Or how I became a real trail runner this weekend.
I feel like I need to include a disclaimer for this post. If you are uncomfortable with lots of poop talk then you should probably stop right here. Also, there are some trail rash photos if that’s not your bag either. But we’re all runner friends here so read on……
Saturday was the final race (for me) in the Park City Trail Series. They have a half marathon in September but I’ll be out of town. I ran this race last year and it was not pretty. I ran out of gas on a horrible set of switchbacks and was hanging on for the last 4ish miles. It was tough and I was a little nervous to go back, especially as I’m in the middle of marathon training (->tired legs) and had a 17 miler on the cards for Sunday (yes – great planning by me).
J had signed up to volunteer for the race and I tagged along, which meant a 5 AM wake up call so we could arrive by 6 AM to get our assigned duties. J and a couple of other volunteers headed out to set up an aid station. Because I was racing, my job was to acts as a parking attendant. (FYI – people really listen to you when you’re wearing a hi-vis yellow vest).
By 7.50 I was done and had just enough time to put on my bib and head to the start. This meant I had to miss my pre-race bathroom visit and disobey my first rule of running: No poop, no run. The elite/pro athletes who usually run this race seemed to be missing so I found myself very close to the start line. I had decided to run this at a moderate effort – with those darn switchbacks in the back of my mind.
The first couple of miles felt ok – the start was a bit mellower than the 5K/10K course and I was feeling pretty good. And catching up on some of the people who went out too fast. We then merged with the 10K course and headed towards the switchbacks, which felt GOOD! How did that happen? I felt about a million times better running up these switchbacks compared to the 10K. What a great confidence boost.
Then the downhill began. I’m definitely better at keeping a steady uphill pace than flying downhill. The trail was really dry a with a lot of lose stones, steep turns and switchbacks. I had a few close calls but at mile 6ish I was letting a guy pass me on single track when I went down. The guys I was running with immediately stopped to see if I was OK – and of course I said I was. I knew my elbow was bleeding and I could taste dirt in my mouth but nothing sprained or twisted so I kept going but took it a little more conservatively on the downhill. Eventually it mellowed out and the last couple of miles were pretty easy. I finished in 1.19.41 which was 5 whole seconds faster than last year.
At first I was a little bummed that I wasn’t faster, but I definitely held back in this race and was never going at max effort. I felt comfortable throughout and was conscious of needing to conserve energy. And I finished strong. I also managed to finish 2nd in my age group, and 8th woman overall – I even won a couple of prizes in the raffle.
Scratches and scrapes!
I made my way to the first aid station to clean up along with a bunch of other fallers.
Now the poop talk. The last couple of miles I really needed to go. REALLY needed. My pace at this point was a hybrid between wanting to finish ASAP but not go to fast to freak out my bowels. Why am I telling you this? Well so this never happens to you, and also my stomach has been a wreck since Saturday morning, including my epic 17 mile trail run. Ughh!
On Sunday, J suggested we head up to Park City to do our long runs (17 for me, 18 for him) on Mid Mountain trail. This trail connects the three ski resorts in PC and is about 20 miles long. We parked at Deer Valley and decided to do an out and back. This trail is described as pretty flat. Now, here’s some life lessons for you – if someone describes a trail that connects three SKI resorts as flat they are lying to you!
The first couple of miles felt so hard. My calves were burning. All I could think was: there is no way in hell I can run 17 miles today. But I bargained with myself: Make it to four miles (1/4 way through) and then reassess. By the third mile the trail had leveled out and become more rolling. I decided I wasn’t going to quit. After four miles we made it to Park City Mountain Resort and stopped for our first Gu.
The trail alternated between shady Aspen forests and clear ski run meadows. It was heavenly. I didn’t care about pace, just decided to run a pace that I thought I could sustain for the whole run. At mile 8.5 I turned around and told J to catch up to me as he added on another mile. This was fun at first – just myself and my thoughts until I started worrying about running into a moose. J caught me with about 4 miles to go – and reminded me that it was OK to walk on a trail run. We finally made it back to the car for some chocolate milk and snacks.
This was the longest run – 17 miles – I’ve ever done and, by far the longest I’ve spent out running by at least 40 minutes, and the most elevation gain – 2000 ft. Holy crap it was hard – but my legs felt pretty good afterwards.
What didn’t feel so good was my stomach. At first I was hoping it was nerves – I tend to get a little nervous when running a new distance. No such luck. And at mile 13 I needed to go. So yes, I got to lose my trail running poop-ginity. May you never have to experience this yourself. By the time my run was over, it felt as if my stomach had gone a couple of rounds with Mike Tyson. The rest of the day was a write-off. Along with any workout today.
This is my first experience like this – I like to pride myself in my iron stomach. I have no idea how anyone with chronic digestive issues can cope. Let’s hope another early night will help.