My first trail race was McKay Hollow Madness 25K in 2012. This is, essentially, my third trail season. I only run trails in the Fall/Winter because I don’t do poison ivy (If you’ll recall – I have horrible reactions poison ivy) or snakes. But still – I spend a lot of my miles in the Fall/Winter/Early Spring on the trails here. I am not a newbie anymore.
I need to make that clear so that when I tell you that the race I this morning was the CRAZIEST EVER…You will appreciate that.
I ran this same course last week and it’s amazing how much the same 9 miles can change in the course of 7 days. Especially considering we had a huge freeze, a huge thaw, and a giant thunderstorm that didn’t clear out until about 2 hours before the start of the race. If I didn’t know any better? I would have thought the two runs were on totally different trails.
Last week we didn’t get wet at all. It was below freezing so we were avoiding any places with water, but there weren’t that many anyway. And if there were spots? They were frozen solid so we were mainly avoiding them so we wouldn’t break our necks.
This week? It was IN-FREAKING-SANE.
The first few hundred feet and we met long stretches of trail completely flooded. You could try to run around it – but I knew there would be NO point. I knew the majority of the trails would be flooded so there would be no hope in staying dry. So, those first few hundred feet? I just ran straight through those puddles, splashing and running like a kid in the rain.
IT WAS AWESOME.
Now…we had temps of 7 degrees a few days ago, so the water was DAMN COLD. But – I had my montrail badwater trail shoes which drain well, along with my swiftwick socks which keep my feet as dry as possible, and my feet didn’t really hurt that bad at all. There were enough portions of trail NOT under water that my shoes/socks were able to drain, keeping my feet from staying unbearably cold. Some of those puddles covered so much of the trail that you just took a gamble as to where the trail actually was UNDER the water. Sometimes? I think I must have gambled wrong because the water was WAY too deep in some areas to have been part of the trail. I lost count of how many times I ran through water only to sink past my knees.
And where there wasn’t water? There was mud. SO MUCH MUD. And you couldn’t really tell what was the “good” mud to step in and what wasn’t. Some of it was slippery and you would just glide, some sucked onto your shoes and tried to take them off. Some splattered on your legs. It covered the spectrum of the rainbow too, yellow mud, red mud, brown mud, and gray mud. Gray was the worst.
And the course itself is tough. I did it last year in 2:36, but that was AFTER a 6’ish mile warm-up run. This year I only had to do the race and I did it in 2:18. That’s still slower that my most recent half-marathon time. In other words? It took me longer to do 9 miles than it did to do 13.1 in November. 8 minutes longer. The course is TOUGH. Some treacherous downhill and some tough uphill.
I did okay except for one issue that taught me a lesson. I had a bad fall. It wasn’t “bad” in the sense that I got hurt, it was “bad” in the sense that it scared me TO DEATH. In the millisecond before I hit the ground I recognized that falling in the wrong direction could cause my death either by rock-to-the-head or by body-down-the-mountain. I jumped right up and kept running which I now know is NOT the good thing to do. My adrenaline surge was SO strong that my heart rate would not slow down. It didn’t help that I kept running and then started a hella-incline. Something that would increase my heartrate anyway. I had to do something I never do – I had to stop. I just need to catch my breath, try to get my heart rate calmed.
Next time I have a fall that scares me enough to cause an adrenaline surge? I will walk it off. I will walk until my heart calms because trying to run in that state? DOES NO GOOD.
Once I got my sorts back together again I was really tired, so the last few miles were slower than the first few, but I still felt good.
Basically? It was the best and worst EVER.
It was SO FUN. I think every grownup needs to find an excuse to run through puddles and get muddy at least once a year. It’s so damn liberating! Not to mention the general badassery you feel after a trail run, just because you’re running through the woods. Add in mud and puddles and rocks and leaves and you just feel like the most amazing super-woman in the world.
I was not cool growing up. The kids at my daycare picked on me mercilessly for having bad skin, and not enough clothes to wear a different outfit every day of the week. They mocked me for my headgear and for my frizzy hair. They made fun of me for a lot of stuff and I just want to go back and talk to that girl that would hide in her books every summer. I want to whisper in her ear, “Kim…these guys? They have no idea how badass you’re going to be when you’re a grownup. You’re going to run 9 miles through the woods in knee-deep puddles and ankle-deep mud. AND YOU ARE GOING TO LOVE IT.”