What a good, tough race!
The X-Country Marathon holds a special place in my heart. Just three years ago I heard about it a few days before the race as I was training for my first marathon, Disney. I spontaneously signed up and raced my first marathon and first trail run just a few days later. I managed 5:02 and was hooked on racing. Last year I did the race with friends and totally bonked coming in over six hours. Eeek. Still, I’ll always love this course.
I didn’t know what to expect today. My Ironman was less than one month ago and I’d missed my training runs the past few days. I felt ungrounded and wasn’t sure how my body would respond. Still, I kept in mind that I wasn’t here to race; it was a training run for the bigger goal of my 50-miler.
I arrived at Alafia State Park at 7:00am with just enough time to pick up my race packet, use the bathroom, meet Sarah (finally!) and use the bathroom again I made it to the start “line” (it’s more of a line in the middle of the parking lot!) just in time to hear the official yell “GO!”
And the 30k and marathon runners were off. The crowd spread out based on their speed really naturally, which is good because in trails races runners usually run single file for the first few miles. (The course is usually narrow.) My portion of the group was maintaing a 9:00min/mile pace which was great, but I coached myself to slow down when the pace would get faster. My overall goal has been consistency so I didn’t need to burn out early.
It’s funny comparing who I am as a runner now versus three years ago running this. Back then I didn’t hesitate to stop to take a photo, I hardly cared about pace and I really took in the atmosphere. I even made friends with the runners and made a short video! Today I ran with a purpose: to get back to my car. I didn’t take any photos (it’d waste energy) and I had to put in effort to notice the beautiful wilderness.
I was able to run close behind two other women for most of the race. Sighting them helped me keep pace and let my mind wander. The “wall” only hit when they started taking water breaks and we split up. It was harder to keep pace with tired muscles. That’s the challenge of trail races (other than the huge challenge of running over roots, in soft sand and through high grass!): you’re usually alone. No pacers, no cheer sections… nothing else to carry you through the race except for you.
As obvious in my split times, I definitely hit a wall. Before this I ran fairly consistent and I knew my legs were starting to talk to me but I kept them hushed by not stopping. The minute I slowed down to walk, I welcomed my legs to tell me that they were full of lactic acid and that my knees and ankles were not happy with all the roots.
Before I hit the wall I was trending toward a significant PR. PRing on a challenging trail race would make it so much more special, but I tried not to think about. “One mile at a time. You have a long way to go,” I told myself.
The rest of the race was a game of “yes, I’ve got this!” with transitions of “ugh, I just want to walk.” But with about two miles left, Richard texted me that my marathon PR was 4:45:49 from Grandma’s Marathon. I told myself that 4:45:49 was the purple shirt girl (a girl I went back and forth with racing at the Wine and Dine Half Marathon who ultimately finished seconds before me) and also told myself to give everything you wish you had given at the Ironman.
I wish I could say I pushed hard to the finish line, but that’d be far from the truth. I raced in bursts, talking to myself like a crazy person the entire time.
a simple finish line
After the final loop in about half a mile of the most miserable soft white sand, I saw the finish line was near and the PR was still possible. I felt like a freaking gazelle running to that PR. And then boom. I crashed next to the finish line (and totally apologized to the next finisher for running past him right before the finish line).
I finished in 4:44:36, a marathon personal record on a trail run and less than one month post-Ironman. I’ll take it! I also realized that this makes three big PRs in one month: the Great Floridian 140.6, the Wine & Dine Half Marathon, and now this full marathon!
I was so overcome with pride, thankfulness and absolute love from this race. It was a nice reminder of why I love running!
Do you cry during races?
My emotions go crazy on runs and I usually shed happy tears at every race