Sunday, August 4, 2013

The Legend Half-Marathon Recap

Saturday was another first for me - my first trail race. The Legend offered a 5-mile, 10-mile, and half-marathon option, with a theme based on the name of the park: Sleepy Hollow. (The only problem with that is I'm pretty sure everyone will just think it was a Halloween race when they see my shirt.) I tried to be a good blogger and read Wikipedia research where this name came from, but apparently no one knows. In any event, Sleepy Hollow is a nice state park with hiking, mountain-biking, and equestrian trails, surrounding a man-made lake.
An unfortunate lack of headless horsemen, however.
Last year's results indicated the race was actually pretty slow, and the organizers give AG awards 5-deep, so I took it into my head beforehand that I really wanted to win a mug. Unfortunately, I stalked all the entrants in my age group on Athlinks (Everyone does this, right?), which indicated I would need to add doping to my pre-race ritual in order to get one. I gave up on that idea and decided to run by feel.

I carpooled with my friend Karin and her fiancé to the park because it's in the boonies. We got there 45 minutes before the race started, which was almost exactly the amount of time we needed to get our packets and use the bathroom. I usually love races organized by Running Fit, but I don't know who decided that five port-a-potties would be adequate for 700ish people. It was probably a guy.

I was also excited for this race to try out my new trail shoes. I ran at the park once in my regular running shoes and got some amazing blisters. I'm happy to say the worked great!
During the race some girl told me she liked my shoes and then laughed. I'm still not sure if she was being sarcastic.
The 10-mile and half started together at 8:30. We lined up by pace, except instead of signs, Running Fit's owner waded through the crowd, waved his arms, and called out a pace. I probably was too optimistic lining up with the 9:30 group, but everyone slower than 10:00 minute miles was being lumped together, and I didn't want to get stuck. (Personal pet peeve - I hate when faster runners set some sort of arbitrary time cut-off. While neither are blazing fast, there is a significant difference between 11:00 and 13:00 minute miles.)
He was also the guy who kept reminding us to "follow the flags, not the cute butt in front of you".
The race seemed to start on time, and they released us in waves. I think I was maybe the third or fourth wave out. The first mile took a surprising toll on my legs, as it was run on the asphalt. My trail shoes have a noticeably smaller heel drop than my road shoes, which is fine on the trail but hard on my legs otherwise. And no, I'm not going to give up heel-striking.
If Shalane can do it, so can I. Deal with it.
Around mile two we finally settled into the trails. I tried to pace off people for awhile, but lots of people passed me early on. I tried to keep a hard but comfortable pace. The trails were wide, but there was really only a good single-track for running, which made passing a little tricky. It was here I enjoyed two white guys singing black spirituals together. Different strokes, I guess.

Everything went smoothly, even though my pace was slower than I wanted. I still felt like I was working plenty hard, so I went with it.

Then the wasps happened.
Pretty much.
We were running along, minding our own business. I had just gotten past by a small group and had a small group behind me. Something flew against my leg, but I brushed it off, thinking it was some sort of bug from the swamp we were by.

Then both groups of runners started screaming and flailing around. I was mostly surprised, until one of the guys started screaming "Bees! Run!" over and over. I somehow didn't get stung, which was a minor miracle considering everyone around me was stung at least once, many two or three times. I have no idea how I escaped unscathed. (Clearly not because I'm fast, I can't even see exactly where it happened looking at my splits.)

I was able to laugh after the incident because I passed a guy with a color-coordinated running outfit and Camelbak. Which is fine until I also tell you he was wearing converse. Needless to say, he was driving the No Fun Bus all the way to the finish.

We were greeted shortly afterwards by an aid station, and I felt really bad for the volunteers. They had a mini-first aid kit, good for small scrapes and similar injuries, and then they suddenly had an influx of stings to treat. Karin didn't have any wasps problems, so they weren't prepared when we rolled in.
This is also the aid station that gave me the stink-eye for getting two cups of water. Oh, the humanity!
The run continued uneventfully, except that my splits kept getting slower and slower, so I kept getting passed. To be clear, I have no problem letting faster people past, but it was frustrating that I would essentially get tail-gated, move over, and then have to run on uneven terrain while people took about 1000 years to go around me. 

At one point, I got stuck to the side and got run into some bushes because a giant group wouldn't let me back in. Only one of them even apologized. I ended up sticking my hand into some of the boughs to keep it out of my face, and suddenly I had a sharp, burning pain along my hand and arm. This was a little scary because of the bush looked harmless, so I didn't know what was wrong. The skin wasn't broken anywhere and didn't immediately look inflamed.
This is what it felt like, though.
The pain was actually a wonderful pain localizer and took my mind off running. (At least this time I can see it in my splits!) About a mile later I noticed I had a blister the size of a dime on my knuckle, but it didn't look awful. I decided to monitor it; I didn't think any aid stations would be able to help, and it wasn't like I needed to pulled from the course.

