Sunday, August 31, 2014

Wild Thang Race Review

I'm doing a Ragnar Trail Race in November, so when I found out from a girl in our local running group that there was going to be a trail race at nearby Long Hunter State Park, I didn't hesitate to sign up.  While I love running trails, I haven't been able to run them as often as I'd like because I'm not a fan of being out alone in the woods.  In my mind, venomous snakes and serial killers are a dime a dozen out there, even though I've never actually met either on the trail... yet.  But I was excited - I considered the Wild Thang to be a training race for Arizona, even though it was a lengthy 9 miles.    

Fast forward to race day.  Why do I always get so bloody anxious before a race?  It's always the same regardless if it's a half, a 5k or a full.   I was awake at 2.30am, but  lay in bed till around 5am when I got up, put on my race clothes, ate breakfast and enjoyed a couple of strong cuppas.  It was going to be hot and humid so I decided to run with my Camelbak for hydration and packed a couple of Gu sachets in my pocket.  

My lovely, supportive family got up early and drove me to the start line where I picked up my race t-shirt and timing chip and paid the first of many visits to the bathroom.  None of the usual race porta potties here, we had the use of the state park facilities which was very nice for a change - even if the ladies did run out of toilet paper!  Everything was very well organized and there were lots of friendly volunteers around from the Nashville Striders who organized the race (and organize many other races too).

Beautiful Percy Priest Lake, Long Hunter State Park
There were only 136 runners, so the start was pretty calm, easy going and not too crowded.  I met up with my trail training partner Aly.  After the gun went off and the race began, I was excited to get on the trail.  Unfortunately, however, the first mile was on the road.  Road running with trail shoes hurts!  I probably started too quickly (my first mile was 8:56) but soon enough, we were running on dirt.

Looking way too happy at the start!  Next to me is the lovely Aly who told me about the race in the first place.

The trail started out pretty easy, but soon I was leaping over rocks and avoiding tree roots, which is challenging but so much fun!  The one time I looked up from the trail, I almost bit the dirt, so my head stayed down for the rest of the race.  Believe it or not, my neck was sorer than my legs the next day!  There were a few folks who did fall but nobody was badly hurt thank goodness.

We ran mostly through the woods alongside the lake which was beautiful.  The shade kept the heat down a bit, but it was still boiling hot and the sweat was pouring off me.  When we ran through clearings, the sun was really beating down on us.  There was a great atmosphere as we all shouted encouragement to each other.  I chugged a Gu around mile 3 and managed to put the sachet back into my pocket without having to stop.  I was feeling pretty steady, and when I hit mile 4, I knew that the halfway point was coming up pretty soon.  But of course, when you have those kind of thoughts, the reality is always different.  For some reason, mile 4 to 4.5, seemed forever!  I stopped at the hydration point for some gatorade which I never usually do.  I hate stopping at all when I'm running, but because of the heat, I thought I probably should.  I stopped for a couple of minutes and downed a gatorade and a couple of waters before getting back on the trail.  It was hard getting back in my groove again, I remembered why I hate stopping when I'm running.

I could feel my pace was a lot slower by now, but I was still pretty steady.  By the time I got to mile 7, my legs were feeling a bit shaky but hey, only 2 miles to go, keep going!! I hooked up with a lady who was running the same pace and we chatted for the last mile or so.  At 400 meters, there were a couple of volunteers yelling "C'mon, just 400 meters to go"!  Ha, like I have any idea how far 400 meters is!  As we approached the finish line, I saw my kiddos running through the trees yelling for me which was the best feeling in the world!  My running partner sprinted for the finish and I tried to catch her, but was 1 second behind.  Turns out we were both in the same age group and she was 3rd (which wins a prize), so I just missed out!!  But she was a very nice lady, so it's all good :)  It did, however, make me determined to finish stronger in my next race!
Me and my new friend :)  I'm looking a bit tired by now! 

Immediately across the finish line, there was a volunteer to cut the chip off your shoe.  I hate this, it's hard to stop so abruptly after running 9 miles!  I staggered off to the side, hooked up with my family and downed some water and a couple of welcome ice pops.  The Striders had put on a free BBQ for us runners and our families which was amazing - especially considering the race fee was a mere $20!  This included t-shirt, running chip, hydration at the mid point, drinks, ice pops and food at the end. 

The scores were up on the board pretty much straight away.  Although I wasn't exactly Speedy Gonzales, I finished in 1:36 which was 24th out of 65 females, 78th out of 136 runners and 4th out of 9 in my age division.  I was really  happy because I'd intended on treating the race as a slow training run, but I ended up pushing myself and even getting a wee bit competitive!  Still got a lot of work to do before Ragnar though. 

So that's my recap of the Wild Thang, it was an amazingly well organized but small race and I'd definitely recommend it to anybody who loves trail running!  I had a blast and best of all, I didn't see any critters or serial killers out there :) 

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