While I have consistent and challenging weekly exercise schedules, my routines are pretty vanilla. I run, practice yoga, sometimes I swim and about three times a year I ride my bike. My comfort zone is very specific and I rarely venture outside of it except for a triathlon once a year or so. It’s not because I don’t enjoy the challenge. I actually really like activities and races that are a little different because it allows me to let go of my competitive drive a bit and just enjoy the event. So, a couple of weeks ago when Chrissy asked me if I would be interested in a trail race I responded a hesitant ‘I’ll do it if you do it’! She told me the VERT Sasquatch Trail Race was a good race for runners without a lot of trail experience and it was very short. We both had a carefree attitude about the race and agreed we were just running for the fun of it. Our goals were simple, have fun and try our best not to end up with a swollen ankle.
We arrived at the race early to pick up our numbers and t-shirts and that process was super easy giving us plenty of time to do a short warm up and stand around getting nervous. The race is in three waves to make sure that the runners aren’t on top of each other on the narrow trails. We were in the third wave and watched as the first two groups took off down the road. One of the volunteers yelled out ‘Are you ready wave 3?!’ and I quietly responded ‘Yes, I am definitely ready to get this over with so I can say I did a trail race and then go home’. Chrissy let me know that we were on the same page in that respect as we headed toward the start.
We took off and headed toward the road staying on pavement for almost a half mile. Since the race was less than 2.5 miles I started to wonder if there might not be so much trail in this trail race…and then we took a left. As soon as we hit the dirt path I realized my focus was going to have to stay on the ground to make sure I didn’t trip. Not long after, we hit a big incline. Chrissy was directly in front of me so I chased her up the hill and trusted that she was staying at a conservative pace and watching were she was going. The course flattened out but we still had to be careful of rocks and obstacles including a huge log on the course at the perfect height that you had to make a specific decision to step on it or jump over. A guy next us didn’t quite decide in time and tripped over the log sending him flying to our left. As a rookie, I wasn’t sure what trail race etiquette called for so I stopped to offer a hand to help him up – it’s what I would want if I fell and I very well might. Once we knew the guy was okay we took off again. It was tricky to find your pace and keep your feet up enough that you didn’t trip over everything on the ground but after a while we got the hang of it. We saw another runner fall right ahead of us but she seemed to getting right back up so we pressed on and maybe focused even more on the trail to be sure we were the next to go down.
At this point a lot of people were walking which added a new obstacle to get around them. The course started to go downhill and we wanted to speed up but had to get around other runners and carefully since the trails were so narrow. We had a big downhill and then we began to hear the crowd cheering at the finish line so we started to speed up. Chrissy and I seemed to be in sync the entire race. Without turning around she knew I was right behind her the whole time and together we had to strategically pass a runner in front of us who had the worst stride I’ve seen in a long time and was wearing headphones so didn’t hear Chrissy’s polite ‘excuse me’ or ‘on your left’ no matter how hard she tried. We finally found an opening and scooted past her.
Coming off the trails we were finally able to run side by side and speed up our pace now that we were back on solid ground. We split up twice to get around runners but we knew we would have to finish together because it was a clear team effort.
I really enjoyed this race. Chrissy was right, it was a perfect course for trail rookies like us. There were lots of challenges but the short distance made it very manageable. It was a great core workout since I had to focus on keeping my balance the whole time and I’m certain the core exercises I’ve been doing consistently were helpful. Debriefing with some other runners we talked about how there was no ‘zoning out’ or relaxing into a rhythm because you had to be so focused the entire race. If you weren’t watching were you were going you were sure to trip over something. It’s definitely possible that I will do more trails going forward and if I were to find a way to incorporate trail running into my training I know I would benefit.
Chrissy and I both finished 21:53 (9:19 pace) ranking 395 and 396 out of 858 finishers. More importantly, we had fun and no one got hurt! I’m excited that I tried something new and enjoyed it. It’s so easy to get stuck in a cycle of what you are comfortable with but with a little effort and some courage there is a fresh joy in finding life outside the comfort zone.
Speaking of getting out of the routine, vacation begins this week on the beautiful island of Nantucket. Follow me on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook for updates while I’m away including my return to the Nantucket Triathlon.