I ran my first trail race on Saturday! On a separate note, it was also the first race that Mike and I ran together since we got married. 🙂
When Mike signed me up for it last week, I didn’t really know what to expect. Throughout the week, I was too busy to really think about it, and when Saturday morning arrived, I was mostly just afraid of embarrassing myself.
It was my first time running a race that wasn’t entirely on the road, and the few times I attempted to pick up my pace while running on trails in Australia resulted in me sliding across the ground with some nasty cuts so I was a little nervous about trying to pick up the pace for an entire 5k.
I went in without a watch or my phone, and decided to just run by feel and go a little faster if I felt safe and comfortable doing so. Just before we started, I walked straight to the back to hide behind the incredibly fit looking people who lined up to start. Since there were only 60 participating in the 5K (there was also a half-marathon distance, I think around 100 people participated in that), it was a mass start that was signalled by a shot gun.
I liked the intimate feel of the smaller race atmosphere – the way we all started together, and quickly spaced ourselves out according to our ability. I ran most of the race by myself, and it was great to run by feel and not have to weave around people or feel pressured to run at a certain pace. As a result, I ran the whole race feeling really comfortable, despite the foreign terrain (which wasn’t so bad!) and didn’t finish feeling like my lungs were burning or my legs were on fire. I felt great for the rest of the day, and even felt relatively fresh when I woke up the next morning. I also loved the fact that we could walk up less than an hour before the race started to pick up our bibs and timing chips. It was also gorgeous to be running through the trees – I only wished that there were more colourful leaves (but apparently there’s another race the Guelph Victors do called “Falling Leaves”, so I missed the boat on that one…).
Oh, the hills. The hills! The whole course was pretty hilly and it was also a double loop so it got a little boring when I realized I had to run the first loop a second time. The finish line also happened to be at the end of the biggest hill in the course, so I wasn’t exactly grinning ear to ear as I crossed the finish line. As I mentioned above, it was a smaller course, and with everyone spaced out, I ran most of it by myself. I did miss having cheering crowds along the course like the bigger races in Toronto tend to have. I also think without having someone to decide to follow as my unofficial pacer, I didn’t really push myself as much as I might have otherwise. But then again, I’ve developed a habit of following strangers and I’d like to break out of that and work on motivating myself.
I finished feeling strong and happy with my experience – a great feeling! Technically, it was the slowest 5k I’ve ever run and I’m okay with that considering I was running by feel, never really out of breath, and didn’t finish feeling completely spent.
I’m sorry that we discovered this series of low-key races at the end of the season. I’m now motivated to mix things up and branch out from running on roads all the time. I have a new respect for the softer ground and how well they treat my joints.
Over the winter, my main goal is to maintain and build some fitness. Can’t wait!