This 13.1 mile trail race was certainly a learning experience for me. Earlier this year in July, I ran a 5 mile trail, and enjoyed every minute of it, and since then I have eagerly wanted to trail run again. The opportunity came about, and I took happily took it. Race day came; I was nervous because I knew I would be running along with experienced runners. I wasn’t running this race for time but for the experience and enjoyment. The gun fired. Up the hill and through the woods on a trail run we went. The first mile was slow, but I was eventually able to get in my zone. I overheard some interesting conversations from men running behind me; they started out talking about trails, then football and then kids with ADD/ADHD, luckily I had my ear buds and was able to block it out. I was glad when we came to the first aid station, which gave me the chance to flee from the presence of the two gentlemen who were trailing behind my partner and me. On we went, my pace was a slow 13:20, but hey, I had to be attentive when running on terrain I’d never ran on before. Plus I didn’t want to face-plant or sprain an ankle. I arrived at the second aid station; the pretzels were the best. I grabbed a small cup of water and was off again. Still maintaining my pace, jamming to Aerosmith Radio on Pandora, I felt good and was enjoying the view. The turnaround point aid station (at 6.55 miles give or take) was the bomb! Burritos, French fries, cookies and candies--all were tempting, but I only partook in a chocolate cookie topped with Reese’s Pieces and some water. Did I mention I detest port-a-potties? Next time, I will venture off into the woods…After the snack and pit stop, my partner and I resumed our run and headed back to finish the race. Probably around mile 8, my feet started cramping; by mile 10 I had jelly legs, plus my shoes were caked with mud and leaves which made it more challenging not to fall. (I didn’t!) By then, my pace had slowed significantly and I was upset about it. My strategy was to use the first 10 miles as a warm-up and the last 3.1 miles I had planned to give it my all (per Eric’s instructions). Unfortunately, it was not happening as planned. I only had 3.1 miles to go. I made it to the last aid station, opened a GU and choked it down (blackberry flavor isn’t the best). Within seconds I had a burst of energy and was determined to finish this race--cramps, mud, and all. My partner and I got separated after leaving the last aid station, so I was by myself for a while. I walked a lot during the last 3.1 miles and even got lost for about 5 minutes until another runner came in sight and I followed her on down to the finish. I was so relieved to cross the finish line. I was thirsty, hungry, and still had jelly legs. My finish time was 3:21:04. That day, both my race partner and I decided trails are not for us; however, the next day, we were texting and agreed to get together once a month and go run a trail so we can get better acquainted with trail running. Learning is experience! The end.