This past Saturday I ran my first trail race, the Hardcore Serious Trail Run 5k/10k/15k. This was an interesting race structure where the 5k started at 9am and the 10k started at 10am so the sign-up options were to race the 5k, race the 10k, or to race both for a 15k. For better or worse, I decided to race both. I struggled with this decision a little bit, knowing that it would be cold in February, and I always get very cold post-run. I figured it would be worth it in the end and went for it.
The course is on the single-track mountain biking trails at North Mecklenburg Park. The 5k consisted of one clockwise loop and the 10k was two clockwise loops. I run these trails often, so I was already familiar with the abundance of roots, the rocky sections, the steep hills, and the creek crossing. Fun stuff! Basically, this trail gives you a great workout even if you are trying to take it easy. Knowing the course beforehand really put me at ease.
What I was worried about was my new trail shoes. I had been running the trails in my old New Balance 991s and 993s but I recently discovered they were the culprit of my shin splints. After a particularly debilitating 12 mile effort on the trails two weeks ago, I decided to retire them immediately. So last week, I bought the lightweight New Balance Trail 101s, and promptly took them out for a 12 mile run. Running Warehouse recommended that I go half a size up, but I didn’t take that advice, and paid for it with a blister on my right pinky toe. I was worried about this since the blister still bothered me on the trails on Monday so I stuck a band-aid on it and also packed my Nike Frees (but hoping I wouldn’t have to use them and get trail dirt on them!). While the blister didn’t bother me, my calves did. Especially my right one, which is ironic because I was wearing a compression sleeve on my right leg (thanks to the aforementioned shin splints). In fact, I had a mild calf cramp going on for the entire 10k.
The start line was in the parking lot and there was a serious bottleneck as we entered the trails. My only worry during this race was my numb feet—it felt strange to step on rocks and roots and not feel a thing. My socks were not nearly thick enough and my feet never really warmed up. My first mile came in at 9:36 (relatively speedy for me on these trails) because I was all caught up in trying to pass and trying not to get passed on these narrow trails. Apparently this was too fast as mile 2 and 3 came in somewhat slower, with an overall official 10:06 pace. This was good enough for a first place in my age group. I was thinking I was going to come in with a 10:00 pace so I am quite satisfied with this. This was a tough race though. Immediately after this race, I said to Chris, “ugh, I really don’t wanna do that again.” But some blue Powerade, PowerBar gel blasts, and strawberry fruit snacks later, I was ready to start the 10k. I also changed my socks to some thicker ones.
I was freezing as we waited at the start line, but warmed up quickly once we got going. Even though I was dreading doing two more laps, the 10k race felt better and was more enjoyable for me, but I would say my performance wasn’t as good (I just blasted it out on the 5k, after all). Unlike the 5k (so crowded), after the first half mile I was running completely by myself. In a way, this kind of make it feel more like a jog/training run than a race. Aside from all the photographers and the nice people handing out cups of water, that is. Turns out I came in at a pace 1:10 slower than 5k, at 11:16. I’m proud I made it and I’m glad it’s over! But at the same time, I am looking forward to my next race. On a flat course.
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