Monday, March 21, 2011
My Quads They Are A Quiverin'!
Here I am at the race yesterday (before I was covered in mud!)
So yesterday, March 20th, I ran one of the toughest races of my "career": The Quivering Quads Half Marathon Trail Run (organized by the fabulous folks at Fleet Feet Sports here in St Louis!). Basically, this non-pavement half marathon journeys along several of the trails in Quivre River State park, one of the most beautiful parks in Missouri (about an hour and a half north from downtown St Louis).
I ran the race for the first time last year and it was freezing cold the entire time (or at least I couldn't get my feet to get even close to warm the entire race!). I don't think I had ever run in mud before, so I was slipping around quite a bit. In addition, I was also experiencing a pretty bad case of Plantar Fasciitus last year but was happy with my time of 3 hours and 31 minutes.
So how did this year go?? Let me start off by saying that last weekend I ran the St Patrick's Day 5 Mile Run downtown and it was horrible. I couldn't get a groove going on at all and so I sludged (for lack of a better word) through the entire 5 miles wondering why the heck I even bothered. I was feeling pretty disappointed that I was feeling as if I was starting all over again -- post cancer treatment -- to get back to where I was before the diagnosis. A (short) triathlon the next day (last weekend) did nothing to shake this feeling of utter disappointment at what my body is not allowing me to do.
So I guess that going into the Quivering Quads, I was just hoping to finish before the five hour time limit. Even though it pretty much rained all day on Saturday, I woke up to a beautiful Sunday morning on the warm-ish side! Last year I wore a pair of trail running shoes I bought online at the last minute but thought that this year I would wear my current "retiring" pair of running shoes since they were already pretty trashed. I knew that those shoes might be more slippery but I also knew that those shoes were pretty comfy.
At the start line to the Quivering Quads, the atmosphere was relaxing and fun! I talked with some folks I had just met and said hi to a few folks I already knew. I had plenty of time to socialize since I wasn't starting until the last wave of runners. Because most of the trail run is on tight trails, each wave of 25 runners has a three minute headstart on the next wave (the race, by the way, is limited to 400 runners total). Originally I was disappointed that I was in the last wave (leaving 51 minutes after the "official start") but it can be stressful to have faster runners coming up on you on these tight trails. So I think there was less pressure on being in the back! And the folks I started with all great people! And to give Fleet Feet credit, their enthusiasm with the last wave was just as hardy as with the first!
The first 1.8 miles was on a dirt road that was muddy from the get-go. I tried to keep my running shoes a little dry and unmuddied but that only lasted about 500 yards! Once we were half-way down this road, you turned around and went back up the hill to start the actual "trail" portion of the race. And that is where the fun started!
After about mile two, I came up on three women running (all I remember is the Lindsay was the last of the three) and we stuck together for about five miles. They were doing a pretty nice pace and I was enjoying the company. Lots of mud, by the way -- about every 100 yards or so it seemed! This portion of the race was on the Big Sugar Creek Trail and it was pretty scenic (I even saw three deer!). Because of the rain, I think most of the creek beds were pretty high (I don't remember as many creek crossings last year!) But most of the creeks were only have ankle high or so -- at first I was annoyed by them but after awhile I noticed that my shoes got cleaned AND the cold water felt great! The only part of this particular trail that I hate is crawling over the side of a cliff but once that part was over, it was on to the next section .... the Lone Spring Trail.
At this point I was feeling great -- way better that I did at the 5 mile run last weekend. The Lone Spring Trail starts somewhere just after mile 7. At this point, my new friends stopped at a water station and I had a quick drink but wanted to keep moving so my "buzz" stuck around. The next few miles were beautiful -- my legs felt great and I caught up with some more people I hadn't seen before. I didn't wear a watch yesterday so I don't know what my time was but it "felt" better -- so I kept the pace up (except for a few hills that I walked up!). In fact, after the water stop at mile 11, I was feeling so great that I was wondering when the other shoe was going to drop.
And, boy, did it! The 5-6 water stops were all mostly located on paved roads that we crossed as we followed the trails. At the last one (about mile 12) I thought I was pretty much finished -- and for the last mile I had started to struggle. But then came that last awful mile. Uphill. Steep. Not fun. I had to walk a good portion of this but so did all the people I had been following. Near the top of the hill, though, I could hear people screaming from the finish line and knew I had to finish strong. So I ran through the mud (yep -- it was even on the uphills!) and crossed the finish line in record time for me: 3 hours and 22 minutes!
I am still a little dazed from the experience but I am delighted more about my "running mojo" coming back -- but the personal best was a nice icing on the cake as well! The folks at Fleet Fleet organized an amazing experience (which cannot be easy given the logistical problems!). They even had folks talking photographs so here are a few that I "stole" from their web site:
Running through the woods!
Finish Line! (my time is 51 minutes less than the finishing clock time!)
So I don't know if I will be able to get back to where I was before the whole breast cancer "thing." But I know that I love running and I know that it makes me happy.