Monday, October 06, 2008

First things first...

Way back in May, I made the original "pact" to train for a marathon with Dalene and Ch@ndy. When I moved to California, I knew immediately that if I wanted to stay motivated and train successfully, I would need to find a new running partner (although there was always a hope that Hannah would move here...there was only a hope; Hannah actually said she would only *visit* me here).

And then I met Telle. Not only did Telle introduce me to trail running, but she took me on runs that totally kicked my butt. Week after week, each run we tackled out on the American River Canyon trails was the most difficult and longest run that I ever ran. Before I met Telle, I never dreamed that I would actually run three miles up hill or for four hours non-stop. In 100 degree weather. Telle told me that it was good to train in extreme conditions. She is the experienced runner, after all, so I figured that's what all runners do to train for races. You know - kill themselves. The sweating, the bleeding, the blisters, the puking (okay - I never actually puked, but Telle did, and there were a few times when I came really close to puking).

So somewhere in the training process, Telle suggested that we run a trail race at the end of August: "Run on the Sly." Even though I had never run even a simple 5k before - heck, to be honest, the only race I had ever run was one leg of a 400 relay race when I was in elementary school - I thought, "Why not run a 20 mile race. I've got to start somewhere."

And that's what we did.

It was a chilly Sunday morning up in the Sierra foothills near Jenkinson Lake. Prior to the race, we planned every detail regarding what we would wear and eat for breakfast and eat on the trail and how much water we would pack in our hydration packs, etc., etc. Telle brought her cool watch that has some type of GPS system and rings a bell at each mile marker. I brought a blue bandanna that I used as a hat until my body warmed up in the sub 50 degree temp. Yeah - I am a wimp when it comes to "cold." (Next time I will bring gloves too.)

We had a plan to break up the run into thirds. The idea was to mentally run each section of the race as if we were starting from mile one all over again. After all, saying, "Wow, I only have 6 more miles to go," doesn't seem as daunting as, "Wow, I still have 14 miles to go!"

Also, under wise advise from our Sensei/mentor/coach/Telle's boss, "The Dentist", Dr. Misono, we knew to "walk up-hill and run fast down hill." Although a novice runner might be tempted to run continually because "it's a race," trail running is very different than a regular road race. All runners *walk* up the steep hills. We knew this because Dr. Misono graciously took us on several trail runs, and, quietly, yet encouragingly, while running behind us, Dr. Misono would know exactly the right thing to say at the right time to help us run on and on - or to not be afraid of walking - so that we could finish the run - which was always the goal.

Miles 1-14 came and went quickly in the race. Telle and I chatted as we ran for the first 10 miles or so. We stopped at the aid stations to down some electrolyte juice, take pictures and video of our progress, and then continued on our steady pace to finish in around four hours.

Around the 14 mile mark, I tripped and fell. I scraped my knee pretty badly, and dirt and rocks were now embedded in my hip and hand, but my injury didn't seem to bother me too much at that point. Luckily, adrenaline was on my side. Also lucky for me, Telle packed along some band aids. (Side note: Telle is notoriously bad luck for any running partner at a race. While the partner breaks a tooth, an arm, his glasses, and might even require a few stitches, Telle never even so much as breaks a fingernail. I'm lucky that I only scraped my knee on that run!)

Five of the last six miles generated difficult terrain to traverse. A few challenges were trying not to kill ourselves in the one mile descent through forest debris (in which, incidentally, another runner and I tailgated another gal until she pulled over to let us pass - we sprinted down that zig-zag path at top speed) or on the two mile ascent that seemed to never end.

Telle's legs cramped up somewhere around mile 17. I continued on to the finish line fairly easily. I even won a hat for my efforts (although I shouldn't have won a hat since I was fifth in my age group rather than one of the top three finishers. But I was too delirious to refuse the hat, plus, I didn't know for sure at that point where I had finished in my age group).

Anyway, I ended up running the race in 4 hours and 4 minutes. At the end of the race, I felt a slight twinge in my left hamstring. It was an injury that would keep me from training to my full potential in the coming weeks. Regardless of that slight setback, however, I knew that I would be ready to run the Cow Town Marathon in October.


Dalene said...

I can't imagine doing a trail run!!! Seems like that would be more difficult than 26.2. Was it??

bluesugarpoet said...

Hmmm - it was more difficult to physically run the trail run for sure, but the marathon was more difficult to run mentally. Running in the woods was "entertaining," and running on the streets was...monotonous - although that could be because we had to run two 13.1 loops for this marathon. Definitely, I spent more time "taking my thoughts captive" on the marathon than I had to on the trail run.