So, this past Sunday, I ran my first half-marathon and my second trail run. It was an amazing experience, but my thighs are still killing me. I have never run so hard in my life. Seriously, this was easily the most physically exhausting thing I have ever done. At the end, I felt so stiff and sore I was afraid to sit down for fear that I couldn't get back up. And, for the first five minutes or so post-race, I had a sharp pain in the middle of my chest. I have no idea what it was other than my lungs saying "Are you fucking crazy?". It is now days later and I still have soreness in my legs to the degree that it makes going up and down stairs somewhat difficult. It didn't stop me from running 4 miles yesterday or mowing the front lawn today, but it is still more pain than I've had from running at any point in the past. I also got two nice new blisters, one for each foot. And, for the second time in as many weeks, the second toe on my right foot developed a blister with blood in it, making it increasingly clear that I'll probably lose that toenail. Nice. Maybe I'll preserve it as part of some sort of disgusting running shrine, almost like the one that BrundleFly collects in his medicine cabinet as his parts fall off in his transformation (catch the reference?).
In colder weather, I might have been tempted to run in my Soprano's Adidas Track Suit, but I stuck with plain old running shorts and a Reebok performance top. I forgot to grease up the nips, but my friend and partner for the day, Bridget, happily lent me some vaseline-like stuff which pretty much saved the day. I was the slightest bit raw afterward, but it was not too bad. I wonder if my nipples won't just harden up from all of this abrasion. I've rubbed them to the point of bleeding at least three times now and I imagine it will happen a few more times before I am through.
I started out my further up in the crowd this time and was able to get past the slowpokes and the thick part of the crowd before we entered into the single track areas. This kept me from getting stuck behind someone who couldn't traverse the more challenging terrain without stopping and backing everyone up. So, I was able to run non-stop for the entire distance. I also made use of the aid stations, stopping for water or Gatorade at almost every one of them and even grabbing a Vanilla Bean GU halfway through the race. It wasn't bad, actually, although it looks odd. It tastes like cupcake frosting, but looks like some kind of clear acne medication or maybe a thick and gooey lube. I don't know if it helped me at all, frankly, but it was a nice treat. The downside to the GU was that I had to carry the packaging to the next aid station before I could throw it out. And, in the process of trying to dispose of it and grab another water, another runner and I almost collided.
The weather was perfect and the trail conditions were very good, so only a few spots of mud to deal with. I must have crossed almost a dozen bridges, jumped a few streams, and run over a hundred logs or so. There were a number of extremely steep climbs and some decent rocky outcroppings to deal with. But, the most interesting part of the run was the segments that were stream side. A good part of the route was little more than running through bushes. There was a trail, cleared enough so that you could tell where to put your feet, but the opening in the brush was extremely narrow. The challenge was to not drag any leaves or branches so much as to have them snap back and smack the person behind you. It was exhilarating to run like that, in such a natural manner. Running feels very natural to me to begin with, but flying through barely cleared woods seems like the purest form of it, doing something that our species has been doing for millenia. Of course, instead of chasing down prey in a loincloth, I was running some silly ass race while wearing all sorts of manmade fabrics.
I did much better than I thought I would, coming in at 2:09:47. I figured it would take me close to 2:30 or so to finish, but I had a fair amount of luck in getting behind strong runners who I could "pace" with. And, at one point, I was the lead runner in a pack, so I felt pressured to keep a good pace up. I think I was running around 9:00/mi at that point, but I couldn't sustain that up the hills over the last few miles. The stronger runners behind me passed on by, slapping me on the back for my efforts. The comraderie was nice and gave me a bit of boost to keep climbing and charging along. I have found that I do well on the hills and am usually able to gain a fair amount of ground on my fellow runners at those points, but this race really tested me and my abilities. I just ran out of gas towards the end, in a way I hadn't experienced before. It came down to willpower, frankly. I could feel my legs tightening up and I knew I was going to have some pain afterwards, but I kept pushing along. I came close to twisting my ankles a few times, but I ignored the jolt each time and just kept running. Sticks, branches, slippery rocks...you just keep going because you know that it will be impossible to get running again if you stop. Sure, you can walk up the hill, but then how long will it be before you get too stiff to continue and end up just walking the whole way? See the pain on my face...
I felt like death at the end, but I think I came in decently fast in the last few hundred yards. There was a good sized crowd and I got really psyched to see that Audrey and Noah (and Bridget's husband, Mike) had made it down to meet us at the end. All I could think about the last few miles was the scones that Audrey was going to bake that morning and I had hoped that she'd be here with them. When I finished, I could barely wait to eat one...those things are just awesome and I think the post-run scone (chocolate and cranberry) was the best thing I have ever eaten. Goddamn, my wife is a good ass cook (okay, so this is for her). I also had some M&Ms, more Gatorade, and a slice of pizza, all thanks to the race organizers. What an amazing day! I'm a total running dork and you should definitely make fun of me!
EX2 Off-Road Marathon - Prince William Park
May 7, 2006 9AM
Age Place: 26/54
Overall Result: 65/208 (really 210, but two didn't finish at all)