Hell’s Hills: first trail 10k and major PR!!

I had to show off the medal first. I mean it’s so awesome, that I think I’d do this race just to get my hands on a medal like that. Every other race medal feels meh! Also I’m going ass backwards, starting trail running with a 25k and dialing back to 10K! All because I’m afraid of the heat!

To think I almost didn’t run this for fear of heat. That’s why it’s called Hell’s Hills. There are hills but no big shake like the hills we climbed for Nueces. The trail was a regular MTB trail with a lot of rolling inclines and dips and climbs that mountain bikers like to do (crazy people). But this is the first HOT race of the season, coming out of the spring into the summer and MANY people underestimate the heat. People haven’t acclimatized to running in the heat and this race can be hellish for that reason. Well fortunately for me, I was only doing a 10k. The other distances were 25k, 50k and 50mi.

So first I almost didn’t do this race. Sue had mentioned she was signed up for 25k. I then considered doing the 10K. On Tuesday night at the run, I asked Joe if I could do it. I didn’t want to pay $55 the late registration charge but he let me in for free. He said this one was on him. He’s so awesome. He said, its good to have me running with them. I’ve been seriously considering going through training/running in the summer to get some heat training from them. I have to do it eventually if I continue to run in TX. And it’s like elevation training – takes a while to condition your body but you are a better, stronger runner for it for sure.

I drove out at 5 am with Gaurav and Purvi, who are my new trail buddies. Met them at Nueces too. Gaurav is an avid trail runner, having a 100miler under his belt (literally because Joe hands out buckles for the finishers). He ran a lot of Asha before. His new bride is also into trail running and has done a few 10ks. I am trying to get her to begin training so I have company :). The race was about 45 mins outside of Austin at Rocky Hills Ranch in Smithville TX.

As soon as we got there, it was evident I was among friends. By now most of the regular running group I know by first name and it’s great to meet everyone at these races. It makes me feel totally at home. Kuss, one of our co-coaches even put the timing chip on me after I was struggling for a while – he said this is an ‘all service’ race, haha! But seriously, Joe and his wife Joyce put up these races every month, with the help of their kids, friends, and fellow trail runners. Trail runners earn points for every hour they volunteer on the races – be it at aid stations, registrations and packet pickup or water stations. These points go towards a dollar off future race registrations. I think that’s a fantastic system. The races are fabulously organized, the trails are well marked (by Joe himself, who drives out a day or two in advance to do it), the aid stations are well stocked with PBJ sandwich squares (neatly cut by what seems like loving hands), Hammer Gels, salt tablets, water, gatorade, chips, cereal and a plethora of fruit. It’s absolutely amazing.

Anyway, back to the race report. We started off at 7.15 AM. Was a bit worried about the effect of spicy biryani I had the day before at lunch but frankly nothing happened. Maybe I’m spice conditioning also. I started with Sue (who dropped down to 10k) and she’s a fast runner when she starts. My start is always hard – huffing puffing and straining. The race was crowded with a total of 582 registrants! The 10K was especially packed on the narrow trails. After about 2 miles I left some of the crowd behind and caught up with Sue. At the 5k mark, I ran past her, and I ran really hard. I didn’t stop, ran hard throughout. Everytime I’d pick on someone ahead of me to pick off and that kept me going. There was this one girl who I was trailing for about 1 mile and finally when I picked her off I was elated! It gave me fresh lease of energy and I didn’t even feel the heat. The race course was not very hard, a few hills here and there, mostly the big dips that you had to run down to get momentum to run up. Many novice runners would walk down those dips (sometimes pretty steep) and thats when you feel you’ll lose balance. If you run down then you have momentum to run up the up-hill part. It takes effort though. I don’t think I eased off at any point while I did take time to recover I didn’t completely recover until I actually finished the race.

The kilometers seemed to go by quickly (there were only 10 of them). The trail was winding and pretty in parts and quite shaded so the heat wasn’t that bad. It was humid though. When I turned towards the finish line, there was no one ahead of me. I didn’t get the urge to do my usual sprint but because I’d run hard I finished strong at an even pace. Joe was at the finish line. He said I did good. I told him I was looking to run faster over shorter distances before taking on any longer races again. He said, that was a good idea especially for this season since we’re just coming out of the cold. I loved the encouraging words! I told him I didn’t think it was that hilly and he laughed, saying others complained about the hills. He said, I’ve trained you well!

The girl who switched me out for my timing chip for the finisher’s medal (isn’t it GORGEOUS and BADASS??), told me she thought I was the 6th woman to finish. I was ABSOLUTELY THRILLED. Me – the slow poke – could ever dream of being in top ten of anything for racing is a wonder to me. So I think this Run Less Run Fast strategy is working. I can give everything I have in me to run hard over the shorter distances. It helps me build speed and some endurance. It doesn’t mean I won’t ever run longer distances. I might do that over weekends when I feel up to it. I also would like to build my heat endurance over the short distances first. I have a raging headache from the sun and humidity and that’s something I need to fix before I move on.

After the race it was fun hanging around with Sue, who’s my trail sister for sure! She’s even just as old as my sister and we get along like a house on fire!

Overall, I am so happy I took the trouble to do this race, thankful to Joe for letting me in last-minute for FREE and encouraging me at the start and finish!

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