Yesterday I ran the hardest race of my life, The Ridge 37k. It was a wonderful, gritty, hot and intense race, one that I’m very happy I completed. I didn’t take any pictures along the way, I was too busy pushing myself farther and farther. So, I decided to write what this momentous race meant to me and what I learned.
2018 will be the Year I Discovered Trail Races. After this year, I may only do one or two street races a year, but that’s it. Street races no longer interest me, they’re just not as much fun.
I really prefer small races such as The Ridge, that had around 200 people overall. It’s just a friendlier, more welcoming atmosphere, where everyone talks to one another. You don’t just talk to your friends. And if you come by yourself, you’re not alone now, at least not at the start or after race gathering.
It doesn’t matter if you finish first or finish last, you are part of the trail running community! When I finished yesterday, I knew I was at the back of the pack, but I didn’t know if I was the last of the 37k runners or not and I didn’t care. There was support and cheers and cowbells when I finished. I was very pleased with my time and effort.
Support your local trail racing companies! This was a big lesson for me. There are big corporations taking over trail races, like they did road races and unfortunately, they don’t have the same love or care as the local folks.
To tie in with the one just above, I realized as I was following the seemingly never-ending line of orange ribbons, placed carefully all along the 23 miles, I knew that the race director, Greg, and his crew spent an entire day placing these ribbons in the perfect spots so we runners could easily see them. There was only a couple times when I had mini freakouts after not seeing them around a turn, but calmed down the second the orange glowed in the distance. Whew! Thank you PCTR Crew for all the hard work!!
In fact, so much work goes into producing a race that not everything is going to be perfect. For example, the porto-pottys didn’t show up at the start, but the park service opened the public restrooms for us to use. Things happen, life is not perfect.
And because life isn’t perfect, extra preparation is necessary. I wrote a checklist a few days beforehand and kept adding to it. I’m so grateful I did. I didn’t forget a thing and even though I brought a couple things I didn’t need, there were a few things I’m very happy I brought. Like a couple blister band-aides. For some reason, my Calderas started wearing on my right big toe. Maybe because my feet had swelled from the heat, who knows. It had never happened before.
My go-to in the heat is Nuun Lemon Lime and pretzels. I drank Tailwind for the first few miles and that was fine, but when I went through the second aide station at Mile 12, I needed to eat solid food, so I switched to Nuun and ate a couple pretzels. It worked perfect!
You’re on your own out on a trail race. There aren’t any crowds, no booming music, none of that, and I love it. After the initial section of the Barracks to the Bluffs, the crowd thinned as we hit the Golden Gate Bridge and I was on my own for the rest of the run. I’ll take this type of race over being in a group where there’s so many distractions that I can’t think. Or, more than likely, I’ll spend half my time running around endless lines of walkers. There’s a calming effect in spending hours alone on the trail. A realization as I said to myself “OK, here I am, now let’s get into this and keep going.” Keep going, keep going….
At first, I didn’t pass many people on the trail, but after Tennessee Valley, I crossed a few more hikers, mountain bikers and runners. Every one of them was supportive to my effort. And as the trail got closer to My Tamalpais, there were more cyclists and hikers wishing me luck.
The aide stations are like an oasis in the desert. Towards the end of the race, the third and final AS was my saving grace. But they are all wonderful people!! I gulped some flat coke and gobbled a few potato chips, poured some water on my head and was off to the finish.
It may only be three miles, but the finish can feel a long, long ways away. Just remember that when you’re tired and ready to quit, those last few miles are sometimes not as easy as we want them to be.
Never underestimate the power of positive thinking. Keep telling yourself that you CAN do it, that you WILL do it! Write down some easy power phrases to repeat to yourself when you’re so tired you can barely think. Make them super easy but forceful. Something like: Keep Moving Forward, or Don’t Stop, or Relentless Progress.
Learn from the experienced trail runners. I have learned so much from those who have been doing this crazy sport of ours. I am forever in their debt. Just remember to pass along the information you learn to those coming after you.
I really love Trail Runner Nation Podcast! Their entertaining, informative and brilliant, yet humorous podcasts are packed with great info! Thank you for keeping me entertained at work and helping me down the trails!
I would be remiss to not add one negative, and it really is a huge pet peeve with me. I dislike the growing trend of people blasting music from their phones on trails. It’s bad enough they do it on the streets, but at least there I listen to my own music and don’t have to put up with their crappy taste in music (and it’s always bad music for some reason). But on trails, I don’t want to hear music. I want to hear birds, and the wind and the foghorns and my feet hitting the dirt and my breathing. I want to hear nature not your top-40 pop! Please, just stop!
For the next couple of days, I’m giving my body some rest and on Wednesday, I’m back at the gym to get ready to ramp up for my October 50k!
Keep Moving Forward!