And the first of my 4 fall races
Sunday was the first of four races I will be doing this fall. It was the Sloppy Cuckoo 6.55 mile trail run held in Pennypack Park in Philadelphia. The other 3 races are two half marathons and a 10k, all of which are road races. When I signed up for this race my intention was that this would be a good practice race and aid in my training and that it would be fun. This race was host to both a 6.5 mile and a 13.1 which consisted of a double loop. We stuck with the 6.5.
I hadn’t taken this race too serious since it is a trail run and the idea behind it was “fun”. It was not fun at all! It was terrible! All of the training I do is on paved roads. Granted I do add hills into the mix, this was an awful experience. It had poured rain the night before so there was a lot of mud on the course. Many people sign up for mud runs, which are fun but not when this little path with rocks and leaves covered in wet mud. I enjoyed the first 2 miles, soaking in the scenery. The trail runs along the Pennypack Creek which was flowing rapid due to the previous night’s rain.
I knew that I started out too quickly. I allowed the excitement of the race to get the best of me. In most races it would be easy to slow down and get back into your desired pace. This was not so easy. The trail was so narrow that to slow down would keep all the runners behind me from running their pace. It wasn’t before long that Katrina had passed me. My goal was to stay on pace and not fall apart. We were running around these huge mud puddles until I finally decided that since I wore my old sneakers I would run through them. I felt like I was using more energy to avoid them then if I just ran right through it.
I managed to run non-stop for the first 3 miles. I stopped at the first water station. Already my glutes and the back of my quads were on fire so I knew the rest of this race was going to be a huge challenge. I must have slept funny the night before because my lower back was giving me a bit of pain. I figured once I started running it would go away but it was pronounced with every step I took. I ran into Jess at the water station and we started to run together. At the next hill I lost her as I felt the need to power walk up it.
The top of this hill found us running along this flat, open field where the path was extremely narrow and muddy. There was so much grass growing into the trial that it became hard to see where you were running. I wondered how did anyone discover this trail. It wasn’t before long that we were back in the woods again. It was somewhere between miles 4 and 5 that I started to pick up speed. The trail was extremely twisting and you’d run straight for maybe 3 feet before making a sharp turn. I felt like I was weaving a sweater. I’m not sure why but I was flying at this point.
Then around Mile 5 I hit it, another hill. A long and steep hill. I started to run and then decided I would cover as much ground walking fast than I would running and would conserve some energy. I never fell on this path but there were a few close calls. I did one of those trip maneuvers where it looks like you’re about to fall but you catch yourself.
“Are you ok up there?” a guy behind me yelled. I stuck both of my thumbs up to signal I was ok.
The last mile and a half was brutal. The path kept leading up, and up, and up. What gives? I though to myself and I quickly found myself singing “What goes up, must come down…” I was also uttering a few obscenities to myself and maybe one of them was out loud. My general consensus was “enough of this $h!t, already!” I kept checking my Garmin to see how much further I had to go. It wasn’t before long I could hear people in the parking lot and it wasn’t long after that I started to recognize the road we drove in on and the parking lot. I was near the finish.
I remember telling myself to look good coming across the finish line. My wife and friends would all be there cheering, and they were. I gave them all a smile and a thumbs up as I came across the finish line. My wife was the first to great me, telling me how proud of me she was.
“How was it?” she asked
“It SUCKED!” I replied
“Ha-ha! The girls said the same thing!”
I managed to finish in 1 hour, 30 minutes. I was expecting my finish time to be 1:20 and considering I walked a few of those hills I’ll take it. I know I give this run a lot of negative press but it was fun in a challenging way. The weather was beautiful during the race and I did take the time, while running along side the creek, to briefly close my eyes and smile. I made sure to take in the beauty of my surroundings and to try and focus on my deep breathing. I also love the way my legs feel the day after. It’s a sign that I got a really good workout in!
On a final note, we ended with a celebration at my place that involved a pumpkin beer tasting. We sampled close to 17 different pumpkin beers (2 oz. samples each) and had a great time doing so. I’m back to running this week and enjoying some of the finer fruits of life and then it’s buckle down time. Oct. 1st marks the start of “Sober October”, a month on the dry as I near my half marathon.
I opted out of taking my phone on this run. It is called the “Sloppy” Cuckoo, after all so I thought it wise to not bring it during the run. Here are some photos we took, and that others took.