I forgot all about this come that next aid station, which required running up a very steep hill and immediately back down it. It's okay, stupid hill, I'm only super thirsty. Here I learned other people had suffered from the wasps too. I would much rather have a little blister than a bunch of stings.

I discovered at this point in the race where my "mental game" part of a half happens. I've only run one before, which I took very easy until the last four miles. I have no problem running long distances, as long as they're slow. Just being outside with a good podcast keeps me happy; it's the speed I have problems with. I found miles seven through nine the hardest mentally. Once I got to mile ten, it was only one more mile until only a 5K left. (Hey, I didn't say it made sense!) I'll keep this in mind in my marathon, in case miles 14 to 18 feel extra hard.

I ended up leap-frogging this chick on headphones who insisted on taking up the whole path. Seriously, lady, no need to flail your arms around when you're walking. I also got to hear another woman's death metal for a good 1/4 mile.

I'm ashamed, but I turned into this.
Finally, I thought we were getting close. There was supposed to be one final aid station, so I motivated myself to pick up the pace until I got there. We moved to a section of trail through tallish grass with no track, which for some reason really put the hurt on my legs. I wanted to speed up, especially since I wasn't breathing too heavily, but my legs just felt fried. I'm not sure if it was the hills or a lack of sleep or improper fueling, but they wanted to be done.

Unfortunately, there was no final aid station. I kept thinking it would be just around the corner, especially when I could hear road noise, but it never happened. The last 3/4 mile or so were on asphalt and grass again, and I felt like dying.

Suddenly, I was at the finish line. I don't say suddenly to be cliche, I say it because my Garmin said I hadn't even hit 13 miles. I had been in sync with the mile markers until around mile 11 or so, but I had assumed it would work itself out. There was no significant change in tree cover at that point (if anything, it became more open), so I think my Garmin was correct. I have to say I'm disappointed the course was 1/4 mile short. 

Just look at all that disappointment.
 Overall Time: 2:24:30 (womp)

I was glad to be done, and I found Karin easily at the finish line. I got my medal and went to get food. I got a banana and half a banana-nut muffin. (I asked the volunteer what flavor it was, but all she said was "yes" before giving it to me.) It was a bit like banana overload.

I don't know what my hair is doing or why it looks like I'm crying.
Behind us is the final part of the course. (Glamorous, I know, especially because we're standing in the parking lot.) Karin got a special medal and glass for doing all the races in the series. We also had a funny moment when a guy ran by to the finish and wanted his picture taken. If I had seen his bib number, I totally would've stalked his results.
No one should be that chipper at the end of a half.
Overall, I was pretty happy with the race. The short course was a bummer, but not super important in the grand scheme of things. The race shirts were gender-specific tech tees made by Brooks, so mine fits appropriately, which is amazing. The medals are fun and fit with the theme.

Finally, my takeaways from my first trail race:
  • Tape my big toes beforehand. I have a chronic problems with blisters there in any shoes. The trail shoes made a big difference, but it still hurt a little towards the end.
  • Have no time expectations. I felt down about my time, since I didn't even PR on a short course. But my legs were totally shot at the end, so I wasn't slacking off or anything.
  • Carry my own water. I'm not sure what happened with the aid stations, but I got pretty dehydrated. I took two cups of fluid at each aid station plus a full bottle of water at the end, but I was still down between three and four pounds when I got home. (Humidity was very low, so I sweated more than usual.)
  • Schedule walk breaks. I generally never use a run/walk plan, unless I need to fish around in my fuel belt or something, but the hills ate my quads alive. I ended up taking my sweet time at the aid stations. I could've saved some time by at least walking while I drank.
I've been thinking about doing trail marathons for several of my 50 states. This was a good test drive. I felt done by the end, but that was with pushing the pace. I think if I slowed my pace and knew I would be settling in for a much longer period of time, they would be fun. This one has made me a little nervous, but it had probably the warmest conditions of any trail race I've considered, which obviously had a big impact. If I follow my four rules above, I think it would fine.

My enjoyment in this race was hindered by the crowds (I think there should've been a registration cap and/or a better wave start system) and the missing aid stations. But I'm definitely willing to get back in the saddle.
At least I'll be able to run really slowly but still sound hardcore!

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