This race report begins with a first. As a couple, we decided to make our first camping trip together at Sleepy Hollow State Park, the location of the trail race. We received a tent and other camping equipment for Christmas, so had been planning all year to use it, but had yet to find the perfect time. This race seemed to be it. So on Friday (procrastinating as usual) we grocery shopped, packed our things, and with a few trips back to the house to grab things we forgot, we eventually made our way to Laingsburg and Sleepy Hollow.
We eventually managed to set up our tent (we didn’t practice at home). Then we walked over to registration and received our shirts and bibs for the race. I will say this. It was super convenient, maybe only a nice eight minute walk from our campsite. We finished setting up, Bruno bought some wood, and I started making dinner: Turkey and swiss sandwiches cooked over the fire and mashed sweet potatoes. Nothing fancy. I was more concerned about making sure I got plenty of carbs, thus the sweet potatoes.
Our human neighbors were initially noisy, but nothing obnoxious though. By ten pm everything was mostly quiet. It was perfect. The bugs were a different story. Loud. Obnoxious. I wished for them to be eaten by some wild predator. I put earplugs in and eventually fell asleep.
We woke up at 6:30ish. This was one of the best parts of staying in the campsite. After a few 4am wake ups with long drives to races, it was nice to just be there. Bruno made coffee and oatmeal for breakfast. We walked over the starting line around 7:40 and met up with some friends. It was all pretty relaxed, no rushing around, and no problems. I was grateful. I am grateful.
And now, the race. They announced the waves and I could actually hear the paces. This was nice, because the last few I could not hear the paces and I think in Trail-half started further back than I should have and ended up stuck in back-ups a lot the time. This did not happen to me once during the entire Legend race.
I had a plan. I was going to start around 10:30/mile pace and speed up. I did not expect to be able to run under 10 minute pace, because I ran 11:11 at Trail-half and I think over 10 minute pace for the Dirty Duo. I tried to think conservatively. It didn’t work.
My first mile was ten minutes. I tried to get myself to slow down, but couldn’t. I felt good. But I also know that you can’t judge a mile by the first run. So I decided to see if I could keep the pace for the next 3-4 miles and evaluate pace from there. I maintained the pace. It felt perfect. Hard enough to question whether I could hold it, but easy enough that I felt good. I didn’t feel like I was working too hard or was going to burn out. The fourth mile was the hilliest and I easily maintained the pace. I was excited. I began to speed up only a little bit, ten seconds per mile faster. I passed Bruno. Then I passed our friend Mike.
The next several miles flew by. I did not listen to any music, but focused on pace. Aside for my last mile, my fastest mile was mile seven at 9:42 minutes. I tripped several times and fell hard only once. I was ok, but with my ego a little bruised, I hopped back up. Another runner asked if I was ok and I responded, “I’m just so happy to be out here.” I continued to run just fine. Nothing was sore. Everything was going perfect. Until mile nine.
My legs began to get a little tired. I told myself to just ignore it. Around this point I think we started leaving the woods and head out into some grassy areas. It was hot and I struggled during these points only to be able to pick it back up once we ran back into the woods. Mile 9 was a little over ten minutes, mile 10 a little slower, mile 11 even slower, and by mile 12 I admit I was beginning to phone it in.
Here were my excuses: I already am beating my goal time. I already am running faster than I had planned on running, even at this slower pace. I probably already earned myself at least a third place age group award (I researched the paces for age groupers last year and yeah, an age group award was one of my goals). I already (probably) hit all of my “A” goals, so what did it matter anymore?
At this point, with about a mile left my friend Mike caught up with me. I credit him for my strong finish. I cannot remember what he said, but it something along the lines of let’s finish this thing. My pace jumped up. Faster and faster. We ran together for about a half mile, maybe a little more. Then he sped off. I kept the pace, but tried to increase a little bit more, a little bit more. I could not see the finish line so I was afraid of sprinting off and not being able to finish strong.
When I saw it, I bolted. I sprinted in. My last mile was around 9 minute pace. It was my fastest mile and it hurt the worst. As I said, left to my own devices I probably would have ran it at around 10:20 until Mike caught up with me. Shame is powerful, people. Very powerful.
My time was 2:09:10, averaging 9:57 pace. I was shocked. I was expecting and planned for 2:15. That was my race goal and it was almost six minutes faster than what I thought I was capable of doing. My time was only one minute slower than my road half-marathon PR. It was twenty minutes faster than my time at Trail-half marathon, but that could be because that trail was harder (at least in my opinion). I could have cried. I picked up my medal and my huge beer glass for finishing the Serious Series.
Bruno finished a couple minutes after me. I did not have time to regroup after finishing to cheer him in. All of us in our group agreed the race went fine until miles eight and nine. Around then, most of us started struggling. We stood around as they started announcing overall and age group awards. When they began announcing 25-29 women, I was first. I was surprised, but pumped. I love the little age group mason jars.
Tired and sweaty, but very happy.
We did it!
Finishing this Series was one of my main 2018 goals. I remember signing up for it and being scared that it would not happen. I was scared that I would get injured. I was scared something would come up and I would not have the nerve for it. I get it. I follow a lot of runners who mainly do ultramarathons or marathons. I’m not fast. I want to do long, but I’m not sure if I am ready for it yet. At the beginning of this year, I was not sure if I really was a “runner” anymore. I had not raced in years. Now I’ve done three races. I’ve not only finished them, but I have finished them well. I have one more trail half on the calendar. I’m still hoping to do a triathlon. I feel like a runner again. I feel like an athlete. I feel strong. These races went better than I could have ever expected when I signed up for them back in January. I’m so grateful.
Next up: RunWoodstock trail half-marathon. This will be a return to Hell – Hell, Michigan that is. I’m not sure how much I will train for it as I am planning on it being a fun camping weekend with a race rather than a race weekend with camping.