After my pleasant long run at Buescher State park on Mother's Day weekend, I thought it would be cool to try a longer distance trail race. It had been my hope from the start of the Rogue Trail Series that I might be able to pull off a 30km by the end. I quickly learned that the best chance of this happening was at the first (and easiest) race The Maze. There's only so many hours in one's life to run and recover from gnarly technical trails and just like in road running (but probably even more so in trail) if you ramp up too fast you will just get injured. So by the time Hells Hills (aka the Rocky Hill Redux) came around I thought it would be a good opportunity to test my long distance legs on a course I had run before.
I set my time goal vaguely around 3 hrs and 35 min for this 25k trail run. Last November at the crossroads between the Freescale full and half marathons (I ended up at 3M in jan) I took a short detour in to the world of trail. I ran a few runs on the greenbelt and signed up for the Dirty Du trail run. A 12 miler at Rocky Hill ranch. I ran with two of my buddies who were having a "recovery" week after the San Antonio Rock and Roll half. They run MUCH faster on the road, so it's rare that we get to do an event together. It wasn't easy, but we sure had fun. Actually, we had so much fun they took the keg (New Belgium two below, not available in stores yet) "away" from us. There were scrapes and falls and twisted ankles and my infamous it-feels-like-I-am-being-stabbed-with-a-screwdriver pain, but we all finished in about three hours.
Fast forward to June 6, 2009. Hells Hills. I was feeling stronger and more confident after taming the ledges of the Loop, so I was looking forward to improving on my time on this familiar course. In my head it was alot of soft piney forest single- track path. In my head it was also November and 60 degrees outside.
What was NOT in my head was the nasty back half of the course. In the Dirty Du it was mile 8, for Hells Hills it was mile 11 but wherever it is everything from the last permanent aid station at Rocky Hill to the finish line sucks. It's got steep up and downs built for bikes and goats, not running, and a loooooong section of rolling hills. Before getting to all this fun there was also a mile or two I had not run before. Those miles were across a pasture in the back of the ranch. It was hot as hell. No cover. Just a big ass field and the blazing Texas sun.
I went out way too fast. I have a feeling that if I could get my mile splits out of my garmin and on to the computer for more thoughtful review, I have a 10k trail pr somewhere in there. I was listening to music, passing people, not fearing snakes, and generally having a grand old time. I have no idea who the fck I thought I was that I could run 15 miles at my 10k RACE pace. I was all about keeping my pace below 15min/mile (hey, its trail people!) Around mile 10 I started to realize this was not a good idea. While running the rollers on the jeep road I saw some guy just sitting in the middle of the path getting his zen on? Who knows. By now it was getting HOT and I was getting lapped by 50km-ers and maybe some 50 milers (who knows they started in the dark, two hours before I even arrived.)Despite my camelback water, a few cups of heed at aid stations and some gu packs I was starting to feel dehydrated (chills) and fatigued. As it had in my previous attempt the switch clicked, this was no longer fun, it just needed to be over. I needed to stop worrying about my pace and just do whatever it takes to get to the finish line ASAP. Another mile passed and then I was back in the woods. The mile after that actually took me by suprise as it clicked past on my garmin. Then running down a small hill of loose rocks I fell.
HARD. Lights out! OMG. I've gotten used to the occasional twisted ankle as a fact of life in trail running. Get up, get moving before it starts hurting and move on. What doesn't kill you only makes you stronger. Somehow throughout all this training (since April 1) I have not had a righteous digger. I have not emerged from the trail with a bloody knee. The universal badge of honor among trail teammates I had not yet earned. Oh sure I trip over stuff ALL the time. In my house, my office, on the trail, you name it. But my ability to catch myself before hitting the deck is bizarre. I attribute it to good balance from years of ice hockey and yoga, who knows... But on this particular Saturday I got my badge of honor. I fell. Hard. On my right knee and shin. In fact, given my size (large) and speed (downhill) I really don't know how I did not snap my leg right in half. I bit the inside of my mouth and my entire left side was throbbing. My shoulder, hip, knee and ankle. Oh jeeze. I thought about tears (hell no.) I thought about panic (a waste of precious energy) so somehow I manged to cling to a tree and get right side up again. First walk, then a trot. I was really worried I was so banged up that I would have to walk in the last 4 miles. It was too hot. No way. I need to get to the finish, get some ice and some beer. I kept telling myself "If I am running and walking I haven't broken anything," so that's what I did. I didn't set any new record or personal best and despite being certain I was dead last (I was not) I managed to get my butt to the end. Throughout those tough final miles in the blazing heat I was inspired by the 50km front runners. All who passed me offered smiles and words of encouragement. They were so fast, they were not suffering. It was inspiring. I made it to the finish, turned in my chip, hopped in my car and headed home for some R.I.C.E. Another awesome trail race was over! Not only had I earned my honor badge for my bloody knee, I had also run further than I ever had before, and at the end of the day, what could possibly be more satisfying than that? See y'all next weekend at the Bluff :)