Trail Nut 10k & Half Marathon
Saturday, May 4, 2013
This was the second Mountain Junkies event we had the pleasure of experiencing back in 2010 when I first discovered this amazing series of races. The Mountain Junkies are a husband and wife duo that "want you to have a great time", a tagline that is evident in every aspect of the events they put together. This event, the Trail Nut 10k and Half Marathon, is one of my favorites and so close to home I couldn't pass it up even with that vow I made with myself about racing anything this short before Western States (and then of course there's that ridiculous streak of mine).
I ran the 10k in 2010, it was only my third 10k ever, second on trails and I fell in love with the park that the race introduced me to and even more in love with single track. In 2011, hellbent on finishing the series despite being pregnant, I ran the 10k and announced with my t-shirt that I was expecting a 'future Mountain Junkie'. Last year was my first attempt at the half marathon, for which personal problems led to a pretty down evening and morning before the race start. I started the race hungry and with my mind elsewhere, with legs only a week off of my second ultra, and suffered greatly.
After swearing off shorter races earlier this year when the calf trouble befell me I had to sorrowfully remove the Mountain Junkies RNUTS from my race calendar. However, after last weekend's not so stellar performance at Promise Land I began contemplating the Trail Nut. I thought about just coming out, maybe sweeping the course or being a cheerleader, but I'd seen the race t-shirt and wondered just how I could do at a race for which speed of some sort would be necessary. Todd was encouraging that I run the half, not 'sandbag' and race the 10k, he was also excited about seeing what he could do at the half marathon.
Back and forth on registering, as well as which distance to choose all the way up until we arrived at Falling Creek Park kept the nerves and race jitters down to a very fine low, almost nonexistent. Uncertain how my calf would react I registered for the half marathon, figuring the distance would afford a slighter slower overall pace. With a few minutes to spare before the race briefing I joined Todd for a quick warm-up.
The pace was slow and the calf felt good, I began to think I could pull it off. I figured I would be fifth, trailing Dacia, Courtney, Lauren and Carrie, as long as I could hold it together.
Turns out "holding it together" is a real challenge for me.
I positioned myself at the start line around Lauren, Courtney, Randy, people I thought I should be able to run with if I ran well. When the race began I tried to go out with them. Through the grass we ran, I was keeping with them but also immediately feeling the pace, you can't keep this, Alexis, back off now. Backing off before we even entered the single track was blow number one. When the calf began to tighten, as should be expected at this point, I tried to push through. When the pain in my calf began to spread to my foot like it did at that fateful 5k back in February I had to reign it in further and lose several more positions. This was blow number two. With the calf now irritated and with a diminishing pace I began to fall victim to the negativity, contemplating a DNF. Just tell Josh your leg can't handle this, you just ran an ultra a week ago, this was foolish at best. Struggling along, the determined side of me spoke up, you can finish this, it may take three hours, but you don't DNF, it's not who you are.
The next few miles were a tad bit miserable, but I was in this thing. I was slipping just slightly in pace as I fought on, hoping the pain in my calf would ease as it is known to do after a few miles. I just kept trying to reassure myself that it would pass. However, by the time I found myself running on pavement the pain was radiating up the hip, not full out painful, but a threat of some kind. To top it off I've been dealing with a touch of plantar fasciitis in the other foot that decided to share it's frustration with me at this point. The persistent pain, while not severe, was blow number three. I was an absolute mess.
Then, shortly before the bike park, Sarah Taylor passed me looking strong. I followed closely behind as we made our ways up the grassy hill, taking in her beautiful stride, admiring her strength. When we came into the bike park and it was flat with countless people ahead of us running seemingly in circles my first thought was this is just cruel! I could see the runners ahead of me, but then as I ran further into the flat, winding section I began to see the happy, strong faces of runners quickly approaching. I always feel a certain weakness on flats and Saturday was no different. I started to focus on Sarah, how strong she looked.
|Suffering in the first miles. Photo courtesy Mountain Junkies.|
I still felt pain in my left heel and right hip, but I started to drown them out with this new-found focus on running well. If there was anymore negative self-talk it was only that it shouldn't take me nearly five miles to decide to run on strengths, not deficiencies. The next six miles were run well, I began to settle into a better race, a better day. I was a little disoriented coming through the first loop, unsure whether I should really be crossing the finish line or not. I decided to stop at the aid station to fill up my water bottle, I was worried it would heat up in the second loop, but I probably should have just dropped the empty bottle at what would be the finish line, I didn't end up drinking much of the water and it probably cost me some time.
Going out for the second, shorter loop I felt pretty good, the heel was the only thing still really nagging me and I hoped to drop the pace even more. However, at about eleven miles the fatigue began to set in. I would have to settle for holding the pace, the legs may be capable of holding that pace for a half marathon but they really just aren't trained for it at the moment. When I came upon Blake with less than two miles to go I wondered when he had passed me. He said he'd accidentally cut the course, that he'd already told Gina about it and that he'd see me at the finish as he let me pass by him.
Coming into the final miles a volunteer directing the half marathoners told me I was in third place for females, I had been kind of hoping to chase Courtney down, but there was no one out in front of me that I could see. I had a runner behind me the entire second loop, I kept encouraging him to pass me but he kept assuring me that he was just trying to hold on. The short, but slightly steep final section of trail was not as hard as I recalled last year. I had planned on not pushing the final steps but when I saw I was capable of breaking 1:50 I picked up the pace to secure that feat.
Within moments of passing the finish line I had several people tell me I was third female and several tell me I was fourth. I didn't let the confusion bother me, I was preoccupied with a fair bit of itching. I had sat down in the grass and I don't know if that's what caused the itching but most of my legs and torso itched. Thankfully, Gina saved me with a Benadryl.
Turns out, I was third. One of the females in the race had unintentionally cut the course along with Blake and a few other guys. I felt really bad about this, like I was stealing third. Todd assured me that, while everyone involved felt bad, I was third and shouldn't feel bad about accepting the award.
|Courtney Griffin (2nd), Dacia Reed (1st) and Alexis Thomas (3rd)|
I urge everyone who hasn't run a Mountain Junkies race to do so, I have started several posts about just how well put together and carried out they are, but I think you just need to go out and participate to really feel what I would try to convey in a post. Conquer the Cove is next month, go sign up! You won't be sorry, but you may be sore!
Once again, post race, I'm floundering, frustrated. I feel lost. I know I can run well but being injury prone and with Western States looming closer everyday I am probably worse than ever before. I told Todd yesterday that I can't wait for July 1st, I'm just ready to see how it all turned out. I keep saying that I don't want to disappoint everyone, but to be honest, I'm most worried that I am going to disappoint myself, fall apart and quit before my time. If I could just locate that strength I know I have, bottle it up and have it ready I know I would be alright but instead I keep misplacing it, and that has me truly running scared.