Before completing my first half marathon, I was already looking to sign up for another. Most training plans I had read suggested long runs of up to 10 miles, but I made a few training runs closer to exactly 13.1, just to make sure that I could do it. I even attempted to do a 15 mile run, but called it at 13.5 due to exhaustion (I decided to run in the middle of the afternoon for some reason and was wiped out at mile 6).
I stumbled upon a trail race in a Jonathan Dickinson State Park in Jupiter, FL, which was a month and a week after my first race. I frequented Jupiter for my fishing expeditions, and knew it was a nice place, albeit a short hour and a half hike from home. At least Jupiter Donut Factory had never let me down. I was averaging a couple donuts a week at this point.
I had never done a trail run, but the idea of looking at trees seemed more appealing to me than streets, so I signed up.
So, I finished my first half marathon. For the last mile, I was feeling the overwhelming urge to vomit, thinking to myself, “why did you sign up for another race?”
I started training on the Holiday Park levee trails in the everglades, and soon realized that running off road consumed far more energy than the runs I had become accustomed to. I felt every rock underneath my foot, and realized my shoes had to be modified. By the end of my first 4 mile levee run, my mouth was like sandpaper. I realized I would need more water than my hydration belt could hold.
Finding trail shoes in South Florida is not easy. That is because there are really no trails designed to run on in Broward. I ordered the Brooks Cascadia, and had tons of issues, mainly my feet kept falling asleep. I was directed to the Delray Beach Running Company, where I met the owner Annie (good people) who told me my shoes were too small, and to try the Saucony Peregrines. They didn’t have them in stock though, and wouldn’t have them until a week before my race, so I exchanged by Brooks for a larger size, just to realize they still sucked. Ultimately, I got the Saucony, and have converted to their brand for the needs of my feet.
The week before the race, there was a clinic to give runners a crash course into the 11,500 acre park. There were almost 100 people there. I saw tons of DTR decals on runners’ cars as they arrived. Lots of people looked like runners. Some people came by and gave me a DTR decal for my car. I had never used a decal for anything other than when I ran out of tape, but I kept it for some reason. Most people knew each-other. I felt a little uncomfortable, a lot intimidated. I was winded by mile 2. Sugar sand is not sweet! My legs were burning. We did part of the “Dunes of Stupidity.” I couldn’t believe how strong the middle aged women were, and how fast other people were. “Holy shit, these women make me look like a little bitch,” might have been the exact thought. You can see by the picture below to get a feel for how tired and awkward I felt.
The picture above is the “Dunes of Slight Stupidity.” Almost everyone had to walk at some point, which made me feel better.
Overall, I had a great time. Previously all my training had been solo. It was energizing having so many people around me. The surroundings were exciting. Personally, I hate straight-aways because you can’t judge progress. The ups and downs, roots and rocks really kept me on my toes. With this run, I was hooked to trail running. My life would never be the same.
I completed the half-marathon trail race. Saying it was a struggle would be a complete understatement. I finished at a tortoise’s pace. I am ashamed to say there was some walking. I had run 10 miles of the course two times by myself for practice, but hadn’t done the sugar sand sections. This was a mistake. More so, I had ran way to much in training (30 miles a week for 2 weeks before the race) which was a surefire way to burn my body out when I wasn’t used to it.
The aid stations had a lot of positive people. Everyone was very encouraging. Aid stations had chips, fruit and snacks. Road races only have gels and drinks.
I met Andre and Ludi (good people), some of the most high spirited, energetic people I have ever met, who founded the DTR movement. Florida natives, the couple created DTR to introduce us flat-landers to the beauty of trail racing. They put on a few local races annually. They now live in Colorado for most of the year, running the open trails with their dog Bella. They get by on a subsistence lifestyle, live to hit the trails, and run to live. I have asked them tons of questions, I think the tally is at 100, and still get good answers.
I had been running at 5 am solo for training up until this point. DTRers post to Facebook where they will be running, and invite members of the group to join. There are three or four groups that meet regularly per week. About two months ago, I decided to stop making excuses, and check out Quiet Water Park. It was challenging, but a blast. I met trail leader Tati, another girl with tons of positive energy, willing to wait for the slow pokes and make sure no one got lost. She’s there every Tuesday and Thursday at 6:30 (6:30 Latin Time). I have been to every group run since then, minus a few for injury. I love it. I love the trail. I love the people, who have embraced my insanity (most of the time). They made me feel a part of the DTR family; peaceful environmental terrorists, soldiers with a mission of spreading health, happiness and sometimes the inability to breath. I did the 10 mile Not So Full Moon Run. There, we ran/swam across puddles up to our knees in the dark, carefully stumbling over tree roots.
I ended up putting the decal on my car. It felt like it meant something. What it means having the decal on my car I am not sure, but at least new runners know they are in the right place when the surrounding cars are marked DTR.
Now, I try to make it to all the different DTR running groups and events. I run almost every week with the group.
I am hoping to be able to complete the 50k this year with lots of training, and mental toughness. More will be revealed as time progresses.