Generally, I’m a fan of having one goal. Throw in too many “goals” and suddenly there’s pressure because, well, there is just too much to do and keep track of. More and more these days I’m of the single-track mentality. And yet, sometimes I contradict myself. Which is why for the Allegany Adventure Run trail race I actually had five goals:
- No. 1 Don’t get lost.
- No. 2 Finish.
- No. 3 Run strong and smart.
- No. 4 Avoid blisters.
- No. 5 Have fun.
None of my goals were very difficult to execute, once I embraced that’s what the day was about. It started with leaving my Garmin at home, a task which became fantastically easy when I could not locate my charger. Instead I wore my trusty Timex Ironman watch which keeps time without any gizmo technology. There would be no “average pace” for this run, no mile splits. This was perfect. Because trail running isn’t about speed. It’s about being out in nature. It’s about doing something you love. It’s about challenging yourself. It’s about finishing. Having fun became the most important part of my day. And fun was definitely leaving the numbers to someone else.
The Allegany Adventure Run has three different distances using the Art Roscoe Cross Country Ski Trails at Allegany State Park. Last year I did the 6K race. This year I bumped up to the 13K race — longer with more hills. The other race is a 22K run. That, well, that wasn’t on my plan for this year even though several people tried to talk me into it. I stuck with the 13K race (about 8.5 miles) and was focused on what I wanted — a strong, steady, smart run with lots of fun.
While I went to the race alone, turns out I had several friends who were also running. And it was fantastic to catch up with Linda and Andrea and Mary and Mike won medals in their age groups which was incredibly cool to see. But alas, I was still alone on my 13K run. Within the first two miles I lost most of the main pack, which was fine. By Mile 2 I checked my trusty Timex watch. Hmm. By my calculations, I’m running pretty well. Not bad. Let’s keep going.
I started to see some women ahead of me. I didn’t exactly try to chase them down, but they gave me some visual targets. We approached one hill and while some up ahead had walked, I decided to try and run up it. The young woman ahead of me also ran up it. I focused on her feet as I made my way up the hill. At the top I pulled even with her. “Thanks for pulling me up that hill,” I said to her. “If you felt like you had some extra weight, that’s why.” I wasn’t exactly drafting off her, at least not literally, but figuratively I certainly was.
We ran together for a bit of the trail and chatted on and off. We came to another long hill at about the halfway point of the course and both of us decided to walk. “I had told myself I wouldn’t walk at all,” the young woman said to me, not quite defeated, but a little disappointed. “In trail running it’s not about if you walk, it’s about when you walk,” I replied. “It’s about having fun and finishing.”
And this is a different mentality than so many of us are used to, especially those who come from a road-racing background. Show up at any 5K and conversations revolve around things like pace, goal time and podium finishes. The trail is different. Focus too much on results and there’s a good chance you’ll end up miserable. Focus on enjoying your time in nature and on the process of running and the experience will be greater than result. This is where I was able to put my attention on this day. Heck, I practically did a little dance each time I got to a water stop. I took a few moments to sip some water and take a shot block. I took time to look at the views and appreciate the beautiful surroundings. I walked a few of the steeper sections, because this wasn’t about trashing my legs. This was about experiencing the trails and learning to be strategic.
In evaluating my race, let’s go back to my goals:
- No. 1 Don’t get lost. Check! The course is extremely well marked and fantastic volunteers are out there to make sure everyone is safe. This is an incredibly well-run race and perfect for new and occasional trail runners.
- No. 2 Finish. Check! And a bit faster than I thought I would, walk breaks included.
- No. 3 Run strong and smart. Check! I felt strong. It definitely was a challenge and I worked hard, but felt in control the whole time. I also felt like I ran smart, knowing when to push and work on strength up a hill and when power walking was more efficient.
- No. 4 Avoid blisters. Check! I love my Salomon trail running shoes I purchased at Gear for Adventure. However, on my first run with them, I developed some blisters on the instep of my foot, caused from rubbing against the foam insert. I tapped down the seams inside the shoe with moleskin. Before the race, I applied a coat of NuSkin on my foot followed by a thin layer of Vaseline. My feet felt great.
- No. 5 Have fun. Check! Two weeks in a row of racing and two weeks of indescribable fun. I felt amazing on all levels — physically and emotionally and everything in between. The fewer expectations I create, the more I enjoy just being who I am, which, on this particular day, was Amy Mo Queen of the Trails.