Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Conquering the Green Monster 25K Trail Challenge


During nearly every race, I hit a point in which I am in so much pain or discomfort that I ask myself, “Why the fuck did I sign up to do this?”

But this question has not come up in my most recent running races, including the 25K Green Monster trail challenge, which was the most difficult terrain I’ve ever run.

How many shoes do two women need to run
a trail race? Not pictured: another pair of sneakers
and two pairs of flip flops.
The Green Monster 25K in Wellsboro, PA has an elevation of 4,000 ft. I realize there are plenty of races with higher elevations (including the Green Monster 50K with an elevation of 8,000 ft.) but it’s nothing to sniff at, especially for a burgeoning trail runner like me.

This course had a series of climbs and descents, which kept the course fun and challenging. At times the climbs were so steep that I used my hands to help me scramble up the rocks and roots – like I was rock climbing, trying to find the right foot and hand holds to get to the top.
Leann invited me to spend the night in her
cabin. We ate an Oktoberfest buffet downtown then talked 

on the porch before a 9 p.m. bedtime.

And then there was the steepest descent, fondly known as Frankenstein’s Forehead, which was so steep that previous runners/hikers had turned the trail into a mini switchback. I am overly cautious on downhills anyway, and this particular mountainside made me want to grab a tarp and go down it like a slip ‘n’ slide.

So why didn’t these challenges leave me wondering why I paid money to do this to myself? I think it’s because I was better prepared physically and mentally than I have been for endurance races in the past. I have been running over 30 miles a week for the past few months, and I have never run that much before, so my body was better prepared to cover the distance, even if I wasn’t fully prepared for the extent of the climbs/descents. I hydrate regularly and for days before an event. I eat well for weeks beforehand and on race day, taking gels on the trail and stopping at each aid station for a cup of water and a cup of Gatorade, even though I ran with a hydration pack.

Ready to race!
45 degrees and sporting the shorts.
Mentally, I’ve had a different attitude going into the race. I go in with reasonable goals but without expectations. In trails runs especially, I go in knowing I’ll have to hike portions of the race, that I’m not the best at hills, but with the confidence that I will recover more quickly than most others after the hills so I can keep going at a strong pace once I hit the flats again.

I worked hard through the whole race but still had the energy to pick it up for the last two miles, which ended up being the last three miles – a 25K is 15.5 miles, but this course was 16.5 miles. Those last miles were my fastest of the whole race.

I finished in over 20 minutes under my goal time – which was hard to predict, being unfamiliar with the terrain, and I got 9th place female and 44th overall.

When I finished, I changed into a dry shirt and shoes, put on a vest, and made a new friend who was waiting for her friends. We ate pulled pork and mac ‘n’ cheese and drank beers and stood by the fire.

These are the best kinds of days.

Finished! Dirty, sore, and tired, but still on our feet.
Picture stolen from Leann's Facebook post.

16.5 miles of trails = bliss + pain

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