WOW! The Crooms Fools Run was the most physically and mentally challenging race I have ever completed!
By the end of the 15.4 mile course, I was absolutely SPENT (and really, really dirty!).
The trail itself was one of the most difficult aspects of the race. With rolling rolls and varying surfaces (like compacted pine needles, squishy sand, and plain old dirt), I spent a lot of energy maintaining a steady pace and stabilizing my body. My legs hurt in ways I never knew possible!
In addition to the trail, I found the DISTANCE and DURATION to be extremely challenging. The race ended up being 15.4 miles, which is 1.4 miles further than I have ever run in my life. And since it was a trail run, I ran for a longer time period than I’m used to (trail runs are notoriously harder than road races).
Here are my final statistics (based on Meghann’s Garmin):
- Duration: 2 hours, 56 minutes (15.4 miles)
- Calories Burned: 1,600 (approximate)
Let’s go back now to my 5:30 AM wake-up call!…. After a nervous night’s sleep, I woke up eagerly anticipating the race. I fueled with my traditional pre-race breakfast:
Two slices of whole wheat bread, a banana, PB, and a coffee. This meal always sits well in my tummy. Meghann had her traditional breakfast, too (a bagel with almond butter and fruit):
We drove to the race start, stretched out, and got all of our gear ready, including our CamelBaks:
The race only had three aid stations for the entire 15.4 mile course, so bringing our own water was absolutely necessary. Meghann’s sister Kelly is on the left. If you don’t already know, Kelly was hit by a car on her bicycle last month and miraculously survived with no serious injuries. This race meant a lot to her!
We lined up at the start and did last minute gear-checks:
And…. then we were off!
The first mile of the trail was squishy, ankle deep SAND. I freaked out a little bit because I was so afraid the whole course would be sand. It was very, very difficult to run in — my feet would sink down with every step, and my ankles began to hurt almost instantaneously.
I’ll admit that I struggled a lot emotionally during this race, especially in the beginning. I even admitted out loud to the other girls that I was in a poor mental state. The distance and trail kind of psyched me out a little bit, but luckily the sand segment was short-lived. The rest of the way was mostly firm pine needles. That surface was a lot easier to run on and I felt more enthusiastic.
The four of us (Meghann, Abbie, Kelly, and I) stayed together the entire race! It was great. In most places, the trail was only wide enough to run in a single file line, so we took turns leading, bringing up the rear, and running in the middle of the pack.
One cool aspect of a long-distance trail run is that people do not take their time very seriously. It is extremely difficult to set a personal record on a trail run because you are focused more on climbing hills, avoiding roots, and jumping over logs than you are about going as fast as possible. As a result, all the runners were very laid-back and fun, and we spent a lot of the run chatting with each other and strangers. I think I only listened to music for a grand total of 45 minutes.
The other runners were even willing to stop and take our picture! That would NEVER happen in a road race!
Here’s Kelly and I at Mile 4.0 (we thought it was Mile 5.0):
Meghann adjusting her socks at the first aid station:
Kelly and Abbie at the aid station:
I didn’t eat anything at the first aid station because it was so early in the race. I did grab a CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIE at the 9.5 mile aid station! It was delicious!
Mmmmmm …. chocolate….
Mile 10.0 was very exciting because that’s when Kelly reached a new personal distance (PD) goal. Mile 13.1 was a new PD for Meghann. And Mile 14.0 was a new PD for me! Each time one of us set a new PD, we cheered like crazy.
My body felt physically challenged throughout the entire race. Each hill I climbed, every log I jumped over, all the roots I hopped around… they added up FAST and by Mile 9.5, I was definitely feeling the PAIN in my butt, thighs, and ankles. Trail running is a different animal than road racing… it’s a more grueling on your muscles. But, I felt like my knees handled the race pretty well (since I wasn’t pounding into concrete).
I bonked for the first time ever as a runner on a hill at Mile 13.5. This large hill was the last climb in a series of smaller hills, and it was such a long vertical climb that my legs were SCREAMING towards the end. My vision began to swim. I was literally biting down on my lip to keep myself from screaming out loud in utter pain. Then, I started to chant my mantra: "PAIN IS TEMPORARY, QUITTING IS FOREVER!" Just when I felt like I could not go on, I reached the top of the hill!
We paused to walk a little bit and take a picture:
We heard rumors during the run that the 15.0 mile loop "wasn’t exactly" 15.0 miles. Only in a laid-back trail race would this happen! People who had run the course the year before told us that we were really looking at a 16.2 mile run!
Not knowing exactly how much longer I had to go really got to me emotionally. When I heard Meghann’s Garmin "beep beep" at Mile 15.0 and the end was no where in sight, I kind of started to freak out. I pulled ahead to the front of the line, put my head down, and buckled in for the long haul.
By the time I crossed the finish line at 15.4 miles, I was completely and utterly spent. I do not think I could’ve run another 100 meters. I’ve never finished a race that exhausted before. My legs felt like Jello!
That’s when I looked down and realized how disgustingly dirty I was:
There was even dirt INSIDE my socks (how did that happen!?!):
Abbie had signed up for the 50K race, so she kept going at the finish line to do another loop (I really do not understand how that is physically possible). Kelly, Meghann, and I hopped into my car and drove back to the hotel as fast as possible — we needed SHOWERS and FUEL!
I drank a MyoPlex shake on the way back to the hotel:
After showering (which made me feel so much more human), we drove to Cracker Barrel to load up on carbs. I started with a biscuit:
And ate 1/2 of these egg beaters + 1 turkey bacon patty:
And ate 2 out of these three pecan pancakes:
Incidentally, this is exactly what I ate after my Marine Corps Half Marathon in October.
Now…. we’re back in Orlando, and I’m ready to SLEEP! And EAT MORE FOOD! I have to chow down about 3,500 calories today, so I’ve got my work cut out for me (best thing about running, hands down).
I feel so happy and so proud when I think about the race. This was truly a great personal accomplishment, and I’m glad I had great friends to experience it with! Not to be corny, but that made the race even better.