I debated titling this post "half run, half race" because I was hardly ready for what was about to slap me across the face in the Squak Mountain Half. But alas, that would only be an excuse, and Saturday was an indicator of my need to step up my training and get in better shape.
Squak Mountain was my first trail race and it was one hell of an adventure. Justin and I were staying at separate houses because we had the brilliant idea of dog sitting at separate houses to make some extra cash, but it really made the morning slightly hectic. Who goes out for a pre-race dog walk and skips breakfast because they're frantically looking for poop bags that ran out? At least Dexter (the black lab) had a good start to his morning.
I swung by the other house to pick up Justin and then we drove out to the Issaquah Alps. We arrived at the start one hour before the gun went off, which gave us plenty of time to get our race numbers and for Justin to warm up. That's right - I didn't warm up. You don't need to tell me it was a bad idea, I found out the hard way. I had the notion that I would treat the race as a regular training run since I didn't have much hill training. I would give myself the opportunity to feel out the trail vibe....
Never have I entered a race and not given full effort; what's the point of racing otherwise? I finally had my oh shit moment at the start line when I saw the other serious runners up front, which sparked my competitive edge.
The gun went off and we started an immediate climb up hill, which would end up being over 4,000 ft by the finish. Less than a mile in we slipped off the fire road and on to a lollipop loop in single file. There was a good rhythm until the girl in front of me caused a traffic jam. I wasn't too worried about it until a significant gap was created between her and the next crowd. Trail etiquette is something I'm in the process of learning, because I wasn't about to yell "TRACK!" like one does in the middle of a 5k race. I finally sprinted up the bank and passed her on a curb, almost twisting my ankle, and began chasing down the group ahead. I heard the others behind me ask her to step aside, so I suppose it wouldn't have been rude for me to do the same. I was incredibly stiff and had a hard time getting warm for nearly the first six miles. I yearned for arm warmers and tried to shake off the rigidness that was a consequence of not warming up. You'd think that running on a constant uphill would generate some heat in a matter of minutes but I couldn't shake the cold.
I wasn't sure where I stood in the lineup of women, but I knew there was at least one ahead of me. I had no idea what kind of range she was in but I was finally getting loose at that point and tried to hold a good pace and toy around with my race strategy on the hills. I noticed most runners would stop and walk on the hills and I would end up passing a good hand full. Then, the same runners would catapult past me on the down hill. Ouch dude, doesn't that hurt your heels? I swear, these runners were flying, and were barely phased by the downed logs and endless switchbacks. Add it to the list of things to work on: running down hill. Investing in a pair of trail specific shoes probably wouldn't be a bad idea either for traction purposes.
We ended up merging with the 12k runners, who started a half hour before the half marathoners, so I completely lost track of any potential woman to pass. Even so, I ran my hardest effort which was a great start to my first trail race. I wasn't a huge fan of both races merging on a single track because I was bouncing around 12k runners for the last two miles. Myself and the guy behind me would yell "on your left!" in a rhythmic symphony of 10 second increments, but I know this is a standard part of trail racing that I need to get used to. I ended up finishing third woman over all and felt great about how things ended.
I am an outdoor and travel junkie who is currently completing my doctorate in occupational therapy overseas in rural Fiji. On Sweet World Travels you will find stories of my life with my husband, the communities we serve, and the many adventures we take.