Piney Woods Trailfest 50k
Set off at the relatively decent hour of 5:50 to meet a friend who I was getting a lift to the race from at Kroger at 6am. I got to have a quick chat with friends who were setting off on their runs before jumping in my friends car and heading off. The destination was Lake Houston Wilderness Park which is only around 15 mins away from where I live.
We got there and picked up our packets which included a nice t-shirt that I am yet to try on, hope it fits! It was still dark but by the time the gun went off at 7:30 the sun was up. I had intended to run with a friend but it's hard to do that once you pin the number to your top right?! I had given this 'race' zero thought and had no idea what time I would run, how long does 50k take, who knows?
A couple of guys took off from the gun with a 3rd not too far behind them. I ran along with my friend in a group of 4 for around a mile (maybe less) before getting itchy feet and taking off. Does this make me a terrible running buddy? Probably! He is still speaking to me and he said before we started that he knew I wasn't going to stay with him so all is good!
The course was a 1 mile loop then 3 x 10 mile loops. There was also a 20 and 10 mile race and 5k. I finished the 1st lap just as the 10 miler started but my 1st toilet stop put me right at the back of them ALL so I had to pick my way through the masses which was kind of annoying at points - why do people run trail runs with headphones in BOTH ears?
I honestly don't get the whole headphone/music thing. I do plug myself in on the treadmill otherwise it is beyond dull but when you're outside running through the trees and what is a beautiful park, why the antisocial music thing? Ok, so it suits some people, fine whatever but please be aware you are in a race and there are people coming up from behind who you ought to really try to get out of the way for. Ugh, it really wasn't all that bad it's just dumb to me that you would purposefully lose one of your main senses when you're out and about, it would make me feel very vulnerable I think.
The 1st and second laps were ok, to be honest I didn't feel great at any point, still feeling the marathon in there a little bit despite it being 4 week ago now. The course had a small handful of little climbs and downhills, nothing too challenging but for the most part was very flat. It was muddy in parts and the surface did take a toll on my legs, no return like I'm used to getting from the road and treadmill, it is much more sapping to run trails. There were roots and sticks everywhere, I ran the whole 31 miles looking at my feet with the occasional appreciative glance up at the trees. I rolled my ankle a tiny bit but no harm done and was happy to have faired so well on such an uneven surface. I felt like I was back at home and thoroughly enjoyed being in a forest without a road, greenbelt or treadmill for miles :)
I ate and drank at all of the 3 aid stations, I had a cookie, banana, m&m's.....gatorade and coke. I have only had coke twice during a run and I think it's wonderful! Gatorade doesn't agree with me (suffered after this run for a while) and there's something about coke that I crave when I run long. The right sugar/caffeine combo for me, wish I could have it at points along the marathon.
I had 3 toilet stops in all, I wont go into detail but I am a little worried about the amount of......blood that appears fairly regularly, especially on/after long runs. I probably ought to go see a Dr about it but I more than likely won't. My stomach bothered me during this one despite the imodium, not bad enough to slow me down and the toilet stops helped but still a little annoying.
The 3rd lap was tough, I ran the entire race on my own but at least had other people to pass during earlier laps due to the other race distances and start times. No such luck on the final lap, only saw a small handful of people and it felt pretty lonely. I love quiet time, crave it, my kids create a constant barrage of noise ALL day long and peace and quiet is not something I have much of in my life but a little company on that final lap would have been nice. The people at the aid stations became the most welcoming sight ever, especially the old couple and young girl at the last one around the 7.5mile mark on the 10 mile loop. I wanted to see that nice woman's face so badly on that last lap! I think running for that length of time is like being in labour, there comes a point where you kind of fall in love with.......everything/everyone! I was in love with the nice old woman at the aid station, I even told her so in not so many words :D I took my time at the stations, no running through for me, stopped and fuelled before heading off again, they became very welcome stops for me. I picked my water bottle up at the start of the 3rd lap which I was grateful for, I had started to get thirsty and filled and emptied it 3 times on that last loop.
After 2 cups of coke at the final aid station for the final time I perked up a bit and put the final 2.5 miles to rest. I was very tired at the end, my time 4:16 - that is a loooong time to be on your feet and running for! I was 3rd overall (I think one of those guys must have dropped out?) and 1st female. My splits were kind of surprising to me: 1:26, 1:24, 1:25. I didn't run with my garmin, haven't worn it in ages, hate that watch so apart from seeing the clock at the end of every lap I had no other time 'clue'. I do feel like I have a pace that feels comfortable to me and I guess on this day and this course it was 8:15/mile. Kind of amazed my final lap wasn't way slower than the others, I thought it would be. But I was stuck in a groove and just kept pushing for each mile marker, a good sign that the endurance I built for Houston is still in there....somewhere.
The winning time was 3:59, nice job that man! A few running buddies were there at the end, they had run the 10 miler but I felt very antisocial, I just didn't have the energy at the end to stand and chat! I got my award, congratulated the winner then found a quiet spot with a nice tree and lay down and put my legs up in the air against the tree. It felt GOOD! My legs were very happy to be the other way round after more than 4 hours on my feet.
Feels so good, the shoes were discarded moments after.
I love the laid back feel of these tiny races and especially enjoyed the different vibe that these trails runners gave off. So friendly, I had people shaking my hand and congratulating me, something I feel is sadly lacking at the end of road races. I've mentioned before that I was brought up to shake hands at the end of every race and miss that aspect in most races. I hate that you finish and then that's it, nobody really talks to each other. This was different, I think I like trail runs and trail runners.
My husband and kids were due to come watch me finish but just missed me by a few minutes. The thought of their faces helped keep me going on that last lap. When I thought about walking (and I did think about it more than once!) I reasoned walking takes so much longer than running so might as well keep running, get done quicker! Simple logic but worked for me.
We spent the remainder of yesterday at the Mardi Gras celebration in the town centre then we had a sitter for a rare night out. Yes I know, great timing, run 31 miles then have a late night AND drinking. I feel a little bit below par today, I really don't like drinking any more and am happy for it to remain a very occasional occurrence. Had a lovely evening with running buddies H and N, N cooked up a storm for us - delicious!
I thought a lot about 50 milers and 100 milers during that last lap. I think I could do 50 miles with the right preparation but 100 miles? I take my hat off to people who have covered that distance, that is truly an incredible feat. Yesterday I resolved NEVER to attempt one but today............it has to be done at some point! Who wants to keep me company for the final 50miles? Any takers?!