Back to Back Trail Races
The month of September has been a very busy month when it comes to races. I have a race almost every weekend and they are all half marathon distances or longer. Two of the races were trail races, the TARC Fall Classic Half Marathon and then the Pisgah Mountain Trail 23k. The last weekend I have the Adirondack Ragnar Relay with the Strong Hearts Vegan Power team!
The TARC Fall Classic Half Marathon was my first race of the fall season. I was looking forward to this race because I haven't raced in a long time and it was a distance that seemed very manageable. My husband was doing the 10k, which is the longest distance he's ever done, and I also had a good friend doing the 50-miler, so there was many different options for distances. My husband and I got there a little before the start, picked up our bibs, listened to the mandatory briefing, and then took off. It was the first time that I went to a race and didn't feel nervous. I kept telling myself "it's just a half marathon!" which is crazy considering I ran my first half marathon ever just 4 months prior to this race. The race consists of a runnable 10k loop (10M loop for the 50k and 50-miler participants) that runs through the woods of the Great Brooks Farm in Carlisle, MA. It was very foggy and a little chilly at the start, but quickly cleared and warmed up. The half-marathon participants had to run a less than one mile loop on an open field before joining the 10k group. The first two miles of the course were SUPER fast. My first two laps were "8:32; 8:23" and I had never run that fast on the trail before. I was thinking "this is amazing, I could PR my half marathon!!", but then the trail turned into the woods, and the real fun started to happen. The course remained runnable, but there were some small hills, and the expected rocks and roots. It slowed me down a bit but I still felt awesome. I passed by my husband which was nice, because I could cheer him on, and keep him moving and motivated. Running past the finish line to start the second loop of the half marathon was not the greatest feeling since I could see my car and would've liked to stop, but at least I knew then that I only had 6.2 miles until I was done. The second loop seemed a lot faster and I ran a more consistent pace. Usually during my training runs it takes me 4 miles or so to warm up and feel good running, and that seemed to be the case that day. A few miles away from the finish line I was passed by a runner who said "you'll probably pass me again in a little bit". We struck up a conversation as I was riding his heels, and at one point he said "You're my pacer right now" meaning he didn't want to slow down because he didn't want me to pass him. That just made me run so much harder and faster because now it was my goal to pass him. He kept asking if I was still there, and I would proudly say, yup! Finally we reached a hill and he said was going to walk it, so I took off! (I ended up finishing 5 minutes or so before him!). A little after, I found my friend Skott who was about 20 miles into his 50 mile race. We chatted and then he told me to leave him and finish strong, so thats exactly what I did. I finished 33rd out of 102 runners, and 9th out of 52 female runners. Felt awesome!
The next weekend I had the Pisgah Mountain Trail 23k. I was not really looking forward to this race as it was two hours away from home and had the word "mountain" in the title. It was a really small race, only 184 total runners between the 23k and 50k. It was held in Chesterfield, NH at the Pisgah State Park. The course is a one 23k loop and one 50k loop, which share some of the same trails and both go up and over "Mount Pisgah" which is a small peak reaching 1,300 ft with an outlook open to beautiful views of the rest of the park. You don't realize you are climbing this peak because the trail seems just like hills in the woods, but then you reach a rocky area and the trees open up to this amazing view. The first two miles and last two miles are road. I really picked up the pace during the first couple miles because I figured it would be the only time during the race I'd really get to push it. After the road ends, you enter the woods on what seems like ATV or snowmobiling trails, very wide but with some trippables, and a lot of mud. I flew past the first aid station as it was only 5.5 miles into the start of the race, I was carrying enough water at that point. After the first aid station, there was single-track trails with a lot more varying terrain, from steep hilly inclines covered with pine needles, or rocky, rooted climbs. I was doing a lot more powerhiking than running on the inclines, but flying down the descends trying to make up time. At one point there was a photographer at the bottom of a steep descend, and I almost took him out! The entire race I had the same male in front of me, and female behind me. The three of us getting close together at some parts, then further apart in other areas. It was as if it was just the three of us running the race together. It made me run so much faster and harder than I had intended, because my competitive self didn't want to fall behind. When we reached the road again, the female runner behind me and myself, ran past the runner in front of us, and were running on the road side by side. It felt nice for us two chicks to completely dominate the male runner, and take off flying down the road. We came to a hill, and my legs couldn't run anymore inclines, so I let her go and powerhiked up it. On the other side of the last hill was the finish line about a quarter of a mile away, so I started running again and finished strong. I finished 35th out of 114 runners, and 11th out of 52 female runners. My garmin watch recorded 2,644 ft of elevation gain, and my legs would agree with that! Even though I wasn't excited about this race, I am still really glad I did it because it was a good test of my abilities. Maybe I'll be back for the 50k next year!