Virtual Trail Racing – Weekly Recap – 5.17.20

This week marked the end of my base building.  My mileage was high, and I felt good all week.  On Saturday, I wrapped up my base building with a little virtual trail racing.  After this week, I’ll take a deload week with some lower mileage.  And then I will start my 50 mile training plan!  Honestly, I am so pumped.  I know I could get away with a much shorter training block than what I am giving myself, and I have a few reasons for that.  First, I know that there is always the possibility that I could end up with a summer cold or the dreaded respiratory infection.  I always try to give myself a few weeks of cushion in a training plan when I can for this reason.

I also don’t know how my body is going to handle high mileage trail running, especially over the summer. There is always the possibility that I could completely blow up at some point and need to take a few weeks off. Finally, there are a few tune up races that I’d like to run over the summer to get more acclimated to trail racing, because it is so different from road racing. Also, I’m just really excited and honestly looking forward to the structured training.

virtual trail racing - trail racing - 50 mile trail race

The two hosts of the Run Hard, Mom Hard Podcast were kind enough to join me for an Instagram Live on Tuesday.  They had such great recommendations for training for my first 50 miler.  Blogging has been a lot of fun for me, and it’s introduced me to a great group of women runners.  I’m so thankful for their perspective and wisdom as I start working towards new adventures.

My CrossFit box opened up this week, and it felt really great to work with a barbell again.  I started out very light, and I’m mentally preparing to take a very long time to get back to my previous weights.  It might get frustrating in a few weeks, but for now I am just really grateful to have access to weights that are heavier than 35 pounds.

My boys and I took our first trip since quarantine this weekend, as well.  The virtual trail race that I registered for had the unique set up of offering a marked course at two different parks.  I’ll explain more about how all of that worked out in a bit.  But on Friday after work, we drove about an hour up to Austin and spent the night hanging out in the hotel room.  I had some reservations, but my husband and I are working from home, and I felt like it was a calculated risk that I was comfortable with.  Especially since it was one evening, and we were still doing what we would have been doing at home.

We got to the hotel in the early evening, picked up food, and just relaxed together.  It was a nice break from being at home 24/7.  Saturday morning, we drove out to Rocky Hill Ranch for my 18 miles of adventure.

Virtual Trail Racing

For the majority of my winter training and running, I was really looking forward to transitioning to trail racing over the Spring and Summer. I was excited about building up to my 50 miler, but also getting more familiar with trail running and racing. And it’s been a pretty big bummer that summer racing looks like it may all be done solo style. I had my eye on a trail race that was scheduled for the beginning of June, but then COVID happened.

So I was pretty happy about the fact that this race wasn’t just flat out cancelled.  The race directors decided, instead, to allow runners to complete the race distance virtually or through a marked trail course.  The directors left the course markings up for multiple weeks, allowing runners the ability to run a set, designated course if they wanted the support of not having to navigate (which as a newer trail runner, I don’t want to do yet) and having a few water stations in place.  It also allowed runners to run in a way that is safer than a traditional race at this point.

Road Vs. Trail Racing

Technically this was not my first trail race. I accidentally ended up running a trail 10k when I first started road racing a decade ago. A friend offered to register me for a race she wanted to do, and it turned out it was trail and not road. Fun start! I also ran my 50k trail race two summers ago. Which means that it has clearly been a good period of time since I’ve done anything other than road race. I fell in love with the trails after my 50k, but I was living in an area with minimal access to trails, and I was really trying to pursue a Boston Qualifying time.

virtual trail racing - trail racing - 50 mile trail race

I was really looking forward to the course aid that trail races are famous for.  Having only run a few trail races, I am definitely not an expert on the difference between road and trail races, but here are a few of the things I’ve found so far.  Trail racing is definitely more of a no frills sport.  Most well-known road marathons are in destination locations, with 5 star hotel sponsors, large expos, and a lot of excitement.  Trail races on the other hand seem to be much more likely to take place in small towns in the middle of nowhere, where runners either camp near the start or stay in budget hotels and airbnbs.  Trail racing is focused wholly on the sport and community, and the rest is really just removed.

