This weekend I ran two races, spent a bunch of time in a car, learned I'm not a very good pacer and discovered that ultras have spoiled me. That's the condensed version.
Saturday morning, I took one of the dogs out for a 3 mile easy run. It kind of sucked. It was really humid and my legs felt dead. I had terrible thoughts that I wouldn't be able to run an easy 10 minute pace for the 5 mile race just a little later in the morning.
The humidity broke though and soon we were off for the Ausherman 5 Mile race. It was the 3rd year I've run this one and it attracts insanely fast people. With a trail half the next day, I didn't think I wanted to 'race' this. My husband was also running his first 5 mile race. He didn't want me to pace him but I found another friend who has been running with the dogs that who me up on the offer. She wanted to improve her time from last year and run a 10 minute pace. Sounded good to me and I figured a 10 minute pace would also keep me near my husband for a good portion of the race because his goal was to come in under an hour (which I knew he could definitely do!).
Running a consistent 10 minute pace was a little tougher than I anticipated. I very rarely look at my watch when I'm actually running. I was watching my watch like a hawk to see if I could zone in on a 10 minute pace, a little easier said than done for me. Too fast to start, then too slow but the first three miles were all within 5 seconds of a 10 minute pace so I guess I figured it out. The distance between started to get bigger in the fourth mile though so slowed down. We stopped chatting early so I just tried to run in front of her and hoped she stick with me since I figured that would be what would work for me. She was still able to get a good PR but missed her ultimate goal and my husband finished his longest race of 5 miles!
This was the 25th anniversary for this race and they advertised medals for the first 400 people which judging by past years, would be all participants. My husband joked there probably would be 401 participants and he'd be number 401. He got a medal but guess what - results show 401 finishers. Isn't that awful?!
After some house chores, it was time to load up and hit the road for a family dinner about 2 hours away. After we made it back home from that, I tried to get to sleep quickly. I had a 5 AM wake up call Sunday to meet up with some other local runners and head to Reading, PA for the Half With Half - which is also about 2 hours away in a different direction.
I had no idea how to approach this thing. In my short running life, I've run a few trail ultras and one 10 mile trail race - which was also pretty much the first time I'd run on a trail so I can't really count that fiasco. Running a half on a trail was a bit of a puzzle. Should I carry water? Did I need any sort of food? I'd heard the course was technical so do I just chug away at slow, even effort the whole time? No idea. I decided I didn't need to carry my own water because the jet pack (aka hydration vest) seemed like a bit of overkill for a half. Without it, I didn't really want to carry much else so I stuck a few salt pills and half a pack of Shot Bloks in my pockets and called it good. This is also the reason I have no pictures!
When we started, I thought I was going to hate this race. There were quite a large number of people which is just not enjoyable on a trail. I'm terrible about trying to get around people and hate the back and forth that sometimes happens. The first few miles I felt really slow and sluggish (which seems to be a trend with me and trail races, must take me even longer than roads to warm up on them). Since there were big groups all bunched up, I also just followed the people in front of me which meant I also lost the course. Luckily it was a fairly short detour, maybe 0.25 -0.50 miles?
Eventually though, I felt warmed up, people started spreading out and I started to fall in love. The course is described as technical with ascents, descents, rocks, uneven stairs, etc. While there were definitely sections where I was walking, it really wasn't bad. There were long stretches where you could run and it wasn't overly rocky, just small patches here and there. If it would have been my first trail race, I'm sure I would've hated it and thought it was brutal but I've encountered worse. This just had enough variety to keep it exciting for a good day out in the woods with no time goals, just enjoy the trail.
The only problem was half way through this, I was starving. I didn't have much for breakfast and have become spoiled by the picnics, I mean aid stations, at ultras. So, when I rolled up to a water stop and grabbed a cup or water or blue powerade (or whatever it was), I really could have used a handful of M&Ms too. They had beer at the last two stations but unfortunately that did not appeal to me. I should have carried my own water with me too. I don't know what my finish time was since results haven't been posted yet, but think it was about 2:56. It was slower than I anticipated (I thought I could get in just under 2:45 even if the course was tough) but it was still a fun day.
After crossing the finish line, one girl I was with had already finished and I thought the other 3 were all still behind me. Turns out only one was still out on the course. One took a nasty fall about 5 miles in twisting her ankle really bad so she and another friend dropped. So, it kind of sucked for those two but overall everyone still seemed to have a good day even with the mishaps!