I'm going to warn you - I just balanced the checkbook, and my mind feels like mush. But I want to give you the dirt on the W.O.O.F. I do! I do!
The W.O.O.F. is a trail race with a 5.3-mile loop at Ouabache State Park in Bluffton, Indiana. The trail itself didn't seem that technically difficult. Sure, there were roots and leaves but the ground was dry and it was mostly flat.
The race started at 10 a.m., a good time as it was about a 50-minute drive to the state park. I got up at 7 a.m. and had a slice of peanut butter toast and a banana just to tide me over to my "in-car" eats (a S'mores Luna Bar and the rest of the banana). I had a half-cup of coffee at home and a cup on the way.
I figured with a later race start and forecast in the upper 40s that I would be OK with a long sleeve shirt, a short-sleeve tech on top, capri tights and gloves and headband. Boy, was I wrong! In the time it took to get from the car to the pavilion where I picked up my bib, I want from comfy to FREEZING. To be expected - the temperature was still in the 20s. I decided to run in my recovery socks for added warmth, much to the chagrin of other runners.
The first loop
I tried to tell myself that I wouldn't go out too fast, that I would pace myself - all those things we promise before a race. And like many promises, I broke it. I went out fairly strong and tried to stay on the heels of some of the other runners. There was maybe a group of five but most of the participants were far ahead of us.
I nearly tripped within the first mile, so caught up in whatever, and I thought I rolled my ankle. I kept running because, well, that's what I do and the pain seemed to dissipate quickly. From then on I did my best to keep my gaze 10 feet ahead.
The loop seemed to take forever - about two-tenths longer than marked - and I couldn't have been more excited to see Mark. I decided to ditch my scarf and gloves and keep going.
The second loop
From this point on, I have to say it was a wee bit boring. Though the course was absolutely beautiful, I was literally running in the woods by myself. Volunteers handing out water and keeping an eye on traffic (where the trail crossed the road) seemed to be my only interaction. I have to say that all of the volunteers were very encouraging and kind. It makes me feel bad, too, because I was a bit short when one offered to throw away my Watermelon Gu Chomps because she thought I was holding trash.
I did have a moment on the second loop, as 11 miles neared on the Garmin, where my mental endurance was challenged. I had been out there for 1.5 hours+, scaled a wall of hay twice (total of 3 - once each loop) and I was kind of unnerved with a sense of loneliness.
Once again, seeing Mark was a great boost and I made funny faces at him as I passed. I kept going and knew that this was the point of no return.
The third loop
I was actually feeling pretty good as I set off for the last of the run. And I kept feeling good as I saw myself pass the 14-mile mark - definitely the farthest I had ever run. From there, though, it was a bit of a challenge. My hamstrings and butt hurt. And by the time I hit the wall of hay, I was exhausted. The volunteers telling me I was almost there didn't help either.
But I kicked it up after that. I wanted to finish. Now let me tell you something - kicking it up at this point meant running faster than the previous mile, which was the slowest I've ran in months.
I was proud that I was able to pull out a strong finish and just 35 seconds shy of my A++++++ goal of 2:30.
This race tested me mentally and physically but I am so glad I did it. The volunteers were great, the course was well marked and there was great post-race food (cider, coffee, bison burgers, stew, corn muffins, fruit, water). It was also a small field, allowing me to take first in my age group and 16th overall. I will say that it gets a bit lonely on the course and, if I were to do it again, I'd go with one loop or do it as a relay.