That’s exactly how I felt during my first trail race on Sunday. A few friends and I headed to Wisconsin this weekend for the North Face Endurance Challenge Half Marathon through the Kettle Moraine State Park. I loved it! It was fun, freeing, and exhilarating! I had NO idea trail running felt so good!
The weather was perfect. It was near 50 degrees when we started. I was pretty cold but luckily we found a space heater and huddled around it while we waited for the the run to start. Soon after the gun went off, we bottle-necked and I nearly ran smack into the back of another runner! The atmosphere was so much more “zen” than road races. When we all came to an abrupt standstill, one guy near me said loudly “well shoot! I was going to win this thing, but here goes my chance at that now!” It was funny- and odd that no one seemed to care. There weren’t a hundred beeps going off as runners stopped their watches. Everyone just sort of patiently waited for the crowd to thin out and get moving again. In fact, I think the four of us- Marzia, Andrea, Rob, and I may have been some of the very few runners even wearing their watches!
Mile 1 greeted us with a long, long, long (did I say long?) steady uphill. We were all breathing heavy. I was thinking we may be in for quite a challenge at this point. But soon, we reached the top and I remembered, we would be ending our run going down that same long, long, long hill :). Which, made me happier. The rest of that mile was pretty flat. I kept my eyes on the ground to avoid tripping over sticks, roots, and rocks but from the few glances I stole, we were definitely running through God’s country and it was beautiful! The trail was covered with tree tops with the sun peaking through in shiny, golden rays. Pure heaven.
Mile 2 we went up and down. Up and down. Up and down. The small hills were countless and the mile dragged on and on. I thought if the rest of the race was like this mile, I might not finish! But alas! Mile 3 was flatter again! I broke the race into sections leading up to the aid stations. The first aid station was at mile 6.7. Around mile 5, I felt great! And we were taking hills on and conquering them! I stopped at the aid station for water and to take a gel for the second half of the course. We walked up a short steep hill shortly after and then got our legs back under us and took off. We were running at a great pace, given we were on the trail and really it was the first trail race for Marzia, Rob, and I! I was feeling great! And the feeling going downhill was like I was flying! The second aid station was just 3 miles after the first. Marzia and I stopped again to refill water bottles and off we went! Again, feeling like we were flying through the course.
Only 2 more miles until the third and final aid station. By this time, I knew I was going to finish. Marzia was like the little energizer bunny who just kept bopping along! I knew I was in shape to keep up with her, but for some reason, the drive just wilted away. I found myself wanting to slow down and just take it all in and chug along. I wouldn’t let myself. I told myself I was going to run with her because I CAN and I WILL. There was no physical reason for me to slow down! And I kept up! Andrea was ahead of us now because she didn’t stop at the 2nd aid station with us and Rob was close behind us. Marzia was trying to catch Andrea and I was trying to stay in step with Marzia 🙂
That long hill felt glorious to run down! After that we turned onto the pavement to head back to the start/finish area and Marzia took off. I trailed behind and picked up speed closer to the finish.
What a feeling! I felt amazing! I did it! and I got dirty!!! A new challenge marked off the list! And I know it won’t be my last 😉 We’re already planning another for next year- through Napa Valley 🙂 NOW we’re talking- combining my 2 favorite things???? Running and wine??? Needless to say, I’m all in! 🙂