Elevation profile for the Grand Ridge 5 Miler.
Before I go in to my re-cap, I just have to start with this picture, because HOLY CRAP. That was a lot of climbing, and an insane amount of work. My Garmin showed an elevation gain of 979 feet, where the Evergreen Trail Runs site said it was 750 feet. Who to believe? At any rate, it was a lot of climbing.
Heading in to this race I was extremely nervous. Not having run very many trails I was not only new to trail racing, I am still new to trail running.
Luckily everything went quite smoothly and I ended up being prepared enough for the race. The website didn't make it clear if we would have any aid stations so I brought a small hand-held water bottle, as well as a gu. It was a good choice, they didn't end up having aid stations for the 5 milers.
It was a pretty small group for the 5 mile race, about 100 of us, much smaller than what I am used to seeing at road races. We had a pre-race talk (mostly they just told us about the sponsors and the other races that Evergreen Trail Runs puts on and then how not to get lost on the trail) and then a simple countdown and we were off! The first half mile or so was on a wide road, I felt like everyone took off in front of me, but I tried to calm my breathing (and my heart rate!) and keep a slow pace. After about half of a mile we started up the first huge climb. It was nice to see everyone walking on the uphills-- I had heard trail racers do this, but still was worried I would be the only one!
The first 3.5 miles were a lot of work. Hard work. I could barely catch my breath, even on the relatively few flats or downhills. It took everything I had to run a few steps whenever I could. It was so humid, as well, the air felt thick and heavy. There were moments were that race felt like a very bad idea, because I just might keel over and die. I caught up to my friend Kerrie on the only open part of the course about half way through and jumped in to her selfie:
Kerrie and I, mid-race selfie. Thanks Kerrie for the picture!
Before the race, in the back of my mind, I thought finishing in a hour would be pretty good, I would be happy with that. As we climbed and climbed and I saw how slow I was going I thought I was so far off with that goal and would be lucky to finish at even 1:15. Shortly after I began feeling defeated about my pace (but certainly not my effort!) the course wound past a volunteer who told me "it's all downhill from here!" and he was right! I started to fly. Well, what felt like flying to scaredy cat ol' me. It was an insane amount of fun to bomb down that last huge downhill, but I was DONE by the time we hit the flat part and had to run that half of a mile back to the finish. I walked TWICE in that half mile, looking at my watch, willing myself to run again so I could finish in an hour.
Course map for the 5 miler. It was a "lollipop"
And I managed to do it: my Garmin read 1:00:37! Good enough for 7th out of 26 in my AG. The inner competitor in me is happy with that, for sure.
That long downhill to the finish solidified my love for trail runs. It was pure bliss. I can't wait to do it again!
Happy Hokas with my race bib.
On a side note: my new shoes were . . . okay. I didn't even notice them at all until that huge downhill portion at the very end. Then I felt my second to pinkie toe on the left foot starting to hurt. I ended up with a blood blister on the end of my toe, and not sure if that means my shoes weren't good for me, or what. Apparently it might have been more user error, as well. Will do a few more runs and see what happens.