Hi Friends, Happy Hump Day! Today is my last day in the office this week, so I am rushing to get all my stuff done so I can enjoy an extra long weekend with my boys!! So, I have a little race recap for you. As many of you know, in May I did a recap of my very first trail race (and run), the XTERRA Trail Run Series at Wallum Lake, which also happened to be the very first race I have ever placed in!! Well, the second in this race series, the French River Trail Race was this past weekend.
So, today we are going to recap this race, okay? Sit back and relax, it’s kind of long!! So, my race prep started off on Friday evening with me running around like a lunatic realizing the shorts I wanted to wear were dirty, so I was up late washing clothes. Did I have other suitable shorts to wear? Of course, but they weren’t my “LUCKY” shorts. I know I am a bit weird, just go with it. So after doing a few loads of laundry and having all my clothes clean, I laid out my racing outfit out the floor to make sure I was satisfied with all my choices.
I made the mistake at the last trail race wearing a long sleeve shirt…I learned my lesson, that and well, it was expected to be in the high 80′s so a tank was the only reasonable option I could think of. I recently bought this purple tank and have worn it for a few sweaty gym sessions and loved it so I thought, let’s give it a whirl for the race. I had my trusty compression sleeves, my Brooks Cascadia trail running shoes , my “lucky” Nike tempo shorts and sports bra and my Wrightline socks. My new to me item for this race was a brand new Bondi Band head band I just received in the mail. It matched my shirt so I figured it was a minor new thing, so if I hated it, I could just toss it.
So, with my clothes all laid out, I relaxed for the rest of the night, watched a movie with Robyn and went to bed. I didn’t realize when I initially signed up for this race that it was an 11 a.m. start time…WHAT?? Seriously, anything later than an 8 am race, especially in the summer months is just NUTS! Am I right? Anyways, I got up around 7:30 a.m. and coincidentally, Robyn was up making us all pancakes for breakfast (he did the same thing before my last trail race and I placed) so I figured this may be a good sign and of course that he was going to be locked into a new breakfast tradition before races whether he liked it or not! Since the race wasn’t until 11, I wasn’t worried about having a heavier than normal (for me) breakfast, I had two wonderfully delicious raspberry pancakes and played with Ashton until 10 a.m. Since the race was only about 6 miles away from our house, I didn’t have to leave super early to get there and get my bib, check in, etc.
I got to the race location in about 15 minutes and I was surprised to see the place was PACKED. At first I was confused, but quickly realized from all the signage that there was a triathlon going on before the race, which is why the parking lots were almost full. Of course I started to panic but realized I still had 45 mins so it would be okay. It took me a bit to find a parking spot and ended up having to park quite a bit away from the action but it worked out well. I jogged over to registration, got in line to get my bib, which took less than 5 minutes and then jogged back to my car to finish getting my stuff ready.
So, after I got my number attached, I grabbed my handheld water bottle (another lesson learned from the last race,) applied some more sunscreen and bug spray and attached my tracking device to my right ankle. This was the first time I have used this method of tracking. At first it felt weird but after a few minutes I didn’t even notice it.
I made my way back to the starting line and quickly jumped into the portapotty line which moved quickly and then stood against the EMT van where I was shaded from the sun. Now this is where everything starts to go downhill.
As we are waiting to line up for our race, the race director came over the intercom and said that we are going to be delayed by 30 mins because triathletes were still on the course and they had to make some adjustments to the course. What? At this point it was already in the low 80s and HUMID. I’m the first to admit that I don’t do well in really hot weather. We joke, but it’s more truth than anything that when I think about the sun, I burn. The heat just wipes me out in general so I wasn’t expecting to have a great race given that it felt like it was getting hotter by the minute and now we were delayed which means being outside for that much longer. I wasn’t thrilled but at that point, there wasn’t really anything I could do. I went and got a cup of Gatorade to stay hydrated and stayed in the shade as best I could.
At around 11:35 a.m. they called the runner’s over the loud-speaker to make their way to the finish line (which was also the start line.) We cheered on the last few triathletes as they crossed the finish line and then listened to all the announcements for the race by the race director and then the 18k runners were off. They did a staggered start so we waited about 10 minutes and then the 8k runners lined up. I got my Garmin powered up and triangulated and then we were off.
We took off running towards the woods and I heard my watch beeping a lot, I was confused and looked down to find that it was on a run/walk program so every 30 seconds it would beep to tell me to run or walk. Now, should this have been a huge deal? No, not really, but it ANNOYED ME TO NO END!! I was afraid to stop it and try to fool with it for fear of messing with the mileage I already logged so I just dealt with it the entire run. I felt pretty good for the first mile and while the trail was technical, it was nothing too crazy. Famous last words….
