“Proud of you for showing up”, that was the message I got from a running buddy when I got home from Halloween Howler last night after spending 5 and a half hours doing loops of a 5k trail course.
“Me too”, I thought, “that’s the hardest part”, I replied.
In fairness, that wasn’t what I thought every time I passed the start/finish line and my car every 5k!
I signed up for Halloween Howler for no other reason than the training plan called for a 40k run and I didn’t want to do it by myself.
I’d run the Howler a few times before but not on the New Years Eve course that had been implemented due to flooding on the original course.
The marathon starts at 4pm and is a looped course of 5km. I figured that not only would I tick that 40k box on my plan but I would also get a chance to run long in the afternoon and night and get more comfortable running with my headlamp.
Traditionally on the original flat course, folks would dress up and hide in the woods to scare runners as they came past. It was a real vibe, but post COVID Trails Plus just isn’t the same and all the folks that made it fun don’t come out to run or volunteer anymore (that’s a long story and not mine to tell).
Since I wasn’t sure if the race would go ahead due to the flooding, I hadn’t signed up until the day before and I didn’t have a costume ready or planned. So I quick trip to Spotlight and I came back with enough crap to turn nothing into something.
Turned out I was the only one in the 42k in any sort of costume (told ya, no vibe anymore) so I was stoked when the smaller distances joined the loop later in the day and brought their costumes and fun.
When we started at 4pm, I was quick to settle into my own pace. Perk of being local is that I knew the course like the back of my hand which I think helped once it got dark.
I had set the alarm on my watch to go off every 15 minutes to remind me to fuel as I went. I decided to keep the caffeine blocks for the first loop or so and then just the regular ones for after that, so that I might be able to at least get some sleep when I got home.
I counted each lap on my instagram story because 1. I have a history of loosing track and 2. No one at the start/finish line had any idea what was going on.
Laps two through four were definitely the hardest mentally. Knowing you have more laps to go than you have actually done was depressing AF and it was hard to keep motivated.
Knowing the course, I knew there were two large hills that were absolute non negotiables, they would be hiked, no questions asked. I thought I would be able to run (or shuffle) the rest.
When I run this loop in training, which I do a lot, I run in the opposite way so I didn’t really have any idea of how I should pace it. I knew it was 35 minutes on a good day anti clockwise and I honestly wasn’t sure if clockwise was easier or not. (Strava says my PR on the anti clockwise loop is 36:54 and 33:27 on the clockwise loop)
I ran a lot by myself because the race is so small. I resisted putting in headphones and just put up with the one line I know from Taylor Swift’s Karma bouncing around in my head.
I was proud of how I pushed the climbs and didn’t succumb to my super slow plod. I even ran up one bit just to drop the guy behind me! Mature I know.
The weather was wet, not heavy rain, but constant drizzle, making it super humid and then when the sun went down really really cold.
I fluffed about at the aid station, filling up bottles, talking to Ang and patting the puppies who had come down to be my cheer squad, at the end of loop 5/start of loop 6. Other than that I was pretty consistent in always moving forward and not dilly daddling around.
I was surprised at just how well I did on the two night loops. Other than a few frights from nearby kangaroos, I just focused on the little circle of light the headlight gave me and kept moving forward. I actually think I ran more sections than I would have if it was daylight just because I couldn’t see that it was uphill. Definitely a positive experience going into Ultra Trail Kosciusko.
Overall, I was really happy with my pacing. Other than that long loop at #6 where I chit chatted, they are all pretty consistent!
I finished the race with absolutely no fan fair. I actually felt bad, the bloke behind me was on holidays from London. I hope this isn’t how he thinks all our races are!
Chatting with a few people afterwards, I thought, I’m going to see if I was in the top 10 ladies (knowing full well I was because less than 10 started). Turned out, I was actually the third female and came home with a little mug trophy, buff and sports beer.
Even though the actual point of this race (other than doing the training miles) was to run with other people and (other than the last 2k) I ran completely alone, I’m glad I went out and did it. It was a great confidence booster going into my next race especially getting over the mental hurdle of those difficult laps and the confidence booster I got from going out with my head torch.
Training wise, I bested the last time I ran this looped marathon back on NYE 2017 by about 30 minutes. The extra bit to make it 42.2 was also different then and a lot flatter so I’m taking it all as a bit win.
And no, I still don’t recommend Trails Plus events!
Note: Not sure if the late start had anything to do with it or not, but the following day I felt absolutely rubbish. Super tired, slept terribly, upset stomach, just felt really flat and lay on the couch all day watching terrible TV. I only had caffeine gels for the first sleeve, so maybe the first 90 minutes, but I won’t be having caffeine blocks at AfterGlow in a few weeks and see if that was the issue. Also stoked to not come away with chafing from my sitting outfit, but I did take off the tie after a few laps.