Sunday, July 12, 2015

A Double-Bling Day on the Trail

Well, lesson learned (though it really comes as no surprise).

Ever since my marathon three weeks ago, I have had several short runs (nothing more than 5 miles). Most of these short runs have been challenging and not much fun. Achy feet (PF keeps coming and going, but is pretty manageable), strained hamstrings, and slower-than-ideal pace. Yadda Yadda Yadda.

I did have a 2-hour training run (two weeks ago) and that felt great, though. Recovering from a marathon is very different for every runner (just like training for a marathon is). Some (though not many) can bounce back quickly, others (probably most) will need several weeks for their bodies to properly recover from the stress and strain of running 26.2 miles. I also think a lot of runners are never quite as recovered as they think they are, myself included.

I would be willing to wager a new pair of shoes that the reason my runs in recent weeks have been so difficult is because my body wasn't ready to do what I thought it was capable of doing. I had some stiffness the evening after the marathon, and quite a bit of stiffness 24 hours or so after the race. But after a couple days, I felt fully recovered. I was probably still riding the high of the finish line, so I didn't notice deep down inside that my body actually was still in recovery mode. (Duh!)

Amidst all of this recent frustration, I decided to scale back my mileage this past week. I ran on Monday (following a very busy weekend), and it was a challenge to get my body to go one mile. One mile! What was up with that???

Instead, I did some cycling. And yoga. A little bit of strength work. And a whole lot of nothing else.

Guess what? It worked!
Inside The Grimes Farm Conservatory...hiding from the rain
On Saturday, I ran The Grimes Farm Run trail race (approximately five miles), and it felt almost effort-less. My finish time was 42:57, a substantial "event" PR (by just over eight minutes!). Granted, the course had to be re-routed due to rain (and some flooding), so it wasn't the exact same course as in the two previous years (you can read about 2013 experience HERE) that I have run it (and I don't think this year's course was quite a full five miles), but I know I ran it strong. I felt some slight hamstring stiffness, but only in the very beginning. And, due to the re-routing, the majority of the route was on asphalt trails (and not as much on the grass, brush, or muddy trails through the timber as usual). I even inadvertently ran a little ways (100+ yards?) beyond the turn-around point (and the guy at the water stand just let me keep going), so my finish time (maybe an additional minute? 45 seconds?) reflects a little more distance than any of the other runners.

With my good friend, Linda, approaching the start line
Somehow, even with the extra distance, I managed an overall third-place finish amongst the females, and a second-place age group award. I realize, due to the less-than-ideal weather (non-stop rain, with a "chance of thunderstorms" in the forecast), my competition was limited. Had the weather been drier, I'm certain there would have been a lot more runners at the start line (and, most likely, a few more gals in my age division).

Walking up the hill to the start line ("Why, oh why, is it still raining?")
 In the 10 years that I have been running (and racing), one thing I have learned is whether or not a runner "places" in their age group (or is one of the top over-all finishers), it is all relative to who else shows up. It doesn't matter so much if you earn a medal for being one of the fastest at the event, but whether you're able to give it your all and have a successful experience. I'm not trying to minimize my experience or performance  at this race; instead, I am hoping to be realistic. Also, my ego is in check and I do not plan to assume any future races (trail or otherwise) will guarantee double hardware (but a gal can dream, right?).

Just finished.....all aglow from the constant rain (and maybe a little sweat)
Having a "successful" experience is a subjective interpretation of what actually happens on the race course. This trail race was very successful for me...not because of the two medals I brought home, but because I was able to let go and run free with minimal struggle (trust me, that has not happened in a long time). I didn't have my GPS watch with me, so my actual distance is unknown. If it was indeed five miles, that would calculate to just over an 8:30ish pace...which is realistic for me to do on exclusive cement or asphalt, but certainly not on wet grass, sticky mud, or slippery hills in the rain. Regardless, I know I ran this race well. It felt like my pace stayed consistent from start to finish, even over the hills and through the countless puddles.

Linda was right behind me, placing 4th overall and secured a 1st place AG medal for herself
This was my third consecutive year running this race, and I definitely want to go run it again and again. I really enjoy the challenge of trail running (even in the rain). Yes, we had rain! Plenty of rain. It didn't start raining until around 5:45AM, but continued throughout the entire morning (although it did let up a few times, briefly). I don't mind a few sprinkles on a hot summer day, though, and the rain wasn't a problem to run in...though it did create some slippery spots on the hills and give us several puddles to dodge.

This picture doesn't do justice to how wet & dirty my shoes were!
This event is very well organized, and every year the swag is decent!  There's always a nice shirt (with great graphics), and this year we also received infusion water bottles with the Grimes Farm Run image on the front. In addition to the 5-mile trail (technically, it's an 8K), there's also a 5K and a 1-mile option to run or walk. They also are very generous with awards, recognizing both walkers and runners in all of the age divisions for each of the three events. For more information on the Grimes Farm Conservatory, you can check out the website HERE.

Isn't the shirt cute???

Do you have a favorite race you do every year? How do you feel about trail running? Ever run a race that left you feeling totally accomplished, even if you didn't bring home any hardware for your efforts? Or, conversely, ever receive an award for a race that you were less-than-satisfied with your performance?


  1. Nice work, and super cute shirt. I am such an average runner...I've only placed ONCE in a race, and it was 3rd place in a teeny tiny race. LOL.

  2. oh Michelle. I'm glad you said "such" an average runner and not "just" an average runner...or you'd be worthy of a #screenslap (just kidding). I don't think you're "average" because you have so much drive and discipline...but that's what other "average" runners need to see. My collection of race bibs FAR outweighs the number of medals on the wall LOL Running is not about being the fastest at every race you run (I think you know that already), but it's about putting one foot in front of the other, and doing it consistently, and with a little bit of passion. Thanks for all the inspiration you share with other runners, average or not ;-)

  3. Very cool! I'm going on my third year doing MCM. That will be the most times I've ever done the same race. Congrats on your finishes especially with the conditions!! Rest up, isn't that ultra coming up shortly??

  4. Yep...I got that 1st place AG at Great Western, but the real first place winner was 1st overall, so they pulled her out of the AG. Didn't feel right to me, but hey, an AG is an AG, right?

    1. yes, the AG award is still an award...and if it was a a great run that left you feeling fantastic, well, then all is right with the world :-)

  5. Congratulations on your successful race!! I think I'd have to be 75 before I win an age group award. You did a great job! I agree - that shirt is super cute! I always love a nice race T-shirt! I'm glad you're finally feeling recovered from your marathon.