On Saturday morning I was up bright and early to make the 45 minute drive to Marion Forest for the Dirt Dash half marathon. Parking was super easy, a shuttle took you down to the forest, and golf carts carried you to the start line. Super quick, pre-race packet pickup was available at the site, so I didn’t have to make an extra trip before race day. I was already sold on this race at that point and it hadn’t even started yet.
However, next year I will remember to bug spray myself before hand.
However, when I got there I discovered we would be running on fire roads that wound throughout the forest. They were gravel roads, but they were so packed down making them extremely flat.
I wasn’t sure how to feel about this – I was very happy the ground wouldn’t be too rough so I would not have to worry as much about tripping, but I also was a bit sad that my first real trail race wasn’t a bit more rugged.
The race itself was very smooth and the course was well marked. There were numerous aid stations set up (every mile or two) and manned by local high school clubs, but I stuck to my CamelBak as it is what I am used to running with. Since this was a very small race (see the picture below to get an idea of how many people) by the second half things had really thinned out and I felt like I was running most of it alone. However, I didn’t mind it because I really enjoy running in new places, the woods were very pretty, and I brought some tunes to keep me company.
So, while the course was great and the race went off smoothly (I’d definitely recommend it) , let me tell you a bit about my pacing, or lack thereof.
I know that I am no where near hitting my sub 2 hour PR right now, but I did have a goal in mind – I wanted a sub 10:30 pace. I knew this was totally possible because my last 12 mile training run was at a 10:21 pace, the course was pretty flat, and I always race faster than I run – even if I was just considering this another training run. Well I pushed, and I pushed, and I pushed. I felt like I was running faster than I have in a long time. I was trying so hard, and yet nothing clicked. I was struggling to barely break 11:00 and many miles I did not. I think this may have happened because my legs were so sore from a way-too-hard workout Thursday. When they finally started to warm up, around mile 9, I was almost done with the course, but finally able to speed up a bit, start passing people, and hit my pace goals.
Overall this is probably my slowest half marathon ever. Official time: 2:24:18 However, I am still glad I did it. I would have been out doing a 12 mile run this weekend any way and it would have been the same sore, slow, sucky run even if I wasn’t racing. This way I got to try a new race, run in a new place, and have extra motivation to finish even when I was really struggling.
The overall result -
Did I run well? No
Did I meet my goal? No
Am I glad I did it? Yes
On a positive note I had a big non-scale victory at the race:
Mizuno sent me a bunch of shirts before the Country Music Marathon. The shirts were larges and I was really embarrassed to have to tell them the shirts were too small and ask for XL instead. Well, for the first time I was able to run in one of those large shirts. I am not where I used to be speedwise or sizewise, but I am getting healthier and working hard to try and make smart decisions and take care of myself.
Have you ever had a bad race, run, or workout where you didn’t meet your goals, but still enjoyed yourself?