Race Report : The Legend Trail Half-Marathon in Laingsburg, Michigan (August 4, 2018)

races, running

This race report begins with a first. As a couple, we decided to make our first camping trip together at Sleepy Hollow State Park, the location of the trail race. We received a tent and other camping equipment for Christmas, so had been planning all year to use it, but had yet to find the perfect time. This race seemed to be it. So on Friday (procrastinating as usual) we grocery shopped, packed our things, and with a few trips back to the house to grab things we forgot, we eventually made our way to Laingsburg and Sleepy Hollow.

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Bruno shows off our domain.

We eventually managed to set up our tent (we didn’t practice at home). Then we walked over to registration and received our shirts and bibs for the race. I will say this. It was super convenient, maybe only a nice eight minute walk from our campsite. We finished setting up, Bruno bought some wood, and I started making dinner: Turkey and swiss sandwiches cooked over the fire and mashed sweet potatoes. Nothing fancy. I was more concerned about making sure I got plenty of carbs, thus the sweet potatoes.

Our human neighbors were initially noisy, but nothing obnoxious though. By ten pm everything was mostly quiet. It was perfect. The bugs were a different story. Loud. Obnoxious. I wished for them to be eaten by some wild predator. I put earplugs in and eventually fell asleep.

We woke up at 6:30ish. This was one of the best parts of staying in the campsite. After a few 4am wake ups with long drives to races, it was nice to just be there. Bruno made coffee and oatmeal for breakfast. We walked over the starting line around 7:40 and met up with some friends. It was all pretty relaxed, no rushing around, and no problems. I was grateful. I am grateful.

And now, the race. They announced the waves and I could actually hear the paces. This was nice, because the last few I could not hear the paces and I think in Trail-half started further back than I should have and ended up stuck in back-ups a lot the time. This did not happen to me once during the entire Legend race.

I had a plan. I was going to start around 10:30/mile pace and speed up. I did not expect to be able to run under 10 minute pace, because I ran 11:11 at Trail-half and I think over 10 minute pace for the Dirty Duo. I tried to think conservatively. It didn’t work.

My first mile was ten minutes. I tried to get myself to slow down, but couldn’t. I felt good. But I also know that you can’t judge a mile by the first run. So I decided to see if I could keep the pace for the next 3-4 miles and evaluate pace from there. I maintained the pace. It felt perfect. Hard enough to question whether I could hold it, but easy enough that I felt good. I didn’t feel like I was working too hard or was going to burn out. The fourth mile was the hilliest and I easily maintained the pace. I was excited. I began to speed up only a little bit, ten seconds per mile faster. I passed Bruno. Then I passed our friend Mike.

The next several miles flew by. I did not listen to any music, but focused on pace. Aside for my last mile, my fastest mile was mile seven at 9:42 minutes. I tripped several times and fell hard only once. I was ok, but with my ego a little bruised, I hopped back up. Another runner asked if I was ok and I responded, “I’m just so happy to be out here.” I continued to run just fine. Nothing was sore. Everything was going perfect. Until mile nine.

My legs began to get a little tired. I told myself to just ignore it. Around this point I think we started leaving the woods and head out into some grassy areas. It was hot and I struggled during these points only to be able to pick it back up once we ran back into the woods. Mile 9 was a little over ten minutes, mile 10 a little slower, mile 11 even slower, and by mile 12 I admit I was beginning to phone it in.

Here were my excuses: I already am beating my goal time. I already am running faster than I had planned on running, even at this slower pace. I probably already earned myself at least a third place age group award (I researched the paces for age groupers last year and yeah, an age group award was one of my goals). I already (probably) hit all of my “A” goals, so what did it matter anymore?

At this point, with about a mile left my friend Mike caught up with me. I credit him for my strong finish. I cannot remember what he said, but it something along the lines of let’s finish this thing. My pace jumped up. Faster and faster. We ran together for about a half mile, maybe a little more. Then he sped off. I kept the pace, but tried to increase a little bit more, a little bit more. I could not see the finish line so I was afraid of sprinting off and not being able to finish strong.

When I saw it, I bolted. I sprinted in. My last mile was around 9 minute pace. It was my fastest mile and it hurt the worst. As I said, left to my own devices I probably would have ran it at around 10:20 until Mike caught up with me. Shame is powerful, people. Very powerful.

My time was 2:09:10, averaging 9:57 pace. I was shocked. I was expecting and planned for 2:15. That was my race goal and it was almost six minutes faster than what I thought I was capable of doing. My time was only one minute slower than my road half-marathon PR. It was twenty minutes faster than my time at Trail-half marathon, but that could be because that trail was harder (at least in my opinion). I could have cried. I picked up my medal and my huge beer glass for finishing the Serious Series.

Bruno finished a couple minutes after me. I did not have time to regroup after finishing to cheer him in. All of us in our group agreed the race went fine until miles eight and nine. Around then, most of us started struggling. We stood around as they started announcing overall and age group awards. When they began announcing 25-29 women, I was first. I was surprised, but pumped. I love the little age group mason jars.

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Tired and sweaty, but very happy.

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We did it!

