The first race in my crazy weekend of running was the XTERRA Adventure Series Big Elk Half Marathon. I had never heard of this racing series before until a friend of mine who is a frequent trail runner posted the race details on Facebook and asked if anyone wanted to join her. As you may have seen a few posts ago I’m trying some new things this summer and my first trail race seemed like a good way to bring in the summer solstice!It was held on the grounds of Fair Hill which has a pretty storied history training thoroughbreds (Barbaro!!) Upon arrival it was a healthy sized crowd but was pretty low key which was a nice change of pace from some of the bigger races I’ve done. The parking lot and start line were in close proximity and they only had race day pick up so I got my bib and swag bag which I was able to drop off at the car. We were supposed to receive the camel back’s on the right but they didn’t all arrive in time. However they are arranging to send to those who didn’t receive one onsite.
The pre-race announcements included fine gems such as “there will be rolled ankles” and “you may get lost” (remember that). The race started promptly at 8 am and we were off! I was prepared for anything and the terrain did not disappoint. Rocks, mud, gravel, open road, cross country fields, hay – yes, hay and bridges. Unlike road races where I get my pace and breathing under control in the first few miles and then zone out – you CANNOT do that in a trail run. The terrain changed every quarter mile and you had to be on your toes and FOCUSED. There were moments I walked, moments I kicked rocks and somewhere between miles 6-7, I fell. Twice. No worries, no injuries – just a little dirt 😉 My legs were getting an extreme (and good) workout – though my knees were a little unhappy!
Around Mile 9 there was an aid station and at this point it was late morning and getting super hot. I had been going for well over 2 hours so stopped for a lot of water and chatted with a fellow runner who I had been pacing with but she decided to wait for her 2 friends who had slowed down. We said our goodbyes for now and I kept going, crossing the road to continue on the course. Even though it was hot, I was feeling pretty good and thought 4 miles left, I got this!
And the road ahead was long:
See that teeny tiny guy in the orange shirt? Yeah, he and his running partner were the only ones I saw on the course at this point so I kept them in my sights. We kept going and going and going. Bloggers sidebar: you’ve heard me complain before about the Nike app on my Nano. Well it finally showed me who’s boss after I accidentally washed it after Boston so I was running sans GPS. (Yes I tried the rice thing for several days and no it didn’t work). I regretted all the mean things I said to it as I was just running along in an open field with the late morning summer sun beating down on me and no concept of time. I continued to keep orange shirt in my view and at one point these guys traveled by me:
My first thought was how odd to have horses just travel along the course with runners, but it is an equestrian facility we were on. So I just waved to the horses and jockey and kept going. Orange shirt was way ahead but I knew I wasn’t totally alone. After what felt like an eternity (and in all reality was about 40 minutes) I saw the bright green finish line in my sights. It was just down the hill and around the corner so the end was near!! I booked it. I finished and immediately started downing cups of water. A volunteer came over to take my timing chip and handed me my medal. I looked around for my friend who I separated from between miles 8-9. She was ahead of me somewhere. Not recognizing anyone I grabbed some snacks and waited. And waited.
I went to the car for a towel (I was soaked!) and came back to the finish. I looked at the runners coming up and realized they were running towards the finish from a direction I did not come from. Umm, wow. Apparently I was supposed to turn somewhere in the mile 9-10 range to finish the run through the woods. Major fail. As I recall the course I *think* I know where that turn was but not completely sure. I had been done for almost 20 minutes when this realization came to pass. I thought about going back out there and retracing my steps but so much time had passed, I had run a lot even with the mistake, and my timing chip was turned in. My friend finished moments later remarking I had beat her but of course I told her I got lost. Funny moment.
In any event, because I had no GPS I don’t know exactly how many miles I actually did and if the full 13.1 was realized (it felt like it!) though I think it was at least 12+. I feel like my medal should come with an *asterisk!! I will say this race was more about the challenge than time (took me nearly 3 hours regardless of total mileage). It was highly organized and everyone was super friendly, runners and volunteers alike! I enjoyed the overall experience and came through injury free.
Plus, I have a funny running story to tell for many years to come!
Will I do another trail race? Well… yeah!