‘Fun’ for Labor Day—Trails, Hills, Rocks, Mud and Bees
Long runs are on my schedule now since I’m training for the RWHalf (7 wks) and the NYC marathon (9 wks). This week a 14-mile run was on the docket, so my PIR (partner-in-running) Bev and I decided to mix it up by doing it at a Labor Day weekend trail run called Labor Pain.
Labor Pain* is a 12 hour endurance run done on a 5-mile loop. During the 12 hours, each individual or team runs the loop as many (or as few) times as they wish and the person who has run the most miles at the end of the day wins.
Bev and I decided to do it as a team, which meant one of us would be on the course at a time, while the other one rested. We planned to do 3 loops each, giving us each 15 miles.
So at 7:30am,
while Bev was still sleeping, I was with the crowd of 200+ people ready to hit the trail. Of the 5-mile loop, only about 5% is on blacktop, the rest is what I would call a moderate trail. I’m bad with remembering exact details, but roughly 00% was flat and obstacle-free, with the other 75% being hills (what goes up must come down) and having roots and rocks to avoid.
A few of the other obstacles were grassy slopes, a short, but steep hill that you almost had to crawl up on your hands and knees, a guard rail to crawl over, along with a steep bank covered in rocks that you had to crawl up near the end of the course.
My first loop was tough! I had a hard time getting started. The first half of the course was mostly gradual upgrades or uphill and my body was not warmed up yet, so it was stiff. And apparently my half a cup of coffee wasn’t enough, because I didn’t quite avoid all the roots. I went down on my hands and left knee twice. Thankfully it only resulted in surface cuts and slight bruises.
Temps were around 70 at the start, but with high humidity, it soon felt much warmer, so it was refreshing when it started raining slightly during the last 15 minutes of that loop. I relaxed and finally began enjoying the run a little.
But then during the last 5 minutes of that loop as I was crawling up the bank of rocks, a hateful tracker-jacker straight from Hungry Games stung me on the back of my head. Smack-dab in the middle of my head! I’ve had numerous bee stings over the years, but never on the back of my head. The pain was sharp for at least 30 minutes before it decreased to an annoying itch the rest of the day.
I had hoped to do each loop in about an hour, but with the rough terrain in some places, it took about an hour and 15 minutes. I was so glad to limp back into the pavilion and see Bev. I wondered if she’d be mad it I said I was going home.
I didn’t say anything because I figured she’d want to try at least one loop. She started off on her first loop in the light rain, but soon the skies opened up and it poured! Bev doesn’t mind running in light rain, but I wondered how she was handling this downpour. I felt really bad for her as I settled into my lawn chair, dry and comfortable under the pavilion with snacks and the latest copy of Runner’s World, so thankful I wasn’t out there.
Yes, I’m that kind of friend.
The rain slowed down, but it was still raining lightly as Bev finished. I should have gotten a picture of her coming in, because though she was totally soaked, she had a giant smile and was saying, “I love this!” (now you know why I like this gal)
By then I was rested enough and had lectured myself enough to be willing to try a second loop. I started off in a slight rain, but felt more energetic, plus I knew what to expect, and I had a new mantra running through my head ”lift your feet, lift your feet!”
Thanks to the heavy rain, now there was another obstacle on some sections of the trail, mud! I tried to avoid most of it, but that was impossible. Instead I focused on allowing my ankles and knees to be more flexible to absorb the different terrain better and I was soon enjoying myself.
On trail runs like this, I don’t use my run/walk/run timer, instead I base my walking breaks on the hills and terrain. So I’d run until I came to a hill or a section with a lot of rocks or mud and then I’d walk until I came to better terrain.
By the time I finished (8 minutes faster than the first loop) the rain had ended and I began thinking of the possibility of doing 4 loops instead of 3. Bev had changed into dry clothes and she was all smiles when I mentioned an additional loop as she headed out for her 2nd one.
Instead of burying myself in a magazine, I mingled with the other runners and spectators, trading trail stories (misery loves company) and getting motivation. By the time, Bev came back, I was ready to tackle another loop.
My 3rd loop went well, but I could tell my hips and thighs were getting tired and my feet were getting sore from the rocky sections. Though the endless loops some of the others were running was tempting me, I was concerned that if I try running a 4th loop, I would get careless and trip again. And the last thing I wanted was to injury myself, so during the transition between our 3rd loops, we decided we would do another loop, but we would walk it together.
(being on the course at the same time meant our team would only get credit for one of us, but with the two top teams doing a record-smashing 90 miles, it didn’t make a difference if we got credit for a total of 35 or 40 miles, we weren’t breaking any records or winning any awards either way)
Woohoo! After 15 miles, she’s not even slowing down on the uphill to the finish, beating the runner behind her! (he might be on his zillionth lap of the day, but who’s counting?) After Bev rested for 10 or 15 minutes and refueled from the wonderful array of food they had there, we both headed out for the final lap.
Though we had to move over from time to time to allow runners to past, it felt good to walk. We still had to watch our step some places, but other times we could look around and actually see the scenery. We were tired and sore when we finished, so walking was the right choice.
Though 20 miles stretched out over 9 hours with breaks after every 5 miles isn’t near as taxing as doing it all at once, it’s given us both confidence in our ability to be ready for a half and a full marathon in about two months.
If I’ve learned this once,
I’ve learned it a thousand times and now I’ve learned it again!
When things don’t go as planned, do not throw in the towel after one try!
Try, try again!
While I’m not about ignoring pain, sometimes we have to push through discomfort and/or lack of motivation. If I would have quit after one loop, I would not have experienced 2 good loops, nor would I have done 5 more miles than I originally planned. Plus, I would have missed a great opportunity to strengthen both my body and my confidence for my running schedule over the next few months.
Check back Wednesday for some inspiring stories of the amazing runners (from ages 21 to 62 to 80 years young!) who broke personal and course records at this run.
Have you ever done a trail run? Do you like or dislike it?
Have you learned to try, try again? How?
*Labor Pain is the brainchild of Pretzel City Sports, which is a company that provides Sports Events with a Twist. It is owned and operated by Ron and Helene Horn, who are wonderfully crazy people who create some amazing runs.