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Monday, September 29, 2014

Race Recap: Summer Squatch 10k

Photo by Fleet Feet Columbus
The Summer Squatch 10k trail run took place 6:15pm Thursday, September 17, 2014 at Alum Creek State Park. [The course]

Prior to Tuesday, September 15 (two days before the race) I had never run on an actual trail. I've hiked lots of trails - flat and mountainous - but I've never run on one. A couple months ago I saw a photo on Women's Running and thought, "I've got to get into that." It seemed like a perfect combination of running and being outdoorsy– two of my favorite things. (Add in an audiobook and I'd be in heaven.) Then the soul-crushing Emerald City Half obliterated my love of running and I didn't sign up for much of anything. For a week, anyway.

I signed up for the Summer Squatch the day before the final price hike. $45 still seems like a lot for a 10k, but it felt like an "experience." And let's get this out of the way: I signed up for the race because of the awesome medal.

So cool | Photo by Fleet Feet Columbus
I wasn't prepared in the sense that I hadn't trained for it at all. I was supposed to run some trails down in the Hocking Hills on our anniversary trip the weekend before, but we ended up hiking, exploring Athens, and drinking a lot of beer. Whoops. To make up for my lack of experience, I read a few articles. Pretty much the only nugget of wisdom I took from the articles: Your pace will be about 2-3 minutes slower than normal.

I eventually ran on a gravel path (easy) Monday before the race and followed it up with an honest to goodness trail run on Tuesday. But only 2.5 miles because the trail ran out. I was ready (ha). Inside I just kept telling myself, "just don't finish last." (My rule in cross country. What can I say? I'm still too lazy to actually train.)

My hilliest course, to date
The race
We arrived after sitting in rush hour traffic. Good times! (I don't know how anyone works downtown and lives in Powell. How do you get home everyday without going crazy?) We arrived to find a few things: the park bathroom was not open (I used the woods. They eventually brought porta-potties), the size small shirt was gigantic (but still very cool. I have since used it as PJs.), and - ohmigod -everyone looked like trail pros. I had my headlamp and water bottle, but you could tell this group knew how to handle a trail.

We're off! | Photo by Fleet Feet Columbus
The trail was constructed (by hand/shovel) last winter. As we lined up at the start we were told to watch out for rocks and roots (the trail's namesake)... and water crossings.

I kept myself to the back and let the pros hurry forward. The first 3/4 mile was on relatively flat grass with a few gulches and one water crossing that took a girl down. She immediately got back up, threw her arms in the air, and screamed, "woooooooo!!" before continuing on. Impressive. I latched on to a woman wearing a Warrior Dash t-shirt and a camelback. She was going at an easy pace and I knew I had a lot of trail ahead.

Almost as soon as we crossed into the woods there was a steep downhill. We're taking hold-on-to-the-trees-as-you-go-down steep. A guy stopped to take a photo of it. Immediately after was a steep uphill. The ladies in front of me walked, so I walked. I was taking my cues from the pros.

Around mile 1 some of the ladies got confused and tried to turn before they were supposed to. It was the only mishap on the trail and the race volunteers set them straight, but not before I passed the group. My beacons were gone, but I soon latched on to two very chatty ladies up ahead. By this point the field was starting to spread out and they were the only two runners I could see, so my expert plan became stay with them!

Typical trail view
I had MapMyRun alerting me to every half mile. My pace was wavering between 11:20 and 12:00 for a while. Faster than I anticipated, but it seemed slower than reality. I felt like I was flying down the trail. Occasionally, the two runners ahead would talk to me. It was tough because I had headphones in and listening to The Archers. From our short conversations I found out they are in MIT (10:30 and 10:45 pace group), ran full marathons, and ran at least one 50k trail run. I was impressed. Also a little impressed with myself for staying with them. But, they were talking a lot and I was breathing heavy just to keep up.

Every time I passed a mile marker I felt equal parts relief and disbelief. One more down, but it feels like I've run twice as far! Even though I was extremely tired and SO HUNGRY (chews did not cut it on the trail), I was having so much more fun than I had during my two half marathons. I knew I'd do it again.

Between 5.5 and 6 I started to slow down. The ladies walked steep up- and downhills and I followed suit, but I had to confess I was losing steam. I walked a bit more than a downhill, but I was able to keep them in my sights. Somehow! Mile marker 6 came and I knew I only had two tenths of a mile remaining. I came to the final road crossing, got encouragement from some of the race volunteers, and came to the grasslands. I KNEW the race was almost over. The ladies were still up ahead. No one had passed me since mile 1.... but then I had a mini shut down. I stopped and walked (noooooo) and I'm pretty sure I saw stars before my eyes. I ate a chew as I heard two new ladies approach from the rear. I think they said a few words of encouragement as they passed ("You're almost there!" I knowwwww.). If I had one regret in this race, it would be that I stopped running. I should have trotted along and maintained my place. At the time it felt like I would die, but I'm sure two tenths of a mile at 10% power wouldn't have killed me.

Looking nerdy
I crossed the finish line minutes later (running) and had a hard time breathing as I talked to Alex. Weird! But I was so happy to be done and in a new way: not happy because I was soooo over it, but happy that I'd done it! I was proud! And I finished before sunset (about 7:30pm)!

I knew there were at least 5 people behind me based on the folks I'd passed. We stayed for a while after, but as it got darker and darker, I got hungrier and hungrier, so we left before the entire field was finished. The next day, someone asked how I'd done, so I looked up my results.

Overall: 77/108
Females: 27/55

When I see those results I'm pretty happy. And I think about the following: I finished before more than one person! I was 50% for females! This was my first trail 10k. EVER! I did so much better than anticipated. And, ugh, guys are naturally so much faster and stronger. Not fair. ;) This was a field dominated by trail runners -some who helped build the trail and have been on it for months - and I held my own.

Alex's photo from the finish line
Up next
Alex thought it looked fun and even though a 10k is his absolute distance maximum, he wants to sign up for trail races now. We're looking into the two race Rock and Roots Trail Running series this winter. Should be interesting!

Beyond that, I have another half marathon (yikes) on October 19 in Loveland, Ohio and Alex and I will be running the Hot Chocolate Run (he the 5k, me the 15k) on November 16. We're also planning to run a few holiday runs and 5Ks. Gotta love the cooler weather!

My Running goals for the end of 2014
Run a 5K at a sub-9 minute mile pace. Even 8:59 will do.
Run the next half marathon in a respectable time. Ideally, faster than Cap City, but at least faster than Emerald City!
Run more trail races

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