I knew I’d be running a half marathon this past Saturday, but Tree Trotter Half over in Wellington wasn’t my first choice. I had originally planned on running Run to the Beach over in Portage Lakes, but with my lack of long runs and last minute registration, the cost wouldn’t be worth my attempt at a half. I looked for other races over the weekend, and found Tree Trotter, a half I had my eye on last year. It was through the metro parks and it was much cheaper, a decision I hoped not to regret.
I got up Saturday feeling pretty good, my legs weren’t tight from Yoga and I was hopeful for a long run. I drove over to Wellington Reservation and noticed there weren’t many cars. The event offered a 3.5 mile run and the half, from what I could see, most people were running 3.5 miles. When I got out of the car, it was a pure white out. I questioned whether I should drop down to the shorter race or if I should sneak away. I was here, and I needed the miles, I had to suck it up and do it.
Right before the race started, the sun came out and the wind died down, just about perfect weather. We started off on the first loop, 3.5 miles of soft trail. It was relatively flat with just a few rolling inclines. The views were beautiful as we went through the woods and around ponds. My pace was between 9:30 and 10:00 and I felt pretty good. Everyone seemed to be trudging along at the same pace and there was no urgency to speed up or pass anyone. I was pleased to find a few volunteers on the course making sure we followed the path and handing out water. We started to head back in and I noticed my pace dropped and would be the last time I was ever under 10:00.
I was doing ok, but I knew that I had to go slow if I wanted to finish. I was nervous how far I’d be able to go before I hit the wall. After the first loop, we headed towards the up ground reservoir. The half marathoners turned off and suddenly everyone disappeared. There was one girl in front of me, and hopefully someone behind me. From this point on, I knew it would a mental game between me and the road. Heading down the reservoir the wind started to pick up and once I got to the top I could barely catch my breath. I took a moment to take some water and sport beans and attempted to run with the winds pushing against me. The loop around the reservoir was about 2.5 miles and was a grassy path. There was no shelter from the wind, and it seemed to always be pushing against you. These were some of the hardest miles and I knew I was using too much energy in my legs that I’d need later on in the race. When I stopped to take some sport beans, a woman passed me. I was finally able to catch up with her around mile 6, and she too was struggling against the wind. We ran next to each other in silence, glad that there was someone else on the course. Before we headed to the next part, I looked around, only seeing two other people out there running. We really were out here on our own.
We passed another water stop, they were really great about these by the way, and headed into a housing development. It was a shock on the legs to go from trail, to grass and now cement. My running partner stopped to get water as I went along with my hand held. About 150 feet into the development I heard a dog bark, to my right a woman and her dog were getting the newspaper. The dog sprinted across the street and ran in front of me. I stopped, let him go around me and continued to run. Thinking he went back to his owner, I continued on my pace. Then suddenly I felt him jumping up my calves and back. I screamed and turned around, not sure of what the dog would do. The owner started hitting her dog with the newspaper and took him across the street. She never asked if I was ok or apologized for what happened, which I found personally to be rude. I was shaken up and started to run again. My lower back was a bit sore where the dog hit his head into my spine, so I tried to stretch it out a few times. I made it to mile 8 and stopped.
At this point, my legs were getting tired and I hit my wall. A few moments later my running buddy caught up to me. She saw the dog jump at me and asked if I was ok, knowing that If I hadn’t been there, she would have been attacked. We continued to walk and talk, talking about the race, Flying Pig, and our favorite races. We were both exhausted and mentally drained from not seeing anyone else on the course. We finally made it out of the development and headed back to the originally loop on the trail. We passed another water stop and she stayed behind as I kept going. I had 4 miles left, and I knew I could run them.
I was looking forward to the trail because I knew it would be easy on my legs. By this point I was feeling sore and knew I had pushed my limit on miles. Between miles 11-13 I ran/walked hoping to run more than walk. I used most of my energy on the reservoir against the wind and I knew the constant change of running on different paths wasn’t helping. More volunteers came out to push us on and I finally saw a few more runners on the path. By mile 12 I was ready to finish, I kept telling myself a little bit further, but that seemed to go on forever. As I came around the last turn, I couldn’t have been more excited to see the finish line. It was getting colder and the wind was started to pick up, but nothing was going to stop me from getting there.
I crossed the line at 2:22:47. Not my worst time, but no where near my best. I finished 9th out of 13 and completed my 11th half marathon. I was more than under prepared for this race, but I was glad I stuck with it and finished. There is no shame in walking during a race and I knew if I didn’t, I wouldn’t have been able to finish. Despite such a small race, I definitely recommend this one. The course is great, mostly flat, and could possibly be a PR course for some runners. The only challenge would be that it’s a small race, so you’re mostly out there by yourself. With two weeks until Flying Pig, I think this was a great way to get myself ready.