I fell in love with trail racing when I was living in Manitoba. The Try-a-Trail Manitoba series got me hooked on off-road running. It was a gentle introduction, with a 6K run at the beginning of the season and a 22K at the end of the season. Held just outside of Winnipeg in a provincial park, the trails were flat and clear. While I knew that trail racing in Ontario would be hillier (read: harder), I had no idea what I was in for. I figured the 25K Pick Your Poison trail race (considered a tame course on the Ontario Ultra Series circuit), would give me an idea of what to expect as the trail race season progresses.
Holy smokes, I have a lot of work to do.
That said, my plan with this race is to break up the monotony of training for the Tread 6-Hour Trail Race and to come out of the race upright. I was hoping to finish under three hours but, not knowing the terrain, it was a goal I didn’t know if I could meet. Kind of like when your kids ask you how long it would take to fly to the moon or swim across the ocean — you don’t really know because you’ve never done it.
So slow and steady (my usual running pace) was what I did for the three hours and four minutes I was out running. Each 12.5K lap was an even 1:32, with no dawdling at aid stations and only one pee break. I walked up the (many) hills and then ran down the other side and, of course, running when it was flat. I tried so hard to appreciate how gorgeous the trails were and how awesome and friendly all of the racers and volunteers were. But over my head the entire time hung a dark cloud, feeling grouchy and sorry for myself that I was fantastically outclassed by the talent out on the trails that day. Ultra runners around me were talking about their plans for the Canadian Death Race, Massanutten 100 Mile Race or were conservatively running the 25K because they were injured. Even when I crossed the finish line, I should have been happy — instead I just wanted to keep running to keep the negative voices quiet; the voices that told me that I didn’t belong with these runners. While eating my post-race veggie dog and looking at the results, I felt even worse — not only did I come in 9th last, but a full hour slower than the winning woman.
On the drive home, I obsessed over the workouts I missed in my training, the workouts that I should have run faster and the core exercise that I avoid. While I ran the best race I could have, it just didn’t seem like enough and seriously bummed me out.
When I got home, my kids climbed over each other to hug me, ignoring the mud and the stink. My schwag included locally produced honey, custom socks and a very cool t-shirt — and Isaac declared the shirt and socks his favourite ever (they feature the race’s skull and crossbones logo). They didn’t care that I was slow — they just think that it’s awesome that their mom races in the woods and comes back with clothes that make her look like a pirate.
Sometimes I forget although I’ve been running for years, trail and ultra running is a whole new world and that it is all new to me and the more I train and race, that I will get faster (likely not the fastest, but at least faster). That, at the heart of it, I love running and on Saturday, I did the best I could, my kids think I’m awesome and my husband and friends think that I’m nuts. Which is really what it’s all about for me.