This past Saturday, I ran the Don't Fence Me In Trail 12k in Helena. This was the first trail race I did after moving back to Montana from sea level. Even though it's only 7.5 miles long, it proves to be challenging to me. Last year, I was not prepared at all for the climbs and just wanted to finish. I believe my words to Steve at the mile 6 water station were "This sucks." My goal this year was to see if I was in any better condition and to average a below 12 minute mile pace (yes, I'm slow and I'm OK with that).
The race starts uphill on pavement, takes you to the Davis Gulch trail head where you are immediately hit with a series of switchbacks. Most of these are runnable if you've been doing hills at all. I have a tendency to freak out at the start of any race, so my heart rate is always out of control the first mile. This, combined with the hills can make anyone panic from the start. However, this year I was mentally prepared. I knew if I stayed calm, let people pass, run an even effort, walk the big hills, I'd be OK. Sure enough, after the switchbacks, I got to a flat section and cruised. I was able to run much more of the course than last year, while enjoying the scenery, and was actually smiling when I saw Steve at mile 6. I was also happy that my new Garmin was telling me I was averaging an 11 minute pace. I played a sort of leap frog with another runner, exchanging our horror stories from last year's race, and really flew the last mile. My average pace ended up being a 10:54/mile and a 7 minute PR. I was thrilled. I probably could have pushed it more, but I really wanted to finish feeling good.
It really is a beautiful course and a way to get to know local trails. The volunteers are awesome as was the food at the end - Great Harvest bread with honey and butter! I'll either keep the 12k as my annual spring test or try the new 30k option for next year.
As usual though, I was immediately hit with "what's next?" Since I've been putting in longer miles as Danni trains for Western States, I'm playing with the idea of doing the HURL Elkhorn 50k in August. I know it's a challenging course, but I think I could prepare for it. Any thoughts from those of you who have completed HURL?