Rocky Run Trail 5K

We’ve had an unusually cold, wet spring this year. Not so great for my basil plants (which turned black and died after a week of rain) but very nice for runners like me who prefer cool weather races. I’ve been trying take advantage of this “nice” weather by running as many races as possible, including two trail races last weekend and one this weekend.  That’s a lot of trails! And also a lot of race recaps that I need to catch up on. Here’s the first of three…

On Friday the 13th of May I ran the Rocky Run YMCA’s Trail 5K for the third year in a row. Last year I led the women for the entire race, but then got passed decisively in the final quarter mile. I never knew placing second could feel like such a huge defeat until that moment! This year I vowed to do things differently. I wanted to start out slower to ensure that I’d have energy left at the end. That way I could be the person doing the passing, or at least putting up more of a fight if a woman tried to pass me.

I crossed the start line with a small field of 5K runners at 6:30PM. I had initially thought I’d just tuck in behind whatever woman looked like she was going the fastest, but then I realized that I was that woman so I set off behind the men at a comfortable pace. After 0.4 miles of pavement the course plunged down a hill and entered the woods.

It had rained all week so the steep descent on single-track trails was a slippery, muddy mess. I was very thankful for the big treads on my trail shoes and only found myself reaching out to catch my balance on a tree a few times as I picked my way down the hill. The trail eventually flattened out and the terrain changed to thick, wet, lumpy grass with a few ruts and rocks thrown in for good measure. Definitely better than the mud slide, but still not the easiest footing.

I trudged along, very aware of the fact that I was once again sitting in the first place female spot. That’s a stressful position to be in when you know that you have a huge, muddy uphill waiting for you towards the end of the race! As I neared the turnaround point I could hear a woman close behind me saying “good job!” to the men who were passing us on their way back to the finish. I remember thinking “Uh oh… she must be feeling REALLY good if she’s still talking at this point of the race!!” I hit the turnaround with her about 15 feet behind me and started the long climb back towards the YMCA.

Rocky Run Trail 5K Stats_

The lumpy grass seemed twice as hard to navigate the second time around but I was utterly determined not to give up my lead. With less than a mile to go I passed a little boy and again heard the woman behind me, enthusiastically urging him on as she also passed him. How was she still this cheerful??? (Note to self: talking a lot during a race is a great way to psych out the runner ahead of you!!)

I reached the steep uphill feeling tired and somewhat detached, like my brain was floating through a foggy haze. Even through the haze I could feel how badly I wanted to stay ahead. I pushed up the slope and suddenly emerged out of the woods sooner than I expected. There was still a steep section of parking lot ahead of me, but I was back on firm ground!! At this point last year I had nothing left but this year I actually felt a little surge as my muddy shoes hit the pavement. I powered my way up to the top of the parking lot and looked behind me with 0.3 miles to go… the cheerful woman was nowhere in sight!!!!

Even though I had not seen a woman behind me I wasn’t going to leave my victory to chance. I gave the final loop around the Y’s playing fields everything I had and somehow was able to find enough speed to pass a guy in the last turn of the race. I sprinted across the finish and smiled when I heard the race timer say “first place female!”

Rocky Run post-race

I finished in 26:43. Only 7 seconds faster than last year, but with more challenging conditions and significantly better execution and outcome. I didn’t give up my lead and I fought hard right up to the end. Woohoo!!

My first place prize was a 75 minute massage at the Y. I think I’m going to need it after all of these spring races! Next up: a recap of the Turtle Trot trail 5K that I ran 38 hours after Rocky Run… Continue reading

Double Trail Run Weekend

This weekend I ran TWO 5K trail races and I had a great time!  The first race was the Rocky Run 5K hosted by the Rocky Run YMCA in Media, PA on Friday night.  This race was originally scheduled for May 16th but it had to be postponed due to extremely heavy rainfall (over 2.5″ inches in 8 hours).  Postponing the race was a good call – the extra two weeks gave the winding trails behind the Y time to dry out and Friday’s weather was absolutely perfect.

