I was off the Disabled List (DL) on Thurs., February 21st. As MM mentioned, what better way to get back into the swing of things than jumping right back into a race. I can't say that it's the smartest thing to do really. I haven't been doing much in the way of maintaining my physical fitness over the last several weeks save for a few swimming sessions and a couple of short walks. I did run 5.5 miles earlier in the week which I felt pretty good about. Of course this was on a treadmill where it was flat and smooth, very much unlike the course I set about doing.
Installment 3 of the Winter Trail Run Series was this Saturday, the 23rd. The distance was 18K, about 11 or so miles. I volunteered the last time around, but I suited up for this one and headed out to Blue Jay Campground to meet Baz, the race director and 107 other starters. Among those running were OCTR mates Chaz, Greg, Keira, Kevin, iMichelle, Michelle M., Beiyi, Leon, and Corinne. I met L.T. who wasn't racing due a couple of serious blisters on his heels, but was still there to lend his support nonetheless. Kirk was there also tugging along a couple of his kids.
At about 8:30, and with temperatures in the high 30s F (brrrr), Baz gave us the go signal. I started out slowly and in the back of the pack. My plan for the day was to take it easy and just get my lungs and trail legs back. It didn't take long (maybe less than 2 miles) before the hills revealed to me the extent of how out of shape I was. My breathing was labored and my calves and quads were already burning. I had to slow down a bit. Any sort of incline, however minimal, was reason for me to walk. About three runners passed me, but that's ok, I thought. I reminded myself that this is just a training run. Still there's something about racing that lights any runner's competitive fire. Whenever another racer showed up ahead of me, I would slowly inch my way up to them, shadow them, and when it felt right (usually on the downhill), I would pass them.
Despite my heavy legs, it felt great to be out on the trails again; it has been a while. The last race I ran was the SB 9 Trails back in November. Negotiating my way on the course, I felt at home. The rhythmic sound of every trail step was like meditation. It was very zen-like really. Things that might've been bothering me over the last couple of weeks fell by the way side. Being alone out in the woods for a few stretches at a time was just pure, unadulterated, utter bliss. How's that for redundancy? Hmm... I gotta remember this paragraph next time someone asks me why I run.
About 2 hours and 12 minutes into the race, I crossed the finish line, happy that despite the tough terrain for which these hills are known for, I ran the race pain-free. I was tired, but I know that with regular training, I'll get my racing fitness level back up again within a few weeks.
Photos courtesy of Wolfman aka L.T.