This past Sunday, I did my first trail run and first run-only event since triathlon season started last February. I had no idea what to expect despite speaking to several people who had done the race before. The Guana Preserve 50k and 12k has previously been held in the spring but has since been moved to October. It was a picture perfect Sunday for a race, the only thing that was different was the 1pm start for the 12k racers.
On the website, the race organizers said they wanted us to finish with the 50k racers but really, most of them were done and for those who were finishing their 4th lap on the trail, I’m sure they didn’t appreciate the fresh legged athletes sprinting past them when they had been trudging around the trails all day. Regardless, the late start was definitely different but I did enjoy sleeping in, cooking breakfast and catching up on some tv.
I made my way to Guana Preserve around noon and paid my race fee, picked up my shirt and tried to make sense of what I was getting myself into. Not knowing anybody at the race, I went back to my car to put the shirt away and kind of just waste time. I went back to the race finish where the clock was set up and a handful of people were either washing the dirt and grime off of their feet or were waiting for racers to come in. There was a Vibram shoes tent set up but other than that, there was nothing to check out so I made my way over to the pavilion where a guy who clearly had been running all day was packing up his stuff confirmed with me that I hadn’t raced yet. He was clued in by my clean, spot free 110% compression socks. We proceeded to talk about the mud and water on the course and he advised me that I may not want to wear my socks on the course if I cared about them. I thanked him for the heads up and made my way back to the car, debating what I should do.
Of course, just the weekend before, I had actually cleaned out my car and therefore had no left over socks from workouts or golf. I decided to forgo the compression socks and run sock less. I have run in my Saucony Kinvara 2 several times without socks but always with Body Glide on my feet and no more than 4 miles. I learned my first lesson of trail running:
1. Be prepared for anything. Bring multiple socks, shoes, clothes, etc.
Eventually the race organizers rounded up the 12k racers and had us follow them to the start line. Good thing someone led us because the start line was no where to be found! As we got there, several of us commented on how this was our first trail run and how we would have never found the start line. The group snaked through the woods but luckily I was towards the front of the line as the race organizer was anxious to get things started despite no announcements or instructions.
I of course asked if there was anything we should know (I thought it was rather poor of the organizers to assume everyone knew the routes, water stops, etc especially when it was many people’s first time and their website had zero information). The organizer replied with “follow the signs, there are two water stops, and watch out for wild pigs, snakes, and other animals.” Good to know! With that response, he counted to three and we were off!
I enjoyed the first couple of miles as the trail was dry, shaded and completely different scenery for me to run in. I ran the entire course alone except for the times when there was a turnaround ahead and I passed a couple of competitors. I didn’t run with any music and I’m glad I didn’t as I think it would have diminished my experience in the woods.
About half way through the race, mud started to appear in some places but for the most part you could get around on the sides. It wasn’t until 5.5 miles in did I understand why the guy was concerned about my compression socks. There was knee deep, standing water that stretched the entire width of the trail and covered about 10 feet or so. There was no way of going around that mess, so I took a deep breath, tried not to think of what could be swimming in the water and “ran” through the water. There were several of these standing water spots on the trail which left my shoes completely soaked, heavy and full of muddy debris. Just what my feet needed to deal with!
As the race went on, my pace slowed and the arch in my left foot started to bother me every time my foot landed. I tried to push it out of my mind and to continue to tell myself that this race was just a training day and not a true “race” for me. I was definitely happy when I came out of the single track trail and closed in on the finish line.
I finished the slightly long course in 1 hour and 15 minute. My Garmin recorded the distance as 7.74 miles instead of the 7.47 miles but really it doesn’t matter. My legs felt good after the race but I knew in a couple of hours that my foot was not going to be fun to deal with. After the race, I hung around to down some water, eat some pretzels and collect my mug for finishing first in my age group. I finished 14th overall and was the 4th woman. Before getting into my car, I took some pictures of the muddiness as I didn’t dare take them off until I got home so the debris would stay out of the car.
Considering I did one lap of the Guana Preserve trail, I have no idea how the participants of the 50k did 4 laps of that muddiness! I would have blisters and cuts all over the place! Second lesson learned:
2. Bring a plastic bag for post race shoes and flip flops to drive home in
When I got home, Memphis thought I smelled great and was super excited to see me. Mind you, the dog loves rolling in smelly things so I didn’t think it was because he was glad I was home after leaving him alone for a couple of hours.
After I showered, I confirmed my suspicions, a nice blister had formed on my arch or lack thereof. My left foot is almost completely flat as my left leg is slightly (.25″) shorter than my right due to fracturing my femur when I was 13 and it getting in the way of my growth plates.
As Sunday night wore on and turned into Monday, my foot became sorer and sorer the more I walked on it. I had to drain it several times and change the bandages. Prior to going to bed last night though, as I went to remove the blister bandaid, the skin was so soaked that it came off with the bandaid. Today really sucked walking around as it felt like my foot could split open at any second and my arch was always on fire.
Unfortunately, the hole in the picture is only part of the blister as the rest of the skin is still intact but very painful and tender. Oh the joys of running sock less in wet shoes!
Final thoughts on the race
I would do this race again but would wear different shoes and my compression calf sleeves instead of my awesome 110% socks. I would also wear a fuel belt so I could carry more water as I have been drinking a lot more water on my runs recently. Something to note for my higher mileage runs as I approach the Subaru half and the Ragnar Relay race. I also would try to recruit a friend to do the race as its just not as much fun when you don’t know anyone prior to toeing the line. Overall, I enjoyed the experience and now have a new place to run!
If you are ever in the Jacksonville, St. Augustine area check out the Guana Preserve Park for fishing, biking, walking and running trails as well as several beach access locations.
Final lessons learned:
3. Recruit friends for new races especially when you won’t know anyone
4. Keep an extra Body Glide stick in the car as well as socks
5. Don’t over think the standing water, just plow through it!
6. Trail times and road times will be different, so just run your race