So, yeah. I know that I said I decided NOT to run the 3 Stages Race in Chattanooga. And I was happy with that decision. For awhile. And then last Monday morning on a whim, I decided that I'd do the first day (18 miles on Raccoon Mountain).
Best race/running decision I've made in a long time.
I am still a trail running newbie. To be honest, I've never really TRAINED on trails. Sure, I'd go out and run some on the trails. But, most of my training for any trail race or ultra I've done has been spent on the road. So, most of the things I've learned about trail running have happened in the middle of a race. Not something I recommend, by the way (unless you're into bonking, falling, exerting too much energy in the wrong places, or having slow as molasses finish times). One of these days I'll actually put on my big girl pants and train for a trail race on the trails.
Until then... for the first 16 miles of the race on Friday I was convinced that I had finally figured this "trail racing" thing out (hahahahhahahah. ha. ha.). Running trail races is definitely different than road racing. On the roads, there are water stops every couple of miles, the course is generally all runnable, you don't have to pick and choose when you pass people, etc. Road racing= just running. Trail racing there is a lot more to think about and I'm finally getting to the point where I'm learning some of those things and am able to use them to my advantage.
Everything was going perfect. I was having an absolute blast. I felt good
A legit race photo smile.
I kinda kept to myself during this race a lot. Usually, I'm trying to chat people up along the course, but I just kinda zoned out and focused on my race strategy. I have to bitch about a couple of things though... (um. of course).
1. TOO MUCH GEAR PEOPLE. Oh my god. This day was 18 miles and it's on some of the easiest trails in Chattanooga. It is not necessary to be prepared to camp overnight. You don't need a backpack. There were 3 feeding stations along the course. If you can't survive with a handheld, and 3 feeding stations then maybe you should rethink this trail running gig. Maybe hiking is more your thing.
Schooling bitches, etc.
2. HEADPHONE PEOPLE. I honestly don't know why they don't just ban headphones at these races altogether. There are so many reasons not to run with headphones on the trail. #1 SAFETY. What happens if I'm running behind you and I fall and twist my damn ankle? I'm screaming for help and all you can hear is "Call Me Maybe." Or, what if the person in front of you encounters a mountain lion. You're not going to hear them yell... Watch out for the motherfucking mountain lion!!!! Also, I want to be able to pass you without having to push you off the goddamn trail. Here's a story from Friday
So, I'm at the tail end of a mini-train of 4 people. There's a girl at the front (WITH A FUCKING BACKPACK ON) wearing headphones and then two dudes who are running together and me. I see the girl taking one of her earbuds out and say to us cheerily... "If you want to pass, just tap me on the shoulder."
Seriously, she said that. TAP YOU ON THE SHOULDER? Bitch, please. If I have to touch you to pass you, it's not going to be my finger doing the touching and it sure as hell isn't going to be your shoulder that I touch.
On my way to a HUGE PR.
No bitches were tossed off the mountain. Despite my strong desire.
I was in such a good mood that I didn't even let this stuff bother me. I just kept true to my race strategy and coasted through the beautiful trails.
Around mile 16 I ran into a couple of problems.
#1. I had to use the bathroom. So, I hopped off the trail and negotiated thorny bushes until I found a secluded enough spot. This whole process probably took a couple of minutes (always carry toilet paper!).
#2. I was having some issues with my sock and I bent down to adjust it and I awoke the mighty CRAMP DRAGON. My left calf completely seized up on me and I immediately crumbled to the ground trying to flex and/or point my foot to get the cramp to stop. It wasn't letting up. Charley Horse City. A girl came up behind me and stopped to help, she gave me a salt tab (out of her fucking backpack. seriously!) and after a couple of minutes of writhing around, the cramp finally eased and I was able to get up and limp/hobble for a couple of minutes down the trail.
I was super afraid of waking the dragon again, so I took it easy for a few minutes, but eventually, decided that as long as I didn't make any weird leg, foot movements, that I should be okay. My calf was sore from the cramp, but I was able to speed up a little and make my way to the finish.
Nice to see you again, Death Face.
As I crossed the finish line, I could hear my friends cheering for me and the announcer announced my name and city and then told the crowd that I had just shaved almost 30 minutes off my time from last year.
That's right. A 28 minute improvement over last year's time. My goal was to run 12:30s and I ended up with an 11:55 average pace!
It was glorious! I felt amazing... like I had actually raced and raced smart.
I met up with my friends and they had all had great days, too! Which meant one thing... time to celebrate... Beer and chips and guacamole and tacos. Is there anything better?
Actually, yes, there is something better... friends!*
*Cheesiness brought to you by having an absolutely brilliant race day!