Who you calling a Half-Wit?

half-wit logo
Ron Horn of Pretzel City Sports claims you must be a Half-Wit in order to run this race. I say you’re a Half-Wit if you don’t! Sure it’s tough and I definitely did my share of cursing and questioning my sanity a few times during those 13 miles, but I will definitely be back next year! The fact that I chose to do this race 4 weeks out from 70.3 Worlds…now that calls into question my level of intelligence. Yes, this is the time of year where trail running and racing is equivalent to a crazy night out on the town for me. I really want to do it, but I know the possible setbacks that may occur from my actions 🙂 This year has been slightly different. Although I’m not hitting the trails quite as often as I would like to, the lure of doing some amazing trail races that Southern PA has to offer is just too strong to ignore. The good news – I made it through the trails no worse for the wear!

I decided to stay in Oley the night before the race so that I could ride my bike to and from the race for a good warm-up and cool-down. It was a great idea – I left the house with sunny skies and 63 degree temps and made my way to the Liederkranz. It is mostly an uphill ride, but I had time to take it slow and enjoy the morning. The last climb up to the race start was the only time I questioned my decision to take an “easy” ride to the site. 5 minutes out of the saddle and I could feel the love from the 4 days of intense training I inflicted on my body during my mini “vacation”. But I figured this was perfect training – tire out some sore legs and then tack on a 1/2 marathon.

One of many things I love about trail racing is that I rarely feel nervous. I always believe I am out of my league since trail running is not my main sport, so I don’t put too much pressure on myself. That’s such a nice way to go into a race! At the start line we were asked to repeat the Moronic Oath in true Pretzel City Sports fashion, then we were off! Utilizing my less-than-brilliant racing strategy, it was time to go out hard to get a good gap, then try like hell to hold on for dear life. Will I ever learn?

Questioning our intelligence - photo courtesy of Helene Horn

Questioning our intelligence – photo courtesy of Helene Horn

The first 3 miles I can say I wasn’t really enjoying myself. My heart rate was high and my legs felt heavy. But right on cue, Magic Mile #3 hit and I suddenly felt settled and in my groove. It also helped that soon after was a long descent. I actually said out loud “I’m having the best time ever!” I often talk to myself when I think there is no one close enough to hear me… I decided to wear my inov-8 Mudclaw 265’s. This shoe is a beast, and is built for rough terrain. I never raced in them, but thought this course would be the perfect test to see how they would treat me. I definitely made the right choice!

inov-8 Mudclaw 250 - ready to conquer all terrain

inov-8 Mudclaw 250 – ready to conquer all terrain

The Mudclaws have the perfect amount of cushion to them and superior protection. But best of all was the support and grip. I was able to fly down the long descents and even close some gaps on men in front of me where I would normally take the more cautious approach. I truly love the line-up that inov-8 provides – they have a shoe for every course condition.

Soon after mile 6 it was time to climb the “128 Steps from Hell”. I actually enjoyed these beat-up, overgrown hunks of rock heading straight up the mountain. But once I got to the top, I was questioning what happened to the feeling I had at mile 3… Every climb from that point on felt tougher and tougher. On the steeper ascents, I had every urge to hike and give my legs a break. Then I would remind myself that there are women behind me that actually know how to pace a trail race and are probably closing in on me. After having the lead from the start, I didn’t want to give it up without a fight. I was happy to come across the alternate beverage aid station, knowing that I was getting closer to the finish. As I approached they asked if I wanted water or beer. Call me a lightweight, but I wanted to finish that race with my stomach contents intact. With 2 miles to go, I started to feel strong again and picked up the pace as I made my way to the finish. I didn’t beat the course record (yes of course, I checked that out before-hand) but I was able to take the overall with only 9 men finishing ahead of me. It was one of my most pathetic finishes ever – I’m sure to the crowd it appeared as if I had powered my way to the finish with some alternate beverages as I stumbled in.

Photo courtesy of Derek Schultz

Photo courtesy of Derek Schultz

Thank you to inov-8 for providing me with the best trail running shoes on the market! And a special thank you to Derek Schultz for cheering me on at various points throughout the race. Thank you to the Liederkranz for an excellent job hosting a great after-party. Great job as always by Pretzel City Sports in hosting the most memorable races around! See you at the next one!

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Stubmling my way through French Creek State Park

doubletrouble30k
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?

French Creek State Park

French Creek State Park

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.

French Creek State Park - a sample of the terrain

French Creek State Park – a sample of the terrain

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 😉

inov-8 trailroc 150

inov-8 trailroc 150