My week in running was uneventful and pleasant, with an unplanned cutback in miles. I ran easy all week leading up to my first trail 10K on Saturday. It was cooler all week, and my body rejoiced. I keep saying this every week, but running and I are in such a good place right now. I love that the mornings are light enough to not have to wear a headlamp, but I’m still done before the bright sun comes up. While the geese had their babies months ago, ducklings are now out and about, and boy are they cute. I can easily fit in an enjoyable 4 miles without having to go to bed super early and still be at my desk by shortly after 8. I’m not tired, fatigued, or burned out. Running is all roses, unicorns, and rainbows right now, and, because I know it won’t last, I’m appreciating it all.
Week at a Glance
- Training mode: Pre-marathon training; training for a 10K trail run June 24
- Days running: 3
- Miles this week: 14.15
- Miles this month: 70.71
- Miles this year: 466.08
- Strength training: 30 minutes
Unplanned rest day
I should have knocked on wood last week when I pointed out how the rain stayed away during my runs. It was pouring all morning. I knew I’d have a very wet morning between taking the dog out and then walking to work in the rain, so I chose not to run in the rain.
Easy run: 4 miles
62 degrees! Hallelujah! As I was running past a construction site on the trail, a mother duck hissed at me. I’m used to geese hissing (or even attacking) if I get too close to their babies, but having a duck do it was a first. Then I noticed she had three ducklings near her, but two were caught behind the construction fence! I stopped and wondered how I could help. Mama Duck didn’t want me to help me at all and kept hissing at me. I tried to pull the construction fence apart a little so the babies could get through, but it wouldn’t budge. When I did that, though, the duckling outside the fence somehow got caught in the fence, and Mama Duck started freaking out until the baby was free. I realized I was creating more distress than helping, so I continued on my way. On the way back, I saw all the ducklings safely outside the fence with the mama. Yay!
Easy run: 4 miles
Strength training: 30 minutes
65 degrees! A little humid, but not too bad.
After work I biked home like usual, took the dog out, then biked back Downtown to meet Dave for dinner and drinks. We tried the new Condado taco place. It was packed, but we got seats outside. I had a thai lime tofu taco and a roasted portobello taco–two of the three vegan options (the third was BBQ jackfruit). There are a bunch of different toppings, salsa, and sauces you can choose from–it’s a build-your-own type of thing. They were very good! The thick, fresh tortilla chips were also great. I reluctantly had a blood orange margarita because there really wasn’t much else on the drink menu except tequila (there was an entire page of different tequila options) and beer (which I don’t really like). I love the taste of margaritas, but they’re one of the highest calorie drinks you can have because of all the sugar so I never have them. I much prefer eating my calories instead of drinking them! Anyway, Condado is another good option among Pittsburgh’s many taco restaurants. Are taco places trending everywhere?
Unplanned rest day
That blood orange margarita? It totally knocked me out. I wasn’t sure I could make it back home on my bike! (Dave helped by biking slowly with me and being my eyes and ears to tell me when it was okay to turn.) It also made me very tired Friday morning, and because it was raining, it was easy for me to hit the snooze button and cuddle with the dog some more.
The rain continued most of the day Friday. It was dark, gloomy, and stormy, and every time I looked out the window I wondered how muddy the trails would be for Saturday’s race. There were thunderstorm warnings, a tornado sighting, and flash floods in a lot of places. All of that was, of course, in addition to the daily rain we’ve had all month. I considered not running the race because of trail conditions, but I figured that’s part of what trail races are about—having to deal with whatever the trail conditions are. Plus, if people were going out there to run 50 miles on the trails, I could run 6.2.
Hell Hath No Hurry 10K
The rain continued all night and stopped about an hour before the 8 a.m. start of the 10K. The race was held at Settler’s Cabin Park off 376 West, a quick 20-minute drive from my house. The 10K was the shortest of the distances offered. The other distances were a 30K, 50K, 50 mile, and 50-mile relay, with mileage made up of laps of the 10K course. It was a cool and sunny morning in the low 60s and felt great. No one I knew was running the race, but I chatted with other runners as we waited for the start. The 50-mile runners had started before us, and I saw some coming through a little muddy, but not too bad.
A few minutes before the start, the race director gathered us at the start line and asked who was running their first trail race. A surprising number—almost half–of the 85 finishers were. We were told that the course was extremely well marked with pink ribbons tied to trees, pink flags on the ground, and pink arrows spray painted on the trail. In other words, if we got lost, it was our own fault. And with that, we were off!
We ran through a grassy field before entering the trail. The ground was very soft but not very muddy and was fun. I was in great spirits and looking forward to experiencing the course. The majority of the course was singletrack in the woods, but there were a few very short sections through fields and on roads. As we were about to enter the woods, everyone stopped. Everyone was walking, and people were reporting that it was muddy and slippery. As I started on the trail, I said aloud, “Boy, it really is slippery!” as I slipped around and tried not to fall. Little did I know then that the entire course would be extremely muddy and very slippery.
The first half-mile was probably the best in terms of trail conditions. I was able to actually run and follow the people in front of me, with everyone walking a bit in the worst of the slick mud. Then we came out of the woods and were faced with a very steep downhill on a grassy hill with nothing to hold onto. I have trail shoes, but they’re my old Asics model that now hurt my feet, so I don’t wear them. I was wearing instead my Saucony road shoes, which had zero traction in the mud. On that hill, I slipped, then fell on my side and slid most of the way down. I wasn’t hurt but was instead surprised just how muddy and slippery everything was.
