My first race of 2018. I have been busy these past three weeks; not so much with running, but with cross training. Specifically – strength training tailored to runners who want to get faster and stay injury free. Most of the workouts this far have centered around hip, glute, and core strength, and let me tell you that while I still have a lot of work to do in those areas, the work I’ve done this far is definitely starting to pay off!
About the race: Like many mountain bike trails in this area of Florida, Loyce E. Harpe Park (formerly Carter Rd Park) is a former phosphate mining operation. The trail meanders through the woods around man-made ponds.
Many sections reminded me of the trails at Alafia River Park. While the main trail is relatively flat it’s peppered with roots to trip you up if you’re not paying attention. Several “fingers” off of the main trail clamber over piles of rock and dirt left from the former mining operation. These fingers are pretty challenging, and the local MTB club has added berms and other obstacles.
It was a cool 45 degrees at the start, but we all now that it’s only “cold” if you’re standing still. Within five minutes of the start at 8:15 I was nicely warmed up (sweating) and had settled into a comfortable, slow pace. Sadly, the first photo op came too soon and totally unexpected. Hence, THAT face……ugh….
The majority of runners were ahead of me and quickly disappeared out of sight. A few runners behind me fell back quickly as well, and I found myself running solo after mile two. There it was – that peaceful feeling I so enjoy.
The course lead us over a section of flat terrain before we started climbing. Now, this is Florida, so the term “climbing” is relative. To beach bums like me, who run mostly on completely flat roads, these sections might pose a decent challenge, but to the more experienced (and hard core) trail runners this isn’t a big deal. Also – none of these pictures accurately show what the ups and downs are really like; for that I would have had to get creative (crouch or lay down), and I didn’t want to waste my time worrying about photography angles.
Suffice it to say that I felt I had to “work for it” a couple of times, whereas the rest of the course was a more comfortable challenge.
It’s like night and day though, when I compare some of the struggles from past trail races to this one. I’ve gained significant strength from the aforementioned cross-training, and it helped me power through the course.
The terrain was constantly changing: flat, winding, up, down. All on single track. I never got bored, I never thought “oh gosh, when is this over?” 100% fun, from beginning to end. There, see?
Wherever I run, exercising always makes me feel good, but for me the rewards of trail running are totally different, and I think my fellow trail runners would agree. Here’s the thing: regardless of your pace or ability, dealing with elevation changes and tough underfoot conditions or navigational challenges makes you feel that you have done much more than just run from point A to point B. You’ve really conquered something.