Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Trail Half Marathon Recap

view from the start, looking down the hill that we ran down at the start but had to run up to finish
not super steep, but steep enough to be a problem after 13.6 miles of hills

I've been a little slow with some posts lately. I've been having problems with the logical volumes and storage on my computer and trying to figure out how to solve the problem is taking more time than I anticipated. Computers are not my strong point (give me a power tool any day), and Mr M, who is our resident computer guru is not very experienced with mac issues. Life is fairly busy so I don't have hours and hours to dedicate to the problem. In the meantime, things are limping along.

Speaking of limping, Saturday's trail half marathon was brutal.

I went into the race even more undertrained than usual (which actually works fairly well for me), but the lack of hill work was my downfall.  Even though my mileage base was lower than I'd have liked, I've completed 5 half marathons, so I wasn't worried about the distance. Walkers were encouraged in the race, so I knew I could walk as much as I needed.  The crucial element I forgot about was the hilly nature of trail runs. Running up, down, around, and back again over multiple hills for 13.6 miles (it was a long half marathon) requires so much more energy and effort than 13.1 miles on the road with fewer, gentler hills. The energy output was fairly similar to the full marathon I ran several years ago, in my opinion.

This was the first year for this race, so there wasn't a large field of runners- under 100, I think. Despite advertising that it was open to walkers, there weren't any people who walked the whole race. In fact, as I looked around at the beginning of the race I could tell that I was probably going to be the slowest person there. Let's just say that I do not look like a runner- too short and stocky even without the 50 extra pounds I still haven't managed to get rid of. Half a mile into the race and I knew I was right- everyone left me in the dust.

Luckily the trail was very well marked and I never felt lost or worried about where I was going. There were only three aid stations so I wore a small camelbak-type daypack. I've worn hydration belts a couple times, but never a camelbak. I was able to snug everything down fairly well and only had a little bit of chafing on the sides of my neck. Long sleeves because of cooler weather forestalled any other chafing issues. And ankle-length tights kept me from getting poison ivy, which I saw along the trail in multiple locations.

Because I was the slowest runner I probably pushed myself harder than I would have if there had been walkers behind me. Though honestly, I still would have pushed it. I've proven over and over that I can't just walk a race.

I turned my left ankle twice and my right ankle once but managed to go 12.7 out of 13.6 miles without actually falling. Less than a mile from the finish I tripped over nothing and landed in a rare muddy spot. It didn't hurt, but it was a bit frustrating since I was then wearing the evidence of my fall all over my knees. Oh well, it's not like I was going to win the most photogenic runner award. I never manage to get good photos while running- inevitably my mouth is open and my face is all red.

As I mentioned earlier, the never ending hills were brutal. I really feel like at least two thirds of the race was up hill. The hills weren't long and super steep, but there were shallower hills that went on and on as well as lots and lots of shorter steep hills. It was the never-ending presence of more hills that was so exhausting.

I walked a lot of the race, but since I'm incapable of sauntering through a race I was still keeping a pretty good pace while walking up all those hills. So even though I wasn't running up all those never-ending hills my muscles still got quite the workout.

Until this race I had never worked any muscles to the failure point. My glutes, thighs, and calves hit that point multiple times during the race. Coming into the final straightaway to the finish my calves started cramping up. It was just momentary, but to have it happen so close to the finish worried me. Then 20 feet from the finish line my calves cramped again and I barely made it over the finish line. Thankfully it was just a single spasm and I was able to keep going. I've never had cramps like those and I hope I don't again. They were kind of like charley horses and having them hit both calves at the same time made it really hard to keep going.

Because of all the walking, it took me 3 hours, 35 minutes and 17 seconds to complete 13.61 miles. I hit 13.1 miles at 3:26:24, which is officially my slowest half marathon by 36 minutes. I went into this race with the single goal of finishing. Once I started running I decided that finishing in less than 4 hours would be great, but I still didn't focus on the time. When I glanced at my Garmin it was to check my distance. I knew the race was long, for which I am very grateful. It would have been so disheartening not to know about the extra distance ahead of time and to reach the 13.1 mark and not have the finish line anywhere in sight.

