I have only run one other half marathon and that was the Kelowna half around 10 years ago. It was a road race, I was incredibly slow and right in front of the kilometer 17 marker, I broke my foot. I finished that race and when I got to the finish line I was told they’d run out of medals and I’d get one in the mail, which I never did receive. My running experiences have never really been that great in the past, but I always wanted to be a runner. My past injuries limited me in my running aspirations, but I’ve finally figured that all out and after building a base last year, I’m “racing” some longer (for me) distances this year. The Powderface 21 was my first experience of a trail race over 7km’s.
I signed up for powderface last fall with two friends. When I would think about the run, I had this idyllic picture of the three of us running through the mountains, like a picture I recently saw of team Salomon running in Chamonix France. That Idyllic picture wasn’t destined to be, so once I realized it was just going to be me, my idyllic picture just switched to the image from Sound of music, where Maria is running through the alpine wildflower fields. Once I was running, I couldn’t get the image of the dwarf from Lord of the Rings when he was running trying to keep up with the elf. Huffing and puffing. It’s funny how different reality is from what we imagine things will be.
My race plan was to break the race into 3 parts. The first third was to just settle in and get comfortable, the second was to assess whether I was running a sustainable pace, fuel and hydrate and the third was to decide whether I’d race the last section or if my goal was to finish. I think I seeded myself well at the start, I really didn’t have to pass many people and I’m never one to overestimate my ability, so I didn’t get passed by people. It didn’t take long for the group to spread out, and somehow out of 80 runners I ended up running pretty much the entire 21 km by myself. I don’t normally run on by myself on trails as I have a huge fear of Bears. As soon realized there were no other runners in sight either behind or in front of me, I came across a large pile of fresh bear scat. I kind for freaked out. I knew I couldn’t catch the group just ahead without burning out a bit, so I stopped and waited for someone to catch up, and I waited and waited. Finally, I just decided to keep going on my own. I kept to my plan for that first third and was feeling pretty good when I got to the first aide station. At this point I was about an hour into my run and I had not eaten anything, I grabbed a couple of M&M’s from the aide station and kept running.
The second section of the race is where I started tripping. I was tripping a lot, and it took me a while to realize it was because I hadn’t been fueling well. The day before my race I’d had a salad for lunch and dinner and breakfast was a piece of toast, so I started this adventure on empty and after an hour of running in the hot sun, I was starting to see the results of not fueling. I’ve never been good at eating while being active. Our running joke has always been “if there’s an apocalypse I will be the last person standing” as I can literally backpack for days with very little food. But, running long distance is a different beast. Still running on my own, I heard some rocks falling down a slope to my left, thought of the bear scat behind me, and tripped and took a header into the bush. I jumped back up, as that’s not the way to face any kind of opposition on the trail, but nothing came of it. As I continued stage 2 of my race my tripping increased which wasn’t helped by the fact that it was an out and back section of trail, so soon the leaders started passing me on tight single track, going the opposite direction. The amazing thing about trail racing is that everyone is so supportive! As they passed they all gave me the “good work”, “nice job” comments and I still can’t believe the trail running culture. It’s a super supportive bunch! My race pretty much continued with a few stumbles until just before the third aide station, when the two girls running just ahead of me ran into that lovely bear I’d been watching for. They came running back and we waited for three more to join us and ran forward as a group of 6 making lots of noise. Within a few minutes we all separated and I was once again on my own. Towards the end of the run I wouldn’t even run downhill as I was worried about tripping and hurting myself. I have really come to realize that the body that has always been able to push through with very little food, can’t push through without when running. I managed to run the last 3km’s to the finish line and was happy with my 3hr 16 min finish time. I came in 8th out of 16 in my category and I’m happy with those results for my first race.
My major learning was that I need to figure out how to fuel and run as well as figuring out what to use as fuel. I will be testing out ideas over the next month and look forward to my next race at Blackspur.