Sunday, November 3, 2013

Alexa's Thunder Run, Half Marathon Trail, Kittatinny Valley State Park, Newton NJ.

Alexa's Thunder Run is a trail half marathon that raises money for mammograms for women who can't afford them. This race is really a lot of fun.  The course is challenging with lots of hills, rocks and roots, as well as a lot of runnable miles that can allow you to make up time lost on the harder stuff, if you need it.  The race is run at the trails of Kittatinny Valley State Park

I have never been that great at technical trail running, even on my best days.  I love running in the woods, but I am just slow when there are rocky sections.  I am a chicken.  I trip and fall and it hurts sometimes.  I also have trouble when my eyes tear up from cold air making it very hard to see, adding just one more layer of fun to my effort to not face plant in the woods.  I am ok with slowing down and enjoying the trails. 

Today I met Andrew and Joe (two guys I was training as part of my Veterans Running Club) again and I had some really fantastic news: that some generous people had donated funds/shoes to help our small scale running club with gear and race entries.  I was more excited to share this news with the guys than I was about actually racing today.  I really want them get warm winter running clothes, better running shoes, and a race entry or two to stay motivated when the weather gets cold.  Most newer runners think running in the winter is the worst. More seasoned runners understand that running in the winter with bad gear is the worst, BUT running in the winter with proper equipment is really amazing.  

I know if they can run through the winter by March they will be ready to run their first ultra with me.  :) They are dedicated and committed, but even the most motivated people may have trouble if they are lack the proper equipment.  So in the next week or two, thanks to generous people who want to show their appreciation for what these two Veterans have done to protect our Freedom, we get to go on a small scale shopping spree for running gear for them.  

The Race:
Today the weather was predicted to be mid-30's to 40 windchill.  It felt low 30's at 8:00 am.  There was wind.  I really really dont like wind. :)  BUT the wind was only an issue in the parking lot.  Trail running is awesome because the trees block the wind!  

As we headed off the start, the pace was fast from the "Go!" command. But for me that didn't last very long.  I was moving well for about a mile, but by the time I hit the first rocky patch Joe, who was right behind me, was gone.  I am amazed by how well he seemed to skip over the rocks like they were not even there, while I feared the earth was going to reach up grab my feet or clothesline me at my ankles.  I know my horrific trail running is related to my forward leaning forefoot style of running, which helps me run well on roads or non-technical trail but it is a terribly unstable on technical trails. Whenever my toe barely tips something, I am thrown off balance and have trouble recovering.  I also don't lift my feet very high so I tend to toe a lot of things... and fall often.

After Joe drifted off into the distance, gliding over the rocks and running a very fast time for the entire distance, it didn't take long for Andrew to catch and pass me as well.  He too had no trouble on the rocky stuff.  But the terrain quickly turned runnable and I caught back up to Andrew. We ran the rest of the race together at a comfortable pace which was a lot of fun for me (and I hope for him too). Andrew worked hard to try to teach me how to not fear the ground. I am hopeless :)

I really enjoyed the company and it was nice to not have to run full speed today.  The miles presented various challenges and we just took things one mile at a time.  There were long stretches of terrain that could be run very fast if we pushed, like the trail along the pond,  next the airport, or the rail-trail out and back.  Personally, I still don't feel fully recovered from the 50 mile race since the week that followed was exhausting for a lot of reasons. I was quite content to not run 7 minute miles today. 

At one point in the race, a large tree fell nearby.  It sounded like gun shots as it crashed through the other trees.  That kind of scared the crap out of me and woke me up a bit.  Except for when a huge tree fell on our house when I was kid, I haven't been that close to a falling tree.  We didn't see it, but it was nearby.  Finally during the last mile, I managed to toe something I didn't see, fall forward, tuck, roll and pop back up in a one motion... Andrew complemented me on my Combat Roll and then told me to make sure I was ok.  I told him I was a professional at falling, but then stopped to look for blood.  I was ok. :) I am pretty sure we had only about .2 tenths left to run when I fell.  I was so close to making it through upright. 

In the final stretch, I knew Andrew was going to sprint in the finish.  This has become his thing.  It is becoming fun to watch. He scares people and you cant stop him.  He wants to be a sprinter.... and an ultrarunner... Awesome.  Why not? I already have a few track meets and ultras in mind for both of them :)

As far as trail races go, this race is really fantastic and spoils the runners. The RD manages to have the ENTIRE 13.1 mile race leaf blown (who does this), there were mile markers on the ground, and 4 water-only stops.  Some people may want to carry water if these are too far apart. There is soup and a raffle at the end along with awards.

After they announced the awards I left. I didn't remember my exact time or look at my place.  It didn't matter. I was there because I wanted to introduce Andrew and Joe to trail running and that was really a lot of fun for me.

Next week, we run fast :) 

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