Finish Time
Disneyland Half
Sept 2007
Top of Utah Half
Aug 2008
Disney World Half
Jan 2012
Disney World Half
Jan 2013
Great Smoky Mountains Half
Sept 2014
Trail Half
Nov 2015
The half marathons I've completed to date. I'm not including the Hill Valley half since it was not completed in one day.

This was the earliest I've run a half after giving birth- Ocean's not quite 4 months old. I ran the Smoky Mountains half when River was just under a year old and the Disneyland half when Sunshine was about 16 months old. I feel that my 40 by 40 goal has gotten me back to running sooner and has helped keep me motivated to run races even when my treadmill time is lacking.

I was a bit wary of what running such a strenuous race would do to my milk supply. I have plenty of pumped milk in the freezer for Ocean, but I wasn't sure how my body would handle missing a feeding or two. My milk supply dropped a little but Ocean has been nursing more frequently to make up for it. The more frequent feedings are stimulating my milk production to increase again, so in the end it will be ok. If I were to get pregnant again I'm not sure I would run a half marathon while the baby is exclusively nursing. Though exclusive nursing does make it easier to get my milk supply back up- no solid foods to distract from nursing.

Since it was cold (mid-30's at the start) and there weren't many opportunities for spectating I left everyone at home. The early start was not something I wanted to rush everyone through; it was much quicker and easier to get just myself ready. Though it would have been nice to have Mr M to drive me home since I had to really focus to stay awake on the drive home. And it would have been nice to feed Ocean a little sooner. However, the kiddos would not have enjoyed hanging out with nothing to do but try to stay warm.

I was very sore Saturday afternoon and Sunday- my knees were so sore from all those hills that stairs were murder- but yesterday I felt almost back to normal. I have some tightness in my hips and IT bands, but it's manageable. I have one blister on my right big toe, but it doesn't interfere with wearing shoes and walking around.

Will I do this race again? Very doubtful. While they have a very nice finisher's shirt (Patagonia capilene base layer shirt), they don't have finisher's medals. I like my bling! And it is a very challenging race that requires better training than I'm able to put into it at this point in my life.

I've done several trail 5ks, one trail 15k, and now a trail half. My conclusion is that until I have the chance to actually train on trails I will not be running trail races longer than 5k. Trail running requires more training than running on the treadmill is giving me and my body just can't handle the longer distances. And I will be paying close attention to race descriptions.  The group that put on this race (which was advertised as challenging and hilly) also put on a trail 5k, which I will not be running as it's also billed as challenging and hilly. These guys don't lie! Since I can't properly train for trail runs I'll be sticking to trail runs that are as flat and unchallenging as possible. The challenge will be to remember this and not get over-confident again.

In church on Sunday a friend commented that I was brave to do the race. I think it's more about confidence- I know I can do 13.1 miles, so I knew I could finish the race. I may not finish quickly, but I can finish. If my goal had been to PR, I would not have signed up for the race. As it was, my goal was to finish a trail half marathon. My 40 by 40 goal is not about PRs, it's about finishing races I might not otherwise even sign up for. On the other hand, if the volume of races I'm running results in a PR, I won't complain :)

This makes 7 races towards my 40 by 40 goal and 13 this year. I'll be taking it easy and letting my legs rest while just walking on the treadmill between now and next Thursday's Turkey Trot. I'm curious to see if all the hills on Saturday will help with the hills in the last half of the Turkey Trot.

40 by 40 Races

Event Type
4th of July 5k
4 Mile Fun Run
4 miles
Road Race
All Terrain
Mixed surface
Hill Valley Half
13.1 miles
Cumulative virtual
Corn Maze 5k
Corn Maze
Kilted Trail 5k
Kilted race
Trail Half
13.6 miles
Trail Half

2015 Races
Race Time

Trail Half (November)
13.61 miles
Kilted Trail 5k (October)

Corn Maze 5k (October)


Almost 10 weeks postpartum

almost 6 weeks postpartum
July 5k           

38 weeks pregnant
June 5k          

34 weeks pregnant
May 5k           

29 weeks pregnant
pushed River in the jogger
April 5k         

28 weeks pregnant
pushed River in the jogger
March 5k       

22 weeks pregnant

20 weeks pregnant
January 5k     

12 weeks pregnant

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