April 27, 2014 I just did the Lake Minneola half marathon yesterday. I didn’t push myself too hard in that race because I knew I was going to be running again today. This race is a trail race. It’s my first time doing a trail run and I have no idea what to expect. I am trying to have an open mind about it but, I would be lying if I said I wasn’t nervous.
I found this race randomly while searching for nearby half marathons. In fact, I think I found it on the Half Fanatics website (if you aren’t a member of HF, you should definitely see if you qualify and join. HF is a great group of runners who are just crazy about half marathons.) It seemed like something fun and it is definitely out of my comfort zone, so I jumped on the chance.
I had to drive about an hour and a half to get to the venue; a nature preserve outside of Orlando towards Port Canaveral. I also had to get my packet since I was unable to pick it up during early pick up; I registered too late to do early pick up. I got to the park and only waited in line for a couple of minutes. While I was waiting, I noticed the tables where runners could sign their waivers had cans of bug spray on them. Sadly, I thought about sunscreen but not bug spray. I made a mental note to make sure I sprayed some on my arms and legs before I took off for the run.
I got my packet and headed back to my car to put my extra stuff away. I also wanted to get my stuff for my check bag. MOAT (Masters of All Terrain) pulled a page from the ultra races and let runners check a bag that would be available at the halfway point. I had some extra nutrition and hydration since I wasn’t sure what would be available along the course. I also had some clean socks just in case it was wet on the trail. Lastly, I threw my sunscreen in my bag just in case.
There were quite a few runners out for this race. I wasn’t sure what to expect so I think I was a bit surprised at how many people there really were. There was also two races; the half and a five mile (I think) race. The half took off first and we were told to follow the trail marked with a certain color (blue, I think). Everyone took off. I am generally a middle-of-the-pack runner, but I stayed a little slower because I didn’t want to tire myself out too quickly or hurt myself. I wanted to make sure I paced myself and stayed comfortable.
The first bit took us through some sand. Running through sand is hard and I am thankful that I have on trail shoes that give me a little bit more traction than my regular shoes. I move to the side where the sand is more packed but it is still difficult. It is very easy to burn your legs out running in sugar sand. Once I’m through the sand, we turn into a field where we run down, across, and then back. Once we get to the end, we cross a drainage/retention area. We have to go down a slope, cross over some rocks that are covered in water and they are somewhat slippery, and then climb up an incline. Then we head into the woods.
Once we’re in the woods, it’s easy to lose concept of direction. I’m not alone as I see people ahead of me and can hear people as they come up behind me. But, it is relatively quiet. I do have my music on but I only have it one ear (this is how I run nearly every race). I don’t keep my music loud as it’s really just background for me.
It’s very pretty along the trail. While it’s mostly woods around us, the trail has been mowed down by four wheelers and such. We have a pretty wide “track” to run. There are some really shady places thanks to huge trees. But it is also humid. The trees and heavy roughage make it kind of steamy from the humidity.
I have my Garmin set for 1/1 intervals. I’m running them and trying not to push myself too hard on the run sections. I don’t know what may be ahead of me on the trail so I want to conserve some for the end. And, I’m on semi-tired legs from my half yesterday.
There are a couple of water stops along the way. But, I am very happy to make it to the halfway point. My bag is there waiting. I grab my extra nutrition and my (mostly frozen) hydration. I eat quickly so I can throw the trash in the bag before I leave the water stop. I don’t want to have to carry the trash with me to the next stop wherever that may be.
I am able to get a little bit of drink out of my bottle. But, it is mostly still frozen. That is OK by me though because the cold bottle feels nice on my neck and face. And, since it is pretty hot, I know it won’t take it too long to thaw out.
I make it to the next loop and my grab some water there. My bottle is still frozen but it has thawed enough that I was able to get some electrolytes in my system. When I get back to this point, I’ll be at roughly mile 12.
I’m hanging with another runner. We chatted and I learned that he did the Haines City 70.3 (half Ironman). I asked him about his experience because I want to start doing triathlons (or at least give them a try <—pun intended!). He tells me all about it as we continue on. Eventually, I keep going and he falls off of my interval pace. At this point, we’re in a big open field and the sun is right in our faces. It is very hot and I am just trying to keep moving so I can get the sun out of my face.
I finally make it back to the checkpoint and my water bottle is now empty. I grab a quick drink of water from the table and discard my empty bottle and my cup. That was the last stop before the finish line.
I keep moving although I’m not keeping my intervals quite as steady as I had at the beginning. I know I’m getting close though. I make one final turn and there are some other runners walking towards me. They offer words of encouragement and let me know that the finish is just ahead. I give it one last push and make it to the finish line.
I wait for the volunteers to cut my timing tag off my shoe before I finally check my time on my Garmin. Just under three hours; SUCCESS! My goal had been to do the trail in under three hours and my official finish time was 2:58:38. I get some water and look for the post-race food. The tents aren’t really labeled so I am not sure what each tent is. I found a little bit to eat but nothing that really made me feel nourished. Then I saw that one of the tents had a vendor making smoothies. I got a strawberry and spinach smoothie with vanilla protein. It was delicious. It was just what I needed.
When I finally made it back to my car and took my shoes off, I noticed all the dirt in my toenails and the blisters on my toes and at my heels. I had felt some small pebbles or dirt in my shoes but didn’t think much of it. Apparently, I should have thought more of it and stopped. Actually, I should have worn different socks (maybe taller) or something that would have helped prevent this kind of stuff from getting in my shoes altogether. Lesson learned. Trail running requires slightly different gear.
Running on a trail is a completely different experience than running a road race. Running the trail required me to be more conscious of my foot placement. While this particular trail wasn’t too bad, I can imagine that some trails have much more uneven terrain (i.e. tree roots and such). I didn’t have to run looking down but I couldn’t look as much ahead as I do in a road race. It was challenging and I would definitely take on this challenge again.
If I did this race again, I would definitely bring my own nutrition and hydration. Having my check bag at the halfway point was great. But, I would also bring something for after the race. The post-race food was minimal at best. I never actually found what was supposed to be for the runners because the tents weren’t marked. I would also make sure I had some socks or something that would help prevent the dirt and/or small pebbles from causing me blisters (or I’d just be sure to change socks at the checkpoint).
Overall, though, this was a very good race and I enjoyed it. The course was planned nicely so that we hit the same water stops multiple times. And, since it has been fairly dry lately, the course wasn’t muddy or wet (I am glad by this). As I said, I think I will likely do this one again assuming it fits in my schedule.
Four months down and I’m almost halfway to my goal of 52 races. MOAT was race #24 and half/full #9. Race pickings are getting slim for the summer so I’m glad I’ve gotten as far as I have. Next weekend is Expedition Everest at Walt Disney World. I’m excited because I’ve never done this race and I’ve been intrigued by it since I first heard about it a couple of years ago. I think it’s going to be fun!
Food: ~$30 (breakfast, smoothie and real food after the race)