I love running races as part of my training because it is always the boost that I need to be surrounded by other runners. It also makes me push myself harder. Both of these elements were true this past Saturday when I ran the Sawnee Showdown 8.9 mile trail race. I signed up for Sawnee Showdown because some of my favorite trail friends had signed up, and the trail is right down the street from my old high school stomping grounds.
This was the inaugural race, and the race director did a fabulous job, from communication to course marking and prizes. The race started at 8 am, but I showed up at 7:15 to make sure that I could get parking. Cadence has been congested (welcome to cold season!), so just like normal, I didn’t get a lot of sleep the night before the race.
The sun was just coming up when I arrived, and it was stunning. The wind was picking up and bringing a cold front with it. The temps started in the mid-forties and continued to drop as the morning progressed, but it turned out to be perfect running weather. The wind was also good to blow the forest fire smoke out of the area for the race. I don’t remember smelling it at all.
The race started like most trail races where everyone walks into the parking lot, the RD gives a few instructions and then yells “GO” and we all file onto a single track. I started near the front with some of my friends. While this was not a goal race, I knew that I wanted to run at a good effort to justify using it as a training run.
From the start, it was apparent that we were in for a lot of elevation change and plenty of rocks! The race started on the side of the park called the Indian seats, which is thought to be a sacred site used by local Native American Cherokee and Creek tribes for ceremonial purposes. I know that the view at the Indian Seats is spectacular, but I did not want to take the time to stop for a view.
I was the third female for the first 2-3 miles, following closely behind my new friend, Alexa. The first female had blown by us in the first mile, and she quickly put distance between us. I was moving fast, but my limiting factor was really the technical terrain. There were a lot of rocks and roots on steep paths, and this was not a race that I wanted to sacrifice to an injury.
I pulled into second place while on the Indian seats side of the trail, and then we crossed the street to follow another bigger loop to the finish. Someone had commented that the second loop was more rolling, but that was a lie! It seemed pretty steep to me! I love running on trails, but at one point, I started to wonder why I always have to push so hard in races. It is a love/hate relationship, for sure! I was not enjoying the pain of pushing, but there is always a high from the exertion. I think I’m just wired to push and run hard.
For the rest of the race, I caught glimpses of the number one girl but then she would disappear around a corner. At about mile 6, I was running with one of my good trail friends, Seth, who has paced me to strong finishes at several races now, and he encouraged me to try to catch number one. We were able to close the gap, but then my foot caught a rock and I fell pretty hard, rolling and hitting my knee directly against a rock. Stumbling, I got up and we kept running. Seth had stopped to help me, which just goes to show how amazing trail friends are. I didn’t lose much time, but I was definitely in more pain! And as soon as the number one girl saw that we were close, she seemed to have no problem putting more distance between us.
So I finished in second place, and later found out that the top girl is a track athlete from Georgia Tech. She definitely helped me run a faster race, and I’m thankful that she kept such a strong lead. It turns out that the first place winner was awarded $200 and the second place winner was awarded $125. That is more than I have ever won, and it’s pretty unheard of for a trail race! I also won a raffle and was able to select my prize based on finishing time. All of the prizes were really great, but I decided to go home with a big Yeti cooler!
Overall, this was a great morning with wonderful friends, a beautiful trail, and really nice prizes!
Do you always have to “race” the races?