My mind has finally stopped spinning long enough for me to do my first ever official race report from the Groton Town Forrest Trail Race yesterday where I ran the 3.4 mile version. I seriously have a little "performance anxiety here" as one of my favorite things to read on running blogs are the race reports where everyone is so detailed on their experience and everything happened so quickly yesterday, I'm not sure how much I'll remember but here goes!
Anyhow, I woke up super early despite telling myself to sleep in late due to the late 12:30 start and thought a little extra Z's would help, but it was no use as I was far too excited to get in any extra shut eye. This gave me time to just relax in the morning as I had made my snacks and laid out my clothes the night before so it was nice to not be running around like crazy which is what a typical Sunday morning is for me, so I'm starting to like the idea of having my runs later in the day. I started drinking water as soon as I got up as well as a coffee with my goal being drinking the majority of my water well before the race which would get me hydrated, but I wouldn't have to make any potty stops during the race which was one of my biggest concerns. I'd also have what will now be my pre race meal which were 2 Vans Gluten Free Waffles, 1/2 a banana, 1 tablespoon of raw almond butter and a drizzle of organic honey which I could eat straight from the bottle.
I'd leave a little earlier than I should have and eat again about 2 hours later and that would be 1/2 a peanut butter and honey sandwich on Ezekiel bread and then an hour before the race I'd have 1/4th of a sweet potato with more of the honey to keep my belly happy as I'd be running during lunch and my body is used to being fed at 12:30 and not running it's first race ever! Anyhow, enough blabbing about one of my favorite subjects (food) and now onto the race!
I would arrive a little earlier than I should have due to this being my first race, but it gave me the opportunity to really drink in all of the pre race chaos and chit chat with people including Chris and Doug. This handsome little guy above is Chris's dog Buddy. Is he not cute or what! Pretty soon we were less than 1/2 an hour from the start so decided to utilize my official secret weapon in pre race artillery which was a decent handful of some chocolate covered espresso beans washed down with the rest of my Nuun. It was then off to the bathrooms to wait in line to do my duty before getting to the start line. The start line took on a circus like atmosphere with literally hundreds of runners and bystanders all clustered along a narrow path. Runners of all shapes and sizes were busy getting prepared for the starting gun and would be stretching, adjusting shoes, compression gear etc and off to the side were tables of water and Gatorade, a vendor selling pies and two EMTs who had a very professional look about them as they watched the scene with emergency equipment in tow. It would be at that point where I would stop momentarily ask myself what the hell I got myself into as surely no EMT's would be needed right! HA. I would decide to do some warming up and joined in with the others in some pre race running and it would be here I'd bump into Ken (aka Run with Ken-man in photo below with red head gear on) and sure enough he'd have his camera with him and be taking pictures of the runners while they ran past. Now normally Ken takes photos of runners while running the races himself and he doesn't slow down. He would finally start running along side me and show me how he does it and I would be in awe as I had never seen anything like it and was double impressed due to the quality of his photos which you can see here: Run With Ken Anyhow, soon enough the 10 milers were off and it was time for the 3.4 milers to take their place. I would be with my friend Tom at this point as all of us anxiously awaited our turn to start running. After what seemed like forever, we finally got our "go" and off we went. Everywhere I turned there were runners as we made our way to the beginning of the forest. My mind was trying to take it all in as I started with a manageable pace but a pace a little quicker than I normally do to warm up. Tom was still nice enough to stick by my side and soon enough he passed someone and I followed suit and I would soon realize it would be easier than I thought. You see, I have a little admission to make here. Out of all the fears I had with running a race, passing and being passed was one of my biggest. The reason being is while I am a competitive person in the sense I love to compete with myself, I have a hard time competing with others when it comes to running because running to me is not cut throat, dog eat dog, but rather a harmonious occasion so I kind of thought I'd feel rude passing others. Does it make sense.....Not for most folks, but it would still be a reservation I had. Needless to say I passed with ease in areas where we could but it wasn't that easy due to a lot of single track so you had to take the opportunity to pass while you had it. After about a mile or so Tom would take off on his own to run his own race and I would be on my own. Before I continue, I would like to take this time to thank Tom for staying with me the first mile. It really helped get me into the groove of racing and was very much appreciated and something I'll never forget, thank you so much!).
