This did happen to me, within the first mile of the Trail Loppet Half-Marathon, yesterday. The first 2 miles were pretty much a conga line, as the trail was fairly narrow, and even with only about 250 people running, the effect was still similar to that of 5+ highway lanes, attempting to enter the Boston tunnel. The two girls were chatting along happily behind me, and then one of them tripped on a root and stumbled into me. She giggled and apologized, to which I responded, hey, no problem, just don’t knock me down!
So, after that fabulous omen, my first trail run, which was also my first half-marathon distance race, went very well: I didn’t get hurt, I didn’t get lost, the scenery was fantastic, and I even beat my expected pace/time.
I hadn’t had the opportunity to scope out the course, but I’m glad I didn’t: it was a wonderful adventure, and there’s no way I could have found the course without the blue race markers, anyway. It went all over, and in and out of, Wirth Park. It even went into chainlink fence apertures that may not have existed prior to the course-setting.
At the start my husband encouraged me to try to get up towards the front, but I was a little hesitant to do so. For the shorter road races I’d done until now, I’d had to spend the first half-mile hurdling slower runners, in order to get to a good spot for my pace. I didn’t think that would be a problem, given that I knew I had to dial in a sustainable slower pace for this distance. I moved up ahead just a little, in the starting queue. Then, in the first mile, a lot of people passed me, at the first opportunity. Hmph, their time would come. I have a good second wind.
The range of terrain was immense, for an urban park: it was steep, and in a variety of orientations: quite a few paths were along the sides of ridges, at pretty steep angles better suited for -walking, not running- billy goats. There were a few short flat paved stretches, but in general, it was rolling hills all the way, as the posted topo map had indicated. In my months of training, I’d been teaching myself to walk up all steep hills that were longer than about 10 steps. We all held to this policy, for the hills after mile 3. Why did we all run up the first few steep ones? Adrenaline? Ah well, clearly it didn’t hurt my stamina, near the end.
There was grass, packed dirt, and pavement in various degrees of decay; I think this range may have something to do with my sore shins today. Thankfully, at least one of my weekly training runs was on pavement!
The width of the trail also varied, as it transitioned from narrower-than Arah’s-shoulders single track (forcing me to fast-walk) all the way out to paved urban bike trail width. The singletrack made for fun movement, but didn’t leave a lot of opportunity for passing. More often than not, the runner behind me & myself just seemed to be pacing each other. We’d get a wide spot and no passing would be happening.
There are some great photos here that show some of the terrain & congestion, especially in the “Half Marathon Mile 1” batch.
Fuel and hydration-wise, I did quite well, aside from foolishly skipping the 4th water stop. The 2nd and 3rd ones were pretty close together, so by the 4th I felt a little waterlogged. Then along came mile 11 and I started to see some of the familiar, unwelcome signs of slight dehydration: cramping stomach/torso muscles. I knew the mile 12 water -and banana- stop was coming up, so that reassurance allowed my breathing to get back to normal. Silly girl, tricks are for kids. Bring your handheld water bottle, next time! After that, it was pretty smooth, “wahoo!” sailing.
My average mile pace was 10.7 minutes; with a few 12-minute miles in there, down to a 7:30 minute mile, near the end, as well, though I doubted the accuracy of that mile marker. My pace felt pretty steady (for running in rolling hills), though I did surge to pass a few people each mile. Maybe that was just a remarkably flat (or downhill) mile? I’ve done 7:30 miles in tempo runs, but my turnover just didn’t feel rapid enough to warrant that split.
I came in 18th out of 40 women in my division, and 142nd overall (out of 232). It appears that I was in a tough division- the women’s winner was also in my division, and she came in 12th overall!
This trail run was most excellent fun, partly made so by bringing along a fan club to cheer me on: the loving husband, and my pal Julie. They were also most useful after the race, when we went to Isles Bun & Coffee and a bought a cinnamon roll that NO human should attempt to consume all on their own. But oh, was it tasty!