Sunday, 28 September 2014

6 things I learned from My 1st Trail Race

Yesterday I ran my very 1st Trail Race. You may recall I signed up on a bit of a whim last week, as way to shake up my running routine and do something completely different. There was a 5km option, but I figured I may as well go for it and sign up for Challenge Distance - 14.4km. And I gotta say, this was exactly what I needed. (SPOILER ALERT: I loved it!).

I went in with little to no expectations. My goal was really to try something different and just enjoy it. I knew that I had to adjust my pace expectations because of the terrain and elevation gain. And I had been told this course was pretty technical. Coach Michelle had also instructed me to walk the hills - to conserve energy and decrease lactic acid build up. So I thought 2 hours for 14.4km would be pretty realistic, especially since this was first time trying trails.

I was ecstatic when I crossed the line comfortably 1:51:35. I was ahead of schedule, which almost never happens, and I had lots left in the tank. Plus it was good enough to take 3rd in my age-group! What?! Crazy!? That has literally never happened to me before. I was admittedly way behind the others girls (like 30 minutes), but I will take my 3rd Place water bottle and use it proudly.

My Face say "Hey Guys, I can't believe I am up here!" Tehe!

Road Running and Trail Running are completely different beasts. So I learned a lot at Chase the Coyote.

1. Getting there is part of the Adventure
Most Road Races start at an obvious intersection, local monuments, or easy to spot landmarks. Trail Racing, not so much. I don't know if it was my GPS, or what, but I definitely traveled down some interesting and narrow dirt sideroads to get to Mono Cliff Provincial Park. I also went to wrong entrance to start, and had to back track a bit to find the place.

2. Trail Running makes you feel like a Badass Forest Fairy
Maybe, that is just me. But the trail ambiance is pretty magical. You are running through fields of wild flowers along a single track. You are leaping over logs and splashing through creeks. You are scrambling up hills and bounding over rocks. The terrain and scenery is constantly changing and it definitely keeps things interesting.

3. It is very easy to Fall
I luckily did not fall, although I definitely stumbled more times than I can count. You have to have your whits about you. Especially when your legs start to get fatigued. I am notorious for not picking up my feet when I am getting tired. And the second half of the race was where I started to have the most trouble. I definitely stumbled over quite a few roots, and had to really focus on my footing and picking my feet up.

4. Leave the GPS at home.
It is basically impossible to pace yourself the way you would for a road race. This particular race had 2 major hills, mixed in with plenty of rolling terrain. There was a also a huge set of stairs (64 to be precise). And tons of rocks and roots all the way along. You have to be really mindful of your footing, and some points are easier than others to gain speed. I opted to run just based on heart rate - my goal was to target zone 4, and kick it into zone 5 at the end. Which is exactly how my run played out.

5. Trail Running has Better Snacks
There are not as many proper water stations along the course, because it is not really possible with the terrain. But this race had 3 - the last one you passed 2x so technically 4 potential water stops. And along with water and HoneyMaxx, you could also grab yourself an orange and a cookie mid-race! Yay Cookies! I opted for an orange and my gels during the race. But I was very happy to help myself to some pizza and cookies post-race. (**Take note Road Races - Pizza and Cookies trumps Plain Bagels and Bananas.**)

6. The atmosphere is awesome
I don't know why, but for some reason everyone seems so much more relaxed. Everyone comes to hangout pre and post race (I think the pizza helps). And everyone is extremely friendly. I ended up chatting with so many people out on the course.

Moral of the story: I will definitely be back. And I see more trail running in my future. Taking some time off the road was exactly what I needed. I fell back in love with Running this weekend.

Love Your Favourite Darwinian Fail,