A few weeks ago, I raced a local trail 12k in the Cuyahoga Valley National Park. This race wasn’t on my schedule but after finding out that CVNP would not allow any races to take place in the park beginning in 2019, I decided to sign up last minute as it would likely by the last time I’d race in the park for the foreseeable future. No one knows how long this regulation will stand but with so many of our races taking place on the parks trails, this change will affect much of the running/racing in my area.
Pre race with some MRTT friends
Race weather was perfect-upper 30’s and clear. The race started and ended at the ledges which is a beautiful rocky area with million year old rocky outcroppings. I run here pretty frequently and while it’s hard to go fast, the views are worth slowing down for. There were maybe 200 other runners and we spread out quickly. From the ledges, we ran over to the Happy Days Trail Head and around the long loop at Boston Run. We ran the opposite direction I typically run at Boston which meant we started with a giant downhill. From there we went back to the Ledges area to complete the Pinegrove trail and headed back to the finish. The course was basically a figure eight.
I started out running solo and pretty much stayed to myself for the entire race. I tried to remain steady and run more of the uphills than I typically do and remain focused and steady on the downhills. I’ve never been great at racing trails; I tend to hold back and feel timid about pushing myself. I think that this hesitance has to do with the fact that trails require so much more focus and technical footwork than an average road and that even when you stop to walk, you don’t necessarily get the opportunity to recover. My heart rate spikes even moreso during powerhiking than it often does during running. This time I tried to push myself a little harder. Though I was weary of leaving my comfort pace, I knew that with the running I’ve been doing, I had more in the tank. And I knew that I wanted to cross the finish line with a little less in the tank than usual.
Pinegrove was the perfect opportunity to push a little bit as the roots and rocks are more spread out and the trail is a bit wider. I passed a few people during this last 1.5 mile stretch and even managed to run the last little bit out of the ledges which is pretty steep. With a half mile to go, I hit the gas a little harder and even managed to outkick the person behind me who was running with her dog so I heard her coming for me!
Final time was 1.26. which is something like an 11.30 ish minute pace. I’m pretty sure that’s the fastest I’ve run those trails basically ever (when you are alone and don’t take your phone out to take pics, apparently you shave minutes off your miles-who knew?) I was thrilled with my time as well as how I’d pushed myself. It took me a few years to feel comfortable with pushing myself during a road race and it seems like it’s taken me even longer to get comfortable with the uncomfortable on the trail. I absolutely hit the red line a few times during this race and felt really solid with pushing it.
I’m so happy I was able to participate in one of the last races. I’m so grateful that we can still run there but the trail community has definitely lost one of the bright spots in our racing.
Extra grateful for these gaiters