Yesterday I ran my second trail marathon. It was, in a word, fabulous. I can honestly say I have never enjoyed a race quite that much--the whole race I felt solid, calm, and confident. I didn't hyperventilate or cry at the end. I didn't even get side cramps.
That alone is an accomplishment. Because lately, all of my anxiety and stress seem to conveniently come out and crush me, in the form of not being able to breathe, at the end of a race. So to finish a race still breathing normally was a fantastic feeling.
I took off 23 minutes from last year's time. That still astounds me--I'm not trying to brag here--because honestly, I went into the race trying not to think about time at all--it crossed my mind that it would be nice to finish a few minutes faster than the previous year, but I wasn't focused on it during the race. I kept my pace steady by monitoring splits, but I didn't let myself get caught up in the math. I didn't follow a structured training plan this year, either. Last year my runs were organized on a spreadsheet, and I diligently followed the plan (mostly). This year, I trained by feel and ran long when I needed to be in the woods for a while, and I ran fast when I felt like going fast. I logged a lot of miles because running distance makes me happy, and it's a social outlet for me. My friend Kelly has been training for a 50 miler, so we trained together a lot, and my runs were a chance to spend time with her.
So I guess all of that is to say I went into the race feeling a bit unsure because I hadn't planned it carefully. And I am used to controlling things. Or think that I am.
So when I finished 2nd, I was truly shocked--and overjoyed. I was a minute behind the girl who won, but because there were also relay teams on the course, I couldn't tell who I was racing against.
I can barely walk today, my legs are so sore. I'm doing that whole post-marathon thing of walking down stairs sideways because my knees are screaming sailor-like profanities at me. I'm contemplating taking an ice bath, but that sounds quite, well, cold. I'm looking forward to taking some time away from the trails and putting some miles on my bike.
If you're reading this and you're a runner (of the non-trail running variety), do yourself a huge, huge favor and run some singletrack. It will change your life. I moved towns recently because there's better singletrack here. I realize that may sound a bit extreme, but running singletrack is so incomparably wonderful when compared to knocking out miles on pavement--there just are no words to describe.
That's my piece of opinionated advice for the day.