Sunday, December 18, 2011

Trail Runner? - Thunderbird Moonlight Trail 6K

Saturday night I ran my first trail race. Yes, my first time running a trail race, at night. You were required to wear a headlight and I got a moderately priced one at WallyWorld. I headed out to St. Francisville kind of early because I was sure I'd get lost. I had not been there since I was in middle school.

The forecast showed that it was 56 degrees, but at 5 p.m., it felt much colder. I had on another hooded jacket until 10 minutes before the start. I spent most of the time chatting with other runners and stretching. By 6 p.m., it was in the high 40s and I was nervous. I had just started running again at Comite River Park, a wonderful set of trails near my home. My first run was the previous Monday and it was slow going. I actually stopped a couple of times to check the map I carried with me. I was scared I'd get lost but the routes are well marked.

That fear hit me a few times during the race. It was a bit weird when I was by myself. You couldn't see anything except the ground illuminated by your headlamp and of course, my breath. Orange flags blocked off other routes and during stretches with no flags, I got a bit nervous until I saw another.

The trail is at the back of a parish sports complex. The first quarter mile of the race was in an open field. The grass was a bit uneven. You made one big u-turn, headed around the baseball fields and into the forest. I was in the middle of the pack. At the turn around, it was cool to see about 20 headlamps bouncing your way. As we headed toward the woods, the space between the group in front of me was growing. That made me nervous, because as I said, I worried about getting lost, but I knew it would be a bad idea to push myself so early in the race. It was only 3.7 miles, but the farthest I had ran on a trail was 2.85. As with the only other trail I had ran, you quickly were on sharp, rolling hills, some extremely steep and muddy, some filled with roots.

For most of the race, I was able to stay just out of arm's length of a few people. Once people actually hit the trail, which can be a bit like an obstacle course, they slowed down a bit. By the time I even thought to check my GPS tracker, I was at 1.9 miles. My legs were burning, the nails on my left hand were filled with mud from stopping a fall. My right hand was numb with cold and dirt-stained from using small trees to pull myself up ridges. But I was halfway through and got bit of a rush. I soon caught up to a group of three. One guy let me pass and I stuck with them through a few more obstacle-like areas. I actually felt like I had caught my breath a little bit and the path was flattening out. I had to push it. I checked my phone again and I was at three miles. The push was just barely that. My legs were heavy, but I knew it was almost over.

I came out of the woods at a gravel road and saw a single headlamp off in the distance. This was the initial turn off where volunteers directed us onto the trail. The light began bouncing and I realized the volunteer was headed towards me. He let me know to take a left with the road and I'd see the finish line. At that point, I pushed as hard as I could. My legs were heavy, the cold air was burning my lungs, but I was at the end and there was no slowing down. I finished in 44:27.3.

I didn't expect to do that well. I don't know if I'll be doing another night trail race soon, but I'm definitely sticking with the trails. I have one right near my house and my half marathon training includes three mile runs that I'll do on trails twice a week. It will help me get stronger and can only help with my road races. I think I'm addicted.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

So it begins

Yesterday was the beginning of what I hope to be many more trail runs. I only ran three miles. I live near the Comite River Park trails. It's about four miles of trails but connects to Hooper Road Park, which is about six more miles.

As you will see, it was slow going, but it was a nice cool day. Trail running definitely takes more out of you, but I'm up for the challenge. I took a water bottle, but I need one with a strap. It doesn't seem like that big of a deal to hold a water bottle while running until, you're running through the woods and exhausted. One of my goals in 2012 is to run the Forge Trail Series. Yep, all four if I'm still in Louisiana. This trail running stuff has gotten in my blood.

Monday, December 12, 2011


The year is wrapping up and I'm thinking of things I need to improve. I'm starting now. No sense in waiting an extra two weeks. No, I'm not one of those people who knocks new years resolutions, but I also don't do them. I look at what I need to do and get to it. So here goes...

I'm up to 10 miles and will be moving to 12 soon, but I still don't carry anything with me. For the most part, I have relied on a route with water fountains. But I need to order some type of hydration belt or handheld water bottle. I have my SPIbelt, which comes in handy and carries way more than you'd think.

Cold Weather workouts
I just ordered some moisture wicking long sleeve shirts. FYI, go here and NOT here. It's the worse customer service I've ever experienced in life and I may never step foot in that store or go to their web site again. I'm probably lying. My issue has been layering correctly. I've been to bundled up or not covered enough, thinking I'll get warmer as I run. It's also a good idea to some dry clothes. Still trying to find that balance.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Girls on the Run Fall 2011 5K

Today has been long, exhausting and wonderful. After three wonderful months as a co-coach with Girls on the Run of Greater Baton Rouge, we had the 5K this morning and my girls rocked it!!

Thankfully my co-head coach J was thinking very proactively and bought a few sets of gloves. It was in the low 40s when we got there. I also raided my little sister's closet for jackets that were too small for her. They both came in handy. Many of the girls had forgot gloves and they were really needed. Also seeing how we're dealing with 8-11 year olds, there were a few setbacks of their own doing. One of our girls was adamant that it wasn't that cold. Despite her mother's fussing, she decided to show up with just a thin long-sleeve shirt. I had a thick cotton hoodie I found in my sister's closet.

As the girls started to arrive and we got them all settled, two of my Black Girls Run! Baton Rouge teammates showed up. We had lots of volunteers, so they mainly were there for moral support. I also laughed at how they marveled at the organized chaos that ensues while wrangling 250 8-12 year olds.

Most of our girls could not run the 3.1 miles non-stop, so we used a buddy system that had inadvertently come together during the many practices and had them set goals on how far the would run. The whole pacing thing is still a work in progress. They all finished between 38 and 40 minutes. Not bad for elementary school girls.

I have to say I'm still learning myself. Each practice started with lessons on peer pressure, boundaries and a healthy lifestyle. At 29, there sometimes are flashbacks of how sucky things can be when you're so young and trying to figure things out. You're usually bombarded with the bad stuff and have very few people to use as sounding boards to really sort through it all. These girls are amazing wonderful people and I think they will all do great things in this world. Can't wait for next semester!! Here are some photos.  
Pratima, Mia and Anna in the front and Camille in the background.

Our liaison Mrs. Brumfield

My co-coach J with Anna, Pratima and Molly.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Third time's the charm!

I finished another 10 mile run with my good buddie Erika this morning.

We made the route kind of one big loop around the LSU lakes and the Garden District and had a goal of staying between an 11 and 12 minute per mile average. There was nothing overly spectacular about this run to most runners.

Except this is the third time in about a month that I've run 10 miles non-stop. I should also note that Erika had spinal fusion surgery a year and a half ago. So while it wasn't super fast, we both have milestones of our own.

One other small thing that I have to mention from the run: there were lots of considerate dog owners. I like to call them pet parents. We only passed three, but two had very socialized dogs who stayed on the far side of their owner and didn't bother us. The other pet parent was walking and kept her dog on a very short leash, so when he become distracted by us, he couldn't get to us. Thank you good pet parents.