This past weekend I had took part in my
second ever night trail race. It is actually the second time I have
ever trail ran in the dark, period. I took part in this same Mountain Junkies race last October and I had a lot of fun. After last year, I
promised myself that if I ever ran a night race again, I would invest
in a better headlamp. Of course after 12 months, I still
didn't upgrade my headlamp. At least I splurged on some new batteries (even
if they were Family Dollar specials).
I was very happy to find out that
Jennifer (Overstreet) Abbott and Catherine (Saunders) Abbott would be
running in this year’s event. After finding out that Anna and the
boys were going shopping in Roanoke before the race, I ended up
bumming a ride with Jennifer and Catherine to the race. Jennifer led
us on a very scenic route, but we got to Explore Park with plenty of
time to spare. I will not elaborate any further about Jennifer’s
navigation skills, she may hurt me!
Once we got our race packets and I put
my racing bib on as straight as possible (crooked numbers drive me
crazy), we were off to the pre-race meeting. I really should have
taken some time to warm up prior to the race starting. The next thing
I knew, we are lining up at the starting area. After remembering that
I forgot to start my watch last year, I was sure to start it sooner
this year. I had a strong satellite signal and my headlamp was on
when the starting horn went off.
The first 1 of the race is downhill on
a half paved, half gravel road that snaked down to the edge of the
Roanoke River. Once at the river, the trail started but it was pretty
wide and flat for a while. During this first section of the race, you
can really separate into different paced groups. I was determined to
get out as quickly as possible this year. I had taken it easy the
previous year and ended up behind some slower runners later during
the single track portion of the race. My plan worked just as I had
hoped and I got through the first mile in less than 7 minutes.
I probably should have planned my
strategy a little better. By the time I made it to the top of the
first hill climb, I was spent! This hill climb was no joke. It was up
a very steep hill with lots of large, loose rocks and leaves. The
trail was also very washed out during this section and it was very
difficult finding a solid place for each foot step. By the time I got
to the top of this hill, I realized that this course was going to be
a lot more difficult that I remembered from last year. It was also at
this moment that I tried to remember the last night I was on a trail.
I don’t know why I didn't train more on trails for this race. I
had not even run on a trail since before my surgery in June. I
definitely was not as prepared for this race as I should have been.
The next couple of miles went by pretty
fast, considering how tight my legs were feeling. I think the
combination of no stretching and spending the majority of the day at
the pumpkin patch with my family had taken its toll on my legs. Even
though I didn’t break 10 minutes on any of my remaining miles, I
felt like I was running a lot faster than I was actually traveling.
Since I was spending a lot of time watching each foot step, the
grounds seems like it is flying by you at a much high rate. Also,
since you really can’t see anything too far away, you cannot pick
something off in the distance to stare at while you are running.
I knew the course was just over 4
miles, but since there were so many switchbacks on the course, my
watch’s measured distance was off. So when I popped out of the
woods just after my watch said 3.5 miles, I was pleasantly surprised.
I knew that once I was out of the woods, there was just a short run
on the paved road to the finish line. At this point, I decided to
finish with a final kick to the finish. I really pushed myself during
this last section. When I got to the finish line, I didn't feel too
good! It was at this point that I thought I was going to puke! I
heard Anna and the boys cheering at the finish line. They had met me
at the race, following their shopping trip. I decided to walk away
from Anna and the boys, so they didn't have to watch Daddy throw
After gaining my composure and pulling
myself together, I made my way over the see Anna and the boys. I
ended up running about a minute slower than I ran this course last
year. Considering how spent my body felt during the middle of this
race, I was very happy with my finishing time of 37:12. We hung out
at the finish line to cheer on Catherine, Jennifer, and the other
runners. Congratulations to Catherine and Jennifer on completing
their first trail race! They did awesome! After getting some dry
clothes on, I helped myself to some good food and a cup of coffee.
The Mountain Junkies put together another great trail racing
experience. All in all, it was a great evening of running in the
dark! I look forward to my next race, whatever that may be.