I saw this shared on Twitter earlier this evening as I sit here with my foot elevated after coming down hard and wrong on a rock and pulling foot ligaments around mile 8.5 of the hardest, most technical 10 mile trail race I will ever run. It was my first and maybe my last race of this type. Not because I had to limp the last 1.5 miles to the finish line and ended up at the ER for xrays, but because I have no desire to actually race up and down rocky, tree fallen narrow terrain like I experienced today.
There were many things going through my mind when I signed up for the race, but because of my inexperience, I had no business trying to run 10 miles for my first trail race.
Here’s what I learned today:
10 miles of steep, rocky, narrow, wet terrain is not the same as 10 miles on a road. Not even close.
Trail running of this type is so much more demanding on your feet than I ever thought possible. I had the wrong shoes.
Trail running in good weather conditions is dicey, trying to navigate rocks and limbs, fallen trees and brooks after days of rain is dangerous.
Bring your own water. Trying to run for 2 plus hours on 2 cups of water in 10 miles is not going to cut it.
Run with a friend. At the halfway point I was second to last. As we turned to start the second 5 mile loop up the quarter mile hill I stopped and let the last person pass me. I no longer cared about being last. I should have turned around and headed back to the finish line with the 5 milers, but I didn’t. I tried to keep that runner in my sight for as long as possible, but at the 8 mile water stop I was all alone. And then I stepped on a rock and heard my foot crack and that was that. There was no one around. Fortunately as I yelled for help, the other runner came back to see if I was ok and I could get up and hobble. If it hadn’t been for her I don’t know how long they would have waited for me at the finish line.
Coming in last means nothing to me now. Finishing means everything. As the race organizer came back to escort me to the finish we shared stories and he referred to finishing injured as “death before DNF”.
I was not all that upset with getting injured. I always imagined that if I were to get an injury that would sideline my running and workouts I would be devastated. I am not. I heal quickly and I heal well and I am in great physical shape. If I have to take a week or two off from my usual activity so be it. I will get back to normal as soon as I can while being smart about it. I am hoping I can still run my 25 K in 3 weeks, and I am pretty confident I will be able to.
Today’s race through the woods showed me I am capable of anything. It might not have been the smartest thing to do; sometimes being smart is better than being tough. Today after running hard for 4.5 miles I knew the second 5 miles would be a challenge. I should have turned back and called it a day. But I didn’t. Instead I tried to tough it out and run on ridiculously tired legs and feet and ended up paying the price.
I am amazed and in awe at the racers that flew across those rocks and trees as if they were nothing. But that is their world and that is where they run. I think I will stick to less technical trails for my racing and save the technical stuff for less demanding runs.