The run starts out pretty fast with a short downhill and then right into about a 3/4 mile uphill (if you aren't toward the front of the pack at this point you will/could get caught behind people when you get to the single track section). I made the mistake of going too fast for my current fitness in the section and spent the next 3 miles trying to clam myself down allthewhile trying to not eat it on the steep, fast (if you can run downhill in piles of slippery mud), muddy downhills. After this we get to a single track section (how people ride bikes on this part, I seriously have NO IDEA!) where you are rewarded with sweeping views on the Ocean and a technical, narrow, rocky, muddy, slippery section. Just perfect for someone who is super coordinated like myself. After this there's some more inner trail/forest-y sections with a couple of stream crossings, I did keep my feet dry on almost all of these, thank you very much...but probably should have just ran through them instead of gingerly speed walking/trying not to fall and keep my feet dry.
Anyways, when I saw the 11 mile marker sign, I really contemplated just turning and going back to the start (and little did I know the run hadn't even gotten difficult yet!), I didn't turn and I kept moving forward, I just kept reminding myself, this is a fun exploring training day, but when you are as competitive as I am, it's hard to not want to compete and not having the experience/skills and technical abilities this run is very humbling.
Now, the real fun begins, I knew to be prepared for the "death march," what exactly this was going to be like I wasn't so sure, but I knew it came around mile 9 or 10, I'm still not sure, I think I blocked it from my memory. But around mile 6/7 the group I was running with got to a little hill and EVERYONE around me started walking, so I started walking and then we were at the top, I thought to myself that couldn't have been the death march, but everyone walked so I walked, Then it was down a little hill and up another one, again EVERYONE walked, so I walked, group think at it's finest. Were these the death march? Nope, just short little spurts, these little hills were killing the group I was around. I could have and should have kept running, but I thought everyone must have known something I didn't know so they walked and I walked. Groupthink. After these two teasers I told myself I would keep running until the death march and I did, but it wasn't much farther at this point. I would run the little uphills and get blown past everyone I passed on the climbs going downhill. At one point, this man said to me, "Wow, you're really good at running uphill, but you really suck running downhill." Thanks, buddy, I hadn't noticed!
The death march is no joke, I really don't know how people run up that thing. I'm not sure even if I was racing and if I was in great running shape that I could run up that thing! It's steep, steeper than you think steep is and never would I ever think people would run up it, but they do and I would love to watch how that's possible some day. At the top you think you are going right into a dead end, but nope, they take you down into a super steep, muddy, slippery, narrow, root and rock filled single track that drops down, down, down, down, there are even ropes to help stay standing and you bet I had to use them! I almost stayed clean, but had one slip into the 6 inches of mud, yuck! This mile downhill was my longest (timewise) mile of the day, sooooooo slow, downhill! Once we got to the bottom of the steep single track section, I was so over running and still had a mile or 2 to go. I just wanted to be done, but kept putting one foot in front of the other enjoying the scenery.
We were somehow back onto the single track we were on at the beginning of the run, how we got there, I'm not so sure. I was able to navigate this section a bit better than the first time around, but still found people running up on me and when I heard them, I stopped, stepped aside and let them go on their way, I wasn't about to ruin someone's run because I cannot run on technical trails. The fact that they call this section fast and soft makes me laugh! Finally, after waaaaaaaaaaay too much time out there on the trails I was done. I was not a happy camper when I crossed that finish line, I joked about how long it was going to take me before the start and said 2:30 and I thought that was crazy long, there's no way it will take me that long and if I was still out there then, somebody better come save me, but funny enough, I finished in 2:27.
Trail running is not the same as road running and just because you are a semi-decent road runner does not mean you will fair well on the trails at all. This was a "fun" way to get back in the valley and see parts of the island I'd never seen before, but I'm not so sure how I feel about trail running RACES. Getting out on less technical trails and getting off the road is fun and I'll for sure keep doing that when I get the chance, but racing trails totally different.
I have a ton of respect for everyone who was out there yesterday, it is NOT easy! I don't know how people can run so fast on trails, I guess it's a bit like mountain biking and CX, you have to be a little fearless and not worry about injuring yourself. I found my self constantly thinking about twisting an ankle, breaking something or having to get rescued because I hurt myself in some capacity. I don't think you can be a fast, competitive successful tail runner if you think like this. I also think you need to run on trails more often than 2x a year.
Whenever you get the chance to try something new and hang out with great friends in a place like this you should never pass on the opportunity! I will however, think a bit more on it before next year...yesterday I was a total, never happening again, 1 and done mentality, today, I'm not a never again thinker, but I'll have to consider it a bit more and won't just sign up on a whim.