After the first mile, I felt myself slowing down due to the heat and was thankful I had my handheld water bottle. I was still at the front of the pack, even though I felt like I was crawling. But, oh no, the crawling was coming. I thought the last trail race had tough hills. I laugh at my ridiculousness now. The hills we encountered in this race were so steep I didn’t see one person run up any of them. Everyone, even the pack leader stopped to walk. There were even a few hills that we had to get low into our legs and grab for rocks in front of us to help us up the hills. It was much more hiking than running and my legs were burning and every time we got up one hill, there was another one waiting for us.
About 2 miles into the race, we had to cross the French River. Now, when I think of crossing a river, I usually think of a long jump over a moving stream or hopping rock to rock over the water. There were no rocks and no hop to get over this river. We literally had to run through almost knee-deep water to the other side. At first I was like, “Are you kidding me?” I was freaking hot and tired and having a hard time regulating my breath and I knew I still had a long ways to go before I was done with this race, but after I was in the water, it felt so refreshing I wanted to lay in it for a bit to cool over, but I kept moving (very slowly.)
We hit one long downhill that was sort of a reprieve from all the climbing we had been doing, but it was so rocky and steep that I slipped a few times and had to concentrate hard on my footing. Thankfully I didn’t fall but there were a few close encounters and my right ankle felt really beat up from all the weird landing on the rocks. We hit another 3 or 4 steep hills and at this point I felt defeated. I was really struggling with my breathing which probably had little to do with the heat but more the terrain since I struggled with this in the first race too.
I had to walk, A LOT. I never stopped which I am happy about but walking, especially walking up every single hill
was is really messing with me mentally. I know I am in good shape, I work out hard and I should be able to handle a 5 mile run (hell, I killed my last few runs at paces MUCH faster than what I was doing.) I KNOW logically that trail running is a different beast and the fact that these are very technical trails that are more like hiking in the woods than trails just packed with dirt and some rocks here and there, but still…mentally I felt totally defeated. I kept trying to tell myself that I just needed to keep moving, one foot in front of the other. I know I was not the only one struggling, as I could see a few people in front of me and behind me going through what I can only guess were the same emotions.
The trails were labeled with red arrows for us, but there were times where it wasn’t clear which direction we were supposed to be going. There were a few times where I was grateful there were a few other runners around me as we were all confused on which way to go and at one point during a stretch where I was alone, I made a wrong turn, but thankfully I second guessed myself and turned back around fairly quickly. Come to find out, this was a very common issue with all the other runners (I’ll get to that in a bit.) Anyways, I hit the 3.5 mile marker or there abouts and came across another obstacle…about 50-75 feet across of pure mud. I tried to stay up on the side banks where it looked like the mud was packed in tighter but I still ended up trudging through mud up to my knees and almost lost my shoes on a few occasions, thankfully I was able to grab them before they were lost. I was glad I had on my calf sleeves because the mud was so high and I knew I would want to get that off of me as soon as the race ended. There is something so gross to me about dried mud, I don’t mind wet mud, but dried mud, no thank you. I just hate it…don’t judge.
After getting through the mud pit I was faced with another hill. At this point, I just laughed…with tears in my eyes. I pushed through and passed a few guys who I had been trailing for the past mile or so. I crested the hill and had to take a left hand turn. I heard my Garmin beep and knew I hit the 4 mile marker and I had a pep talk with myself. I was almost there, I just had to keep moving. We hit a relatively flat section for about 1/4 a mile and I kept my head down and focused on my erratic breathing, just trying to get things under control. I took a right turn up another hill and realized I could see the finish line through the trees. I stopped to walk for a few seconds to catch my breath so I could push it through to the end.
I took a few deep breaths and fixated on the finish line that was a little over 1/4 mile away. I hit a straightaway and tried to relax. There were volunteers who were directing runners towards the right path to get to the finish line and I took a sharp left and gave what little I had left in the tank to push myself through the finish line. I have never been so happy to be done running before. I stopped my Garmin and it said the time was 55:22, I did the last 8k in 43:42. I didn’t get a picture of my Garmin after I stopped it, mainly because I was just beyond disappointed in myself and I was trying to catch my breath. I was just DONE. A volunteer, a young boy, gave me my medal with a huge smile. I thanked him and walked over to get a cup of Gatorade and a girl I met at the last race came up to me and started to commiserate about how hard that course was. I couldn’t really formulate my thoughts other than just to agree with her while I was drinking. I stayed for about 5 minutes and wanted to start walking back to the car so I could get out of my shoes and stuff and get home to shower before heading to a birthday party with the boys.
