By JALB team member Rachel
In May 2011 I did my first ever trail race. It was the Jemez mountain trail half marathon in Los Alamos New Mexico. Well 13.3 miles so just more than a half, and before I go further I really don’t like the term “half” so this was my first 21k trail run – that’s better.
I didn’t want to read too much about the race, especially after the first couple of statements said “I didn’t think it would be that hard!!!!”. When people use a lot of explanation marks, is always a bad sign. I was aware that the trail went all the way up, then all the way back down again. I did lots of training for the race, I lived in Littleton, Colorado so had trail runs close by. But I don’t think I did enough training at altitude, mainly because those trails were covered in snow – I know, I am just not hard core enough, who would let snow stop them?
So the start of the race was here, and away I went. I was running with my friend, this was her first 21k trail race as well. I was feeling fairly confident at the start line – not sure what I was confident in, maybe just finishing, but that first mile was tough. How can this be? I am fit, I have trained, I should be used to the altitude. Confidence gone. Luckily once on the trail and settling into my small stride I felt better and was enjoying it. Scenery was beautiful, weather lovely and thinking what a way to spend a Saturday morning.
Then I heard and saw a bunch or people clapping and cheering – I love these people, they make you feel great, they get your adrenaline going even more, they even make signs. And what does that sign say “Welcome to MitcHELL”. I smiled at that, then saw another similar one, “Oh, I see what they have done, putting the last 4 letters in capitals” I thought. Then I saw another sign, wait, how bad is Mitchell, maybe I should have read more about the race. And then MitcHELL was here, and it was bad, so very very bad, real steep, steeper than those silly little trails I “trained” on in Colorado. However, I felt better when I saw the top, it was further than I was hoping but then again this was supposed to be a tough trail. Oh, you can imagine my surprise when the “top” was not in actual fact the top, just a horrible trick in the landscape. What I saw was higher and steeper trails. I followed the line of runners to find the top, and I kept looking and following them and the single file kept going and going and going. I finally saw the end and was completely demoralized. This is ridiculous. Why would they make us do this. This is un-runable. I can hardly hike this. And looking up again to see if I was any closer to the top, I though it was such an eerie sight seeing a single file of people slowly gliding towards the top of the mountain in a zig zag pattern. I kept thinking stupid, stupid MitcHELL, but then in parts I got glimpses of the view. Wow, amazing, I just wish I could have seen more of the scenery without the worry of falling down the cliff edge. Thank you to stripy sock person, looking at her bright socks made me focus on something else, for a while at least.
So I made it to the top and couldn’t wait to get away from it. Just 7 miles to go, and down hill. 5 of those miles went quickly and I was loving it. My friend and I were still together, she is much better at running up hills than me, but I am a bit quicker going down hills. We managed to talk a little bit, we were doing OK, loving the trail but didn’t dare mention MitcHELL.
The last mile for me was a killer. I didn’t think I could finish it, the energy just drained away from me, I don’t know where it went, but I was done. I was shattered. My friend waited for me at the top of that “fun” rock climb, and reassured me we were almost there. People were cheering me on, and clapping and I found that last bit of energy to get across the finish line. Hurray. I have never felt so tired, and I have been playing sports all my life. I did it in 2 hours and 50 minutes. I couldn’t believe that I felt great until that last mile or so, all that training and I felt that bad at the end. I didn’t eat during the race. I didn’t feel like it and now feel silly saying that I couldn’t understand that my energy just went away. I didn’t eat, I had food with me to eat…why didn’t I eat
anything? I just thought my energy drink would be enough. I feel so stupid.
After the race I was thinking that my body is not built for running up hills and that will be my last ever trail race.
The evening after the race my body was feeling surprising well, not many aches or pains at all. And even on Monday I felt great. No aches or pains, which I am thankful for.
It was an amazing experience, it was organised well, it was nice to have a tough trail despite what I was thinking at the time. It was fantastic seeing so many runners know each other, I got a sense of a community. That’s what running is all about.
My final thought.
“I didn’t think it would be that hard!!!!!!!”