Saturday, April 21

Happy trails - literally

I am floating on a post-race endorphin cloud right now.
I was intensely anxious about this morning's trail race, but now - having finished successfully - my feeling of contentment is impossible to put into words.
Resting in the parking lot after the Blackwater Trail 10k
Why so worried?
I have run hundreds of miles of trails in my running life. Before moving to Florida, I used to lead a weekly 5-mile trail run in San Diego. But to say southern California trails are different from Florida Panhandle trails would be an... ahem... understatement.

Southern California trails are often (although not always) wide fire roads or bridle paths. Their difficulty lies primarily in the topography. Hills do not "roll" so much as they present walls that you must climb. The trails are tough. But the shrubbery only reaches waist-high, so while sun exposure is an issue on So Cal trail runs, generally you can see the path ahead.
Hiking the Three Sisters trail in San Diego:
There's no question which way the trail turns.
Florida trails are a completely different beast.

I have done some hiking and trail running since moving to Florida. But after only a year, I am not yet comfortable with these deep woods the way I was comfortable after a decade of running and hiking in San Diego's backcountry.

Still, I signed up for a trail 10k - the Blackwater Trail Race. (Six days after my most recent half marathon, too.)

Knowing my (local) inexperience, I had a restless night of sleep - scenes of trail wipeouts and snake bites dancing on the edges of my dreams. I had been on portions of the trail before, and I knew the markings, but a few steps down a false trail can get a person completely lost.

In this part of Florida, the forest continues, thickly wooded, for miles. (Cue "Deliverance" jokes.) To give you a sense of how thick the woods are here, for half of the race we were within a few dozen yards of the Blackwater River. I never saw the river.
Blackwater River State Park in a "clearing" near the finish line.
So, I worried.
I fretted.
I talked with Hubby about wanting to "run not race" this race.

I suggested, then dismissed, the idea of just sleeping in and skipping it.

We took the shuttle bus to the starting line.

During the pre-race talk, the gentleman who set our trail explained which markers to look for, assured us that the trail was well-marked, and warned us that most of the trail was windy, muddy, single-track that he (affectionately) referred to as a "rabbit trail." He also warned us about snakes. Oh, have I mentioned the poisonous, aggressive local wildlife?

This was not helping to calm any of my fears.

But, as soon as the deer-call sounded the start of our race, I learned a few things:

  • I am incapable of "taking it easy" during a race. Call it ego. Call it a competitive streak. If I'm not having a major medical crisis, I can't "not race." I have suspected this before, but now I am certain.
  • Despite all of my pre-race anxiety, once I'm on the trail, I am not nearly as timid as I worry I'll be. About a mile into the race, I took the lead for our pack, and held it until the finish. (Yes I did call back, out of courtesy, to see if anyone wanted to pass - the single-track was narrow. No one was interested.) I enjoyed being the one on lookout for the trail markers and calling back to the pack about patches of mud and other hazards.
  • I might be a little lucky, too. About a dozen people got stung by bees, including poor Hubby. I breezed through the swarm - not even noticing until I heard a string of "ouch" shouts behind me.
  • Hashing, oddly, is excellent training for trail running. A year of running by following hash clues (mostly chalk signs and dots of flour) has sharpened my skills at looking for trail markings.

Post-race happiness:
Maybe it was all of my pre-race nervousness wearing off, or maybe it was the thrill of crashing through the underbrush, sliding through muddy patches, and making it out alive, but I have never felt so giddy after a race.

I can see why trail racing is addictive.

Oh... And while I'm not sure of my exact finish time (60 minutes give or take 30 seconds), I do know that I came in 2nd out of women 30-39. (Maybe there were only 2 women age 30-39? Who knows. An AG place is an AG place. I'm thrilled!)

My detailed start/good/bad/finish race report will follow...

For now, I need a NAP!

What's your take on trail running - love it or hate it?
How do you deal with nervousness when you're taking on a new challenge?


  1. Congrats! Sounds like a fun race and that you had a great time!

  2. I bet you're so glad you didn't sleep in and skip it! What a blast!

  3. haha that sounds like great fun- I'm so glad you enjoyed it! YAY!! :)


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