This year’s Paine to Pain Trail Half Marathon started out with a question I had to ask myself: Can I run a trail half marathon without training? As with all my races this year, I was running this one as a member of Team Smarty Pants Vitamins, whose slogan is #RunSmarty. Whatever was going to happen, I was pretty sure running “smarty” was not going to play a part.
Almost exactly a year ago, I ran my first (and to date, only) full marathon. I worked my ass off for it, running 5-6 days a week, averaging 10 miles per run by the end and driving my wife insane with my obsession. These days, running gets sprinkled in to my workout “routine,” and I haven’t trained for any specific race. I’ve run four 10k’s, including three on trails, and three obstacle course races. I’ve totally been slacking! (It’s funny how some people might think I’m being sarcastic, while others are nodding their heads in complete agreement.) I haven’t run 13 consecutive miles (let alone thirteen POINT ONE!) since completing the marathon. I’m just not really in running shape, especially at that distance.
The Paine to Pain was my first half marathon a couple years ago, which gave me some confidence of success. I knew I could finish, but how long would it take me? Worse come to worse, I figured, I’d be spending a long morning in the woods. At least it would be scenic.
According to the weather forecast it could have been a cold rainy, kind of miserable, day in the woods. I packed a hat, gloves, calf sleeves, base layers galore, even hand warmers for before the race. Just in case. It turned out to be sunny and in the low to mid-50s. Pretty much perfect for a race. I didn’t need or use any of my gear. Maybe I should have worn the calf sleeves, but not to keep warm. My legs were killing me by mile 10.
Having run Pain to Paine before, I already knew that the layout would be beautiful and well-marked. Though the race starts on the road and ends on a track (which lends itself to some fun last minute head-to-head foot races), 90% of the course is on the trails. Where there are street crossings, there is always at least one police officer and some very helpful and friendly volunteers. The trail itself contains rocky hills, catwalks (don’t try to pass anyone on the catwalks!), and a few water crossings, as well as one short less-than-scenic stretch along the highway (after which, it feels great getting back in the woods). There isn’t too much elevation change from start to finish and there aren’t any hills so steep that they need to be walked up. Along the way there are plenty of places to open up and let loose, especially if you get out in front of the pack relatively early. Fast finishing times are definitely possible (if you train).
As far as logistics go, this is probably the most organized race I’ve run. As I mentioned, there are plenty of police officers and volunteers directing car and foot traffic, before and during the race. There is a bag drop truck that meets you at the finish line, enough port-a-potties that lines are not an issue, and even showers at the end of the race. With nearly 700 finishers, the race is run in 6 waves (based on previous race times) to minimize crowding. Even though some of the paths were narrow (it is a trail race, after all), it didn’t feel like too many people on the course.
The post-race food was spectacular. I’ve never seen lox on the ubiquitous bagels. Although I wasn’t quite feeling up for smoked salmon, there were also cheeseburger sliders, deli sandwiches, pulled pork, at least three different pastas and bananas (got to have bananas!) to choose from. All of which could be washed down with some delicious chocolate milk or fairly decent (and I’m sure very healthy) green drink that wasn’t nearly as good as the chocolate milk. There were also massage tables, yoga mats and foam rollers to loosen up with and on. For those in it for the swag: the tech tees look great and – I’m not a medal guy, but – the spinner medals are damn cool. Plus, there were water bottles and other assorted goodies. And free race pics!
At the end of the day, could I run a trail half marathon without training? The answer is, “yes.” Also, “ouch,” “passed by a lot of people who did train” and definitely “not #smarty.”
Finishing Time: 1:55:22
Disclosure: This post is brought to you by Smarty Pants Vitamins. All opinions are my own.