This past weekend my friend Jena convinced me to join her for the “Run Thru Hell” 5k at Al Lopez Park in Tampa. I wasn’t expecting a PR (it is July in Florida after all!), but I was excited to run with her since her 5k times are a few minutes faster than mine. I’ve been running 8 minute miles on the treadmill lately, so I was up for a challenge and hoping to run 26 minutes on a road race.
As I was waiting in line for my bib, I started chatting with the guy behind me. I asked him where the starting line was. He said that the course changes each year, but normally we start and then head straight into the bushes. BUSHES? “Um… is this a trail race?” Indeed it was! I’ve run a 15k trail race last year, and they are lots of run. (Fun for me, not so much for my running buddy. He hit a branch and did such a graceful somersault… right back up and running! It was awesome!) In fact, I might even say, trail races are a little more exciting than your normal road race course of out and back (I’m used to running 5ks in Clearwater where it is down one side of the road, back the other. There is pretty water scenery, but no trees to protect you from the sun!). This guy also went on to say how he hoped I didn’t wear new shoes (um, hello, got these 2 weeks ago!) and that I was ready to run through mud!
Oh, and off we went…. The first half mile was on a paved road in the park, then we rounded a corner and started off-road on the grass for mile 1. Just past mile 1 marker, we hit a water station (poorly positioned might I add) and then we headed right into the bushes. WELL, HELLO MUD PIT!
I tried to run the first mile at a steady pace (8:45) to get myself into position for the trail since passing on trails is quite difficult. Once we entered the bushes for the next mile, it was just as I thought, single file. At one point we were running 11 minute miles unable to pass anyone. I could hear a guy behind me yell, “It’s just tree stumps people. Run faster!”
Jena and I made a break for it at a small clearing and passed 4 or 5 people. Once things cleared up, around mile 2, we ran through some more grass, around the Breast Cancer Survivor memorial, and then out onto a paved trail for the final stretch.
At around mile 2.8, dying of heat and needing water (I didn’t grab any at the water station), I was asking Jena how much longer. She check her garmin and said a .3 left. We were on a windy trail at this point and I was unable to see the finish line. I just remember a guy in American Flag shorts cheering us on (he placed 2nd overall!). I so wanted to back down, but Jena was gearing up around the last turn for the finish line. Here you can see both of us crossing right at 28 minutes. Since this was not a chipped timed event, I guess this is our “unofficial-official” time. However, my watch shows we came in just under 28 minutes (27:55).
I’m really liking the 5k distance. Training for 5ks don’t consume my life, and it still allows me focus on swimming, biking, and lifting. Also, I can actually race this distance. 10ks are okay too, but anything longer and I’m just trying to finish (I’ll normally do a run/walk combo). This race was a good practice for the Top Gun Triathlon that I have coming up on July 31st. Boy, I thought this was running thru hell, but wait till that Sprint Tri in the nice Florida heat! It’s all just for fun, right? (Wrong, I want to win… the swim atleast).
Next Saturday is the Clearwater Community Sailing Center’s 1 mile openwater swim race. It is the 3rd and final race of the series. Very small but lots of fun. The last race I placed 1st in my age group and 6th overall. I’m looking forward to it again!
How is your summer running going? Is it hot where you live? Are you running indoors or doing different exercises this time of year?