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Women's Half Marathon Trail Race

This past Saturday I ran my tenth Women's Trail Half Marathon. 

I took a big step back in my mileage after Laurel Highlands, to give my legs and spirit a break. I spent time in my garden, vacationing and seeing family. Though I wasn't putting in a lot of miles, I did add hill work and intervals and felt I had gotten stronger. 

I hadn't raced anything short in quite awhile, and I had no idea how my legs would perform on this hilly course at a fast pace. Lately, my runs had been lackluster. I felt like I was due for a good race. 

I freakin' love this race!

I have serious home course advantage on these trails. I know every root, rock and hill on the course. I'm a decent technical trail runner, with little fear of face-planting on even the biggest downhills.

I know that the first mile on the road must be run at death sprint pace to avoid getting bottlenecked on the trail.

I know that the Do Loop hills must be respected, lest one emerge depleted with half the race yet to run.  

9-18-2013 WHM Elevation
Many, many hills

After a good warmup in the chilly morning air with Sara, Cherry and Meg, we lined up near the front. We started at a brisk pace, though it seemed slower than in past years. After working hard the first hilly road mile, we reached the trail in great position.

I was pleasantly surprised that I wasn't out of breath and my heart rate was right where I wanted it to be. My speedwork and hill training had paid off!

All the same, I backed off the pace and let my friends pull ahead. Quite a few women passed me. I didn't want to push too hard too soon. I hoped I'd be reeling many of them in later in the race. 

I marched up the hills while others ran them. I used my downhill and technical trail skills to close the gap time and time again. I picked up the pace on the runnable sections. I kept my breathing controlled.
I felt strong coming out of the Do Loop and I began to pass runners who were starting to show signs of tiring, despite being less than halfway in the race. Those Do Loop hills are killer.

Usually, I reach Fountainhead (mile 8) with my mind and body protesting loudly. This year, I was ready to kick it up a notch. I began overtaking runners one at a time.

All too soon the lovely long downhill was over as I reached the turnaround. I was able to see that Jen, Katie, Cherry and Sara all had pretty good leads on me. Could I catch them?

Two and a half miles to go, with a long uphill to start it off. I was pushing now, feeling strong, not fatigued as I usually do at this point.

Game Face!
My Game Face.

When I hit the next mile marker with two miles to go, I knew I needed to make this hurt.

I cruised along the trails, faster and faster. My legs had found their rhythm, and they seemed to still have more to give.

I flew down the last big hill, passing three more runners. At the top of the final switchback, I poured it on. A few more women came back to me. There was still no sight of my friends, and then I burst out of the woods into the open field and the finish line.

Though I didn't beat my PR here, I did run my second fastest time. Unusually cool weather made this a great day to test my mettle. I felt good about my race plan execution. I was happy with my day and for my speedy friends

Next year ladies, as Bob says, watch your back! I'll be hot on your heels!

All photos courtesy of the inimitable Aaron Schwartzbard


  1. Great job! I had to back out of running it this year and I was so bummed. I love running there.

  2. Nice race report and great photos (thanks Aaron!) I might have to come south if I ever get my Trailchick Podcast up and running...

  3. I was sad to miss it this year (I have to redeem myself after my own face plant last year!), but I ran the Rock 'n' Roll Philly race instead. I hope it will work with my schedule next year, because I love this race too! Glad you had a great time and raced strong!


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