Monday, March 17, 2014

Race Report: 14th Annual Jackrabbit Trail Run

Saturday I wrote about how excited I was for this race--my fifth race during this pregnancy. I'm happy to say it lived up to my every expectation! Except maybe for the weather. I'm ready for spring to make up its mind about being here.

Race morning dawned cold and windy--not what I was expecting. I had my outfit laid out and my race number pinned to a short-sleeve top. I considered wearing it anyway, hoping it would warm up, but as I shivered and froze while walking my dogs, I decided to go with warmer attire. And it was a good choice--it's always windier in the mountains.

I hadn't gotten a good night's sleep--it was one of those nights of the frustrating cycle: can't sleep, get angry about it, can't sleep even more. I was worried I would miss my alarm when I finally did drift off, or feel awful when I woke up, but neither of those things happened. Though I definitely took a three-hour nap after the race!

I met some friends outside the park and rode in with them, as we were worried about parking. Franklin Mountains State Park has several small areas of parking along the road, and we got a great space but ended up having to walk what seemed like fifteen minutes uphill in the cold wind. (I'm sure it didn't actually take that long. And the parking situation was excellent compared to some races I've been to).

Despite the cold, the starting line was lively and everyone seemed excited. The sun had yet to appear over the mountains, a fire truck displayed a massive American flag, and we looked out over El Paso and the distant green of the Rio Grande valley area--such a gorgeous picture! We started promptly at eight, the first mile or so almost entirely downhill on the paved park road.

When we entered the trail, the pack had thinned enough that having to run single-file wasn't a problem. I replayed in my mind the advice of a veteran trail runner at packet pick-up: "Don't take your eyes off the trail, even for a second! I know someone who fell twice last year." Meaning himself--these guys were hilarious! I love friendly packet pick-ups! And I tried really really hard not to take my eyes off the trail. But I couldn't resist sometimes; El Paso is so much more beautiful from the mountains, and on stretches I gauged as relatively obstacle-free, I allowed myself glimpses of the scenery. And I managed not to fall! Success!

The first section of trail is mainly flat or downhill, and I ran all of it. About a mile before the turn that would take the five-milers to the finish, the ascents began, and I walked much of them. I wasn't alone in walking, and I didn't mind walking--the scenery was still gorgeous and I was still outside, on the trails, in a trail race.

At the five-mile cutoff, I ate my Apple Cinnamon flavored gel (not an excellent flavor choice, by the way), estimating I had just over 2 miles to go. This began my favorite stretch of the course: a lengthy flat and downhill straightaway running along an edge that somehow has fewer rocks than the rest of the trail. It's a fast section, and I reveled in every second of it, knowing I would soon begin the long climb to the finish line.

The last mile of the course makes up all at once for all the minor descents of the first half of the course: a long, rocky hill that levels off only for stretches of ten yards at a time. I was prepared to walk the entirety of the climb if necessary, and I'm happy to say I was able to run some of it. At the top, the finish line is thirty yards away. My friends were there and managed to snap this great picture!

Many thanks to Kalie for the photo!

I finished the seven miles in one hour, thirty minutes, and forty-two seconds, about what I was estimating it would take me. I was expecting to be unhappy with a finishing time that I knew I could beat significantly while not pregnant, but I found I didn't care about the time at all, because I was so grateful and elated just to be running a trail race!

So I'm calling it a success on all five of the goals I listed Saturday. I didn't fall. I listened to my body and walked, ate, and drank when I needed to. I didn't get angry for having to walk so many of the hills. I am content with my time, and I was joyful throughout--and still am! I haven't come down off the cloud from this race yet. I wish there were more trail races coming up.

Going into a race with the goal of joy rather than speed is kind of a new experience for me, but I think it made all the difference. I had so. Much. Fun! A few other things that aided my race experience: wearing my hydration pack (having some weight on my back helps balance out the weight I have up front right now), wearing the maternity support belt (even though I think I look like I have a back injury since my belly isn't too obvious yet), and eating a gel during the race. If I wasn't pregnant, seven miles isn't a race distance that would make me take food or water along, but I was definitely grateful for it this time.

If we were going to be in El Paso longer, the Jackrabbit Classic would become a staple of my spring racing season. I'm sad that we will miss it next year, and I'm sad I didn't discover it sooner. It was a great race--well organized, well-marked, friendly, and the course was a blast!

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