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The Trail Race Recap.

31 May 2016

Wow. This was as hard a race as I’ve done, and I’m including the full marathon. While it was a race, it wasn’t a run. We jogged most of the first 6 miles, where we could. Some was too steep to run. But a couple of falls and 85 degree heat and 90ish% humidity and about 1900 feet of elevation gain and a jammed Achilles tendon combined to turn the last 7 miles into a hike, rather than a run. It was still as hard as I’ve ever experienced.

In retrospect, I should have figured it would be tough when there were a large number of cars in the parking lot with 100-mile finisher stickers. Including a Western States. The kind of people who do those showing up for this race should have told me that I was in for a tough day. The trail half-marathon is in rural Pennsylvania, near Reading. These are old hills. They know how to fight.

We brought our hydration packs, and we brought plenty of calories. But on a day like Sunday, nothing was going to be enough to feel good. The race starts with a river crossing, ensuring that our feet were wet throughout. Two category five climbs, and two category four climbs (lower is harder). My heart was racing even just walking up the hills, and at one point I needed to sit for a minute to keep going.

BB had it the whole way despite being bruised and bloodied. I bet she could have finished it forty minutes faster if she’d been alone. I was definitely the drag on the time. After 8 miles of brutal climbs, we spent about three miles on roads, usually at a steep downhill, so steep it made our toes hurt pressing into the fronts of our shoes. Luckily, this was through a neighborhood and a few kind homeowners sprayed us with hoses.

As we re-entered the woods, the horseflies came back. Most of the race we were bedeviled by flies the size of military drones. And then the “adventure” portion of the race started. Climbing over logs and trudging through knee-deep mud. My shoes filled with stones and silt. We trudged on. We did break into a trot from time to time when I felt like I could, but between the heat and my ankle, it wasn’t often.

When the finish-line finally showed itself, after 13.4 miles of back country hell, we managed to jog the last 100 yards or so and give our names to the crew at the end. They were keeping careful track of who crossed the line, because there were plenty of opportunities to get injured and be unable to go on. I had sweat my name off my bib.

We finished in three hours and forty seven minutes. This was as hard as anything I’ve ever done. Raw pain for most of the trek. We finished filthy, dehydrated, bloody, sore, and exhausted. They handed out burgers which were among the best things I’ve ever tasted, though I imagine they’d be nothing special at any other time. The shower we took after was a revelation of bliss.

Today, 48 hours after, my ankles are still wrecked, my shoulders are sore, and I feel like I was hit by a truck. Pretty good all told. I’m proud of myself. The masochism of endurance running is special for the joy and elation I feel when it’s done, and accomplished. But this one hurt. This one was at the limits of my ability.

I am a little concerned about what it says about my fitness. I’ve put on a few pounds recently and don’t feel as fit as I was back in April. I need to buckle down and do some more good work, drop the weight, and get into good shape or the triathlon will ruin me. Wish me luck. I’m gonna need it.

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