Saturday, May 21, 2011

Dirty Dog 15K Race Report

The Dirty Dog 15k trail run was at Kanawha State Forest this morning. I've always been a lover of trails; my parents took me for my first hike when I was just a little kid, and I was hooked. My husband starting me on running the trails, which I love even more than hiking.

I started my mantra the night before, trying to get into the mindset of the "Little Engine that Could". I repeated "I think I can I think I can I think I can" over and over again. Didn't realize that instead of channeling the little train, I needed to channel my inner mountain goat.

I read the course description and studied the map, trying to figure which parts of it I was familiar with from other runs and mountain bike rides in KSF and which parts were new to me. The trails were described as steep single track, rolling ridgeline, switchbacks, very steep single track, etc. So I was a little nervous about the run because I'm not good with running up hills. Don't have the stamina or strength (yet) to do prolonged uphill running. And I was nervous about the distance because I hadn't run more than 6 miles for weeks; and I hadn't run more than 8 since last fall. Also, with the weather, we hadn't been able to get out on the trails for a long time. So basically, I felt unprepared. But I knew that even if I had to walk the whole way, I'd still have an awesome time, just because I was on a trail and outside, enjoying nature. In my opinion the worst day on the trail is 100 times better than the best day on the road.

Since we felt a little unprepared, Marc and I decided before hand that we weren't running this race to race; we were running it just to run; we took it as just another opportunity to get in some miles on the trail. The excitement of the race and all of the other runners were just an added bonus. It seems we never see any other runners when we're out on the trails, so it was nice to share the trails with other people (and some puppies) who love them as much as we do.

It rained most of the week before. Heck, I think it's rained every day for the last 2 months… Anyway, all that rain meant mud, which just makes it more fun (remind me I said that when I'm trying to get my shoes and socks clean). Thankfully, it did not rain today. The weather was awesome. At the 9am start it was fairly cool and it warmed up pleasantly as the day went on.

We started out at the Johnson Hollow picnic area parking lot (a lot that might be familiar to some of my family and friends, as it was where they parked for my wedding :o) ) and headed down the road toward Pigeon Roost Trail. Pigeon Roost is one of the trails that I know and know well; I've run up it, I've run down it; I've walked my bike down it; I've hiked it;. Up Pigeon Roost we went. It was bit of a bottleneck since most of the field was still together at that point, and since it's single track, there were not many places to pass. The dogs were having a blast – zipping up and down and dodging people. Made me wish Bree was able to run with us; she would've loved it.

From Pigeon Roost we turned onto the boundary road, another trail I'm familiar with, having been on it many times as well. We headed for Pine Ridge Trail and on it, we headed back down, scrambling over trees, rocks, and switchbacks. It was a challenging, but fun, bit of downhill; with all the mud it had some slippery spots.

At the bottom of Pine Ridge, we ran through the ball fields and back out to the main forest road. We crossed the road and headed up White Hollow Trail. This was the trail that was described as "very steep single track." Boy, were they not kidding on that one. This is where I needed to channel my inner mountain goat. Brutally steep. Steep as in I had walk, I had to climb, I had to use trees to pull myself up the trail. Totally wore me out; thought my legs were going to quit on me. But of course they didn't, and I reached the top with the thought of "hah! Big bad hill – I beat you!!" A section of rolling hills got my legs back to feeling fairly normal.

After White Hollow, we hit one of the Middle Ridge Trails, which are some of the most awesome rolling smooth single track in KSF. Great to run on, great to bike on. From Middle Ridge Trail we went to Middle Ridge Road – one of those long gradual uphills that always wear me out. Seems like we were on it forever. There's always one part in a long run when my mind rebels and says ok you're done; this needs to be over now. I hit the wall and just wanted the whole thing to be over and done. I looked at my watch and realized that I was way past the time I wanted to finish in, which is always a bit depressing. So I just kind of slogged along, putting one foot in front of the other; going forward only because turning around would end up being longer farther and harder than finishing.

But then, there's always something that pulls me out of my funk, pulls me through or over the wall and I'm ready to go again. Today that was the yellow "don't go this way" tape and the sign that said "Johnson Hollow Trail." Finally we were back on single track and headed down toward the finish line. I don't know if it was the fun of going down the trail or if it was the fact that the end was so close, but my legs got lighter and wanted to move. Down the trail we went; I felt light and free and happy again. I even managed a smile and a wave at the photographer! Then there it was, the finish line.

The big ol' clock said 2:19. Way slower than I hoped, but that's okay. I started, I finished, and I accomplished something I hadn't done before and never thought I could.

I'm thinking the Nike+ sensor in my trail shoes is not calibrated correctly as it logged this as a 10.74 mile run, when a 15k is only 9.3. (it registered long on the Ace trail run last fall too… gonna have to figure out how to fix that). Or maybe, I'll get a Garmin. ;o)

So these splits and the average time are probably off from the reality, but here they are:
10.74 miles; 2:19:06 total time; 12:57 mpm avg. pace
Mile 1: 12:31
Mile 2: 12:54
Mile 3: 11:58
Mile 4: 12:15
Mile 5: 16:29
Mile 6: 13:55
Mile 7: 12:12
Mile 8: 13:02
Mile 9: 13:34
Mile 10: 12:23

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