my sprained ankle and skinned knee. Somehow makes everything better.