My first double digit trail run

On Saturday morning I headed up to Pandapas Pond for a long trail run. My early March trail half marathon, which will be my first-ever trail race, is quickly approaching. I feel like I haven’t gotten enough time on trails, particularly long runs, to prepare for this race. This run definitely helped me feel a bit more prepared, but also has me quite nervous about what I’ve gotten myself into.

I parked and headed for the Poverty Creek Trail. There are signs at the trailhead that indicate how muddy it is and if it is marked high they ask you to choose a different trail to avoid damaging the trails. The trail was marked high, but the ground was frozen so I decided to run there as planned. I quickly found out that the mud was indeed frozen on the trail, so I don’t think I was doing any damage by running there. I also quickly found out how difficult it is to run on frozen mud that has footprints and tire tracks in it. It’s like running on tree roots.

I wasn’t really feeling it for the first two miles or so, but then I settled in to my run a bit. The trail I chose to run on has three creek crossings each way. It was lightly snowing and just below freezing outside, so I really wanted to avoid getting my feet wet. When I arrived at the first crossing, I found that there was a downed tree. I was able to walk across it balance beam-style both times, without falling in. Which is good since the creek was deeper there than the spot you’d typically cross.

See that deep section under the tree where you can’t see any rocks?

The second creek crossing was smaller and I was able to jump it both ways. On the way back, it was an uphill jump so it took a bit more effort. But I couldn’t find any way around the third creek crossing and ended up getting my feet wet up to my ankles in both directions. I tried to stay on the rocks somewhat, but the rushing water made my feet slip off.

About a mile after my three creek crossings, I hit my turn around point. I stopped and had a vanilla Honey Stinger gel. This was the first time I’ve tried this brand, and I really liked the flavor. It was as thick as Gu, which I didn’t used to like, but now I do.

As I headed back, my legs started to feel very fatigued. I had to walk a few times on some of the hills but I kept moving. On my way back I saw a couple of other runners, a pair of mountain bikers, and a couple walking their dogs. It was nice to see some other signs of life after not seeing anyone for over an hour and 20 minutes.

Just before mile 9, I rolled my left ankle twice within 10 steps. The first time I caught myself and kept going. But the second time, I tried to push off with my right foot as my left ankle was rolling to keep it from happening. But instead my right calf cramped and my left ankle rolled completely. I may or may not have yelled out the “S” word, but luckily no one was around to witness it or my ridiculous flailing. Shortly after that, I made it back to the parking lot, but I was only at 9 miles. I had planned to return to my car at this point to refill my water bottle, and it proved to be a good plan as I had run out of water. I quickly poured more water into my handheld water bottle and then headed back out on Horse Nettle trail, before I could change my mind and call it good at 9 miles. I was tired enough to do so.

But I really would have been kicking myself later if I had cut my run short with just that mile to go. One more mile, right? It wasn’t awful, but I was so done when my watch finally hit 10 miles. It took me a little over 2 hours to cover 10 miles on the trails, so I’m hoping I should be able to complete my upcoming trail half marathon in less than 3 hours.

This run definitely gave me a better idea of what to expect for a long distance run on trails. Hopefully I can get one more in before March.

Have you ever run/rode a bike on frozen mud? What did you think?
I don’t know how the mountain bikers were riding on that stuff.
  

7 Comments

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  1. Nice work! Early March seems really early in the season for a trail race. If they did that here, all the trails would be snowy/icy or just wet messes of mud. Glad you got a good run in; hope that ankle is OK!

    1. It’s looking like it may be that way here, too. If the race is hilly (I have no idea of the course) I am in big trouble!

  2. 9 miles on trails is a HUGE accomplishment!! I’ve read that your long runs should be measured in minutes and not miles. In that case, this was a very long run! And froze mud, yes, very familiar. Ouch.

    1. Well then I definitely put in a good long run, with over 130 minutes of running. 🙂

  3. Frozen mud is no fun, although I think I prefer it to NOT frozen mud. Not a big fan of either. Sounds like it was a pretty tough run with lots of river crossings! Which trail race are you doing?

    1. True! NOT frozen mud sometimes tries to suck the shoes off of my feet, which is no fun. I am training for the Green Legs & Hamstrings Half Marathon in Danville!

  4. You described frozen mud perfectly. I agree that it’s as annoying and dangerous as tree roots. Way to go on your trail run. That sounds like a perfect summer run! It’s probably cool in the woods and the creek crossings would cool you off! I can’t wait to run there!

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