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Reflections on a Killer Trail Race

Posted on May 04 2015

Emerson Trail RaceI ran my first race of the year on Saturday. It was a 10 mile trail race, but I feel like I just ran a marathon. My body is pretty well wrecked, but in a good way. As is often the case with races, the pain I felt during has been replaced by a feeling of contentment. I’m happy I ran the race, even if I wasn’t exactly prepared for it.

The race course was tough – about 75% on rooty, rocky single-track with tons of twists and turns, the remainder on dirt access roads. Lot’s of up and down as well.

I quickly realized that training on roads through winter and early spring does not prepare one for a race of this type. I was walking up a hill within the first mile, I’d lost a quarter-sized chunk of skin from my left heel by mile four (painful!), and I think I briefly hit the wall at mile eight. But I kept on moving, my heel burning and quads screaming for much of the second loop of the course.

My sole goal going in was to finish since I knew it was going to be hard (I ran this race last year, but they changed the course and it was much more difficult) . I finished with an average pace a bit under 11:00 per mile. Most of my road training lately has been around 8:00/mile or a bit faster. The difference is a good indication of how tough this race was!

What I’ve reflected on most since finishing the race is how sore I am in places that I’ve rarely felt soreness before. I often tell gait analysis clients that running trails is a great way to mix up the forces applied to the body and increase overall strength, but it’s one of those “do as I say, not as I do” type of things. I don’t run trails often enough, and given where I live I honestly don’t know why. I need to change that.

I have the normal post-race soreness in my calves, quads, etc., but what really feels different is how sore my ankle and hip stabilizing muscles are. The outside of my hips are really tight, and I almost sprained my ankle while standing on one foot to get out of the shower. The muscles supporting the ankle were so shot that they almost gave out. Even my upper back is sore, and I’m not sure why.

Perhaps the best thing to come out of the race was some motivation to get myself back in shape. After a brutal winter with too much eating and too little running, I need to start getting my mileage back up. I also need to race more, and I need to overcome my hesitation to race when I not in peak shape. I was reminded that racing is not only fun, but a hard race can provide one of the best possible workouts.

So my first race of the year was a good one despite the pain. I’m toying with running a trail half-marathon this summer as a next goal, with a few shorter races sprinkled in here and there. Maybe a road half in the Fall. But my main goal is to just continue having fun.

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