Castlewood Cup 15K Trail Race

People have creatively nicknamed some of the hills in Castlewood Park and the 15K trail race had us going up heart attack hill and running the roller coaster.  The race course started out with a run across a field and then we headed to the single track path.  The past few weeks Iíd had the pleasure of getting in some practice runs at Castlewood with my friends Rick and Steve. Trail running in my opinion is as good as it gets. Once while we ran the Riverscene Trail we head an Eagle cry high above us as and another time we saw a magnificent Red Tailed Hawk.  Running alone or in a small group you feel at one with nature, experiencing a mini vacation there on the trail. In fact itís rather odd to see so much humanity out there on race day. 

I suppose I am spoiled by trail running because when I am forced to run on a treadmill I find myself horribly bored. Everything on a treadmill remains constant except speed and incline in contrast with being out on a trail where you are vigilantly watching your step.  Rocks, sticks, roots, gullies all randomly appear beneath your feet. The trail goes up and down, bending with switchbacks through changing vegetation. One minute youíre deep in the forest the next youíre dancing on the edge of a ravine looking down at a pretty little stream.  It takes mindful concentration to look at the beautiful views around you while at the same time watching where your foot lands.

The race was 9.3 miles which is too long to sprint. Thereís a temptation to get sucked into a fast pace at the beginning of a race only to crash and burn later. I decided that I would work towards finding that sweet spot, you know the pace you feel like you could run all day and I would run that for the first six miles. Around the fourth mile as the field broke apart I found myself at the back of a pack of five runners. The pace was comfortably hard so I trailed with them until thud; a big guy in position three goes flying face first into the dirt. He and his friend took a moment so I moved into the third spot.  We ran together in a bunch until a bit before the seventh mile where I told the two leaders I was going to see what I had left as passed them. 

The best part of the race happens around mile 8 when you run through a creek.  If you ever have the opportunity to do a creek crossing, go for it! You never really know what you can do until you try.  With only a little over a mile to go I was running a pace that was difficult to keep. The trail ended and runners spill out onto the road where the race volunteers direct you to the same field marked with flags that wraps you back around to the finish.  It was here that I noticed a woman in front of me.  I wasnít sure if she was a competitor in my age group but I found a tiny bit more to give and pushed harder. Little by little I was closing the gap and it was hard. We took a turn that would circle us back to the finish line and that is where I went around and passed her. Sometimes you work so hard that you feel like throwing up and that was how I felt for a moment coming into the finish. Ugh.

When I finished those 9.3 miles there was no doubt in my mind that I had done my best. I had nothing left to give and oddly enough I felt free. I was free of doubt that I could have done better, should have made different strategic choices or would have  paced differently. Could have, would have, should haves were not going to haunt me because I had done my best on that day with what I had at that time.  I had no control over how the other runners performed or how I stacked up against them.  I could only do my best which is a good way to face other situations in life. Relationships with parents, teachers, husbands, friends and our children are just some of the areas of our life where we have the choice of doing our best, giving our all and have no control of the outcome.  Funny thing about this race was that I came in second place in my age group, remember that gal I passed at the end? It appears that she was in my age and came in six seconds behind me.  Really though, regardless of the final pecking order, I won because I pushed past the discomfort and stuck it out until the end.