The family..

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SouthEast, PA, United States
This Blog is all about me and my life as a mom of a beautiful 9 year old and my dear husband who entertains me as much as my girl does.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

The Off Road Experience

Today was my first off road trial run. I have competed (OK not really competed but participated) in 4 - 3.1 mile races since April of this year. As I planned my summer/fall racing schedule, I looked at the numerous races being organized and timed by the local company. One of these was entitled the "Evansburg Challenge" and included 2 races (a 10 mile jaunt and a 4.5 mile fun run - funny how they think 4.5 miles is just for fun). My running buddy and I decided that by October we should be ready for something longer then 3 miles so we signed up.

As the last few weeks have past there has been a significant lack of rainfall in the area. Besides not having to mow my grass very often, the lack of rain encouraged me into thinking this trail run wouldn't be too painful. Then the storm moved in. Yesterday it rained, and rained, and poured, and rained some more (oh and don't forget the accompanying high winds). So much for my dry, fast, runnable trails.

This morning I woke with great anticipation and a good dose of nerves. I know I can run 3 miles on the flat, but 4.5 miles over an unknown course was a bit intimidating. I headed out of the door 15 minutes later then I had planned due to forgetting everything I needed. I made so many additional trips into the house that Chris asked me if I was ever leaving. At one point, I even backed down the driveway only to drive right back up into the garage to retrieve yet another item. I had a quiet drive to the park where the race was being held and found it with relative ease. I turned onto the entrance road and followed the line of cars down a never ending two lane road. At one point everyone began to turn into a parking lot and I thought I had finally arrived when I realized a tree had fallen during the storm and was blocking the road. My first thoughts were to how many trees fell across the race trail that I would have to climb over/under.

I successfully parked and picked up my registration material and began the long wait. While waiting I had the opportunity to overhear a conversation between two other runners. They were running in the 10 mile run and were discussing the water crossings. I specifically decided against the 10 mile run due to the water crossings (OK the 10 miles might have had something to do with it too). After all it is October people, do you have any idea how COLD that water is going to be? The one girl was concerned due to her inability to swim that she might slip and go under. Really, how deep is this water? My question was soon answered when runner #1 indicated that the water was only about upper thigh high (thigh high - who wants to run through that!!!) but that runner #2 could hold on to her for safety. My running friend soon arrived (a bit after I started to panic that I would have to tackle this feat on my own) and we proceeded to the starting line.

Our initial plan was to run/walk the course. Although we spend a significant amount of time in the gym on a daily basis, 4.5 miles was a new challenge. We figured we could run until we were tired and then walk as one of us needed a break. To begin the race, the organizer went through the directions on how the trail was marked and made sure to call all those who had never run this course before "the lost boys:". With a final word of good luck, the race began and we took off running with the crowd (and they do run slower when they know they have 10 miles to go instead of 3) and headed down the road to the first trail entrance.

The first mile was pleasant. We had a nice steady pace underway and the trail was manageable. The conditions were a bit mushy but nothing worth tiptoeing through. We went along nicely to a point where the trail narrowed to a single file path. The trail began to get a bit muddy and then we came to the "drop off". This is the point where I stood at the top looking down and pondered how you were supposed to even get down this hill. I considered sliding on my butt but then we side stepped down the hill holding on to tree branches as we went.

Now the trail got exciting. We were running up hills, across rocks, through mud, and over tree roots that looked more like steps. We kept running unless the conditions didn't permit it (too muddy or having to go down in ditches and back out again). The time just flew by (and the miles). The scenery was very beautiful, even with the mud, and I saw some of the biggest maple leaves ever on the ground. The run was interesting because you had to be so aware of where you placed your foot and time your jumps as obstacles appeared. We ran along the river, up and over the power lines, through tiny one lane horse trails, across rustic wooden bridges, and through the woods. The flags marking the trail were easy to follow and a measure of comfort as we ran. The thought of getting lost was not comforting because after that first mile, we made so many turns I had no idea how to get back to the starting line. This makes the trail run exciting but then having the ambulance waiting at the start seems pointless. If anyone needed the ambulance, how would you find it to tell them (and then find the hurt person again)?

After picking our way through the trail and encouraging each other to keep running we made the turn towards the finish line. The finish was uphill, of course, which is just the race organizers being cruel, but we went running right up to the top and grabbed our celebratory cup of water. We were the first ones to finish that had signed up for the 4.5 mile fun hike(and while in my dreams there were about 100 people behind us, there were only a few others) and we finished in 55 minutes and 15 seconds.

The best part was that I really felt that I could have kept going. I thought 4.5 miles would be stretching my abilities but I could have done at least 6 miles. It was so much fun and now I am looking for my next longer distance(7 miles? maybe 10?) trail run. So while I may not be fast, I know I can just keep going and finish without dying. That is a wonderful feeling!

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