"Hey princess, guess what? Your shoes are GOING to be muddy if you run trails." Jack laughed as I tried hard to remove the newly caked mud on my new trail running shoes. This was following a period of over a year that I had actually done any technical trail running (Miami Whitewater is a nice trail.. but definitely not technical!). I decided that the time had come to get serious about learning how to navigate and pace myself on trails. If I am to run a 50 mile race in which 13 of the first 15 miles are on trail, it "may" be wise to get myself used to it. That was nearly one week ago. I also went out this past Thursday and met up with some trail runners from the Greater Cincinnati Trail Runners group. A group Jack directed me to that has a website as well as a Facebook page listing the meeting times for their runs.
I'll admit it. Much as I really enjoy meeting new people, my stomach was in knots as I pulled into Mt. Airy park to meet this new group of people I didn't know. What if they ran so much faster than me that I got lost in the woods of Mt. Airy? What if they really thought I sucked? These thoughts ran through my head as I pulled up to the oval and parked behind a car with a big 'ol "140.6" sticker slapped on the back window. "Great. I'm dead." That was my first thought as the car ahead of that car also had the same sticker. In case you don't know, that is the distance of an Ironman triathlon. And in case you don't know what an Ironman is, well, you don't get out much!
I walked up to the girl in the car ahead and was greeted with a warm smile and an extended hand, which immediately put me at ease. Out hopped her dog, who apparently accompanies her on most of her runs. We introduced ourselves, me making it very clear that I was new to trail running, and walked up to the group of 6 waiting up ahead. After some brief introductions (and me realizing there was one other new person in the group), I looked around at all their shoes. Their MUDDY shoes. I suddenly wanted to put some mud back on mine as I remembered how hard I'd worked to get it off last week. My shoes screamed rookie! But at least I had trail running shoes. The other new girl had on regular running shoes. She was even more of a rookie than me. Or so I thought. Until I positioned myself in the running line-up behind her only to find myself in a completely anaerobic state for the entire run. DAMN! This girl was really good on the trails! Turned out, she just moved to Montgomery from Maryland. She mostly only runs trails (even though she does not own trail running shoes) and found the group on Facebook. I ALMOST wanted to mention that I had already done a TRX class AND a morning run that day and this was my second run for the day. But I realized how that would have sounded. I decided it was best to just say those things to my own running group in an attempt to joke about who was the toughest and best conditioned or as an excuse for why I was lagging behind. Definitely NOT the thing to say to this group my first time out. So I just ran. And breathed really heavy. And got my ass kicked on the hills. But am happy to say I held my own. By the sheer pride, I hung in behind Mary (other new girl) and refused to fall back. I realized how much of an art there is to this type of running. How much focus and concentration it requires as you constantly run the risk of twisting an ankle or falling. You are so mentally zoned in on the moment for the whole run. I imagine it is quite hard to get lost in your thoughts when you run technical trails. The good news is that sometimes, for brief moments, this allows you to forget how heavy you are breathing and how bad you feel. You are just trying to stay upright! I realized how you can have much slower mile splits, but work so much harder on your run when on a trail. It is an extremely athletic type of running. Especially if you are racing. I can see how people either really like it or really don't. And thankfully, I LOVE it! I love being in the woods, I love the focus it requires and I love the challenge. And I equally love running on the road for the opposite reason. I love being able to thoughtlessly put one foot in front of the other and either get lost in prayer, music or daydreams or have a conversation with someone about anything that comes up. They are both good and cleansing types of running to me.
I will hopefully join this new group every Thursday at 6:30 as I prepare for the JFK 50. That is... if my application is accepted. Applications were available on the JFK site on July 1st. Jack told me to make sure I filled it out and overnighted it first thing in the morning on that date. He even told me to make sure it I mailed it from the downtown post office so that it would have the "July 1" post mark. I did that. Or should I say John did. I printed off the application at 4 am on July 1st, filled it out, printed off proof of my Columbus marathon time, placed my check in the envelope and sent it downtown. John sent it overnight. He then came home and said "You did put a self addressed stamped envelope in with your application, didn't you?" "No, I did not. Why?" "Because in bold, underlined lettering it tells you to include that." I immediately felt my heart drop. Tears welled up in my eyes as I read the clear sentence. In bold, underlined lettering... "ALL ENTRIES MUST INCLUDE A SELF ADDRESSED STAMPED ENVELOPE." How did I miss that? All I knew is that I had to redo the entire application right then. I quickly re-did the entire thing, included EVERYTHING necessary, wrote another check for the most expensive entry fee I've ever written and sent it to the Harrison post office (thank you again, John!) overnight with a note to disregard the previous application. So now I wait for a couple of weeks on the edge of my seat to see if my name gets listed on their site. Or to see if they decide that there is a certain intelligence level that needs to be met and I simply didn't fit the bill. Anyones guess.