This week frustrated the hell out of me.
It was the end of the grading period at school, so two dozen kids suddenly decided to turn in work from a month ago; several parents directed their late-work displeasure toward me rather than their kids, which didn’t help either. I’m not a fan of this strategy, so with each late assignment the dam holding back the screams of “wtf, people?!” inside my head cracked a little bit more. Friday could not come soon enough.
Ordinarily, running helps me deal with this stuff. And early in the week, it worked. I ran two miles before core class on Monday and six miles with my group on Tuesday. It was slow but not awful, and my knee felt relatively good. But Thursday? Was a shitshow. Everything felt off from the start, nothing clicked right. I couldn’t make my legs move any faster, and after about 2.5 miles my stomach joined the chorus of unhappiness. I bailed early and tried to run back, but I ended up walking the last mile.
Near the end of the day on Friday, a student discovered some racist graffitti on a desk in my classroom, which solidified the shit-tastic-ness of my week. We just wrapped up a unit on Civil Rights and equality, so this is a real slap in the face for me.
Saturday I slept in (trail race on Sunday morning gave me a reprieve for Saturday) and took the dog out for a couple of miles. It went better than Thursday, but he stopped every 200 feet to sniff and pee, so I’m not sure my Garmin data provides a true picture there. I mean, the elapsed time and moving time differ by eleven minutes and eight seconds, so I had lots of breaks.
But my paltry efforts got my Leap Day badge, which I didn’t even know was a thing until I finished. So yay?
Sunday morning, I woke up early to meet some teammates at Walnut Creek Park for the first race in this year’s Rogue Trail Series. We picked up our timing chips and goofed around taking photos. Then it was time for the trail briefing.
These always make me nervous. They talk a lot about trail markings and which flag/arrow/sign means which thing. This leads me to believe that the probability of getting lost is high. At one point the race director said that if you get lost, go back the way you came until you see the pink flags again, then pay closer attention once you’re back on the course.
But it turned out the course was super well-marked. Pink stakes marked the inside of every turn; arrows pointing to turns and flags in the trees made it easy to see that I was going the right way. I really only hesitated once, near the end. Otherwise I found it very easy to follow the course markings.
That’s the only thing that was easy, though. My legs still felt sore and tired, and I just couldn’t speed up. And temps were pretty warm–in the 60s–for March 1st. I’m pretty sure I was the last of the 10Kers for a while, but about two miles in I passed two runners, then another near the aid station at the halfway point. I slingshotted with two more women between miles 3 and 5, but they totally dropped me the last mile. Knowing three folks separated me from DFL was decent motivation.
Both the course’s surface and elevation were less challenging than the trail races I ran last summer. Most of the trails at Walnut Creek Park were packed dirt, not uneven limestone rocks and steep hills. Yeah we ran some hills, but most of them were gradual. I was a little worried about my knee, though, considering the nature of trail running’s ups and downs on uneven surfaces, but it held up. It wasn’t happy, but it never hurt.
My ponytail dripped from the humidity down in the trees, but occasionally we reached a clearing where the breeze cooled things a little. We crossed Walnut Creek a couple of times–some of the 30Kers just splashed right on through it, but I picked my way over big rocks. I’m not afraid to get my feet wet, but it’s not my first choice if I don’t have to. So the takeaway here is that my feet stayed dry, I didn’t fall, and I wasn’t last.
A couple other things I enjoy about trail running: it’s a different vibe, and most folks are really friendly. I had fast 30Kers coming up behind me (they started an hour earlier and ran three loops of the 10K course) and so many runners said “good job, keep it up” as they passed. Just past six miles the course ran alongside a parking lot, and one runner who’d already finished was sitting on the back of her car and shouted encouragement. There’s cheering for every single runner as they come through the finish line, too. I wasn’t super excited about the recreational mountain bikers on the same trail, or the family hikers with dogs/kids, but then again I wasn’t fast enough for it to be a real issue.
This was my first daytime trail race. I ran four of them last summer (two 5Ks and two 10Ks) but they were all at night. So this morning I enjoyed actually seeing where I was going. That may have contributed to my 14-minute trail 10K PR–on the more-stable surface I actually ran vs. hiked, and I could see further ahead than the small arc illuminated by my headlamp. In the daylight I could also identify friends as they shouted hellos from further along the switchback trails.
I’m going to feel it tomorrow, though. I haven’t run trails in a couple of weeks–hell, I haven’t run a lot of road miles either–and my ankles are already displeased with the trail action they received. I’ve got a compression brace on my knee, and I’ve taken some tentative steps into the CBD world with a topical cream that’s supposed to help with swelling. We’ll see how that goes. But it was a fun morning, and I’m glad I tried a new race to kick off spring running.
March also brings Spring Break, then the Texas Independence Relay. I’m far more prepared for one than the other–I’ll let you guess which one.