Annie Rocky Run 5K

The Y’s 5K course started out on a short pavement loop before entering the woods on the Rocky Run Trail.  (This trail is part of a large network of trails in Middletown Township including the Darlington and Linvill Trails… if you’re in the area I’d highly recommend checking them out!)  I’ve spent a lot of time hiking on these trails but I’ve never actually run on them so Friday’s race was a new experience for me.  The first 1 1/2 miles seemed pretty easy and I felt good as I dodged tree roots, mud, and rocks.  At the halfway turnaround I discovered that I was the 2nd place woman (woohoo!) which put some pressure on me to keep up my pace for the second half of the race.  I didn’t know how far behind me the 3rd place woman was, but I do remember the second half of the race feeling MUCH harder than the first half, probably because it was almost entirely uphill!

Rocky Run 5K Runkeeper Stats

The last mile wasn’t pretty, but I held onto my second place spot and finished in 27:40, good enough for 14th overall out of 88 runners, 2nd place female, and 1st in my age group.  The overall female winner was actually also in my age group but I got the AG award since she got the overall award.  🙂  The Rocky Run 5K marked the first time I’ve won an actual prize in a race — a $25 gift certificate to a local running store!! — and also helped me realize that I might REALLY like trail runs!

After my great off-road experience on Friday night, I decided to sign up for another local trail race on Sunday morning.  This race was Radnor Conservancy’s Race for Open Space 5K Trail Run.  It was held at the Willows mansion/park in Villanova, PA which is actually where my parents got married back in 1983!  Despite the Willows only being about 20 minutes from my house I’ve never actually been there, so it was pretty neat to visit the alcove and gardens that I’ve only ever seen in old wedding portraits.  I was surprised to discover that my parents’ wedding ceremony site is now a parking lot… I guess modern-day weddings happen somewhere else on the property??

Much like the Rocky Run 5K, the Race for Open Space started on a short stretch of pavement before entering the woods on winding, hilly trails.  My Runkeeper App couldn’t get a good GPS signal during the race and it reported that I had already run 5 miles after only 7:46 had elapsed.  Whoops!  The Runkeeper app continued to malfunction throughout the race (at one point it told that my mile split was 81 miles per hour!!) but it was useful just to know the race time even if the miles were way off.  I thought that this course seemed harder than the Rocky Run course so I was pleasantly surprised when I finished in 25:49… nearly 2 minutes faster than Friday’s time.  Yay!!

My 25:49 finish was good enough for 31st overall out of 96 runners, 10th place female, and 1st place in my age group.  🙂  Considering that I had not originally been planning to run any races this weekend, I was pretty thrilled with how my two trail races turned out.  Now I really can’t wait to do the Run-A-Muck trail race in September… I have a feeling that I am going to be able to improve significantly on my 35+ minute time from last year!!

My next race is the Media 5 Miler on June 20th.  This is a road race (which should feel easy after tree roots, rocks and mud!) and, with over 1500 runners, it will be the biggest race that I’ve run in so far.  Less than 3 weeks to go!

Miles since last post:  53.8
Days since last post:  13
Avg. Daily Miles since 7/18/13: 4.81
2014 TOTAL MILES: 721.3

Related Posts:
•  Run for Victory 5K (5/18/14)
•  Elwyn 5K (5/3/14)
•  St. Tim’s 5K (4/26/14)
•  Rick’s Run 5K (4/19/14)
•  Las Vegas Security 5K (4/3/14)
•  Color Out Cancer 5K (3/30/14)
•  Athlete’s Closet March 5 Miler (3/1/14)
•  Athlete’s Closet February 5K (2/1/14)
•  Athlete’s Closet January 5K (1/4/14)
•  New Year’s Eve 5K at the YMCA (12/31/13)
•  Athlete’s Closet December 5K (12/14/13)
•  Turkey Trot 5K (11/28/13)
•  Trinity Presbyterian 5K (11/2/13)
•  Oy Vey 5K (10/27/13)
•  Fueled Up & Fired Up 5K (10/19/13)
•  Run-A-Muck 5K (9/22/13)
•  The Challenge Begins: 100 Mile iPad Mini Challenge (7/23/13)