This was #17 for me so far this year (slash, ever), and it was the worst experience I have had so far. A lot of that is probably on me - I'm not sure I had the smartest or best timed breakfast, nor the most realistic goals, nor the proper training recently. At the end of the day, though, these factors combined with some course frustrations to leave a very sour taste in my mouth. Instead of lingering too long on my first bad race, I'm going to throw out some positives and some negatives, and be done with it - apologies for lack of a more thorough review, I'm still learning how to cope with a bad race experience.
The day began with so much promise!
- Muddy Monk always puts on a good show. They're organized, friendly, and definitely fun. The costume contest definitely inspired a lot of competition, and the atmosphere was as jovial as always.
- It was a beautiful day - mid 70s in late Chicago October? Amazing. And the trail was gorgeous, especially with such warm temperatures and the changing fall foliage. I regret not taking a few photos while I was out on the course.
- The course was challenging. Yes, that's a positive. I wasn't prepared for such a technical trail, but had I been feeling better, I would have relished the obstacles. After all, isn't that what trail running is all about?
- Always good swag: a nice shirt, a cool mug, lots of free food, and all for a very reasonable cost. A good deal for a race, that's for sure.
- Whatever was going on in my stomach was ugly. I threw up a few times out in the woods, and had to walk more than once to accommodate. Of course this is totally on me, and there's no reason to hold any of this against the Muddy Monk team, but that doesn't change the fact that I was NOT HAPPY.
- The trail, while fun, was not entirely safe and bottlenecked too many times. It surprised me how many people out there for a "trail run" seemed shocked that there were roots or hills or water out on the path! Being stuck on single track behind someone who didn't want their costume to get dirty was very frustrating. Being stuck on single track on a steep drop-off with lead runners coming back the other way was just plain scary. I was stunned at this point in the course, and I really hope no one fell.
- I could not seem to get a shirt that fit me. The smalls were chokingly tight, while I was swimming in the medium. A minor irritant, but a disappointing start to the day, especially since the shirt was so darn cool!
- My biggest peeve about the race organization was course markings. I ended up running off the trail with less than a quarter mile to go, as did the runner in front of me. We went a good way down the wrong path before we realized we were the only ones out there, and had to turn back around to find the right trail. If there had been a sign, neither of us ever saw it - and that wasn't the only place on the course that was unclear. Adding extra distance to an already difficult race was the last nail in my coffin, and I was practically in tears as I was doubling back to find the right path.
Despite my seemingly atrocious time of 37:51 (which actually wasn't as bad as I thought considering the difficulty of the trail and the extra distance), I managed to salvage the experience with a little post-race mingling, which also gave me the opportunity to hand out some samples of MESTRENGTH and talk to people about my blog. The networking helped me leave with a smile instead of a scowl, for which I was very grateful. It was too nice of a day to waste angry, though my muscles didn't quite agree.
I still finished, even it if was blurrily...
Photo compliments of Muddy Monk photographers.
For the next couple weeks, I'll actually be stepping back from racing (after over a month straight of weekend races) to focus on the continuing job hunt. I feel so close to finding that "right" career, but at the same time I know I still have a long way to go. So I'll do what I always do: buckle down a bit, focus the fight in the right direction, and keep pushing myself to do better. I've still got a few big events on the calendar, and a couple product reviews (and giveaways) up my sleeve, so I definitely won't be disappearing, but I will be resting the bib for a couple weeks.
And after that... maybe I'll tackle another half marathon...