“The only other sound’s the sweep; Of easy wind and downy flake.”
Me: Trains for months for a marathon and doesn’t get injured.
Also me: Runs a few 5K’s here and there and gets injured.
The Assault on Mt Hood in Melrose, MA was the last race of the year for me. The week before, I had really felt some pain coming off my relay race. That damn calf just kept feeling more and more sore, so I knew I better rest it. Well what’s one more race, eh?
This course is definitely one of the toughest I’ve done. It’s only 3.5 miles, but it’s a cross-country course on a golf course that is part paved path and part trail. The hills are short but very very steep. And there was one other detail that made this course even tougher…snow.
When I first arrived, the sky was dim but the weather seemed calm. By the time I had gotten my bib and settled at the lodge at the start, the storm had started. When we all lined up at the starting line, there was a thin coat of ice on the ground. I knew I would really have to take it easy on the downhills, especially since they were so steep. The last thing I wanted to do was fall and get even more injured.
We took off and there was immediately a downhill so I started down easy – step step step. I noticed the paved pathway was pretty icy at this point, so I stuck to the side where the grass was. Even though there was snow there too, it seemed to be less slick. I saw many others also moving around the paved sections, trying to find traction where they could. Despite my leg soreness I was able to power up those steep uphills, but was extra cautious on the downs, which led to a not-so-great time. Another problem I encountered was that I didn’t fuel properly for the race. I had meant to grab a granola bar on my way out and completely forgot. The race started at noon and I had only eaten a light breakfast many hours before. At mile 2, I suddenly felt wiped out and exhausted. At one point the race bottle-necked into a one lane death march up a steep hill. I was so tired at this point, I was actually grateful for the slow down. The trail opened up a bit and people started breaking away, building their speed. I reluctantly picked up my speed again.
As I was approaching mile 3, I started to get some of my strength back. I powered through and reached the end, which was a nice downhill driveway back to the lodge. Normally this would be the place to speed to the finish, but it was so slippery I had to take my time. I think my time ended up being about 40 seconds slower than the previous year, but in those conditions, I’ll take it.
The main reason I didn’t want to miss this race was the post-race atmosphere.The lodge is decorated with nutcrackers and you even get to keep one as a souvenir, along with a very cool pint glass. There is also beer and food – the whole thing feels like a fun Christmas party and always gets me into the holiday spirit. Plus many of the people from my running club tend to be there as well – the post race part really warms your frozen body. There is even a roaring fire.
The one thing that really got me through this challenging run was my new trail shoes – my Brooks Adrenaline ASRs that I bought at New England Running Company. I bought them this summer, but was too afraid to break them out during my marathon training. I think these really prevented me from falling when racing on the snowy grass and icy surfaces. There were definitely better grips on the bottom while I moved through the course, not to mention it was a very comfortable shoe. I’m hoping to do a bit more trail running next year so glad to know these work well on my feet.
Well the year comes to a close and I have some time to plan for what’s next. Especially since I’m trying to heal. I’m hoping to start my training back up in January, to get going on that under-2 hour half. Not being able to relieve my holiday stress by running has been killing me, plus I’m pretty anxious to start my training. However, I know this rest period is necessary to keep me on track for my next half in February. Until next time…Happy New Year and Merry Running!