The Afton 25K Trail Race officially marks my one year anniversary of trail running! Last year's run was my first trail race ever - in 100 degree heat - and I was hooked! With my relative inexperience trail running, I typically have no idea what to expect as far as pace or finish time because the terrain of each course is so different. This was the first race where I actually had last year's "time to beat" while running the same course.
The weather was great - probably in the low 70's when we started. Certainly more comfortable than last year! The first several miles through the Africa Loop, Back 40, more Africa Loop, and down to the third aid station felt great! I was trying to keep up with my hydration strategy, but was falling a little behind. I kept to the plan of an S cap every hour starting at the 30 minute mark and a Clif Shot at 1 and 2 hours into the run. Just couldn't chug the Heed as much as I'd originally planned, and my stomach was starting to feel a little "off".
By the time I got to the top of Nigel's hill, my foot and knees were feeling pretty sore. WTF? I expected the tendonitis in my foot to act up a little, but the knees haven't been this sore since my alpine ski racing days. Down Nigel's, then up and over the top of the Campground Hill. I actually stopped to pee at the top of the campground, so I figured I would be fine drinking less Heed than anticipated.
After the Campground Hill comes the long, flat, easy trail that runs parallel to the St. Croix River. I don't know why I dread this section - it should be viewed as a gift on a course as hilly and challenging as Afton - but it feels like a death march even though it's only 1+ miles in length.
Going up Meat Grinder, I realized that my lack of conditioning was catching up to me. My legs were starting to run out of gas, my stomach was feeling bloated, I was having side stitches, but my foot and knees were feeling better. Reaching the last aid station, I dawdled a little and ate a few orange slices. Refilled the water bottle with Heed for the last time and headed off for the final 3 miles.
The Snow Shoe loop is probably my favorite section of the course. I like single track through the woods, and this is a fun little trail. Eve came flying past me somewhere in this section and broke her own course record for the 50K. She is amazing! By now I was having some trouble with my calves cramping on the uphills and had to slow down to a walk through much of this section. I think my cramping problems this time were simply fatigue rather than dehydration or electrolyte imbalances. My hands weren't swollen at all, but my stomach was still feeling yucky. Man, I was hoping I wouldn't do the good ol' yawn in technicolor!
Finally popped out of the woods for the short little jaunt to the finish line. By now even running on flat terrain was causing my calves to cramp, so I basically limped home. I was pretty disappointed to see that my final time was about 15 minutes slower than last year :( I knew that I was deconditioned since I'd been laying low to rest my foot, but I felt like I was running faster than last year's super heated version. Oh well - I've got a vendetta for next year ;)
Special thanks to RD John and his awesome crew of volunteers! This is one of the best run races anywhere, and it takes a small army to pull off putting on such a quality event. The t-shirts and finishers medals are awesome, as were the awards. Congrats John and Afton crew!
My post race ritual involved icing my foot, eating pizza, drinking beer (needed to get a bicep workout in), and watching Running On the Sun - a documentary about the Badwater 135 mile run from Death Valley to the top of Mt. Whitney. Highly recommended viewing, not so sure about running it ;)
Today my foot is a little sore and stiff, but doing well enough that I think I can start trying to get some miles in. Only 2 months 'til Moose Mountain, so I've gotta get my muscle endurance up!
1 day ago