Groton Forest Trail Run | 15 Miler
Back in April, I met two wonderful women while volunteering for another trail race (Runamuck 50K, which I will talk about more in future posts). Amy and Jill were full of encouragement and laughter while donning their Trail Sisters hats.
After some time, the Groton Forest Trail Run came up in conversation. I was telling them that I really wanted to sign up, but felt like it might be over my head, as I was currently injured with ITB syndrome.
Come to find out– they were the race directors for it! They assured me I would do amazing, it was very technical making for more hiking than running.
I told them right there that I was signing up for it when I got home, and that is exactly what I did!
Fast Forward to September 7.
There were two different mileages for the day: 26.5 miles and 15 miles.
I was a 15 miler, and this was the longest race-run of my life to date. I was nervous, yet excited for the beauty ahead.
I knew my training had been severely lacking. This was due partially from recovering from injury, but mostly because I was enjoying my home, garden and plants much more than touching my feet to the trail. I have fairly strong legs and with the occurrences of hiking in the forecast, I figured I would fare just fine.
Our start time was at 9am, so there really wasn’t much a rush in the morning. I was able to wake when my body was ready and slowly ease into the day ahead.
It was a seemingly perfect, cool day– feeling more and more like autumn and less like summer.
There is something in the air prior to a race starting. People are rushing to use the bathroom one last time, some are doing laps around the starting area while others are stretching methodically on the ground. There is this competitive and nervous energy coursing throughout and it makes me antsy.
I do not consider myself a strong runner and while normally competitive in other physical activities, running has me humbled beyond belief.
I can often become overwhelmed and then entangled in others’ energies. I find that my pace is faster than I want it to be from the start and then I have a harder time recovering.
That is exactly how this race started.
All Uphill (and then downhill) From Here.
The run had a leisurely start and soon enough were finding ourselves on a 200 yard uphill climb, not exactly what cold legs are yearning for.
Erik had graciously accepted the role of pacing me throughout this run, but it was quite evident that our paces did not quite match and it was harder for Erik to cope going slower than I expected. Never the less, he stuck with me!I needed to stop and get my trekking poles out before we hit a mile. I took this time to recoup and just feel my body. My legs felt like cement, my lungs burned like I had not run in years and my head felt dizzy. Erik coached me through deep breaths, but nothing seemed to help.
I can not recall ever feeling this poorly while running.
At mile 3.23, I asked Erik– “What if I don’t finish?”. He was quiet, but then said “We will walk every mile of this if we have to, we are finishing”. So that is what we did…one step at a time.
Up and Over Three Mountains.
When we hit the trail, I had a slight burst of energy. This is the terrain I lived for!
I love the feeling of “cruising” over rocks and roots, pine needles adorning the trail ensuring a gentle landing. The sun glistened through the pines and the faint smell of coconut filled the air. This was the perfect setting and momentarily I completely forgot we were in an organized race.
Our first major ascent was up Big Deer Mountain. I had a hard time with the climb, suffering from extreme light-headedness.
I had never felt this way, so was unsure as to how to treat it. We got to the top, turned around and descended. We said our hellos and good lucks to the runners we passed. I will continue to say how truly supportive the running community is.
These feelings of light-headedness and nausea did not pass. We ascended and descended Owl’s head next, and lastly Little Deer Mountain. All three mountains were beautiful and offered a slightly different view of the other mountains in the park.
While I struggled with the uphill, the downhill offered me a bit of motivation and momentum. I let my body take the wheel.
Crossing the Finish Line
The road run to the finish line was full of cars passing, honking and cheering us on. It made me smile, but hardly encouraged me to pick my feet up and run.
When I knew I had less than a half mile to go, I told Erik “Let’s do it” and off we went hand in hand to the finish line.
I felt less than photogenic crossing the finish as the photographer snapped away, but I did it. I may have had to walk more than I desired, but I did it.
I quickly ran to the car where the boys patiently waited. I whistled to them as they eagerly poked their heads out of the car, their bodies quivering with excitement and their tails wagging a mile a minute. They didn’t care if I didn’t make a better time, they were just happy to see me.
The rest of the day was enjoyed by the water, eating vegan burritos (again a HUGE thank you to the race directors for thinking of us!), and soaking up the sun while the live band played with such enthusiasm and talent.
Did I have fun? Absolutely.
Am I disappointed that it took me 4 hours and 52 minutes to complete a rugged 15-mile run? More than I would like to admit.
I am disappointed because I know I am stronger than what I was able to show, this just wasn’t my day.
However, I am choosing to say, I completed a 15-mile race, while not pretty– I am inspired to improve my time, my strength, and myself, entirely.
Now it is time to dig deep and train harder than ever before.
Here is to another year of learning and growing stronger in my running.
Thank you to all who came, cheered and volunteered. Your bright shiny faces and humorous commentary made my day.
…..and a HUGE thank you to Erik. Without you, I am not confident I would have finished.
Until next time.