Helen and I - along with a bunch of fellow wanderers – headed out to run the double trouble trail race today.
The course is a 15k loop (9.3 miles) through French Creek State Park. You can either do the single trouble (15k), which is one loop – and what we ran last year – or you can be really really dumb and do the 'double,' making it a 30k, aka 18.6 miles of trails. And heat. Trails and heat. Rocky trails, at that.
Last year, Helen had been kind of leaning toward doing the double, and I talked her out of it – so it made sense for us to go back and do it this year. She won the 15k going away last year, and I was pretty sure she could have won the 15k and the 30k. (It's a weird race that way, where you can double dip for the awards, if – like Helen – you're fast enough).
Since we were in for the long haul, Helen and I ran the first loop together. Until she started to peel away in the last mile or so. I crossed the finish right after her (you go through the chute then back out). We didn't know it then, but she was the 3rd woman through the chute, and the second to head out onto the 30k. We stayed together for the first mile or two of the second loop as well. At that point, I was feeling really good. We ran pretty conservatively on the first lap, and I felt like I was in good shape.
The trails themselves are pretty tricky. It's not quite as steep as the Wissahickon, but the hills are as big, if more gradual. But it's the rocks there that are tough. I don't know if it's rockier than the Wissahickon, but the rocks are somehow more jagged, tougher to land on and to avoid. We both twisted our ankles last year and while we managed to avoid that this year, it took some effort.
That said, yeah, I felt really good early in the second lap. I started off on my own to take advantage of the extra energy. To me, it felt like a normal trail run – just me, out on the trails, relaxed, keeping up a good pace. My plan was to be conservative for the first half of loop 2, and then speed up in the second half.
But when it came time to speed up, I just didn't have it.
I'm not sure what it was exactly – the heat, the build up of the attention to footing, the dehydration – but I started having trouble. The first thing that hit me was that I was screwing up my footing. In trail running, even on normal trails, that's a problem – so it was a worse problem with the rocky trails. I ate some more gels, I tried to focus better, but it kept happening. That last four miles or so were tough. I think I was around 1:18 for the first loop; the second loop was around 9 minutes slower.
One more mile, and Helen would have caught me. Maybe even sooner than that. She finished in the chute right after me – in first place! And *much* more refreshed than I was.
So, congrats to Helen for bringing home some more hardware. I brought some home, too - 2nd in my AG on the 30k. I don't think I've ever been 2nd in my AG, so I'm pretty psyched about that.