I’ve also found that trail races are much more variable than road races. Sure there are road races that are known for being incredibly hilly, or taking place in beautiful picture-esque settings, but there aren’t jarring differences between the Chicago Marathon and the Austin Marathon in all honesty. However, there are HUGE differences between trail races. Are the trails completely exposed, or is there a? lot(s) of tree coverage? When you’re running for 8+ hours, it makes a huge difference. Are the trails primarily one type of surface, or does it change throughout the race course?

virtual trail racing - trail racing - 50 mile trail race

Speaking of surface, there are so many options when it comes to trails.  Everything from wide, buffed out running trails to rutted out bike paths to gravel farm roads and everything in between.  There’s also a huge difference between a flat forested trail and a technical mountainous run.  This makes it really hard to compare trail race times, unlike road races where runners often chase PRs.

Why I Ran

So here’s why I decided to run this unique format.  I was very interested in exploring new trails, and the marked course was a short drive from Austin, which is only about an hour from where we live currently. The idea of being able to explore some trails that I probably wouldn’t get to on my own was appealing.  It was also comforting to know that the course would be somewhat marked, and there would be water available on the trail.

Related Post: My Marathon was Cancelled Because of Coronavirus

The trail race is a part of a series that I want to support, and I felt like this was my best opportunity to keep growing in my trail running knowledge and experience.  This was a good way to spend a lot of time on the trails, and to feel somewhat supported.  I decided to use it as an opportunity to have a structured long run completely on trails, and to practice my fueling strategy.

The Trail Racing Experience

virtual trail racing - trail racing - 50 mile trail race

The course was insane, in my opinion. There were so many surface types on one 16 mile loop. When we first arrived on the ranch property, there were a few campers and a check in area that was unmanned. It was a great reminder that trail runs are often no-frill events and are meant to test our grit and love of the sport and nature. I filled up my water bottles, found the trail head, and say good-bye to the boys. I wasn’t sure about the technicality of the trails or the vert (there wasn’t much), so I told them I estimated about 4 hours but would send a text when I had about 6 miles to go.

With that, I kissed them good-bye and headed out onto a very rocky and rutted out bike trail.  I honestly had no idea what to expect in terms of course marking, and I’m still really figuring out how to navigate in a somewhat reasonable manner on the trails.  I felt really anxious about being on a new trail, feeling a little weak in my navigating skills, being by myself, and not knowing anything about what to expect.  It was some serious exposure therapy for a girl who generally wants to be able to control as much as possible. 

Related Post: Exercise and Anxiety

But I decided to do my best to enjoy the experience, and to trust that I would figure out what I needed on the way.  It was insanely hot and humid, and I was DRENCHED within 6 miles.  This is not something I am stranger to, living in south Texas, so I didn’t worry too much about it.  In hindsight, since I didn’t know how far apart water was dropped, I was a little too conservative in my hydration in the first 10k.  Through the course of the 18 miles, I ran on soft pine-needle covered trails, muddy single track, wooden bike bridges, creek crossings, red clay, and a whole lot of rocky, rutted out bike paths.

Rockly hill ridge sure lived up to its name. While there wasn’t much climbing or elevation change, there were steep ups and downs that I assume would be lots of fun for mountain bikers. Little more challenging for us trail runners. And there were lots and lots of rocks. Sometimes small bits of gravel, sometimes palm sized stones that just love to make sure you roll your ankle at least once an hour. Water was placed about every 5 miles, and I definitely refilled both of my bottles at every opportunity.

virtual trail racing - trail racing - 50 mile trail race

What I Learned

Even with the difficult start, the not super ideal “race” setting, and the many trips and falls, I am so glad I decided to run this race.  It helped me get way out of my comfort zone, and it gave me a lot of confidence in my ability to tackle what is thrown at me.  Here’s a few things I learned from this virtual trail race.

