Rocks and Roots Trail: Race Report.
One word….mud. This picture doesn’t do it justice, trust me. I know some of you out there reading this blog were there, and you probably have better pictures of what the mud really looked like. This was after I got to my car.
I think my shoes actually cleaned up a little when I stepped through the last water crossing of the day, but we’ll never know.
It was a beautiful day to race in Ohio yesterday. The sun was out (which is a rarity in January) and the temperatures were perfect for the race. Last year, it was so cold for the January race; I remember everything was frozen over on the trail and I believe it was in the single digits.
This year, with the warmer temps, we all knew that we were in store for a lot of mud. And the trail did not disappoint.
For a few days leading up to the race, I had considered bumping my distance down. I knew that I would probably get frustrated with the technical course and the mud, so I was already thinking about taking a loop off. But, I thought I’d just show up and see what the conditions were before I decided.
My husband had signed up for the 50k, and we had the same start time, so we started together. I knew he would probably drop me at some point, but it’s usually pretty crowded for the first 3-4 miles with the single track, so we stuck together for a bit.
He was his usual playful self, and I was just along for the ride. He knew he had a long day ahead of him, and I was just keeping whatever pace he set. I mentioned to him that he was moving at a good clip for the 50, but he said he knew that he would eventually have to slow due to the conditions, so he was putting some time in the bank. With so many people running the 10k (the race was sold out!) , the north loop would be well-traveled in no time, and both of us would be doing it more than once.
At about mile 4, he twisted his ankle pretty good. I was behind him and saw it happen. Usually, he can shrug it off, but this was one of those times that he got sharp pain and had to stop. We pulled off to the side to assess the damage and see if he could put weight on it. He voiced his concern that this was going to ruin his run, but I encouraged him to try to walk a bit and see if it got any better. He told me to go on without him, but I didn’t want to. I hung around for another couple of minutes before he shooed my away. I knew if he started running again, he’d catch me.
So, off I went. I fell in with another group of runners and slipped into a comfortable pace for the next mile or so. Sure enough, he came up behind me and I let him pass. He seemed to be doing ok, he was running just fine. I let him go and settled in again.
The mud was the thick, soupy kind that tries to steal your shoe. I was having a hard time with some spots where it was pretty deep. There are a lot of spots where, when I tried to find terra firma and plant my shoe on the side of the trail in the leaves, wild thorn bushes eagerly awaited to tear me up. So, I had to choose between the lesser of two evils I suppose. I was constantly tearing my jacket against the thorns while trying to keep my cadence up as much as possible. After awhile, I just stopped noticing.
I finished the north loop and headed to the arch before heading out to the south loop. The north loop, in my opinion, is usually in better shape. So, I was curious to see what awaited me on the south side. I re-entered the trail at a pace that made me really happy. My first loop was a success and I was content with my split.
Dan had stopped to put some stuff in his drop bag, so he caught up with me again on the south loop. He was keeping a good pace, so, again, I let him pass. I didn’t want to slow him up, and we never seem to want to walk at the same time. As much as I wanted to run with him, I knew it wasn’t going to happen. Not today.
As I finished the first couple of miles on the south loop, I realized that my achilles was acting up. I have been fighting a chronic issue for a couple of years now and I had just gotten it under control after our last trail race. I was upset that it was fired up again, no doubt from the terrain, and I didn’t want to have to start all over with my rehab. So, it was decision making time.
It’s January. The beginning of a new season. Triathlon training kicks in next month for my scheduled races. I had another trail race in February, another in March, and then a 50k in May. I did not want to start the season out dealing with my wonky tendon.
I had known it would be tough today, and I was already ok with the idea of dropping down my distance. So, I made a deal with myself: PR on this loop for this distance, and I could drop out. Just like that, I had made my choice.
I didn’t feel bad about it, either. I still had a great goal in mind, and one that I could tackle and possibly attain. It was beautiful outside, the sun was shining, people were smiling, and it was a good day. So, I went for it.
I did wind up with a course PR at the 20k distance. And I’ll take it. The best part; I may have saved my season. I smiled all of the way to the car.
My take away? Don’t give up on the day. Don’t let yourself get down; find a new goal and go for it. Would I have gone the next loop if Dan was with me? I don’t know for sure. He may have tried to talk me into it, and I don’t know how I would have reacted. Maybe it just wasn’t meant to be. But, I am happy I did it. I love the trail community that always attends this race. I love the fact that I saw so many familiar faces there. And, I love the fact that everyone had a great day. Run on, friends!
Run happy. Run long.
Amy is an ultramarathoner and triathlete, a coach, a mother of four, an Exercise Physiologist and a Physical Therapist. She lives with her husband, Dan (also an ultramarathoner and triathlete), and kids in Ohio.