Feeling a bit charged up and happy as I sit to write this one. I often wonder how bizarre I look when I sit down to write because I know my face shows all of my emotions as I am thinking, smiling, trying to remember, and figuring out the right words to use.
Anyway, I started the last day of January getting up at 5:30 a.m. for a quick breakfast of Sharkies, a little caffeine, and lots of water while I checked facebook (of course!). I read the funniest essay that one of the high school girls I coach wrote for a scholarship. I mean, I laughed out loud on this one. She’s so creative and while I say it was funny, it was also very good and I’m sure it made her stand out from the rest of the applicants. My husband and I were then off to Alafia State Park for the Florida Challenge Trail Run 5K.
I was definitely looking forward to this race. All of the TampaRaces.com events that I have done have been so great. They are well organized events in such nice parks. They hand out the awards quickly, offer good post race snacks and drinks, and have some of my favorite types of awards – campfire mugs and the overall and masters trophies are some of the best I have ever seen.
Anyway, we arrived in plenty of time and I did my usual warm up. The race started on time and while I was a little nervous, I wasn’t overly nervous because I wasn’t expecting too much. I guess mainly because I have not felt that spark for my training or racing since the Disney Marathon three weeks ago. Post marathon funk can really get you down. My training has been decent in the past three weeks but nothing to write home about. At the start I knew I had to get out quickly because it was a single track course. I did not know the course because I am not that familiar with Alafia Park and the map was not easy for me to understand. So other than what I had heard and read about it, I really did not know what to expect. Then this young guy in front of me turned around and told me that he rode the course yesterday on his mountain bike and it was really rough. He said “just be sure to pick up your feet.” The older guy next to him turned to me and said “that’s what you want to hear, right?” We both chuckled and the race was on.
I started out a lot faster than I normally would, but I figured I had to in order to avoid getting stuck behind people on the single track course. There were two women ahead of me going in to the single track path. I was sucking wind by the first mile. There were no mile markers on the course – this is cross country, baby! Trail races are absolutely not about pace and splits. This was my opportunity to just race. I cherish opportunities like that. Luckily I had my Garmin and it beeped at every mile so I knew how far I was in the race but I never looked at my splits. There really was no point, besides if I did, I probably would have tripped. This course was incredible. Hard core road runners would hate it. I absolutely loved it! The 5K course was almost like a flashback to high school. Our home course at Monson High was just as uneven and loaded with rocks and roots but we had major hills in Massachusetts.
The course is a mountain bike course at the park that they closed just for us to use this beautiful Sunday morning. It had so few straight sections that I do not remember them. It was narrow (one person wide); it twisted and turned; it had so many quick ups and downs (mini hills to this former northerner); it was loaded with rocks, roots, leaves, and a little mud just for fun. It was incredibly difficult to pass. I had to run up a little closer than was comfortable on the person in front of me and then when a slightly wider turn presented itself, had to accelerate by. It was challenging, tactical, and liberating. Once I passed the two women in front of me about halfway through the race, I thought I was the first female, but was not 100% sure. So I kept running as hard as I could for the last mile. When I came out of the trail and headed for the finish, a couple of spectators yelled out that I was the first female. After a quick sprint on the grass to the finish, I walked out of the chute exhilarated and quite out of breath. Add another cool campfire mug to the collection.
I love that my husband is always right there to greet me out of the chute. Sharing that joy and exhaustion with him makes it feel more amazing. I had barely caught my breath but I could not wait to tell him how tough the race was and what the trails were like. I know he could see the joy. I could see it in his face too. I set off to do a cool down jog and on my way back I heard the awards being announced. I didn’t quite make it to collect my overall female winner trophy, but my husband picked it up for me. These are the most unique trophies, made of a rock slab base and a laser cut metal girl running with a pony tail (a RunnerGirl perhaps) and a name plate with the race and award name.
After a couple of award photos, I talked to several people who approached us and mentioned that they were fans of RunnerGirl and readers of my blog. As we walked to the car, I don’t know who was more excited (my husband or me) or what we were more excited about (winning overall female or meeting people who read my blog and are fans of RunnerGirl). Talk about a confidence boosting day!
The race alone had renewed my spark for racing and training. I am all set to prepare my training plan for the next few months. I needed a little inspiration to get me back on track after my post marathon funk. It’s funny because a few years ago I had a similar situation where I had lost that spark and the Picnic Island Adventure Run had renewed it for me. Trail races do amazing things for me. Thank you TampaRaces.com! Now I’ve got the spark…