I have been slowly letting people in on a dirty little secret. I have a new temptation. Are you sitting down? Good. I have been considering running an ultra in the next year. There I said it – I put it out there for all to see. So now I can be held accountable 😉 I love running on trails. It’s peaceful, beautiful, and it takes me back to my childhood days of running through the woods behind my house on Skyline Drive. No worries, no stress, just you and mother nature. I don’t have to worry about cars, pace, or mile splits. It’s truly relaxing. Once my season starts I put trail running on the back burner. I don’t always fit it into my schedule, and quite frankly I just worry about hurting myself on rugged terrain. But isn’t this time of the year the best time to hit the trails?
This new desire prompted me to run the Double Trouble 30k this past weekend at French Creek State Park. Yes 30k is far from an “ultra” distance, but it is the longest trail race I’ve done. And I wasn’t quite sure how to approach it. Pacing is not exactly my strong suit. Do I know how to pace? Yes. Do I always use my head and practice pacing during a race? That’s a big fat NO. And with the Double Trouble race having both a 15k and 30k (1 or 2 loop) option, I feared that I would get caught up in the pacing of the 15k runners and pay for it dearly on the 2nd loop.
Although I was planning to run this race for the training, the experience, and most importantly – the fun, I checked last year’s results to get an idea of what kind of pace I should be aiming for. Can’t take the roadie out of me! I had a plan in place, and I had a goal of 2:50 for my finishing time. It’s great lining up at a start and not being nervous. I knew it was going to be a rough day but this race was not one of those “take off from the gun” type of races and it was nice to feel relaxed. There were 2 start lines – 1 for the 15k runners and the other for the 30k. After some back and forth taunting facilitated by Pretzel City Sports’ always-entertaining Ron Horn, we were off! The 15k and 30k runners merged onto the trail and I immediately felt the need to get up to the front of both packs prior to reaching the single track.
So much for not getting caught up in the pace of the 15k runners! Before we hit the single track I got myself into the 3rd position and decided this was a great place to settle in. At 2.5 miles I moved into 2nd place, and at mile 3 I passed the 1st female and decided this is where I needed to stay. I just can’t help myself sometimes… But I was feeling great – I felt strong, smooth and full of energy. I was ahead of my goal pace and before I knew it I was coming back into the park. I finished my first loop under 1:20 and was ready to tackle the 2nd loop.
I didn’t get far into loop 2 before I felt the fatigue. The miles that were ticking away so easily during the first loop were now feeling so far away – a clear reminder that I was not prepared for this race. I have not run that distance, and definitely not that length of time, since my pre-injury days. I was also alone the entire time. During the first loop I had a guy running with me for the first 8 miles. This always helps to push me. Since he knew how to pace, he took off on the 2nd loop never to be seen by me again. I was looking at my mile splits and was very disappointed in how much slower they were. Every time I slowed down I reminded myself that there were likely much smarter women behind me who paced properly, and they would likely catch me if I let up. I focused on meeting my time goal, and achieved that crossing the finish line at 2:49:00 on the dot. I was the 1st overall female for the day and 5th overall. I managed to stay upright although there were a few close calls… Today my foot is still feeling the pain that my repeated poor footing inflicted upon it. Luckily I wore my inov-8 Trailroc 150’s for great traction and a lightweight feel as I maneuvered across the rocks and roots. It was a great race on beautiful trails and I’m definitely ready to tackle the next distance – with a little more preparation of course 😉