Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Finally...another trail race!

Trail racing is not anything like road racing, at least not to me.

I don't go into the race in a competitive mood.
I don't care much about my pace.
I do it to enjoy the outdoors and find solitude...if I spend 10 miles of the race completely alone, that's okay.
Negative splits? Nope, not going to happen, and I don't care.
Walking is perfectly acceptable.

Sunday I ran my first trail race of the year. It was beautiful and perfect and difficult and exhausting and I'm so glad I did it, even as I sit here, two mornings later, stiff and sore and cranky. As a matter of fact, I'm signed up for my next one already.

Rogue Running's Trail Series has been going on for 10 years now. There are three races in the series. Last year I only did the last one (and it was my very first trail race), but this year I wanted to do as many as I could. I had a conflict for the first race, but the last two I'd be able to do. Sunday's race was at Emma Long Park in South Austin. I'd never been down there but heard good things about it. It's a tough course, but there are good stretches of dirt path and it's mostly shaded.

I picked out some Boston Blue and Yellow for the race.


I rode down to the race with my friend, Rain, who was signed up for the 10K but was totally cool with waiting for me to finish the 30K. She's a lot like me in that she loves to spectate and was looking forward to a peaceful morning of race watching and cheering after she was done with her race (which, by the way, she totally rocked! She's one fast and talented lady). I was so happy to be able to hang out with someone I knew as many of the friends who I hoped would be out there were not able to be. I wasn't sure if I'd know anyone! I did end up running into a buddy from Round Rock Fit, and that was a nice surprise.

Courtesy AzulOx Photography

As with all of Rogue's trail races, the course was three 10K loops. Emma Long is very rocky, with lots of elevation gain, lots of twisting and turning, but with dirt paths between the tough parts. I got my bearings on the first loop and was around a lot of the other runners for the first few miles. After the first aid station 3 miles in, we all started spreading out more and before I knew it I was pretty much alone out there. It didn't bother me. The course was well marked and I was enjoying the solitude. I didn't even realize I didn't have my iPod turned on. I focused on where my feet were landing and how the course was marked so I wouldn't get off track. One thing I noticed right away was that there was going to be a lot of shade, even after the sun fully came up. A big difference from Reveille Peak last year, where the sun got brutal on those granite domes. Before I was done with my first loop I was passed by the top 10K runners, who had started 30 minutes after us. Those guys are just insanely fast. I think the winner did it in something like 41 minutes! And he was sweet enough to actually say he was sorry for me having to stop to let him by - seriously, dude, you're WINNING! Go go go!! No apologies. It was cute, though.

That first loop was uneventful and I completed it in 1 hour, 13 minutes. My Garmin showed it a bit short of a 10K and it looked like the race would be about 18 miles even. I was good with that! Reveille Peak was actually 20.6 miles long...I was much happier with a slightly short course than one that was 2 miles off in distance.

These photos from AzulOx Photography are from Loop 1

I slowed a bit during Loop 2, as I had to stop at the aid station to refill and eat a bit, and I didn't want to crash during the third loop. I hadn't run more than 10 miles at a time in over 2 months, and with the slower pace of a trail run, doing 18 miles out here was going to take me longer than 23 miles on the road....a big difference from just 10. Loop 2 was only 3 minutes longer than Loop 1 and I came through the checkpoint at 2 hours, 29 minutes. I was seriously thrilled with this. If I didn't lose too much pace on Loop 3, I would be done in well under 4 hours. I started out assuming it would longer than 4 hours to complete the race. I got a glimpse of Rain as I went through the checkpoint and threw her my gloves (thanks, Rain!!)...yes, it was cool enough at the start to warrant gloves for a few miles!

About to throw my gloves to Rain at the end of Loop 2

I was in such a great mood as I started the third loop. I wasn't dreading it at all and I felt pretty good. Tired, but good. Not a lot of soreness in my legs yet, I hadn't fallen, and I was making good time. My plan for Loop 3 was to keep my current pace (12-13 minutes) until the midpoint aid station and then take a bit of a rest, get something to eat and drink, and head back out for the final 5K push to the end. I still wasn't seeing other runners, except for a two or three I passed up a couple miles into the loop, and that was okay. The solitude gave me time to reflect on why I was out there. I thought of the Boston victims and said some prayers for them, I thought about how lucky I was that I was out there with two strong legs when there were so many people who lost their legs. I just about cried thinking about the Richard family and how much pain they were in as they grieved for their son and helped their little girl recover from amputation, and the mom recover from a brain injury. I thought of the victims in the West plant explosion and how long it would take for that tiny town to recover. Any pain I was feeling was so totally minor and insignificant compared to what all the families were going through after last week's horrendous events. I didn't care how bad I was going to start feeling before I finished...at least I was out there and could do something like this.

The aid station was awesome, and I got to chat a bit with the folks running it and another runner taking a break. And damn, that Coke tasted so good! At 15 miles in, my body was certainly getting tired and sore. But heck, only a 5K left! Piece of cake!!

The last 3.1 miles went by in a breeze, even though miles 14 and 15 were my two slowest of the entire race. When I hit 16 miles I forced myself to pick up my pace on the dirt stretches just a bit more. I wanted to finish strong and do as little walking as I could at this point, although I still took it easy on the rocky ascents. Some of those ascents were pretty steep and required a lot of muscle recruitment...and my quads were definitely getting a bit frustrated.

Looking back at one of the easier inclines

With one mile to go, I began passing people. I admit it was a bit of a boost to pass guys at this point. I certainly wasn't a fast trail runner but I was running steady and wasn't crashing out during this race, and I'm really thrilled about that. To pass a couple guys in the last mile was a boost. As I was nearing the last quarter mile I had my sights on catching one more guy, but couldn't quite reach him before the finish and I think he beat me by about 6 seconds. Overall, I ran that 30K in 3 hours, 47 minutes. Loop 3 was in 1:18, only 2 minutes slower than Loop 2.

Rain immediately greeted me and I was happy to see her! Happy to be done and ready to rest. My friend Charles had finished about 20 minutes before me and was laying on the grass, looking like he wasn't going to be moving anytime soon. The course had really kicked his butt, but he ran well. Rain obliterated the course, running the 10K in 55 minutes! She's very talented and I was very impressed. I'm glad she's not in my age group for road races!

A breakfast taco, a Pepsi, a little rest, a change of clothes, and some peace post-race, and then we were ready to head back home.

No blood...maybe next time!

Seriously a great day! So glad I decided to get out there and just do it!


  1. Ahhh.....I loved hanging out with you...and you did awesome on the 30K! A lot of people were coming in completely crashed and you still looked really strong!
    Great job and I look forward to seeing you at the next race!

  2. Sounds like an amazing day! I take the same approach to trail runs (I haven't ever done a race), I enjoy the run a lot more, and worry less about my pace or mile distance.

  3. Hi! I ran this race as well, great job it was so much fun!! I am wondering -- did you have a gps or watch to calculate the distance at all? I used the strava app on my phone, but I think it miscalculated because it didn't get the correct distance. I am trying to compare with others because I am curious as to the actual course distance... do you know what other people got on their gps devices by any chance? It would be really helpful! Thanks!

    Sloan (Sloan.skinner@gmail.com)