Saturday, May 3, 2014

race recap: road ends 5 miler - my first trail race!!

i am so behind... massively! 

but its never too late to recap or share, so here's my experience with the road ends 5 mile trail race that was last weekend. 

this was my first real trail race. i did maybe 3 miles of total trail running to prepare. i also, at most, ran only up to 4 miles. i was going into this race feeling utterly and totally unprepared and out of shape. 

but, i was in good spirits race morning. i figured there was nothing to lose (because there wasn't) and i had been looking forward to a chance to try a trail race that wasn't an overwhelming distance. the race took place along crooked creek path - its a portion of the pinckney state recreation area that starts and finishes along silver lake. its a beautiful place to walk, run, hike and enjoy a day. places like this are why i love living in michigan! 

the race started early - 7:40am. i know, its not nearly as early as disney races, or some other marathons, but for me, 7:40 was early. the marathoners and ultra runners started a few minutes before that, so i'm complaining on behalf of all us non-early bird runners :) 

regardless of the start time, it was a gorgeous morning to get outside and run. 

silver lake

my pre-race fuel consisted of accelerade, pedialyte and a little caffeine from a monster energy drink (rehab pink lemonade, its the best). i was pleasantly surprised that this was enough to get me through the race without feeling like i was crashing or needing more carbs. i thought for sure i was going to fade out later in the race, but it didn't happen. hooray for proper fueling! 

pre-race. sleepy, but happy to be there

there were no corrals, since this was a small race, but they did try to start us in waves based on anticipated per mile pace. i ended up in the front of the third wave (aka the slower runners). brandon went ahead in the second wave since he was going to use this as a time trial of sorts for his 10k training. we started off on grass, which took me back to my high school cross country days and i felt extremely nostalgic. the portion of the course on grass ended pretty fast, but that nostalgia came in handy at the end of the race - which i'll get to later.

the first mile of the race was pretty much all up hill. the race director, in fact, told us before the race that this 5 mile chunk was the hardest 5 miles out of the whole trail system used for the races that day. glorious. i took the first mile slow, anticipating the hills and not wanting to burn out. this was a good strategy, and i quickly realized that i would need to think about my overall race strategy differently because of how narrow the paths were.

during a road race (which is my normal cup of tea), you can pass runners at just about any point, because the road is so wide. during a trail race, if you're not running in a single file line, you're either in the woods or rolling down a steep hill or cliff. single file keeps you on the trail and relatively safe. this meant i had to strategize when i was going to make moves to pass people. 

i found this to be very, very fun. 

i had two white rabbits tagged and my goal was to keep up with them. when one of my rabbits tripped on a root and bit it less than two miles into the race, i had to change my target. that was my first reality check to my own mortality and the fact i needed to be watching my feet so i didn't suffer the same fate.

hill after hill after butt burning hill, we made it through the trails. it really was a thrill to run through some of nature's finest creations, but i felt that i couldn't take it all in because i was so focused on where my feet were falling and trying not to run into the person a foot in front of me. someday i'll go back to the trails and do a leisurely walk/run to take it all in.

while i did make some gutsy moves and try to pass people on the hills, i also spent a lot of time conserving energy and "drafting" behind people. this was the tactic i took in the very last mile. i knew that there were about 4 women who were likely in my age group right in front of me. i could either try and push past them now, and hope they couldn't catch me at the finish, or i could draft behind them, save my energy and then give a huge kick in the last 400m of the race.

i took the second strategy.

brandon described seeing me appear over the hill from the finish line "like an animal coming out of the woods." as soon as i saw the clearing and the grass and i knew the finish line was maybe 400m ahead, i took off like a banshee. my arms were pumping, my legs were feverishly pushing into the ground and my face was chiseled with determination. all i could think of in my head was pushing as hard as i could like i was in the final moments of a cross country race, "get that shirt, get that shirt." this is also known as "pass the person in front of you", and then the next. i miss cross country so much - i think this race brought some of that experience back for me. 

if words can't describe my version of beast mode, i think this finish line picture says it all:

i'm in the lower right, finishing like an animal

i passed all of my targets and was beyond thrilled with my finish. i tore it up and felt successful. for the first time in a very long time, i felt confident as a runner again.

i missed placing in my age group by one position (age group awards were 5 deep, and i placed 6th), but i wasn't disappointed. i was happy with how well i did and considering this was my first real trail race, i thought i nailed it. 

start and finish line chute

this was a tough course, but i loved every second of it and i would 100% do this again. the 5 mile race did feel a little bit like the red headed step child of the race series. we didn't get tech shirts or medals like the other distances did, and even other runners were saying "i'm doing the puny 5 miler." let me say that this race was in no way puny and i am not a fan of the elitism that can come with some distance fans. anyone who gets out the door and does any distance is a warrior in my book. rant, over.

i'm not sure if running on trails will help me become a better 5k runner, but this certainly was a fun way to kick off my 2014 racing season!

happy to have finished strong


  1. I was also at this race (not racing but watching my husband at his first trail race) I saw your singlet and wanted to say "hi" but felt silly. Loved your recap and if i see you again i will say hello. Congrats on a great first trail race!

    1. Oh gosh! Don't feel silly! I hope I wasn't doing something stupid when you saw me. Haha

      Hope you enjoyed the day! It was pretty chilly, but such a nice morning. Did you go into the woods to spectate?

    2. You were NOT, and no we didn't get into the woods to spectate but i laughed when you wrote you were tailing a "rabbit" and they bit it - i was wondering if that was my husband as he bit it early on. Was one of them a middle aged man?? i will say hello if i ever see you again! happy trails!

  2. Congrats on a great race! Sounds like you had the perfect race strategy - a kick at the end is always a great feeling. Should come in handy when you race some speedy 5ks this summer!

    1. Thank you! And YES! I was really excited about my strong kick because I had the same thought about it being key for my 5ks this summer!

  3. That picture is awesome! Look at you!!! I stumbled over where you said pedialyte as a prerace thing. That doesn't bother your stomach?

    1. :) Thanks, lady! I don't think pedialyte messes with my stomach! I use it all the time for stomach bugs and extra hydration. If it messes with my stomach... then I'm really screwing myself. LOL


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