A few weeks ago I completed the Xterra Atlantic trail race series. The series was four races, culminating with a half-marathon. I’m slightly behind on blogging; however, after looking back I did recap the first two races of the series. For brevity’s sake, I’ll just post finishing results for the first two races and recap the final two races of the trail series below.
Brandywine 12k: 1:05, 2nd overall female, 16th overall of 110
Lums Pond 12k: 57:28, 3rd overall female, 25th overall of 98
Wetlands 10k at Camp Edge:
As the series progressed, I became less and less motivated to race. I had no desire to race a 10k. All I wanted to do was run an ultra. I was craving the mountains, not the swamplands. Yet, there I was on a humid Sunday morning pretending to be happy I was about to race.
It had rained for 4-5 days straight leading up to the race. The local mountain bike team that my dad coaches practices and races at this venue – Camp Edge. I’ve done numerous trail building days on these trails. I had even raced on these trails for the Sasquatch 5k. I knew the trails didn’t drain well. With 4-5 days of rain behind us, I knew that the course was going to be sloppy. This also added to my lack of motivation.
I was happy that Jess was racing too. I warned her about the mud and we both joked that we had signed up for a trail race, not a mud run.
“Sloppy” didn’t even do the trail conditions justice. It was a disaster. I went out hard for two reasons: because I knew these trails inside and out, forwards & backwards AND because I knew the mud would get progressively worse as more racers ran through it.
Two women passed me around the two mile mark. By mile three, I had mentally checked myself out of the race. The trails were crap, I was sliding everywhere, and I did NOT feel like doing a second loop.
We ran through the finish line and turned right to head back out across the field and into the woods. Here we go again. Loop 2. I gave up on running fast through the mud. The mud was worse the second time around because now we were running through mud that 100 other people had already ran through. I was frustrated. I was agitated. I was not having fun.
All I truly remember about loop 2 was focusing on not sliding in the mud and carelessly splashing through the puddles. It was hot so the puddles were a nice relief.
When we exited the woods, my dad, Josh, and Steve were taking pictures. My dad told me to pick it up and my response was an irritated “I don’t feel like it”. I crossed the line as the 3rd overall female and 21st overall of 68, in 56:05.
I was happy that Jess raced hard and finished 3rd in her age group. I was super proud of her for finishing her first ever trail 10k and I hoped that she would attend the next trail race of the series with me! I was also excited because we were all going to a wine festival after the race and I just love wine!
Disclaimer: I won’t be doing this race again. I didn’t enjoy the course conditions, I despise races that are two loops, and I just didn’t like the race atmosphere.
Big Elk Half-Marathon:
I was hoping that I would be in tip-top shape going into the last race of the series; however, my running motivation had dwindled over the course of four months and my cycling motivation had peaked. Due to work schedules, weekend events, and vacation, the training plan I had created for myself was merely a piece of paper hanging on my bulletin board.
My longest run leading up to Big Elk was 8 miles. Despite failing at following the plan, vacation provided me with an opportunity to spend miles and miles on my feet, climbing up mountains. I knew that the hills wouldn’t be a problem. Instead, my endurance might end up being the problem.
On the morning of race day, we arrived to the starting area with 25 minutes until start time. 25 minutes to spare is considered rushing to me so I frantically ran from the parking lot to the bathroom and from the bathroom to the packet pick-up area. I ran back to the parking lot, pinned my bib on crookedly, threw on my Ultimate Direction pack and ran back to the starting line.
The first mile was slightly downhill and I hoped that the crowd would eventually thin out. I found myself leading a pack of 5-6 runners on some single track and I wished that they would just go around me instead of following so closely on my heels. I was familiar with the trails so I knew what sections to be cautious through and what sections to speed up.
We ran past the first water stop and I yelled at a woman trying to pass me that she had missed the turn. It pays to pay attention, people! At the top of the next hill, Josh appeared! I laughed that he was just standing in the middle of the woods.
Finally half of the group of people went around me. A few still remained on my heels and I tried to shake them by speeding up. They stuck close.
I was running faster than my comfort zone trail pace and by mile 6ish, my left knee started bugging me. I couldn’t catch my breath and I just wanted to enjoy my time in the woods. I pulled to the side and let a few runners go around me. Finally, I could run in peace!
I spent most of miles 6-10 by myself. I was content this way. I listened to nature rather than the rapid breathing of myself and those that were once around me. I finally relaxed into the race. I was finally enjoying myself. I even took breaks to walk up some hills. All of this is my trail bliss.
The course went through a field with grass up to my hip. I was frustrated because I knew this wasn’t truly a trail. They just stuck flags in a grassy field to make things “interesting”. The only thoughts going through my head were “ticks, ticks, ticks everywhere!”
When we got back on an actual trail, a few people came up behind me. I let them pass and I just kept at my steady happy-go-lucky pace. Our course eventually met up with the 5k/10k course and there were a lot of runners on the trail now.
I passed a few people who were trudging through their shorter race and I knew we were getting closer to the end. We ran through some streams that felt super refreshing. By this point the top of my left foot was also bothering me so the cold water felt great on my sore foot.
The course exited the woods and brought us toward the finishing area. I ran confidently towards the finish line and Josh yelled at me to smile. I smiled.
I crossed the line and looped back to find Josh, Jess, & Steve. We talked about Jess’s 10k that she CRUSHED! She beat her previous 10k trail time by 14 minutes. We waited patiently for results, I changed out of my race attire, and then we waited for the awards ceremony.
I finished in 2:08:55 as the 4th overall female and 1st in my age-group. The results posted online are incorrect (once again). I knew my time would be around the two hour mark so I was more than content with a 2:08. I had completed the trail series, Jess had crushed her 10k, and then we all celebrated with brunch on Main Street, Newark.
I won the trail series for my age-group, therefore, winning a free entry to Xterra Nationals in Ogden. I will not be attending Nationals because the plane ticket is far too expensive and by September I will be in full grad school mode.
Completing the series was more of a mental challenge for me rather than a physical challenge. I found myself highly unmotivated for most of the races. I enjoyed the Brandywine 12k the most due to the ruggedness of the trails. Big Elk was my second favorite because I got to spend 2+ hours in the woods. Lums Pond 12k was semi-decent because I’ve never been to that trail system before; however, it’s too flat for me and doesn’t benefit my strengths. Wetlands 10k was my absolute least favorite race of the entire series. The mud was annoying and I hate courses that are two loops.
Next year, I probably won’t run any of the races again. It was something different for me to try this year in the interim of training for another ultra; however, my heart is set on ultras in the mountains.
It’s been real, Xterra, but now it’s time for you to crown another Xterra Champion.