Trail Factor Half-Marathon Race Re-Cap
Running in Forest Park: they call it “going into the green”. No matter what time of year, whether pouring rain or bright and sunny, while running on the trails in Forest Park you are submerged in the greenest of green forest scenery. The beautiful scenery is one of the reasons why Forest Park is one of my favorite place to run and why,on a whim, I signed up for the Trail Factor Half Marathon. While I have completed runs that were longer in distance, and I have done short trail races before, this was my longest ever trail race. It was also the first-ever run that I truly invested myself in, and I really dedicated myself to training for this race.
The night before the race I picked up my mom at the airport, and then headed out to Dick’s Kitchen for a healthy pre-race dinner. I was grouchy at both my mom and at Ben when we got home from dinner (pre-race jitters) so I drank some water and put myself to bed.
The morning of the race, I woke up feeling great. I drank some water, had a cup of coffee, and my usual pre-run breakfast of banana, Chia Seed Peanut Butter Bliss, and honey. We all piled into the car, drove to Forest Park, and Ben and Mom dropped me off at the the Leif Erickson trail head. I walked a quarter mile to the start line, hit up the bathroom line, and then
stood around awkwardly mingled until it was time to go.
And then we were off. Running up,up, up on the Wild Cherry Trail. I had started many of my training runs on this exact part of the course so the uphill start didn’t seem to bother me too much. But once the trail flatted out,I realized that I wasn’t doing so great. It was still early in the race but my breathing was really shallow, my legs felt funny, and I just wasn’t “in the groove”. Pre-race jitters? Started out too fast? Probably a combo of the two. I slowed down, tried to tell myself to relax and enjoy the beautiful scenery, and then, finally, I started to feel like I was running comfortably.
But just as soon as I started to get into the groove, the trail curved up and we were going up….. and up….. and up a really steep hill that seemingly had no end. It was still early in the race and I knew that I had a few more climbs later in the course, so I made the decision to walk the uphill (a strategy that I continued for most of the race). Finally things seemed to flatten out a bit and I continued between running and walking, but it was a slog. At this point I really started to doubt myself and my decision making. Maybe this is too hard? Maybe I should drop? Where the heck am I? Why did I sign up for this? Just as I was in the middle of all this negative head talk, I hit the aid station at the 5.74 mile mark. At the aid station I noticed a sign that said “1.9 miles to next aid station”
“1.9 miles is nothing” I told myself, I can definitely make it to the next station. The next stretch of the race was rolling and beautiful. It seemed like I zoomed through this part of the race because before I knew it I was at the second aid station. After a little rehydration and refuel, I headed off from the second aid station with a boost in my confidence. I immediately started a long downhill stretch on Firelane 1, hit a few slippery spots, and had to slow down a few times to make sure I didn’t eat it on the downhill. From Firelane 1, the course popped onto the Leif Erickson trail, where I continued on a steady downhill. Then it was back up the Aspen trail where I decided to walk again. After the Aspen trail, we popped back on the Wildwood Trail and I was at the last aid station. Refuel, rehydrate, and only 2.2 miles to the finish line! I started off from the last aid station feeling strong, but somewhere down the trail I hit another uphill jaunt and I had to walk again. Then the trail started heading down hill and I knew I was really close to the finish line. I also knew that I would see Ben and my mom soon so I started running as fast as I could, down down down until I crossed the finish line.
2:36.37 finish time!
I was elated to be finished, but as soon as the elation wore off, I suddenly started to feel my legs. It felt like all my muscles from my lower back to my calves were spasming, and a wave of nausea started to hit. We walked slowly and silently off the trail, and Ben went ahead to grab the car. I nibbled on a little banana and sipped some water in the car. When we got home, I had to lay down in the shower. As soon as I stood up to wash my hair another wave of nausea took hold. I wanted to puke so badly, but somehow managed to power through washing & conditioning my hair. I got out of the shower, put my pajamas on and laid in bed. Over the next hour I watched an episode of the Americans and slowly sipped some Kombucha and water. Soon I was feeling better, and HUNGRY. Ben made me a box of instant rice pilaf and I managed to devour the entire thing. I decided I was still hungry and ate my left overs from the previous night and an oatmeal cookie! After my mass eating session, I was feeling replenished and I was ready to conquer the remainder of the day!
Despite feeling a little raw post-race, I will definitely run the Trail Factor half marathon again. I had to stop and walk more than I wanted to, and it wasn’t my fastest run, but it was definitely the most challenging and the most fulfilling!
I’m totally hooked on trail running now and I’m actively looking for my next race, do you have a favorite mid-distance trail race?