The day after my first official trail race and my legs seem to be recovering nicely. In fact, as I learned yesterday, about 2:15 into the race as I passed through the last aid station with about 5 miles to go, my legs were more than up for the task-it's my gas tank that needs to be worked on.
Having seen the trail over a half a dozen visits these last 6 weeks I felt comfortable with the trail and figured I could finish comfortably between 3-3 1/2 hours. What I didn't anticipate were two things:
1. The little extra distance at either end of the trail for starting and turn around
2. The discrepancy in distance from what was reported 30k (18.6 miles) and actual trail distance (about 20.6 miles, according to GPS) due mainly to new trail maintenance over the past year.
That being said, I cruised comfortably into the turn around aid station (Twin Coves Park) having taken 1 gel and just passing the 2nd place runner, heading out on the second half of the run with my watch showing 1:28-two minutes under ideal pace.
I cruised inbound until the final aid station (Murrell Park) where I stopped to throw away my 2nd (and final) empty gel packet and take in some water. I must've looked worse than I felt because I was offered an e-cap by a nice gentleman and was quickly on my way out, still right on pace.
It wasn't long after leaving the aid station that I took my first walk break and began to realize that I simply had nothing left in the tank.
I knew that a run this long (thinking 18 miles) would push me to find my limit. Prior to this race, my longest ever event was an olympic distance triathlon in about 2:40 and my longest ever run was the preceding Sunday at 1:55 on a very flat greenbelt trail.
However, I was relying heavily on the slower pace required to navigate the terrain on the Northshore trail and the fact that I don't (hardly) ever take on nutrition in training but would be carrying gels in my pocket and stopping at aid stations for water.
Thus, while I am EXTREMELY disappointed that I dropped from 2nd place to 7th or 8th in literally the last 5-10 minutes of the race (more than accounted for by the longer than anticipated distance) I am overall EXTREMELY happy with the overall outcome of the event, finishing in 3:21.11 by my watch, only 20 minutes slower inbound despite what felt like a LOT of walking towards the end.
Additionally, my pace, energy level, and attitude/mental outlook right up until those final miles was more than I could've ever hoped for, and even once I was relegated to walking/running, I didn't let my attitude slip with the pace and crossed the finish line (walking) satisfied knowing I had left it all on the trail with hopes of continuing to build my endurance for more events in the future.
And finally, I cannot understate the significance of having my 1st coke (soda, pop, whatever you call it) in well over a year as I sat in the finishers' tent while stuffing my face with peanut butter and jelly sandwich bites, pretzels, m&m's, and delicious red beans and rice with sausage (apparently a race specialty and tradition). But OHH MAN did that cold coke taste good, just as I remember them tasting and exactly why I must continue to abstain (except now for race days) lest I regain the 40 lbs I've lost in the last 2 years.