Months ago when I was still injured I saw a post on facebook about a half marathon, named the Seashore Summer Trail Half, that warned it would sell out quickly (it did). It was located on my favorite trails and only cost $25 so immediately I reserved my spot and I can honestly say it was money well spent. This race was a very hot, humid, sticky, muddy, sandy, hornet fly and snake-filled mess and I loved every brutal mile of it.
The 13.1 mile race started and finished on a paved road but the majority of the middle 11 miles were on the side technical trails of Seashore National Park. The second mile went through thick mud and people were falling like crazy. During road races I always tell myself- eyes up- but this entire race I kept my eyes to the ground scanning quickly for roots or sand to avoid. A good friend took a terrible fall which I think shook those of us who saw it up. That early in the race it was a big warning sign to be careful!
At the first aid station (which I skipped) I noticed a man in front of me stopped to drink (as opposed to grabbing and running) and considering the heat- 88 and humidity- 94%, I took note to do that for my aid station stops. Not sure if it hurt or helped my time but I never felt like I was going into overheat mode like many did, so while I won’t do that during road races, I like to think it was a smart move.
By mile 3 I was alone and couldn’t see anyone in front of me. While I had zero time expectations going into this day because of the conditions, I did have a goal to be competitive. It would have been ideal to find a runner to latch on with and balance the pace pushing but after a mile solo running through the tall trees, I found the silence incredibly peaceful and energizing. I don’t think I’ve smiled more in a race my entire life. One time I did step within inches of the biggest snake I’ve ever seen in the park before. It “stood up” (not sure how to describe it) and I must have jumped 3 feet in the air. I’ve honestly never been overly afraid of snakes before but someone had just told me the previous night that the park has water moccasins (deadly) I wasn’t smiling then!
The aid stations in this race were set up perfectly and the volunteers would start cheering as soon as they saw you, even if you were half a mile away. Every option was set up clearly and very cold towels were handed out. Those felt amazing!! The mile placement of each station was enough to give good small mental goals…..just get to the next aid station. At the halfway point in the race I did try to take a gel but within one squeeze my stomach felt like it would turn. I have an iron stomach in perfect conditions but a terrible one when the humidity acts up so I stuck with water and gatorade. This picture below (taken by a great friend Maryclare) was taken around then I believe. Gorgeous but humid trails!!
Once we got to mile 10ish, the rest of the race was heading back the way we had came. I no longer had to worry if I was headed the right away (although the course was well marked) and was confident I had paced smart and drank adequately enough that I wouldn’t bonk and could give a bit more. I pushed the pace a bit and ended up passing two more men. Not sure of pace exactly though because at mile 10.5 my Garmin ran out of power. No biggie though, I wasn’t really even planning on wearing it. The last mile back on the road felt great, simply to be on a solid surface without tons of sharp turns. I could see the mens 1st and 2nd place finishers chatting along the side of the road so I knew I was close. The best part was that when you see the finish line, you were there, none of that- I see the finish line but have to run a half mile of turns to get there business. I crossed the finish line as first female in 1:39:26 and was thrilled. Immediately after finishing the race director gave me my awards. I honestly had no idea there would be awards and I was blown away. Running, Etc. (the store I run for) gave away a great prize package and I was grateful. I have more than enough Gu to get me through Chicago training.
Today was the day after the race and I woke up super sore. I thought a trail race would be easy on the legs but my hip flexors were worn out from extending on leaps and landings across roots or mud. Luckily there was no bad soreness and I will be back to marathon training within days. Next up is a road 5K and then I have to make some decisions on a possible pre-marathon half or other races. I’ll let you know when I do. Thanks for reading everyone!