In my meagre opinion runningskirts.com make the best ladies running gear. I haven’t run in anything else since I first tried one of their cute skirts. They fit snugly and the attached panties keep underwear nicely in place on the run so I have no wardrobe adjustments to worry about as I go. Easily accessible and neat side pockets carry the few essential items I have to take on the trail and I can feel great working up a sweat while maintaining my girly dignity in them.
Me, Ashley and Laura, all skirted up to Run Like a Girl. (Ashley’s two year old son was being cute at our feet, not really just looking at our shoes.)
When I discovered that age group winners for the Run Like a Girl 8K would be awarded a free running skirt for their efforts I was therefore understandably quite excited at the prospect of a swanky new skirt and the competitor in me fired up.
Unfortunately though, if doing double the mileage I had planned the evening before the race was an auspicious start then joking about going out to booby trap the trails to be assured of a skirt probably sealed my fate. I think I totally jinxed myself.
The Run Like A Girl 8K was a big event looming on my calendar. A fun trail run that has a place in my heart as it marks my initial entry to competitive running. Last year the all women’s race was run in September and it was my first race. Last year I hit the trails at the USNWC and ran a 9:40 pace. With just over six months of running underfoot since then I was keen to race for a PR and give myself a measure of progress for this course.
The Run Like A Girl 8K is also put on to raise awareness and fundraise for the HERA Women’s Cancer Foundation, specifically ovarian cancer. I was counting myself lucky that I didn’t personally know anyone who had to deal with this health threat. That was until just the other week when I learned that a good friend’s mum has been diagnosed with this disease. This run in the woods was suddenly not just for a good time, but I was reminded that it was for a great cause too.
Race morning was nice and relaxed. Compared to other races a 9 o’clock race start felt like quite a lie in and I unhurriedly got up, dressed and had a spot of Weetabix for breakfast before heading out to the USNWC. Bill kindly taped up my right knee before I left as it had been bothering me a bit the day before, probably a result of pushing the heavily laden double jogger up the Nassau Hill on Thursday night. Giving the objecting knee a good prod I was relieved that yesterday’s pain seemed to have dissipated with a night’s sleep, but felt reassured to have it taped up for the race anyway.
At the trail head I met up with Ashley and her friend Laura and the trio of us did a warm up lap of the white water channel before heading to the start to await the gun. This year I was bib number 3 and staged in the first wave of runners. I got a spot at the head of the pack and intended to do my utmost to stay with the lead girls. I’d already clocked who I considered would be my main competition and as we set off around the long gravel track leading to the leafy trails she was running alongside me. I think I may have freaked her out a little by knowing her name, saying hi and introducing myself as we charged along at a cracking pace.
Hitting the trails I felt great, good to have packed dirt, fallen leaves, and roots underfoot and ready to do my best to keep the leaders in my sight. I was in the lead group of women and enjoying tearing down the trail with them. The lead mountain biker guide had peeled off and we were on our own running down the track. Then calamity.
We got to a fork in the road and trail signage abated. I slowed for a better gander but the ladies I was with made a quick judgement and carried on up the trail. My gut told me not to follow but there was no obvious sign of route marker in either direction. I should have known this section well but coming from a different direction to usual had me disorientated and I was swayed when shouts of “here’s an arrow!” came from out of their dust around the corner. Wrong call. Indeed there were arrows posted up the hill and we followed the course markers all the way up the hill to the finish. My Garmin beeped to announce mile one.
Rats! I took off back down to the junction where I assumed we’d taken the wrong turn and began trying to find true trail. It was a little weird, there were a couple of little pink trail flags up the other way but they petered out again quickly and trail didn’t seem to be very convincing here either. Also, we’d been in the lead of several waves and yet there were no other runners coming into sight. Pretty sure I was lost I picked up the pace and did the best I could to get back onto trail with everyone else. At this point I was sinking in curses and knew I was so far off trail that I was out of the race at this point.
