These shoes are evidence that yes, I am now a trail racer.
Yesterday I ran the Thrill in the Hills Half Marathon at Fort Yargo State Park near Winder, GA. It had rained all day the day before and also all night. If you've seen the movie "My Cousin Vinny" you have some idea of how slippery and tenacious red Joja mud can be. (I know the movie was set in Alabama, but the mud here is just as viscous if not more so.)
It was about a 1 1/2 hour drive from my house to the race, so it gave me plenty of time to question my sanity. At times it was raining so hard, I actually had to slow down.
When I arrived at the park the rain had lightened up a bit and I saw that there were hundreds of other crazy people about to get soaking wet and dirty. I tell you, trail runners are hard-core! I picked up my race number, timing chip, tech t-shirt, and goody bag, and went back to my car to stay warm and dry. About 30 minutes prior to the start I put on my foot potion and ventured out. There were porta-potties near the start, but I had read on a blog from last year that there were restrooms on the back side of the registration building, and sure enough, a warm room with flushable toilets and no line! After business was taken care of, I made my way to the starting line, and there was David, the tall guy in back, taking pictures. I introduced myself and he took our picture. Make sure to check out his blog, he always has outstanding race reports.
The next thing I knew the race started and we were off. The first several hundred yards were uphill along a cleared power line so we could get spaced out before hitting the single and double width paths through the woods. As I expected, there was a lot of mud and puddles and my shoes were thoroughly soaked before we had gone a half mile. I was at the back of the pack and there were about 5-6 runners back there with me that traded off the "lead" as we meandered through the park. At one point at about 10 miles the gal ahead of me said that she hoped she was going the right way because we hadn't seen any other runners or trail markings recently. I laughed and told her that if she was on a shortcut to a Pizza Hut, that I would buy us lunch.
Trail running definately uses muscles in different ways. You have to pick your feet up more to avoid tripping over roots. You also find yourself catching yourself from almost tripping or getting stuck in a 6" deep mud puddle. The uphills and downhills were tricky, too. The long gradual ups and downs weren't as bad as the short steep little sections. These tended to be very slippery and on several occasions, I had to hold on to trees to make it up or down sections. Overall it was a good course and distance for a first trail race attempt.
There was one disappointment, however. Only the first 300 finishers got finisher medals. I checked with the timers and the #300 runner had a time that was faster than my road half marathon PR. I had thought the rain would have kept enough runners home to put me in the top 300. Oh well.
After the race, I changed into dry clothes and left my shoes in the trash can at the park. Fortunately I had a retired pair of shoes that I hadn't thrown out yet, and wore those to run in.
As for the aftermath, I am sore in places I haven't been sore before. The good news is that after running almost 3 hours in soaking wet shoes, I didn't get a single blister. I do think I might have overextended my right hip or something, because I have a very sore spot there. It doesn't hurt to walk on it, but it does hurt going down stairs or getting out of my chair. I'll give it a day or two of R.I.C.E. and see if it feels better.
Overall my first trail experience was a fun one, probably more so because of the conditions. I feel that I am a real hard-core trail runner now, and will probably look for another one this year. (Not a trail ultra yet, but maybe a marathon?)
Oh, I just realized I didn't tell you my time. I did it in 2:56. I guess the time was secondary to the experience.
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