Anyhow, back on topic, because the race was mostly single track, I'd stay with the same group of about 6-10 runners or so as we all made our way up and down hills and straight line paths. After a while I felt as if I were part of that mini pack if you will so they would keep me running fast, but manageable and it was a lot of fun to run with others with the same pace as yourself. I was so caught up with the race itself that I had a sort of tunnel vision going on where all I did was look straight ahead at the other runners as trees to my left and right would whiz by and the sound of heavy steps and breathing was all I could hear. I knew there had to be some birds along side, but I was so focused I never heard them. Before the race started we were told to make sure we followed the blue arrows but I would only see a couple of them and wasn't paying attention which is another bonus of running in a pack because they do the navigation for you and you just follow! ;-) My friend Tom who was also volunteering for the event. Here he is directing traffic and as you can see there was plenty of gridlock to keep him good and busy! Thank you Tom for getting me through my first mile
After a while I would get my eyes on the runners a little further ahead of me and could see them doing some serious climbing so I knew there was going to be a pretty steep hill up above as I tried to prepare my body and my already aching lungs for the task ahead. I would take it slowly and run up the hill on tip toe followed by a equally challenging downhill which was more challenging than uphill as you have runners directly in front of you so you need to make sure your footing is steady as you run downhill because one wrong move and you'd be taking out a few runners with you and I would be dammed if I would have to carry that memory with me forever on my first race. HA. The rolling hills would become more frequent and finally runners would be power hiking some of the hills which was much to my relief and I gladly followed suit. It would be here that I would encounter my first few runners who started out too quick as they clung to a tree trunk gasping for air and probably kicking themselves for doing too much too soon. Some of the other runners would start feeling it too so I did a little more passing when I could and made my way with yet another pack and that would be two younger women who were going at a pace that was challenging and yet manageable so I decided to hang out with them for a while for company and inspiration. We would make our way to the water stop and I had seriously told myself I wouldn't be stopping there as surely with all the water I drank before hand, I wouldn't need it, but it looked oh so tempting and I had to submit to the temptation. My mind tried to comprehend grabbing the cup and running but I just couldn't do it. I would see cups a little further off all thrown in a pile and decided to walk fast to it and guzzle the water and then drop it there because I didn't want to litter further along the path. It probably took about 15 seconds from my finish time, but all was well as the other ladies did the same.
The trail continued to have the rolling uphill's and downhill's and despite my promise on not being neurotic with the Garmin I would keep checking it to see where we were. We would be making our way to a really cool downhill and the other two flew down it and I followed suit only to have a camera flash before my eyes and would be startled to see a professional photographer out there getting pictures of all the trail runners as they flew on by. I'm guessing they sell the photos to runners for keepsakes, but not sure if I'll be buying as I can only imagine how I looked at that point as we had just done a challenging uphill and I was in a little pain at that point to be totally honest with you!
Finally we would get to where we had only 1/2 mile to go as I had figured it out on my Garmin so I yelled to them only .5 to go!! One of the women picked up the pace and bolted while I stayed with the woman running the same pace as I. She called out to me that I could pass if I wanted to, but didn't as I would have felt rude and was afraid to make a sprint for the last 1/2 mile as I didn't want to pay for it further along the way. I would finally hear cheering and know the finish was near and my legs just started going. I passed the woman as my pace increased and my heart rate sky rocketed. I'd finally get to the gravel road and I'd know there were no more tree roots to mess up my sore ankle and off I went and the only thing I saw was the finish line. People were to my left and right cheering me on and there would be Ken again with camera in tow telling me I only had another mile to go which made me laugh as another mile would have killed me at that point. Finally my first race was over with and I was elated and happy to be part of such an awesome event.
Sigh, what a fabulous event and I had a wonderful time. Right after I was done I wondered why I hadn't done it earlier as all of the worrying I did would be for nothing as the biggest worry I had was being the last one to finish the race. I had no problem coming in 3rd to last, or 2nd to last, but coming in last was my biggest fear which is silly but common from what I hear. It's funny how the worrying is always worse than the experience itself as I'm convinced if people didn't worry about things so much, they'd be a lot happier and do many of the things they have stowed away as dreams and goals but never get around to doing them out of fear and worry of the unknown. Most often the unknown isn't nearly as bad as first thought and today would yet again be proof of that. The only personal goal I had was to complete the race, but did make a mental side note to do so in 45 minutes or less and was very happy with the 0:39:33. And the best part of this being my first race is that I have my very first PR (personal record), HA!
And lastly, a dedication to a man who was like a father to me after my own died who passed on himself earlier last week after a long, terminal illness. This is for you Anthony, you will be very much missed but forever in my heart.