19 months ago I ran my last official trail race – actually make that my last official race of any kind. That was the redemption 50K run at Farmdale towards the end of 2021 – before the damn pandemic decided to destroy my running events (link here). I did participate in one virtual race in April of last year (link here), but frankly, that’s like paying someone to give you a medal for a training run – you were going to do it anyway except now it costs you to go out and run alone. Now, that was for Make A Wish so the donation fee definitely went to a good cause. The rest of the 2020 races ended up going to some form of virtual as well – all those I passed on. Instead I focused on the planned 50 miler at Farmdale – a step up from the 30K the year before. Trained and trained and trained until the disappointing news came that it was canceled as well. 2020 was a bust, and honestly, it was looking like 2021 was stacking up to be more of the same. That is until Linda noticed the Blue Chevy Trail Classic Half Marathon at Farmdale Reservoir was taking entries!
Hit the jump to read about my first race since forever.
Needless to say, I immediately went to the keyboard and got myself signed up. Even if it did get canceled at least I’d get some joy in trying – and relearn how to actually fill out a race entry again. It was a couple weeks away at that point, but every training run going forward would finally have a purpose/goal. Days started ticking off with cautious checks of email – no notices of cancellation or other communication from the race directors came. A week away and still no bad news – holy crap, this race might actually happen. In the meantime, our politicians were being caught in doublespeak and hypocrisy to the point the walls started to collapse on pandemic restrictions. Backed into a corner with no data to support their “science”, new guidelines were handed out and our tax evading governor had to cave on outdoor/indoor gatherings, especially for those of us vaccinated.
With only a final week of taper left, that left a good 13 miler on Sunday followed by a 7 and then a 4 to get myself sufficiently tapered for race day. Unfortunately, the rains decided to try and dampen my spirits. Huge rains during the week before and now new rains in the runup were flooding out the trails. My entire 7 miler was in a complete downpour – still, it was race week and there was a huge smile the entire time. Friday came and went without any race notifications (had to check my email through my fingers). It was Saturday – time to race.
Sure enough, there were other people at the starting location – a huge relief. Even met my running friends Jeff and Stacey who also saw the event was opened and got signed up – they opted for the single loop distance (10K). The day was a bit overcast which is a godsend for runners, however, it was planning to get up into the 80s over the course of the day and there was a slight chance of rain – at this point it wouldn’t matter if the muddy trails took on any more water. They lined us up in the traditional trail manner – “starting line is roughly in this area, group somewhere pointing in this direction” – god I love the laid back trail vibe. Director gave us a few instructions, reminded us the second loop was slightly different, told us to say hi to the goats along the trail (huh?) and then told us to go have fun.
…and a hell of a lot of fun was had! Wasn’t sure what effect the heat would have on me – this was probably the first week it had really gotten into the 80s this year – took my 4 miler taper in the hottest part of the day just to get my body used to the heat (me and heat have had a long and storied history). Took the first loop with a controlled pace. The trail in some parts was extremely muddy and the multiple stream crossings were probably the highest I’d run in at Farmdale. If I went down everyone would know it from being plastered with mud. Ended up pacing behind Jeff who was a few runners ahead of me – the first hills got rid of the people between us allowing us to track together for pretty much the entire first loop. Figured he would hit the jets at some point to close out the 10K – until then comfortable with hanging with him – the only downside was one of us was right there to capture any phone shots if one of us bit it into the mud. We made it through with clean (but extremely wet) clothes. Two other 10Kers came up behind me so I let them pass assuming like Jeff they would be kicking it up a gear towards the end of their loop. Well, that turned out to be a mistake – they both basically stopped to walk one of the hills and I had to pass them again. Not sure what happened to the lady, however, the guy recovered and ended up passing me (and I think Jeff) on the final half mile. As I passed through the timers, said my congrats and goodbyes to Jeff then headed on to the second loop. Stopped by my truck strategically positioned alongside the course to swap out water bottles. As I grabbed the bottle, noticed a lady head out ahead of me.
I can tell you with 100% confidence you will NEVER be able to push yourself to your fullest potential during a training run. It is impossible because your brain will not let you do it. Instead, it will listen to feedback loops and start putting doubt in your head if you get to close to that virtual performance line. “Hey, your legs are tired”, “Hear that, that’s your heart, think it is going to explode”, “Wait, is that your internal thermometer that is peaking.. better pull ‘er back or you are going to end up in the hospital again”. Those doubts start resonating between the ears until you heed them to some degree. In my opinion – competition against others allows you stay focused and find the real breaking point which is always past your training point. My legs were tired, my lungs were working hard and yes, the temps were heading up especially in the muggy valleys, however, now there was someone ahead of me I could focus on. She had put about a 10th of a mile on me and I tried with everything I had to close it. She was a fast straight and downhill runner – I had the edge on the hills and would make up for whatever she added during the other segments – but could not make up that initial distance. 3/4 of the way through we met at the water station – I needed to hydrate to make it to the finish. She pushed the distance to 2 tenths which she maintained until the end. I congratulated her on her pace at the end – looks like I need to train a little harder. The good news is she pushed me to be the best in my age group 50-59, the same standing I had earned the last time I ran this race 2 years ago.
I can’t express just how enjoyable it was to be back in a real race. Hopefully this pandemic crap is past us (along with the ass-wipe politicians who tried to use it for personal gain) and we can look forward to having another full year of racing (already signed up for 3 more!). Yesterday was a great day! Oh, and sure enough, there were goats at one point on the trail – glad he mentioned them or I would have thought my mind was trying to convince me the heat was getting to me ha!