I was ready for a new challenge when I signed up for this race. Not only was this was my first half marathon on the trails, but it was in Tahoe which meant the altitude would be an additional challenge. I live at about 800 ft and the race would be at 6300-6900 ft. Even though the altitude would be a factor, the hill at mile 10 would be the biggest challenge. In fact, it seems that trail running is challenging for me with all the hills. Here’s a peek at the climbing we did in this race.
The week before the race, the weather’s forecast was isolated thunder storms for race day. Fortunately, as the week went on, predictions changed. The day before the race was a bit chilly and I was worried about race morning’s temperature. However, I awoke to a beautiful day, sunny and in the 50’s. By the time the race started, it must have been in the low 60’s, just about perfect.
Right before the start of the race, I managed to make my way up close to the front. The half marathoners and the 50k runners all started together. There were about 170 runners in a pretty small area. I was a bit nervous to get too close to the front, but I wanted to make sure I didn’t get trapped at a slower pace than I wanted to go. The first mile was crowded and dusty as we spread out and found our own paces.
I saw the fastest group of runners take off and gain quite a bit of distance by the end of the first mile. I had to remind myself that this was my race and not to worry about other runners.
At the end of mile 2 I felt an unexpected fatigue. I was worried that I had gone out too fast and was paying for it already or that the altitude was affecting my breathing. I slowed my pace and tried to figure out what was going on. It turned out that I had just climbed a hill without realizing it. Sounds strange to not be aware of a hill, but my friend had a similar experience. Perhaps the beautiful trails distracted us.
I continued running while enjoying the scenery. The ½ marathon course was a loop which meant that I got to see more of this state park than if it had only been an out and back. The trail was wide in parts but there were also portions of single track. We ran through pine trees, crossed wooden bridges, climbed hills (especially at mile 10!) and ran through meadows of seasonal flowers. It’s hard to beat Tahoe’s scenery.
I’m used to being surrounded by other runners during road races and I’m finding that I can be on my own for portions of a trail race. During this particular race, I caught myself enjoying the views instead of paying attention to where I was running. Because I wasn’t paying attention to where I was running, I was both impressed with and appreciated the well marked course. The course was marked with flour, ribbons and there were volunteers to assure you chose the correct trail. I definitely didn’t have to worry about getting lost on this course.
I caught up to two runners around mile 4 and I worked hard to pass them. Once again I was on my own for a few miles. Around mile 6 I was thinking that I was only half way through the run and was 13.1 miles the right distance for me. It was then that I saw the next runner that I wanted to catch.
It took a while, but by mile 7 I caught up to her and we started to push each other. This is where the race began for me. We ran and passed another gal. The two of us started our descent and were going at a good pace (~7 min mile). I could feel my ankles working hard as I ran over the uneven terrain trying to dodge the rocks. My legs and my lungs were strong and I enjoyed the feeling of running effortlessly down the hill.
Before I knew it, we were at the base of the hill for mile 10. I had planned on walking the first bit of the hill and I stuck to the plan. I used the time for a gel and water. For the next half mile I walked and jogged and walked some more. My competitor took off and quickly climbed out of sight. It was a steep climb and my legs were tired. At the top I had to use all my energy to get my legs to move again. They were done, but I still had two miles to go. I kept my mind strong and pushed hard. Another runner tried to pass, but I ran faster to avoid being passed. Finally, I reached another gentle descent and I let my body run as fast as it could to the finish.
Each bar is 100 feet in elevation
My husband, kids and a friend were close to the finish line. I ran by my kids and gave them a hive five. I didn’t realize until I was right about to cross the finish line that my daughter had joined me for the last few feet of the race.
My first trail half marathon was a success! The weather was perfect, the trail was wonderful and I was pleased with the results. I came in 6th woman overall and 3rd in my age group. I can’t wait to run another half marathon on the trails.
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