I reasoned that a local 10K Trail Run wouldn’t be all that hard. Boston was less than a month ago. I feel fit. My legs are strong. A 6-mile race would be a fast and fun way to spend Saturday afternoon. Oh, how wrong I was. The 10K Trail run kicked my ass and left me humbled. 10K Trail Race, you were not kind to me.
Here are the race details
Race Name: XTerra’s Havoc at the Hideout Trail 10K
Local Reputation: This race is put on by a guy who loves to host difficult, not well-marked trail runs. It’s not so much a race as it is a scramble through the woods. I wish I’d known that before I signed up… wait, who am I kidding? I’d have done it anyway.
First Impressions: It took place in the woods outside of Portland. I arrived at the camp grounds, received my bib number and asked if a course map was available. The woman smiled a little bit and said, “no, but I don’t think you’ll get lost or hurt this year. We’ve done a better job at marking the trail…” That wasn’t reassuring. I shouldn’t get lost! Hurt? What?
Second Impressions: This was not your usual crowd of fun runners. Everyone looked hardcore. Guys sported big calf tattoos and shirts from previous 50K trail runs while women with impressively cut biceps and running skirts chilled. It all felt so gnarly.
Warm-up: It was a wickedly hot day and the race didn’t start until noon. I drank plenty of water in the morning but still felt thirsty even before the race started. I jogged the first portion of the “trail” to keep pre-race nerves at bay. Oh my god, there was no trail after the first 200 meters! it was like running through the underbrush of pine trees, dodging roots and branches and such… maybe it’ll get better after this first part, I thought. I would find out just how wrong I was.
Start of the Race: This was not your typical road race. There was no starting gun, or big ceremony. The race director called everyone over, explained that part of the course would be “Breathtaking – you figure out what that means” and then threw around words like “challenging” and “steep.” And that it was somewhere between 5 and 6 miles. I was thrown. What did he mean, no exact distance? No mile markers? No gun time/chip time! I felt like such a trail racing virgin!
“OK! Let’s Go” Yelled the race director. We were off. I would estimate the field to be a modest group of 100 gnarly, badass runners. I remained conservative at the start, feeling anxious about what lay in store for me. It turned out to be a true Ass Kicker of a course. After the initial scramble around trees, the “course” and I use that word lightly because it wasn’t much of a trail, it flattened out for about 50 meters. That would be the last moment of calm before the craziness started. The group scrambled up the side of a wooded hill, down the otherside and wound back, up, down and around various other hills. Just when I thought I’d caught a break for a nice relaxing downhill, the flags guiding the runners made us turn back up hill. And that was just the beginning.
Heart of the Race: Grueling, hot and steep.
Death March Up Hill: Somewhere along the way I am introduced to The Big Mother Effin Hill. I don’t know if this is the hill’s actual name but I died many small deaths on the way up. Eventually I began to walk 10 steps and jog 10 steps. It was a good strategy and I passed a few runners uphill.
Running through a pasture – I am introduced to a whole new level of struggle while attempting to make my way uphill through an unmowed pasture, during the middle of a record hot day, without a trail. It feels SOOOO slow -like I might actually be moving backwards.
Other course highlights include: Getting stuck in a bramble of blackberries, running through a thicket of stinging nettles, and running in the wrong direction for 100 meters before I eventually figured out I was off course, fording two creeks and having to slidedown my butt for part of the trail.
Finish Line: I crossed the finish line whipped. I don’t know if I was thrilled, or just relieved to be finished. Either way, I was just as happy to see that finish line as I was to see Bolyston street in Boston. I was so ready to be done.
Results: 17th place overall, 2nd place woman!
My Thoughts: This race was a challenge. It was a different type of struggle and required a different kind of determination. Whereas in road races you can settle into a pace and get in a zone, the trail race was a constant mind game. As another runner said before the start of the race, “Trail running isn’t so much about the destination, it’s about the journey.
- A beer keg located next to the Gatorade. Obviously they had their priorites straight.
- Awesome trophy
- Good people
- My legs look like they’ve been attacked by wild animals