I did it! After five weeks of training from coming back from a 3-month injury, I completed my first trail race. The thought of running 14.4km on a technical trail after sitting on the couch for 3 months seemed too good to be true. Not only did I finish uninjured which was my goal, but I felt amazing! No pains, no sore muscles, and all I wanted to do was go for another trail run afterwards.
I finished with a little too much energy and could of improved my time but that wasn’t my goal.
Having run most of the course the week before, I was mentally prepared in terms of what to expect. It wasn’t an easy course by any means (lots of hills, exposed roots/rocks, and lots of single track) but knowing the course and the terrain you are running on has its benefits, both mentally and physically. With two hundred people running solely in the 14.4 km event it was going to be a tight start (meaning that the trails are very narrow & it’s hard to pass) so I had to start in the middle of the pack.
The first 20 minutes of the course were uphill on a very uneven rocky path. Once you get to the top, there is one of the most amazing views. You can see for miles and miles. I actually stopped to admire it. Even though the moment was short, it was meaningful. Downhill I went into the single track, and rocky terrain path. If you’re an experienced trail runner you know that gaining time on your downhills is important and this is a great place to pass other runners who are not so experienced running on rocky and uneven terrain. This is my strength when it comes to trail running.
My control on the downhills and the ability to go fast over rocky terrain is not only challenging but I so enjoy running this type of course. Call me crazy but this is why I have given up road racing to simply race on trails only.
There was a point in the race where I was completely running on my own. There is no better feeling that being isolated in the forest, running on a trail, and being completely alone with your thoughts. You hear about runners experiencing that ‘runner’s high’, well this is mine. There was no heavy breathing from other runners behind me or the pounding of footsteps on the rocky hard surface in front of me. Just me. Just my thoughts. Just having fun.
There was never a point in this run where I felt the need to ask for the time or ask how much distance was left in the race. I have never raced with a watch and will continue to do this. It’s too distracting. I know my body well and I know my pace. Today’s race wasn’t about time. It was about proving to myself that there is more to racing than beating the clock.
Over half way through the race, you reach a hill where you run up 64 steps. Well, I decided to walk them instead. Why get injured now when I have come so far? Besides, there was still many more hills to run and saving my energy was more important. When I got to the top of the 64 steps, I turned around and glanced down. What a sight. A beautiful forest covered with a canopy of tall trees. I never do this during a race. I’m glad that I did.
What I loved most about this run is the majority of the trails were covered with lush vegetation. Even if it was a warm day, you are completely covered by the trees and the breezes coming off the trees keep you cool. At one point I felt like I was running through an enchanted forest as the roots on the trails were completely exposed. It was like something out of a fantasy movie.
During the last segment of the race, I did something I have never done before which was having a conversation with another runner. I shared a moment with a runner who was running her first race after 7 years of being off injured. It was her comeback race. You see, I had the same experience earlier this year after being injured for 5 years. Even though the conversation was short, I connected with her. I felt her enthusiasm for just being able to run again. I felt her determination for getting back to something so familiar after a long time, and I could sense her vitality for feeling alive and running on the trails.
Could this race get any better?
As I left the trail to cross the finish line, I heard my name being mentioned. For some reason I have never heard my name being mentioned before. Was it that I was always focused on the time and not being in the moment of finishing? The time on the clock never even entered my mind. I was back again. I was back to a place where I once started, where racing for fun was a priority over competing with the time clock. I felt WHOLE again. It’s good to be back.
It took me 46 years, but I’ve finally arrived.
Eat Clean & Live Green!
Your Compassionate Coach,