Diary of a Wimpy Trail Runner
By: Asia Shah
The second of three races in the Rogue Trail Series took place at Emma Long Park on some of the more troublesome trails in Austin. After the first race I felt pretty good about my trail ability but knew that it was run on a much tamer course than the following two would be, so I was hesitant to get too complacent moving forward. My co-worker and fellow Rogue proposed a trial run out at Emma Long the week prior to the race to get our minds wrapped around the trail and see what was in store. I was happy to have the opportunity for several reasons. One, I’ve never seen the trail, so right away I would be able to decide how awesome or shitty this was likely to be. Two, it would be the brand new trail shoe’s maiden voyage and I wanted to make sure they weren’t going to murder my feet or something unpleasant like that.
As Kamran and I drove to the park early on Sunday for a 7am meeting time it was raining…raining and raining. Sweet! Wet rocks and other trail bits and goodies awaited! I was beginning to look at the meager grippers on the bottom of my shoes with mistrust. Oh well! We started out knowing that this wouldn’t be too long of a run given the 18 miler we had put in the day before. We figured one of the 10k-ish loops would be a perfect distance to get our feet wet (literally!) on the trail and give us a good idea of what to expect for the upcoming race. Scott, our trusty guide, took off and we ran a bit faster than my legs initially wanted to, but I was not about to slow off and get lost on my own. After one accidental turn and returning back to where we began ten minutes into the run we were off and following what looked like the correct trail.
Surprisingly, only one person fell during this 80 minute run (and it wasn’t me!!) which is pretty damn good considering the wetness of the rocks and mud that made up the trail. We looped around at the 30 minute point of the run to head up to another section of the trail for the remainder of the run. I will admit that my trust in our “trusty” guide began to wane around the 60 minute mark when we were truly and utterly lost. I mean, we were definitely on a trail, which is a bit less damning than the alternative, but I was beginning to wonder about his confidence in our route and getting back to our cars within the next hour…or two. We hit a crossing of trails and we all had this “feeling” that we needed to go left. It was like a magnet to my body telling me, yes, left is the least likely to kill you. And so, we went left. Shortly after this decision Scott recognized something, I don’t know a leaf? Something sparked his memory and we were indeed less than a mile from the finish. Trust restored!!
Overall, it was a fun Sunday run and gave me the insight that this second trail race was going to be quite a different animal compared to the first. As I am quite a wuss on trails, mostly due to the fact that I tend to avoid things that could injure or mame me, I knew I would be taking it carefully which usually does not equal FAST. Oh well.
Fortunately, there was no rain on race day and the weather was nice and cool considering what it could have been this time of year. Kam and I purchased full-size water bottles to carry given that the terrain was harder and we would be going slower, there would be more time between water stops. Plus, I tend to spend a good amount of time there trying to down as much liquid as possible, so I figured having something to sip on throughout may be better (more on how that played out later). At the beginning of lap one I got out enough where I wasn’t in the fray but not too hard since I liked how I ran last time around, easier in the beginning and gradually finding a rhythm and picking it up then. The first few miles were a tad annoying since a few guys were clogging things up a bit when they decided they needed to pass me and then promptly slowed down. Eventually we made it past them and were able to keep a solid pace. My friend, who was right behind me, ended up making a pass and I decided after a few minutes not to hang with him since I was not feeling very good and his pace was hot. At some point in the second loop those guys passed me too as I was kind of resigning myself to just slowing up and finishing. Trails are not a fun place to be when you don’t feel well. Especially when you have 18 long miles to cover. It was quite frustrating to realize that I wasn’t feeling strong and would well under perform, but I signed up for the series to have fun and get some good trail runs in, so I knew it wasn’t the end of the world. But still, it hurt. A lot.
Lap two actually was ok for me because I was all alone and able to run my own pace. I could see each rock, twist, root, and muddy spot clearly. I had a glimmer of hope that the last six miles would actually be solid and I would be able to push it a bit and finish strong…haha not. About one mile into the last lap, after crossing the parking lot and heading up a laughably slow-going hill, I hit reality. I was shot! There could be a number of factors going into reaching this state: an 18 miler the day before, tummy issues, girly woes. But whatever caused it didn’t really matter because either way I needed to pick myself up and finish off this last loop. Also, I realized my new trail shoes were not quite adept for this type of terrain. I didn’t have any ankle twists or noticeable foot fumbles, however, I was not very steady on the rocky portions and my feet and lower legs had to pull more than their weight to keep me upright. Good to know now that I should shop for a better shoe, but out there on lap three this knowledge did little to assist me. After the water stop I knew that there were about 2.5 miles remaining. It is pretty interesting though how long a small distance can seem out there when you have so much to contend with on the ground.
At what I would estimate to be 1.5-2 miles remaining in the loop my legs got ahead of my brain, or my brain got ahead of my feet, or I simply lost momentary focus in my eyes, but whatever the root cause it ended with me skidding in the rock and dirt on my right arm, leg, and torso. Several really nice people ran right by me as I cried out in surprise and pain (thanks guys! hope you’re run was great!) but at least one woman stopped to make sure I was alive. After a few creaky movements and a quick look at the damage I determined that everything was in the correct place and that if something was broken it would be revealed in an obvious manner upon running. I took off down the rest of the hill and sort of backed off for a little bit to make sure I was all good and that I wouldn’t make it a double fall for the day. The last mile or so I was beginning to somewhat recognize the route and could tell that I was nearing the finish. Crossing the line, stopping my watch, and slowing to a walk was quite a good feeling…for about 30 seconds until I could feel the burning and pain in my knee and the wrath of falling hard on my right arm and shoulder.
Despite the difficulty of this trail, the heat, and the desire to just head home, I am glad that I did it and pushed myself when I felt bad. Over the years that I have been running I have found knowledge, insight, and pride in tough race or training situations that are useful going forward, even if they suck in the moment. By the time this race ended I was happy to have three weeks before I had to the hit the trail again for the final installment of the Rogue Trail Series. Just enough time for selective amnesia to fully kick in!
Blog from the third race coming soon!!