  • Trails take so much longer than roads, and while it may seem “easier” to run slower, all that time on feet is exhausting.
  • I may have to consider a bladder for hotter trail runs, if water is further than 5 miles apart.  I carried 2 20oz bottles that I refilled 3x, and I felt like that was on the verge of not being enough
  • Bring extra socks.  I had a couple of creek crossings where I got wet, and my feet probably wouldn’t have been pretty torn up if I had been on them for a few more miles
  • I need to take more electrolytes
  • Heavily wooded trails can be SUPER humid, take extra Squirrels Nut Butter
  • My stomach holds up slightly better on trails than roads
  • Trail running uses a lot more muscle strength than I am used to.  I consider myself slightly stronger than most runners, because I also CrossFit, and my legs were DONE after about 15 miles
  • Trail running can be really hard, but it is so much fun
  • My anxiety and nerves don’t need to keep me from doing incredible, adventurous things

This Weeks Workouts

Total Miles: 67
Total Workouts: 4
How the Runs Felt
All of my runs this week felt incredible.  I ran on the trails near our home on Sunday and Monday.  This meant that I had to split my mileage on Monday to work around my work schedule.  I don’t mind splitting my weekday miles, but it is definitely HOT in the afternoons now.  That definitely makes it harder, and I’m finding myself using a lot of the recommendations in my Running in Heat & Humidity  post. I’m not a huge fan of heat training, but I do want to get as many miles on the trail as possible, and for now that means some afternoon running.  I’m sure it will be good in the long run, since my 50 miler takes place in October, which can still be hot during the day here in Texas.

Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday I got my miles in on the roads before work. My pacing was fairly consistent, and I felt good during all of my runs. I was pretty worn down by the end of the day on Wednesday, but that’s to be expected after 12 miles and a workout.

virtual trail racing - trail racing - 50 mile trail race

Saturday was my virtual trail run, which was a lot of fun, but definitely hard.  Overall, this was a really strong week for me, with lots of trail miles.

What I’ve Been Listening To
I got to listen to Whitney Heins of on the A to Z podcast recently.  She has such a great perspective on what its like to be a high-level runner with big dreams and small children.  The episode was a tribute to Mothers Day, and she talked about how we can all support running moms.  Obviously I am a fan of that!  I’m still loving the Missionary and The Plot Thickens for those runs where I just want to hear a really interesting story.  The Run Hard, Mom Hard podcast just released their 10th episode!  I listened to a recent episode where they interviewed an ultra-running mother of NINE.  It was incredible to hear how she makes running a household with that many kids work, and inspiring that she still prioritizes running on top of that.

How the WODs felt
I mentioned earlier that this was my first week back in the box since the coronavirus shut down.  Because of my work schedule, I decided to do a lunch workout at home.  I’m planning to continue to workout at least once a week at home so that I still have time with my family, especially with all of the high mileage I’m doing.  I dropped in to the noon classes on Wednesday and Friday, and did a 5pm class on Thursday.  I definitely want to keep as many of my workouts during the day as I can.  It’s such a huge time saver for me and my family.  The workouts themselves felt great, even though it’s getting so damn hot in the afternoons.  Finally picking up a barbell felt so good, but I have to say that my hands were not happy about it.  They’re going to have to toughen up a lot over the summer.  I’m a little nervous about how they’re going to hold up next week during Murph, so I guess I’ll be reporting on that next week.

I’m still posting home and minimal equipment workouts on my Workouts  Page, and I’m continuing to share on my Instagram and Facebook stories. 

virtual trail racing - trail racing - 50 mile trail race

What Went Well
So many trail miles this week! And I got to get back into the CrossFit box! I’m also feeling really happy that I got in 3 core workouts this week, and I stretched for 20 minutes 3 times as well. My boys and I got to enjoy a little mini-vacation this weekend, which was a great opportunity for us. This was a pretty freaking awesome week.

What Went Shitty
Other than my allergies acting up, I honestly can’t think of anything that didn’t go well this week.

Plans to Improve Next Week  
Next week will be some lower mileage.  I’m hoping that the weather might be nice enough for me to enjoy some outdoor time with the boys.  I took a couple days off work to celebrate my birthday, so next week will be a much shorter work week for me than usual.  Definitely not cranky about that.

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