After a weekend of camping, Jeff and I got up early Sunday morning to run a Trail Half Marathon up in the mountains of Vail Ski Resort. As I discussed in the previous post, this was going to be a TOUGH course!
Not only were the first 9 miles up hill, but it started at 8,200 feet at the base of Vail’s Golden Peak and climbed to the top of the mountain to 11,300 feet before going slightly down mountain and leveling off to finish the 13.1 miles at 10,400 feet at Eagle’s Nest where the Gondola is. Jeff and I live at 5,450 feet, so our lungs and bodies are not accustomed to the altitude!
On Saturday, Jeff and I got in 5 miles along the Frisco to Copper paved bike trail which was at approx 9,100 feet. I STRUGGLED with my breathing so I knew Sunday would be tough for me (we still ran at a 8:00 pace). Plus I get altitude sickness every time I go skiing and am above 10,000 feet (I get nauseous and light headed, in fact I have passed out before). So I was going to take it very easy (and be very careful to listen to my body) during this “race” and enjoy the scenery. Jeff, on the other hand, isn’t effected by altitude as much as me, felt great on Saturday and was ready to give it his all on Sunday.
The race started and I immediately felt a little out of place. Trail runners are a bit different than road runners…. everyone was doing the shuffle-jog as they headed up the mountain.
I have two speeds, RUN and WALK. A slow jog feels weird and almost painful to me? So I was doing my usual run (well, quite a bit slower at a 9:00 pace) and was passing people left and right as they shuffled along. After about 1/2 mile into the 13.1 miles, I was out of breath and knew this was going to be a LONG race.
I ran the first 1.5 miles, felt like complete crap with my lungs and calves burning…. and at this point decided to take a run-walk approach. I would walk the steeper sections, and then pick a point ahead of me and run to it, and then walk again. I would pass people when I ran, and those same shuffle-joggers would pass me right back when I walked. Then they would get farther and farther away…. in fact a 70-year-old woman was one of those smart shuffle-joggers who knew how to properly trail run at elevation.
At first it was demoralizing for me (I am NOT used to being passed or going this slow!), but then I just kept looking around at the beauty and completely changed my mindset. This was NOT a RACE for me, this was a TRAIL RUN! I struck up conversations with people, stopped to take pictures, and thoroughly enjoyed myself. What was the point of torturing myself for something I was ill-prepared for when there was so much to enjoy??
I was running/walking/hiking along routes that I had skied in the winter!
I met a friend; a women originally from Australia, who came here 8 years ago to be a ski instructor at Vail and now is married to a Colorado guy and lives very close to me (I got her to take a picture of me running). She talked about her love of trail running, about enjoying the run, nature, and scenery…..and not concentrating on a specific pace or goal. No stress running, the beauty of trail running! (And at this trail run, they gave out Honey Stinger Waffles, wooo hoooo!)
I was doing something I had never done before… and something that I can’t wait to try again! I would love to actually train for a trail race and see how I can improve, but not stress about a time, just push myself and enjoy the run.
Jeff felt great and finished in 2:20 (WOOO HOOOO!)….and I finished in 2:53 (almost doubling my half marathon road PR, ha!) but enjoyed *most* every minute of it (some of it really hurt and was hard, that was not that enjoyable).