I hope everyone had a fantastic weekend! I had a blast! Yesterday I ran the North Face Challenge Trail Marathon at Algonkian Regional Park, just outside of D.C. I can count the number of trail runs I’ve done in my entire life on one hand…..So how did I end up signed up for this race? I work with an awesome group of runners, all guys so there is a lot of trash talking involved. Last year they ran the NFC Half Marathon, and a few of them said they were going to take on the full this year. Of course I wasn’t going to let a group of men outdo me, so I signed up for the marathon the day the registration opened, throwing down the gauntlet. 😉 I had no idea how I’d do, I was just hoping to be able to finish within the 7 hour time limit. I was excited to try something different from my normal road races and wanted to take on a new challenge. Long story short, a couple of my co-workers signed up for the half but a week before my race I knew I would be running the marathon solo. I considered changing to the half but I had 1) Gotten myself way too hyped about running the full, 2) Have been running high enough mileage that I thought I had a decent chance of surviving this race, and 3) I am too damn stubborn once my mind is made up about something. 😉 Still, I was nervous enough about this race that I didn’t talk much about it before hand. I didn’t want to come off as a drama queen talking about how scared I was that I might get lost in the woods, be bitten by a snake, fall into a ditch, break a leg….list of irrational pre-race fears goes on and on! Lol Obviously I survived, and am in good enough shape to be blogging about it the next day!
Early morning, leaving for the race.
The race was well organized, with race day packet pick-up available. I was SO thankful that I didn’t have to drive into D.C. during the work week, in rush hour traffic, to pick up my number. I parked, shuttled to the park, and checked in with plenty of time to spare (45 minutes) before the 9 am marathon start time. I wandered around talking to strangers, one of my all time favorite things to do! 😉 The other runners at this race were so friendly and super supportive when I told them this was my first trail race. I had zero expectations so this was the first race I’ve ran in a while that I didn’t put pressure on myself. My primary goal was to have fun and finish uninjured. While it wasn’t really a goal, I told myself if I could run this race under 5 hours I’d be ecstatic!
I learned very quickly that Garmins are very inaccurate when calculating distance and pace on a trail. I didn’t even pay attention to my watch, and I just ran by feel. The trails included a lot of single track paths, rocks, stream crossings, mud, tree roots, and steep hills. I felt like a gazelle hurdling over a few fallen trees within the first 5 miles of the race (I was NOT hurdling them on the way back though! Lol). There were a couple of points during the race that were too steep for me to run; I walked while grabbing onto trees to keep my balance. The race support was amazing, with some of the best aid stations I’ve ever seen on any race. Each aid station had big bowls of food including; fruit, pretzels, shot blocks, gels, candy, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, chicken broth….And plenty of fluids. They even had volunteers offering water refills, which was useful since there is an 8 mile stretch during this race that is totally unsupported. I had to run with a camel pack, which I should have tried out before hand, because OH. MY. GOD. THE. CHAFFING!!!! It seriously looks like I had a zombie chewing on my collar bone, shoulders, and back! I’ll live though, and know better for next time! (However my boyfriend did ask me to wear my hair down this week! Lol) Oh, and when I said I took my time….I REALLY took my time, stopping to take pictures of the beautiful park scenery and to take mid-race selfies!
Race Photos from on the trail.
After getting past the half way turn around, I was so glad I did take my time because let me tell you something….trail running is tough!! As my legs started to fatigue, keeping my balance and footing on the varying terrain became REALLY difficult. No more leaping through the air like a ballerina, flying over logs…I was just focused on keeping myself upright and moving forward. About a mile after the turn around, I made a new friend! We kept each other motivated and chatted about life for the next 10+ miles. It was her first marathon and she was a beast! At the last aid station, about 1.6 miles from the finish she had more left in her legs than I did, so I told her not to wait on me, that I was going to stop at that last aid station to regroup, and I’d meet her at the finish line. She ended up coming in second in her age division!! She totally rocks and is one of my new running BFFs!! I ended up finishing the race in 4:47:45! Yay, I finished the race, feeling strong, in under 5 hours! *Happy Dance*
Muddy, happy, and relaxing at the finish line!
After the NFC, I am totally hooked on trail running! Why? Here are the few things NFC taught me about trail running;
- Trail running forces/allows me to be moment. I was literally focused on every step I took and what was right in front of me!
- Being in nature is inspiring! I stopped a few times to take in the sites, smells, and sounds of everything around me!
- Variation! The constantly changing terrain kept things interesting, and kept me challenged and focused. I completely lost track of time during this race!
- My competitive side got to take a break….I’ve heard trail runners say, “Don’t bring your ego on the trail!” Now I know first hand what they mean! The trail was unpredictable and keeping my balance required me to run much slower than I would normally run. Also, since Garmins don’t work well on the trail any way, I had no idea how fast I was running and was not focused or worried about my pace.
- Hydration and Fuel is Key! I learned a lot about fueling and hydrating during a race. I was drinking water throughout the entire race and fueling up on peanut butter (in reusable camping tube), cliff shot blocks, and orange slices (from fueling stations). My energy levels were high and I felt great!
- Trail running is easier on my legs. Usually for a day or two after a marathon my legs feel destroyed and I’m walking with my “marathon limp”. I do feel tired today, but my legs don’t hurt AT ALL!
- The other runners! Trail runners are some of the nicest people I’ve ever met! This race wasn’t overly competitive and everyone was running at a conversational pace. We ran in packs for miles; joking, laughing, and motivating each other. And as I mentioned before, I made a new running BFF! 🙂
Not only did I have a great race, I had a great week of training. I didn’t even slack on my cross training this week, like I normally do! 😉
Recap of this weeks training:
-Monday: Ab Ripper X, 10 x burpees, 10 minute AM yoga routine.
-Tuesday: 6 mile tempo run (7:59 AP), TRX workout (3×15 each Chest press, Low-Row, Skull crushers, One arm bicep Curl) 11 x burpees.
-Wednesday: 8 mile track work out (Including 12×400 Repeats), Ab ripper X, 12 x burpees.
-Thursday: 6 miles easy, TRX workout (Same as Tuesday), 13 x burpees.
-Friday: Rest Day. 14 x burpees.
-Saturday: NFC Trail Marathon (26.2 miles)
-Sunday: 2 mile easy recovery run, Ab ripper X, 16 x burpees.
- Total Weekly Miles: 48.2
- Total 2014 Miles: 716.35
Another training cycle starts soon!! I’ll be starting Hanson’s 18 week Advanced Marathon Training Program in One Week!!!
Have you ever tried trail running? What do you love about trail running?