Editor’s Note: On Saturday, I got a text from our dear friend and “retired” runner, Pace, that she placed in her age group in a race we didn’t even know she was running. I was not at all surprised to hear she did well, but was a little shocked when I learned it was for 13+ miles on trails. Pace has been known to drop an F bomb here or there and I would have paid good money to hear her inner dialogue during this race. This recap is a good substitute, though! Enjoy!
Actual distance – 13.7 miles
I’m going to kick this thing off with a bold and controversial statement: I don’t actually like running.
It’s hard, it hurts, and I’m rarely as fast as I want to be. Now there are some aspects of running that I do appreciate – I’m happy with the effect it has on my health and body, I enjoy the feeling of accomplishment after getting a PR or getting through a tough workout, and I ADORE the friends I’ve made through running, specifically November Project.
The actual act of running though… meh.
But at the end of the day, I’m still a competitor and enjoy a good challenge. I had been looking for a summer race to help prep me for the NP Summit so when this came across my radar I figured “what the hell”. I decided to keep it on the DL, however. With a combination of nerves, a short training time frame, and this being my first trail race, I figured if it went badly and no one even knew I was racing then I could just pretend it didn’t happen. Felt like a win-win situation.
Training: I watched a 35 min video on trail running and loosely-ish followed the last 5 weeks of a training plan I found online. Pretty sure I nailed it on the race preparation.
Race Day: At the start, the race director went over the course and typical directives. After finding out that most of the course was loose rock, tree root covered, somewhat sandy and mostly uphill terrain, I think everyone was excited to hear that the last 3 miles were “all downhill”. Only 10 miles separate me from the easiest part of the race – Awesome!
When it was time to toe the line, intimidation sunk in and I slinked towards the back of the crowd. These people had hydration packs, compression socks, and their special shoes, even hiking poles! Already I thought, “Fuuuuck. What am I doing.”
Miles 1-3.5ish were a short out + back off of the starting area to separate us from the 10K racers. I was already hiking less than 10 min in. I read a quote a few weeks ago that I had nailed down as my mantra for the race – “If you think you’re going slow, go slower”. Everything was already going according to plan…
As we finally got moving, racing groups became defined pretty quickly. I was doing some back + forth with a racer who I referred to as “red shirt guy” and my plan was to try and hang with him for the race. He kind of looked like he knew what he was doing.
Miles 4-7: Pass red-shirt guy. By this time there were a few other people that I was doing a similar passing game with so I moved onto them as my new competition. I found myself getting really frustrated when I’d move past someone on the uphill hike, but then get passed on the downhills. I even asked one downhill sprinter guy if he had any tips. He gave me nothing. Dick. (It’s OK though, I ended up crushing him in the end)
Mile 7-10: They called this the toughest part of the course. This was accurate. Along with the course being tough, I was becoming increasingly more aware of how sore I was from Friday’s NP workout. My glutes, quads, hips, even upper body were hurting pretty badly and it was tough to get my body back into running mode each time after walking.
I trekked on and pushed past more and more members of the group that I had covered the last 5-6 miles with. We were in the woods at this point so I just kept reminding myself that at mile 10, I could cruise down to the finish. It was here that I had my closest call to completely eating shit on the course. On a short downhill spurt, my foot got caught up on a root and I braced for a brutal fall to my death. Somehow I managed some slick footwork and I was able to recover. This did manage to impress my fellow runners however – THE INTIMIDATION TABLES HAVE TURNED!
It was also at this point that I tried to create some camaraderie with my running group. This was unsuccessful. I’ve come to realize that this is one thing that NP does not prepare you for – unsocial runners. Not everyone wants to high five, exchange jokes, or even grunt at one another.
Miles 10-13.7: DOWNHILL! While it wasn’t exactly ALL downhill as the race director claimed, it was definitely the easiest part of the course. After getting out of the woods and back onto an actual trail, I felt like I could finally hit my stride. I eyed a few people up ahead of me and focused on closing in as much as I could in this final stretch.
My watch hit this 12.5 and I knew we still had a while to go before the finish line (MORE LIES!). I was determined to not get defeated so close to the end and since I still saw some people in front of me, I made it my goal to just get as many runners behind me and finish in as short a time as possible.
I hit the Mile 13 Marker and went into sprint mode. Some poor woman ahead of me decided to walk a final small incline before the finish line and I practically mowed her down before I could even warn her I needed passing room. “Rubbing is Racing” – that’s a thing right?
Post-Race: The combination of an extra .6 mile + a much slower race than I had planned on left me feeling less than pleasant upon finishing. The shuttle bus had also just left moments before I crossed the line so I had almost an hour of milling about in the hot sunny trailhead waiting to get back to my car. There was also no lunch. I was in crisis mode.
They started announcing the award winners and I haphazardly tuned in, prepared to politely clap along with the rest of the crowd as the fast runners collected their trophies + swag while still stewing in my post-race aggressive state. When they got to my age group, I was totally caught off guard when I heard “THIRD PLACE, KAITLIN PACE.”
I had never been called up to a podium for running so this quickly became the most exciting moment of my life. It’s amazing what that kind of thing can do to your disposition.
Overall, pretty happy with the day. It was hard, but I didn’t cry or pass out – two goals I set for every race. I can’t say that it changed my general attitude about running, but I feel more prepared for NP Summit and for a lot of other running challenges sent my way.