We then ran around tennis courts through the grass, which was a nice reprieve from the mud. When we entered the trail again, I was trying to keep up with the runners in front of me. I was feeling good and hoped the worst of the mud was behind me. Then my toe caught on a rock buried under mud, and I went flying. I caught myself and didn’t fall, but my toe hurt a lot and I had to walk for a bit. That’s when I realized that I should not be trying to run fast and slowed down to be more careful. Slowing down, however, made little difference. Nor did walking. The trails were so muddy and so slippery that it was more like skating and trying not to fall, and trying to catch myself when I felt myself falling. It was like walking on ice. And about 95% of the course was like that. I didn’t get any good pictures of the mud because I was trying so hard to stay upright that I was scared to get my phone out most of the time.
By the time I finished the first mile, I was pretty much terrified. The course was treacherous, and I realized I could very well hurt myself badly. I ran when I could, at a very slow pace so I wouldn’t go down. I walked a lot, very slowly and carefully to keep from falling. This is nuts!!! I told myself over and over. I didn’t say it out loud because I knew one of the race rules was No Whining. Seriously! I was particularly afraid at any downhill or uphill. There was one downhill section that was narrow and hugging a cliff. I tried to grab onto grass, roots, anything to keep me from sliding and tumbling down the hill. The uphill sections weren’t much better. I had to find things to grab onto to keep myself from sliding back down, because I had no traction.
During winter, group runs with our local running groups will be canceled if there’s ice that would make it unsafe for runners. I could not believe this race was happening with such treacherous conditions. It was just crazy to me. If there was an option to quit, I would have quit in a heartbeat without a second thought. I was really scared and wasn’t enjoying myself at all. But there was no such option. It was a loop, and I had no choice but to keep going.
There was an aid station halfway through the course. I took a gel, refilled my water bottle, and talked to the volunteers for a few minutes. They saw how scared I was and urged me to take it slow and be careful.
From that point I counted down the miles. I skated along through the mud, trying to keep myself upright. There were two women in front and behind me, but neither close enough to talk to. Some runners came through running other distances, and I told them they were doing great and that I couldn’t imagine doing the loop more than once. The 50-mile runners had to run the loop 8 times! 8 times!!! It boggles my mind. But here’s the thing. I could barely walk in that mud, much less run, much less run fast. But others passed me, blazing through! How were they doing it? It has to be more than having good trail shoes. I guess there’s some secret to trail races that I don’t know about.
Finally, with just one more mile to go, I started to feel better because I knew the end was near. I started talking to myself, telling myself, “Just one more mile!” The finish line is always sweet, but seeing this finish line made me particularly happy, especially because it came at the bottom of a nice, grassy downhill. I finished in 1:50:27. I’ve only done one other 10K, and my time was 1:04. So I really didn’t think I did bad to finish this crazy, muddy race in 1:50 with all the walking I did. (The winner finished in 43 minutes—how is that possible!?!)
The aid station at the finish line was stocked like a grocery store. I’d heard about the aid stations at ultras, but it was still something to see. There were three different kinds of potato chips, pretzels, chex mix, various candy, berries, watermelon, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, potatoes with salt for dipping, and all sorts of drinks. I took a few potato chips to munch on as I walked to my car and reflected on my first trail race. I wish I could say that despite the conditions, I enjoyed myself and the trail. But aside from those first few minutes running through an open field before we got to the trail, I didn’t. It was a terrifying, miserable experience—the worst experience in trail running I’ve ever had.
I’ve had a lot of bad experiences at races, but I usually learn something from them and don’t regret them. Not this time. If I could go back in time, I wouldn’t have done this race. I just didn’t enjoy any part of it. The best part was the medal, which was handmade and really cool. Also, I didn’t take a picture, but the race swag was a pair of socks with the HHNH logo on it.
Anyway, as if to make up for all the recent rain and storms, the weather was absolutely gorgeous all weekend. It was sunny, not hot, and not humid. Dave, Django, and I hung outside on our patio for the whole afternoon before going on a walk later.
Early in the morning I did errands, had brunch with a friend, then Dave and I met my running buddy Jamie to bike through Open Streets. The route this month was from Downtown through the North Side, then to the West End. The streets are closed, and there are games, activities, and things to see and do the whole route. More and more people do Open Streets each month. This month, like last month, it was very crowded and congested. I think biking near little kids is almost as treacherous as Saturday’s trail race was! They don’t bike in a straight line and will just turn right into you without any warning. Twice, little kids almost took me down! After Open Streets, the three of us went to Penn Brewery, which is right by my house, then Dave and I took Django on a long walk. It was such a gorgeous weekend!
This week I’m just going to be running for fun before heading on a little vacation for the 4th of July weekend. We rented a house on 200 private acres in West Virginia, complete with its own little lake and 8 miles of trails right on the property–in other words, my idea of Heaven!
I’m linking up with Holly from HoHo Runs and Tricia from MissSippiPiddlin for their Weekly Wrap, Steff, for the Pittsburgh Run Bloggers Weekly Recap, and Courtney for her Training Recap. Have a great week!