Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Cougar Mtn. Trail Running

I gotta say, I am so humbled. I'm in pretty good shape, really. Enough to lay down 15+ for my long runs on weekends, and enough that I thought a 10-miler on the trails really wasn't gonna phase me. Even still, I was really nervous for this run. I think it was because I was going by myself. I don't know if that's really okay to do there, but I thought that if I died out there, at least I was doing something I loved. I kept joking about being eaten by a cougar. I was nervous like before race nervous - to the point that I couldn't eat breakfast. I get that way before all of my long runs. Before my last one, my husband and I were going over what time I would reach the destination point, and what he was bringing for me, etc. and he kept asking me if I was okay. Finally I just had to go - I'm fine when I start, it's just weird anxiety. But this wasn't even a long run - distance-wise - it wasn't marathon distance or anything.

So, I took the kids to school, and drove 25 minutes from urban life to mountain trails. I familiarized myself with my maps and where the port-a-pottys weren't gonna be. I managed to swallow half of a clif bar in the car, so I took the other half out of it's krinkly wrapper and shoved it into the pocket of my shirt. Aren't running clothes with pockets great? I found a gel pack in the car. It has been in there a really long time - some off brand that we got as a sample at some race expo or in a goody bag. I checked the expiration date - April - 2005 - and shoved that in my pocket too. I had a bottle of gatorade, and left it in the car, thinking 90 minutes for 10 miles - maybe 100 minutes tops, and I wouldn't need water. I grabbed the map and off I went. This map, by the way, was crucial. There is a trail race series that a local running store puts out, and the 10-mile course map was on their website, complete with directions at every turn in the trail. I had a blast the first couple of miles with all the twists and turns and hopping over roots, bounding over logs, thinking I was some kind of wild animal. I heard several deer run off through the bushes once, and I saw a couple of hikers with their dogs, but other than that it was pretty quiet. Every now and then you could hear a breeze blow through the top of the trees.

I realized after a while that my garmin wasn't picking up very many satellites under the tree cover, but I could guess how far I was running by the mileage on the trail map. There were a couple of tough uphills, but I was still doing okay until about half-way. Then there was a huge downhill - roughly a mile. I was really focused on the downhills because I have a trail relay coming up with a very steep downhill. So, I blazed through there, but somehow was suprised to see that I then had to go back up the mountain. This part of the trail system I'd actually been through a couple of years ago, geocaching, and had carried one of the kids, so I thought, no problem! Wrong. I had to walk a good portion - to the point that I got cold, so I made myself run some more. After that mammoth hill, it was ups and downs for a while, and my quads just didn't have the strength. I really don't get it, I can do the endurance . . . I'm gonna have to quit skipping yoga class, lift some weights and get out on my bike. I'd get back to the flats and I'd be fine, but then I'd come to even the slightest hill and need to walk. Somewhere along the half-way point I found that half-eaten clif bar in my pocket, complete with blue pocket fuzz now, and it gave me a little boost. When that boost wore off, I had the banana peach flavored gel - and I'm really more of a chocolate or espresso flavor fan, but I appreciated it. I'm not sure what to think of the expiration date, but I'm not sick yet. I'm usually pretty strict about my rule that anything less than 10 miles doesn't require a gel - oh, well. That map was great. It became like a mantra while I was running: "Right on Klondike Swamp . . . Right on Shy Bear . . " I still had to stop at every trail turn (there were 21, I just counted), and check to make sure I wasn't going the wrong way. There was no way I was gonna make a wrong turn and have to double back over some steep hill. So, I got to the last couple of miles and felt like I could cruise a bit without so many hills. I got back to the car and looked at my watch - 2:10. Lovely. Next time I'll bring water. Truly, though, I had a great time. I did it. I have so much more respect for people who run trails on a regular basis - I mean, I've run trails, but more like trails in big parks and trails that are really wide for the casual stroll. This was nothing but 10 miles of single-track through the woods. I've wanted to get out there for a long time and work on trails a little. I'm still really intimidated by the relay I have coming up. This is a description of my leg:
"Leg 6 5.1 miles, very difficult, extreme downhill sections."
I go from 2200-2300 to 1600 feet in the last two miles. But that's the downhill, and I seemed to have a lot more trouble with the uphill. (my brother got nominated for that leg :) I'm not saying that the downhill will be a piece of cake - I think I'll be hurtin' pretty good. All in a day's work . . . why worry about it now, I'll have enough worries when I get there. Where should I run tomorrow . .

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