Finishing this Series was one of my main 2018 goals. I remember signing up for it and being scared that it would not happen. I was scared that I would get injured. I was scared something would come up and I would not have the nerve for it. I get it. I follow a lot of runners who mainly do ultramarathons or marathons. I’m not fast. I want to do long, but I’m not sure if I am ready for it yet. At the beginning of this year, I was not sure if I really was a “runner” anymore. I had not raced in years. Now I’ve done three races. I’ve not only finished them, but I have finished them well. I have one more trail half on the calendar. I’m still hoping to do a triathlon. I feel like a runner again. I feel like an athlete. I feel strong. These races went better than I could have ever expected when I signed up for them back in January. I’m so grateful.

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Next up: RunWoodstock trail half-marathon. This will be a return to Hell – Hell, Michigan that is. I’m not sure how much I will train for it as I am planning on it being a fun camping weekend with a race rather than a race weekend with camping.

xo, Ali

Race Report : Flirt with Dirt Dirty Duo 5k & 10k in Novi, Michigan (June 9, 2018)

races, running

I begin this by noting I have no pictures and race pictures are not up yet. Bruno and I both ran and both left our phones in the truck because of the rain. By the time we finished, neither one of us I think had the energy to run back to the truck, grab a phone, and ask a stranger “hey, can you take a picture of us?” If there was a picture of us, it would look like a muddy, wet, mess. The race was called Flirt With Dirt and indeed I took quite a bit of dirt home with me.

Let me begin with my arrogance, pride, hubris: I read a few race reports online, most runners saying that the race was not so bad, easy even. I researched the elevation gain which did not seem bad at all to me after Trail Half-Marathon. In fact the hills seemed significantly less than what I run here in Hillsdale, so how could it be that bad? I saw one report, just one that said the race was hard. But this was one out of several “not so bad at all’s” so I ignored the warning. I forgot hills are not the only thing that make a race hard. Terrain makes a difference. And while I can do hills. I have little experience with technical trail terrain.

Still, I developed unrealistic expectations of what I could probably time at the race. These expectations probably wouldn’t have been absurd if it were a regular road 5k and 10k (the expectations were slower than my PRs in both these areas), but trail? Cute, Ali. But also, get it together.

I was excited about the day. It was going to be Bruno’s first trail race. We were up at around 4 in the morning. I showered. Bruno made the oatmeal with almond milk, strawberries, chia seeds, and plenty of cinnamon. We went through McDonald’s for some coffee (chain coffee preference in order : Dunkin, McD’s, Starbucks) and were on the road to Novi a little after 5am. It was pouring rain and storming. I kept checking the weather for Novi, but mostly felt ok. Whatever would happen would happen. I was pretty chill.

I was pretty happy that despite by ambitious goals for the race, I maintained that core gratitude of “I’m just happy to be out there racing,” because I needed it later. Race parking and check-in were easy enough. Everything was easy to find, organized. By the time I checked in, waited in line/stretched for the port-a-potties, it was already time for the 5k.

The race starts going downhill and let’s just say that downhill is tricky. It makes going faster seem easier, then a mile later you wonder “why does this feel so hard?” The first mile glided by for that 5k — I ran it in 8 minutes, no problem. I don’t even thing I panted. But I think I ran off the adrenaline and momentum for the downhill, because I went a minute slower every mile after that. By the time I was on the last mile I could not believe I signed up to do it all over again for twice the distance. I finished at 29:50. Almost five minutes slower than I had planned. I was still pretty happy with my time — happy it was under 30 minutes and happy to just take a bit of a break before I ran another 6.3 miles.

I already significantly lowered my expectations for the 6.3, but I was nervous. Like I said, I forgot how hard trail running technically is — even without a lot of hills. I landed strange on my foot and my Achilles tendon was bugging me. My attitude was kind of low. Plus it started raining. The trail was muddy and wet. Bruno made jokes and I would just give him a cursory thumbs up. I was grumpy. I was sore. I wanted the race over with.

About mile three, I had a serious talk with myself: “You could not even do this last year! You could not even do this six months ago!” I took a deep breath and just started thinking about how grateful I was. I was grateful to be on this muddy, constantly twisting and turning trail. I was grateful to be around for Bruno’s first trail race. And I just repeated those things over and over and over again. I was and am just grateful to run. Always.

During Trail Half-Marathon, I still had a little bit of juice to finish fast and strong. I did not have as much for this race. I was beat, exhausted, but at least now, in a much better, positive, grateful mood. We still sprinted up the hill, but it was probably more like a hobble. Bruno and I grabbed hands and crossed the finish line. It was a victory. I went from being a total grumpy 10k runner to one filled with joy and gratitude all in the course of 1 hour and 10 minutes. Miles change you.

It was still raining, but we checked our times and places for the 5k. Bruno got fourth in his age group and I got third — which, frankly, has never happened to me before — so that was awesome. We received Dirty Duo beer mugs and age group award race jars, and then hopped in the truck, changed (I was soaked), and drove the two hour drive home.

I learned a lot from this race. 1) Have reasonable expectations. 2) Be grateful. Always.

I’m not sure where I will be in June 2019, but if I am still in Michigan, I would love to run this race again. I cannot help but be a fan of a race that humbles me, kicks my ass, and makes me feel grateful all in a few miles. Flirt with Dirt, I think its love.

5k : 29:50

10k : 1:10:21

Dirty Duo Time : 1:40:11 (9.3 miles)

xo, Ali