24 February 2013

Dahlgren Trail Half Marathon - Race Report

Staying warm by the bonfire after the race 
Let's just get one thing straight right away - today I was a sandbagger and I am not proud of it. I did not intend to be one, I've never run a trail half marathon so I wasn't sure how to compare those times to road half marathon times. In looking at the finish times last year, I thought the times from the elite wave looked relatively speedy for a trail race. I wasn't sure how technical the course was going to be; once I found out it was on an old railroad bed I figured it probably couldn't be too technical, but you never know - there are always exceptions (I would say that the Thunder Mountain Railroad at Disney is on the technical side). I had decided about a week ago to run this race - it would be perfect as I had a 90 minute trail run workout on my schedule anyway. Jen instructed me not to kill myself out there and simply have fun and run smart - next week is not a recovery week and Monday is not a rest day. So I decided it would be smart to just run in the AG wave rather than the elite wave. I didn't want to be *that girl* who tries to run with the fast people and can't keep up and then runs her legs into the ground in vain. So AG race it was! Though within about 5 minutes of starting, and nobody running with me, I realized I would instead be *that girl* who was a total sandbagger. Sigh.

Kendra was super sweet and offered to drive. I showed up at her house ON TIME (go me!) at 5:30am. Her friend Adam joined us for the car ride down and the race (how I didn't know Adam before today, I do not know - according to Facebook we have close to 30 mutual friends). As we all expected with a small race (about 200 participants), everything was very low-key and everyone was super friendly. The bonfire near the start line was a bonus - great way to keep warm after shedding your layers as you wait for the start. Because the trail was relatively narrow, they started us off in waves - elites would go first, and then they sent off another group every two minutes. I went 10 minutes after the first wave. I made the dumb mistake of deciding to switch out my laces on my shoes (was wearing my old Kinvaras because I didn't want to get my new pink shoes dirty. Vanity) just a few minutes before the start. Disaster. Couldn't get the lock laces out, ended up trying to put my shoes back together with the original lock laces (now half undone, all tangled, and definitely not in any position to be relaced up. Sigh). I made it to the start with about two minutes to spare.

The race start was uneventful. I ended up at the front of the 30-39 AG wave within the first two minutes and I was hoping someone would creep up and keep me company, but no dice. The race was a simple out-and-back on the trail from the 0.0 mile marker to the turnaround point at the 6.5 mile marker.  The trail wasn't very technical, just some gravelly sections which had loose footing. It wasn't very muddy and there were sections both going out and coming back that were false flats. After about 10 minutes, I caught up to the girls in the wave ahead of me, and then caught up to some more people that were in earlier waves. I felt like I was running a comfortable pace (wasn't wearing a HR monitor because I just didn't want to). My first mile was the slowest and then I picked up the pace and kept things relatively consistent for the rest of the miles. I saw Kendra and Adam as they were looping back and I still had about a mile to go to the turnaround point, they both looked strong. I felt super happy to be out running, my legs felt good and my mind was in a positive place. I wasn't out there trying to set any records, I just wanted to run a smart race and I'd be very pleased if my last few miles were my fastest ones (this ended up happening). Before I knew it, I reached the turnaround point and headed back. Everyone was so friendly out on the course and it was so nice to exchange hellos and waves with the other competitors. I didn't hit a low point until about miles 8-10 in the race. At that point, I was mostly alone and I couldn't really see anyone ahead of me to try to catch. My legs were starting to feel fatigued and I was breathing a bit heavier. I definitely didn't go to any dark places during this race - things were mainly rainbows and unicorns, but during miles 8-10 the unicorns looked a little more like regular horses and there was no pot of lucky charms at the end of the rainbow. I snapped out of it by mile 10, started to see some other runners come into view ahead of me, hit a long section with a slight downhill (the false flat on the way out was good for something!) and my pace fell accordingly, letting my last 3 miles be my fastest ones. I will say that the last mile seemed to go on FOREVER and it felt really good to stop running once I hit the finish line.

Post-race with Leslie and Kendra
Post-race I caught up with Kendra and Adam and Leslie while we stood in front of the bonfire and had soup and crackers and oranges. The event coordinator got right down to the awards nice and quick so there wasn't too much standing around. Kendra and Leslie went 1-2 in the elite wave! I ended up first in the 30-39 AG by 15 minutes. See, sandbagger. My time of 1:36:54 was good enough for 4th fastest time for women. My legs actually feel quite good, no worse for the wear than my usual weekend long run and I did some quality foam rolling when I got home from the race, so hopefully I will survive my long swim tomorrow morning!


Kathy said...

Nice job! Sounds fun.

Jeff Thomas said...

Nice job and nice post! I was one of the runners that you picked off at around mile 12! Thanks for helping to push me at the end! This was my first trail race and I'm lookign forward to a few more! My post is at www.werrunners.com