I walked over to my car and snapped a photo of my shoes. It’s not super clear but I had to dump mud out of the soles of them. I tried to clean them off as best I could before throwing them in the plastic bag I had in my car. Thankfully I had that in there because there was no way I was putting those dirty shoes, socks and sleeves in my new car with its cream-colored interior! HA!
Here is my post race photo! Smiling because I am done and get to go home and shower!
And my final picture with my medal.
I got home and Robyn asked me how it was and I just grunted and said “Fine.” He didn’t push since he clearly knew I wasn’t happy with my performance. I quickly took a shower and it took me a while to scrub the mud lines from my ankles. I got out and got ready for the party we were going to. I had some quiet time to reflect on the race and while I was really glad I didn’t have to completely stop like I did in the last trail race, I was seriously pissed at how much I walked. Seriously, every single hill had to be walked. I know I was not alone on this, the course was really tough and technical, but I was and still am just pissed at myself. I am really competitive with myself so this was a huge blow to my confidence. I had a really hard time getting my breathing under control. I tried to work on more rhythmic breathing but it just wasn’t working on this course. I know every race is going to be different and it helps us grow and learn more about ourselves, but it’s really hard when you know you are in good shape and get your butt kicked in a 5 mile race, you know? Especially when I did SO MUCH better in the last 8k I did.
Anyways, I kept checking my email to see what the final race stats were since I didn’t wait around after I finished. We finally got an email at around 10 p.m. that night from the race director but the stats were not in that email. It was a well thought out and much appreciated email apologizing for the less than stellar race. He stated (among other things):
“The confusing markings on the course easily take the top spot for “needs significant improvement”, which was also a contributing factor to the start time delay (early race had similar issues). Our plan to reuse markings for multiple races completely backfired. If you would like to send me your gamin (or other) gps data for today, I’d greatly appreciate the opportunity to review it in an attempt to isolate bad turns on the course as well. If there was anything else on the top of you mind, please share it with me (good or bad); it’s how we grow into a better event management organization. Again, I’m very sorry about today. I’ll mail out any awards to the top finishers. Unrelated to the poor course marking and varying distances covered, I heard the timing was in question for a number of runners. I’ll work with the timing company to find out more info.”
I appreciated him taking ownership of the fact that there were a lot of issues with the event and his apology was heartfelt. I have a lot of respect for him sending out that email, which is why I will run the last race in this series and continue to support the XTERRA organization. I know that no race is perfect and sometimes things just don’t work out the way we want them to. I know my race personally sucked for a lot of reasons, but you know what they say…”On any given Sunday…” Maybe my next race will be my best one (and Xterra’s best one), or maybe it won’t, but you won’t know if you don’t get out there and try!
I woke up on Sunday and it wasn’t a big surprise that I was REALLY sore. I haven’t been sore after a race since Boston. I knew given the difficulty of the course that I may be sore but I felt like I fell down a few rocky hills, everything from my shoulders to my ankles were tight and achy. Even today, 4 days later, my right ankle is still a bit tender. I hope in another day or so I can get back out there and run. I tried yesterday morning but no dice. I made it a little over a mile and had to stop.
Anyways, on Tuesday afternoon the final race results were finally posted.
Place No. Name G Ag Div Div City St Final Pace
===== ===== ==================== = == ======== ===== ================= ======= =====
1 151 Dominic Mastromatteo M 13 1 JUNIOR Worcester MA 49:07 9:53
2 150 Gianna Mastromatteo F 15 2 JUNIOR Worcester MA 51:48 10:26
3 131 Brian Mulcahy M 40 1 MMAS Northbridge MA 52:04 10:29
4 146 Rebecca Luneau F 42 1 FMAS North Grafton MA 52:51 10:38
5 136 Sara Zwicker F 33 1 FOPEN Leicester MA 55:22 11:09
I took FIRST place in the women’s open division (ages 20-39) and 5th place overall. I literally cannot believe it. How did I manage that with such a slow (for me) pace? I walked what I am going to estimate was close to a mile of hills and still placed? I was and still am in shock considering how much slower I ran this race vs. my last one and how crappy I felt about it and myself. Don’t get me wrong, I am happy I placed, even if it was a small field of runners, but still, I really never thought that was a possibility with this race.
Well, that’s my recap of my second trail race and my second time placing 1st in the women’s open division. I am not counting on that happening again, but you never know…maybe running smaller races has its advantages
Question of the day
What was your best and/or worst race experience?