Afton Trail Run 2012

Oh man, where do I start?  An interesting race, definitely!

First, let me say that this is the first time I’ve ever received press before a race as a “contender”.

They obviously weren’t aware of my non-existent trail racing skills (I only signed up for this because my husband loves trail racing and wanted to do it!). I am admittedly a poor trail runner.  I wish I was better (and maybe would just need to change my training – I’m sure I could improve – but I don’t ever know if I’d be considered a “good” trail racer), but racing on trails takes out all of my strengths: pacing, rhythm, efficiency, powerful push off from the pavement.  Instead, you’re constantly switching paces, directions, watching the ground ahead of you to make sure you won’t break an ankle, etc.  It’s about strength, gazelle-like steps up and down the uphills/downhills.  It’s so completely different from road racing.

Plus, I was about as unprepared as you can be for a trail race like Afton as one could be.  NO hill work (in the last year or so?  Or longer?  I’m not kidding — something I’ll change for NYC).  No running on trails, other than the Carleton Arb, which is great, but not technical or challenging in the form of ups/downs at all.

But, I still had hopes that my overall marathon strength would carry me through.  I started off in the front of the pack, with Melissa Gacek, a fellow Run N Fun teammate.  We’ve raced a lot together, and recently I’ve been able to beat her, at least by a narrow margin.  Up the first hill, though, I knew I was in trouble.  My quads didn’t feel normal!  I could tell they weren’t moving efficiently up these hills and were using far too much energy.  It’s an odd feeling — I haven’t felt this way in – maybe years?  It’s that feeling of “I’m very unprepared for this and my body is going to shut down”.

I’m not sure when, but I stopped caring somewhere around 10 miles.  My lungs weren’t really working, but I just couldn’t RUN any faster.  A little frustrating.  Emma Lee had passed me, and I had let Melissa get ahead of me a few miles back (she was sometimes 20 seconds ahead, sometimes we ran together).  In that last 5.5 miles, when I was just shuffling along, walking when I felt like, running when I felt like it, another 3 women passed me including a 15-16 year old.  I watched how easily she navigated the trails.  I was amazed.  It’s not often that I look at someone passing me and have that thought – they’re navigating so much easier than I am!  They make it look so easy!

Nate passed me at about 14 or 14.5 miles.  I knew someone was coming up behind me and stepped to the side.  Nate?!?  What??? That’s when I know I’m having a bad day :).  I can easily beat him by 8-9 minutes in a half marathon.  I watched him power through ahead of me.  I couldn’t even respond!

Let’s end this race recap, because I’m not saying anything worthwhile or positive :).  I finished in 2:04 or so, which is about a minute off of what I did in 2009 (where I think I was much more prepared – slower as a runner overall, but much stronger trail runner.  I remember only having to stop and walk once!).

Notes for next time:
1. Find a more comfortable pair of trail shoes.  My Vasque’s tore up my feet.  One of the blisters tore open during the run and is now weeping.  Yuck. The other foot has an awesome big blood blister.  I’ll have to talk to our product development folks or the sales guy – perhaps I need to be running in something else?  The last 5 miles of the race I groaned every time I got to a downhill, knowing that it would hurt.
2. Run on trails/hills a LOT to train for the race, if I actually want to do well!  And when I say a lot, I really mean a LOT. 

Good things from the race:
1.  It is so fun to see people you know!  It’s sort of like a reunion between friends.
2.  I told myself during the race that this was my first hill workout for NYC :).

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  1. It took two years of trail races (and about 50 falls) before I got the hang of it. And Vasque really are too sturdy for that short a distance and relatively unrocky terrain. Good seeing you out there – now I have to look up the results to see who the teenager was (Marissa Yovetich, perhaps).

  2. If you want to run hills let me know, they are my favorite. There are some pretty good gravel hills within running distance. Wilderness park between here and Faribault is probably the closest technical trails nearby. There aren't a lot of trails, but there are some good climbs and several sections that you for sure need to be nimble through.

  3. I am a die-hard road runner, so it would be hard for me to make the switch to trail racing. I'm sure I could do it if I trained for it–and if I had someone to go with, otherwise I will be bear-bait in those mountains!!

    I still think you did awesome!

  4. Agreed, trail running requires a different race strategy than road running. Afton is such a beautiful course however that it's about the experience as much as it is about the finish time. Congrats on your finish.

    A huge congrats on the Olympic Trials – 2:44:12 is a phenomenal achievement! Wow! Wow! Wow!!

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