Yesterday morning I laced up my trail shoes as I readied to run my first trail race in three years. It’s hard to believe that it has been that long; time goes by so quickly. Another reason to “live hard” and approach each new day as a gift to be treasured. I am most definitely appreciating every single day that I am able to get out there and run because for a while I feared I may never be able to run again.
Coventry Woods Hoka Trail Series is a brand new trail race on the eastern PA trail scene. I have always found it a bit daunting to race a course that you have never run so I started asking other runners if they’ve ever run there before and what the trails were like. I was told that the trails were technical and expected a lot of roots and rocks. There were some sections that were scattered with rocks in places, but no roots and the entire trail was very runnable.
Before the race began I noticed a young girl who looked to be about nine or ten years old. She wore Vibram Five Fingers and calf sleeves and looked ready to race as she warmed up by hopping along a row of small boulders. Her brother of about the same age stood next to her in similar attire. “Ugh oh,” I thought to myself. These two looked seasoned and ready to tear it up. “She’s definitely going to kick my butt,” I said to the man standing next to me. The kids’ father wasn’t even going to run with them, they were heading out on their own.
We started off down a gravel road and soon headed across a grassy field before popping into the woods onto single-track paths littered with beams of sunlight which always makes trail running a little tricky. I was planning on taking this first race in the series easy but immediately got caught up in those first seconds of the race and took off with the front of the field in order to jockey into position. How quickly it all comes back to you.
The course takes place on a low ridge system, therefore we began the race with a climb which eventually flattened out for a bit. I walked the hills and some of the less seasoned trail runners tried running them, only to be passed later on by myself and the other trail veterans. I found myself alongside a woman named Katie for most of the middle of the race. We exchanged stories which I’m not typically interested in doing during a race, but this really helped me to maintain a good pace and keep my heart rate in the right zone.
Soon we found ourselves on a long downhill section, my strong point. I sailed down the ridge with ease, thinking at the same time that my legs were going to be feeling this in the morning. Because I will return in a month to run this race again I decided I really need to start working on gaining more leg strength in order to attack this downhill even better.
At the bottom of that section we happened upon an aid station, I’m assuming that was the half-way point. The water tasted good, I even dumped some over my head. The second half of the race was much like the first. In the final mile there was a mini loop with a very short section where runners were heading in both directions. At the end of that loop it was all downhill for the final half mile or so. Wow – that felt good!
My finish time was 1:08:00 which was fine by me and good enough for second place in my age group. I finished the race around mid-pack for the women and more towards the bottom two-thirds overall. It was a small field of less than one hundred runners and I really hope it’s a larger field at the next race. It would be a shame for this wonderful trail race to flounder in its first year.
Remember that little girl I mentioned earlier? Nine years old and first female overall in 51:33. I knew she’d kick my butt! Wow.