There were two constants in my previous forays into trail running — slowness and clumsiness. Yet to my surprise, neither of them concerned me that much this weekend. Perhaps I was still riding the high from last week’s adventure into relay racing. Perhaps I was just finally feeling the warmth of spring. Perhaps I was just too tired from a solid week of work, training and life to be concerned with outcomes or appearances. But all I know for sure is that I was wholly looking forward to the Allegany Adventure Run and whatever happened, I was convinced the day was going to be great.
The race was held in the Red House Area of Allegany State Park on cross country ski trails, meaning nice wide paths, not narrow, technical trails. This, however, did mean smooth, flat terrain. All three courses — 22K, 13K and 6K — had hills to negotiate, uneven footing and plenty of muddy areas. I wondered before the race if I had undersold myself by registering for the 6K instead of the 13K, but new to trail running, Mark assured me that 6K was still good and I decided that if I wasn’t going to run long at least I could run hard.
Mark registered for the 22K and wondered why he chose that distance the entire drive to Salamanca. Two of the gals from last week’s adventure also decided to run the trail race — Alison taking on the 22K while Colleen ran the 13K. While I didn’t race with any of them, it was fantastic to be in the company of some of my favorite people. Heck, I even unexpectedly ran into my friends Jessica (sidelined with an injury who was volunteering at the race) and Linda (a college friend whom I have not seen in years). But aside from the support of people I knew, what I’ve noticed about the trail running community is an extraordinarily chill atmosphere. Sure, there are people who are really good trail runners at the races, but nowhere did I overhear people talking about paces or podiums. It was a feeling of community and a celebration of individuality. Seriously, you’re not going to have one of the runners park her horse trailer (complete with her horse inside the trailer) in the parking lot at your run-of-the-mill suburban 5K. This is different. And different can be good.
The 22K race began first, followed 15 minute later by the 13K and then 15 minutes later the 6K. As the 22K race began, it started to rain. The passing shower stopped in time for the start of the next two races, including mine. At the start I was nervous, a good sign, but excited as well. Just go run hard, I thought. As the starting whistle blew, I took off and quickly half the field passed me. We started up a brief hill before leveling off and beginning a long, gradual descent. At the start, I shook of the doubt monster which wondered why some people who didn’t look like the should be faster than me were passing me. I am not running their race. I am running my race. And this is just a hard, different, training run for me. I kept running, hard and steady, and found myself passing those people. Score!
In the distance I could see three women — one wearing blue and two who were running together wearing pink. I used them as my marks, my motivation to keep moving hard and steady. The woman in blue began walking at a steep hill and I passed her. Then I passed the pink women. I was feeling great, running hard. Up, up and up until finally the trail crested and the finish was a downhill into the chute. Running hard, I started to hear footsteps coming behind me. Argh!! One of the pink women outkicked me. Darn it! But nicely done. She earned it.
By my estimation, we all had good, solid races. And I was happy. It didn’t matter what my watch said, my run was good and solid. It was an amazing workout both physically and mentally and it was an absolutely beautiful place to get in some hard miles. Somewhere on the trail, I decided that I was awesome. It’s not about hubris or being cocky. It’s a bit about confidence, about embracing the experience and offering my best effort with a smile and a laugh.
For the record, I did not fall. Once. Oh, I offered a few yelps with some iffy footing, but never came close to taking a tumble. I was strong and steady. Was I slow? Not by my standards. And really, I’m letting go of this slow-fast binary. It’s far too limiting. And these days, I’m seeing the potential of the limitless.