I carried on running anyway and was rewarded with the sight of a runner on a parallel trail. The girls I was with and I cut down to join her and I realised it was Ashley. I yelled “Hey Ashley! Are you on trail?!” but she didn’t hear me as she was too busy bitterly snipping at us cheaters who weren’t running a fair race. Not accurate with the cheating, but fair comment. Really, even if I somehow miraculously came in in first place it wouldn’t in all honesty count as I didn’t stick to the route. To add an extra helping of aggravation my running foe had been behind me when I lost trail, but she wasn’t wandering the woods with us now so had obviously been able to stay on trail. Curses!
I was relieved to see Ashley steadily charging along though, and for me to be back following true trail. I stepped it up a gear and hauled myself along, pushing myself to try to gain at least a bit of what I had lost.
I hit the water stop with my Garmin measuring a distance of over 2 miles. Later Ashley said that she ran past that at around a mile and a half.
Several other times I had to double judge which route to take as trail markers were non existent or torn down. I ran past one wooden post laying in the dirt with the race arrow face down at a critical junction. Luckily that time I spotted a second arrow on a tree in the woods to the left before I continued straight. The runner ahead of me wasn’t quite so lucky and had to abruptly halt and retrace her steps when she realised the misdirect.
The rest of the race was brutal.
It was hot. Very hot. I was very glad that I had brought along my new cool off bandana and thought to fill it with ice before the race. That thing was wonderful when we had to dart across the scorching clearings between the trees. I still really struggled with the temperature though.
I also struggled with my mind and many of the ascents on this 8k. I was dispirited and totally thrown off by the inadvertent detour and extra mileage and was finding it hard to pace myself for what remained of the race. The hills had me walking in places as I exhausted myself going hell for leather trying to get back on the trail and back into the running. I played a little bit of trail leapfrog with one fit girl sporting a cute purple outfit with a matching bandana on her head. She ended up significantly ahead of me though as we broke free of the woods and were thrown out onto the mean final gravel trail and hill to the finish. Gritting my teeth I promised myself a final kick and unleashed everything I had left to get my legs really pounding and put her in my sights. I somehow stormed up the hill, my now well practised Crowders hill technique of quicker shorter strides and a lean into the gradient powering me up and past several girls who were slowing on that stretch (thanks Scott Jurek!). Purple bandana girl was still eluding me as I rounded the crest but I hunted her down and got her as we passed the trail head and entered the car park. With the end in sight it was tempting to cruise on in but don’t slow down now Kay! Uh oh, and now there’s a man with a camera – quick, try to look happy! Hurried gurning for the lens was accompanied by a final burst of sprint and I at least sealed my tenth place finish. The announcers called my name as I came in ahead of the purple bandana. Nice. Hooray!
It was a disappointing and aggravating run and no podium for me today. I had managed to claw back to fourth place in my age group though. My nemesis of course won the age group and I sadly watched as she declined the winning running skirt in favour of a Run Like a Girl tech tee. What?!!
I have no idea how she managed to stay on trail when the initial group of us got so lost. Ashley commented later that we must have missed the bit where the trail doubled back and gone straight on to the next junction, which is where we then assumed we had lost trail. She said there were a group of mountain bikers standing on the track on torn down barrier tape when she ran that bit. I remember the bikers too and I’m thinking that they were maybe blocking the correct route as we came past.
Oh well, very annoying, but I suppose it’s not a race that I’ll forget in a hurry! Especially because I’ll be sporting an awesome new running skirt to remind me!
Oh yes! After the raffle drawing and winners had been awarded their prizes, there were still a few items remaining. If you remember first place 30-35 age group winner had declined her running skirt. I was then stood in the right place at the right time when one of the organisers asked if anyone there had been in the lead pack that had got so lost. Of course, I was quick to yell “YES! Meeeeeee!” and share my frustrations. He commiserated with me, seemed to be genuinely concerned and then made it all better instantly with a runningskirts.com free skirt coupon code! Fantastic! I practically skipped back to my car daydreaming about which lovely new skirt I’m going to pick to wear for my Twisted Ankle half marathon, and then the North Devon AONB half in England, where I will not lose trail!