I conquered my goal of running the Palo Duro Trail Run 20K last weekend. And, let me tell you, it was much harder than I anticipated. The fact that my allergies were in full swing, and I didn’t have full lung capacity because of it, made it much more difficult. I don’t usually wheeze and lose my breath by just walking. Thanks ragweed, you’re an a-hole. Anyway, I knew it would be a challenge, but I wasn’t truly prepared for the ups and downs of the trail. I think after this experience I can say that I’m mostly a road runner. I saw glimpses of the road during the race and longed for just a little pavement. I got some…like 20 feet. A few points on the course spit us out onto the road for just a taste of asphalt, then ushered us back onto the trail. Thanks for the tease.
We started out at 7:30, just as the sun was about to peak over the canyon. Pretty, huh? The first 3 miles or so were pretty easy. I was thinking to myself how silly I was for being nervous about this race. But hey, I’m nervous before any race. But, I can do this! It’s like a road race but with dirt and trees. Cake.
By the time we (my running partner Tisha and I) got to about mile 4, I had taken back what I said about this being easy. What the crap?! It was a long climb up the canyon wall and then back down again…over and over and over. As you can guess, this continued for many miles. Sometimes the ups and downs were short and sweet; sometimes they were long and bitchy. There were 4 water/aid stations along the course and they stocked the absolute best snacks I’ve ever seen on a race. Road race organizers, take note! In addition to the usual Gatorade and water, there was Coke (yes, Coke), PB&J sandwich squares, sliced bananas, date bars, M&M’s, potato chips, and more. It was the best water stop EVAR. And the volunteers were so friendly and encouraging. You could tell they really cared about this event. I think trail runners are in a completely different mind-set than road runners, and they’re so much friendlier too. I’m sure it has something to do with competition. Its just a different culture. At the aid station about mile 9, there was a very friendly mama deer that let us feed her bananas. It was very cool.
Speaking of mile 9…the Staircase of Death. I could see myself plummeting to my own death. Or, at least a broken ankle. Our legs were already a bit shaky. That, coupled with a stair-stepping, nearly vertical decent down to a clearing where a photographer was waiting was unnerving. The placement of the photo op is highly questionable. Everyone either looked scared or relieved to have reached the bottom without death or injury. Not my best angle! You have to step nicely, one careful foot at a time, whilst holding onto tree branches for dear life. I slipped a couple times and Tisha’s yelling at me not to fall because she didn’t have any bandaids. Duly noted. One runner bounded past us and ran down the Staircase of Death. He reached the bottom without incident. Boing! Boing! Boing! Crazy bastard.
By about mile 11, I was pretty exhausted and ready to wrap this thing up. We were working on over 3 hours on trail and I was hoping to cross the finish line under 4 hours. By this point, I was relieved and pleased with myself that I’d only chosen to do the 20K “fun run,” instead of the 50K or the 50 Mile. I couldn’t even imagine. The 50K consisted of a 6-mile trail and 2 loops of the 20K trail. The 50 Mile consisted of 4 loops of the 20K trail. Screw that. I’m in awe of anyone that can do those kind of miles, but I’m ill-equipped and simply don’t have the ambition. Plus, I’m not crazy.
A good portion of the second half of the trail consisted of walking. I was coughing so much I’d worn myself out. I mustered some energy because I was not walking through the finish line! We rounded the corner and there we saw all our friends that had finished before us cheering and waving. I love that part. It really gets me going. We were still about 200 yards or so from the finish and I had to walk for a minute to catch my breath. I was wheezing pretty hard and the chest congestion was really affecting me. After I caught my breath for a few seconds, I was able to run the rest of the way in.
Finished...finally! My Garmin said we came in at 3:57:24. I’m ok with that time because so many factors weren’t in my favor of getting a good time. Namely, it was a trail run and not a road run, and I was sick. Less than 4 hours was my goal and I made it…just barely! Where are the cheeseburgers and beer??
Afterward I was utterly exhausted and my dependable Zyrtec-D was barely keeping me sane. The canyon is a truly gorgeous place, but the pollen attacked me fiercely. I think if the temperature would’ve been about 10-20 degrees cooler, it would’ve been easier on me. Once it gets cool, most of my fall allergies diminish. I think I would like to do this trail again next year, but it will have to be cooler to help quell some of the airborne pollen. While I had a great time and tried to put on my happy face most of the weekend, I was miserable a lot of the time and NyQuil became my evening booze of choice. I hate nature so hard in the fall.
Thanks to my awesome boyfriend for coaching and encouraging me throughout this process. You rock my face off. And, thanks to my running partner, Tisha, who kept me going with conversation, jokes and laughs during the race. I couldn’t have done it without you both.
I now have a new goal and since I’m already trained up for a half marathon, I’m registering for the Las Vegas Half in December.
What’s next? Who knows.