Holy cow is that title a mouthful!
Before I begin with the long description, I guess I should tell you that it ended up going ok! I came in 6th out of the ladies (22nd out of 51, so I was at least in the top half) with a time of 1:21:06. Keep in mind that the quarter marathon was more like 7 miles than 6.5, by the way. The rain really slowed me down, but it slowed down EVERYONE.
As I’ve been mentioning for the last few days, I was REALLY nervous about this race. I’ve never done a trail race, and especially not one in the rain. I wasn’t quite sure how things would turn out and was even considering not doing the race. After seeing the bright orange shirts, though, I figured I should probably complete the race so that I could wear it. Also, since I was running it with a friend, I figured I shouldn’t make her go alone.
I tried to calm myself down by making sure I was fully prepped for the race. Last night, I packed a bag with a complete change of clothes, a towel, and my water bottle and laid out everything I was wearing for the race. I’m glad I did this last night because I realized I had no safety pins and had time to go pick some up (By the way, did you know Target has a sewing section? Because that is where they keep the safety pins, FYI). I decided to wear running tights (so as to not scratch up my legs in the woods again), my favorite running shirt, and my running hat. I typically break out my expensive Balega socks for races, but opted not to this time so that I would not ruin them in the mud. I got a plastic bag to put my car keys in (there is a small zipper pocket in my tights for keys) and charged up my GPS watch. I figured that even if I can’t import from it right now, it would be the better option than my phone in the rain.
When I woke up this morning, it was POURING and still dark outside. A quick look at weather.com showed me that the rain was expected to end around 8:15 AM, though, which was good because my race was starting around 8:20. I figured the worst case scenario was light rain rather than the downpour we were currently having. I opted to wear a raincoat over my attire just in case. I was glad I made this decision – I wound up leaving it in the car, but it was able to keep me dry until the rain finally did stop. My hat also prevented my glasses from getting wet, thank goodness! The dark and rain did cause one problem I didn’t expect – parking was kind of a nightmare! They didn’t have enough space at the park where the race was starting for everyone to park, but they were trying to cram as many people in as possible in. I was afraid my car, which has quite pathetic skills when it comes to dealing with rough terrain, would get stuck in the mud if I parked in the grass where others were parking, though, and went to park on the “city streets,” as the race website had encouraged people to do. Battle Ground, IN is about the size of my hometown (read: there isn’t even a gas station), though, so finding on street parking was mildly difficult – not because there were a lot of cars, but because the streets don’t have space for people to park! Plus, it was dark and rainy and I could hardly see where I was going. It was quite unpleasant.
Now, the race was put on by Planet Adventure, so I wasn’t sure what to expect. They promised all kinds of race support on their website, which seemed very thorough, but I have heard horror stories (I think I read a story on Reddit once where PA took everyone’s money but then canceled a race and didn’t tell anyone, but I am sure there has to be more to that story). I had only 2 minor complaints, though. The first is that the stuff they gave out is VERY branded. That is not THAT bad, though, as the stuff is pretty cute and I learned at the race that this is sort of one of their “big” events (it was the first trail event they ever did as a company, I think they said) so I am ok with them wanting to brag themselves up. The second complaint is that when I arrived, I noticed a Miller tent. Now, I always hear about these other people running races with beer, but I’ve never been to one, so I was pretty excited, even if it was gross Miller -I’ll take pretty much any free beer! When I got to the finish line, though, no beer was to be found. The only thing at the tent was bottled water. I’m not sure if they were saving beer for the full/half marathoners or if there was just no beer but they had to break out that tent due to the rain. Either way, I don’t consider it a major problem with the race because they never promised beer in the first place, and they did have all of the other support that they promised, such as water/powerade/trail mix stops pretty much every couple miles and great snacks like chocolate milk and bananas at the end (and also for some reason tiny potatoes?).
They also did a fantastic job marking the course. I say this because they marked it well enough that I never got lost! This is already impressive (I have no sense of direction) but it is even more impressive if you consider that I was alone on the trail for TWO WHOLE MILES. Seriously, I am not sure what happened. When I was nearing the turnaround point, I was near a ton of people, and I was about 10 minutes behind my friend (I knew this because I saw her running back to the finish). After the turnaround, though, I started to pass TONS of people, and after I hit the marker indicating that I was two miles from the finish, I never saw another person, so I was quite nervous I had done something wrong. I also thought that maybe I had sped up a lot but I still finished about 10 minutes behind my friend so I don’t think I did. The only thing I can think is that the other quarter marathoners slowed WAY down. They must have slowed down quite a lot, because the person who “finished” after me was actually the guy in first place for the full marathon (he wasn’t finishing, they just had to run the course 2x so he was reaching his turnaround point). I think a lot of the quarter marathoners were a little underprepared or something. Near mile 2 of the race, we had to cross a creek. It said directly in the race description that we would need to do this. A lot of people were surprised and complaining when we reached it, though, because they had only brought one pair of shoes (who does that for a trail race in the rain?!). Then, after the creek, the trail was basically pure mud for the next mile and half to the turnaround point, which you had to promptly turn around and run/slide through again. I think at this point a lot of the quarter marathoners, many of which had also probably gone out too fast, were just like “Fuck it, I’m walking” because I was ZOOMING past them at my incredible 12:00/mile pace. By this point, I was tired and just wanted to get back, so I tried to run in the weeds and just keep my footing as much as possible. I think I handled the mud fairly well – as my meme indicates, I fell only once, and it was because the mud obscured a branch. I didn’t even get hurt because I fell on nothing but mud. So I just got muddy!
Overall, this was a fun experience. I am now far less nervous about running in the rain and I am glad I have been able to experiment with trail running. Perhaps there will be more trail races in my future!