Today I ran my first trail run, the Bigfoot Endurance Trail. I will definitely say that Ripit Events did a great job running the race. There were lots of good reminder emails leading up to the race. They had folks managing parking. Everything went smoothly and, more or less, on time.
The race was at Rockburn State Park, making this the first race for which I didn’t have to get up at an ungodly hour to attend. It’s just a 10 minute-ish drive from the house. I’d never done any of the trails – usually we just take the kids to the playground. Luckily, one of my friends at work warned me to pick up my feet. I don’t think I necessarily run at a shuffle, but it did make me run with more awareness of the trail. This was a good thing because Mother Nature was out to get me! The 10 mile race consisted of two 5-mile loops. On the first loop I mildly rolled both ankles either in sections that were nothing but tree roots or where the gravel or sand weren’t as tightly packed as they could be. However, tragedy struck (at least race-level tragedy) with half a mile to go. I rolled my left ankle HARD. Like, I’m definitely going to need some Ibuprofen and an ice pack when I get home hard. That threw off my gait and so with literally only a quarter of a mile to go, I couldn’t lift my foot high enough and tripped over a root. I took a spill, but was luckily wearing gloves. I only scratched up my knee. Very nicely – perhaps because this is more of a fun-run community thing than the Boston Marathon or something like that – a couple of runners both in front and behind of me stopped to help me up and make sure I was fine. One of them also checked up on me after the race. This tumble cost me for my age group to fall from 2nd place to 3rd place (literally just 20 seconds difference).
So how did I do? Really darned well! I’m really happy with where my training got me.
My only disappointment was my average pace. I was going for something closer to 7:30. But, considering I had to constantly dodge roots (thanks, Mother Nature!) and that the trail was, at some points, so narrow that I couldn’t pass anyone going slowly in front of me, I was happy. After all, look at the deltas here for my age group:
If I had only one complaint it’s that the whole park wasn’t closed and so on the second loop I had to dodge around cyclists and regular, non-racing folks who were just going for a hike on the trail.
So, will I do it again? I’m not sure. Road races aren’t perfect. You have to watch out for pot holes or places where the pavement or asphalt isn’t level. However, there were sections of this race where I had literally no choice but to step on roots. There wasn’t enough space between the roots for me to place my feet between them. It makes me wonder about the potentially more treacherous trail races. As I get older I’m also going to recover less easily from rolled ankles, falls, etc. I could just take it as an easier race and go faster on the more stable parts and slower on the parts more full of roots. I don’t know. Right now I’m undecided. But I think as a “genre” I’m not dying to do more trail races. All that said, the #1 winner is 49! So nothing says you can’t do it as you get older. And I think as long as your knees and hips are OK, long distance running at the non-Olympics level seems be be a sport that you can do in middle age (unlike, say, basketball)
I am glad I did it at least once, though.
PS – screw COVID and supply chain issues because we didn’t get to get our medals today. And, yeah, it’s not like I’m getting a first-place Olympic medal, but there’s something about that medal signifying accomplishment of training that’s slightly missing and that’s a real bummer!