The Olde Girdled Grit trail half marathon was quite a doozy. Check out my recap and see if you’re up for the challenge to tackle it next year!
Olde Girdled Grit Trail Half Marathon Recap
I don’t even know where to start with my recap/experience of the Olde Girdled Grit trail half marathon. I ran it on a whim. Mostly to jumpstart my higher mileage long runs, but also because I’ve been wanting to run it for years. The weather was going to be near perfect for a run in the mid 40s with plenty of sunshine so I figured YOLO and went for it.
The trouble began the evening before the race, however. And if I didn’t tell you about that, I would be doing this whole recap a disservice. I am a storyteller after all. And what’s a race experience without the full story?
Setting the stage
On Friday afternoon, I got all my race “stuff” together. Clothes, hydration pack, snacks, etc. I planned on taking a bunch of stuff with me and making race day decisions in the parking lot. I was well prepared.
Sometime on Friday we received an email from one of the race directors about the trail conditions. She said it was ice covered in some spots and if we had yaktrax we might want to wear them. I had my yaktrax ready to go but since I have fancy ice trail shoes I figured it would be overkill. Spoiler alert: I left the yaktrax at home. #HUGEFUCKINGMISTAKE
A crazy morning
Later in the evening, as I got ready for bed, I read an article on my news app which in turn triggered a minor panic episode. Of course my cortisol skyrocketed and even though I wasn’t particularly anxious or panicky by the time I got in bed, high cortisol = restless sleep. But, I’ve run races on very little sleep before so I figured I’d just deal with it.
The next morning, I got myself up and ready for the race. As I was about to head out the door, both of my children woke up and complained of not feeling well. I took their temperatures and even though they were low, I was still concerned about possible flu. My husband assured me he would take them to the doctor and that I should still go to my race. My hesitation to go wasn’t because I didn’t think my husband was capable of taking care of the kids. He’s a great dad and takes care of them all the time. My hesitation was my #momguilt because I had literally just registered for the race on a whim. It’s not like it was a pre-planned race that I had been training for for months. I felt super guilty leaving them in this situation but he assured me it was fine, so off I went.
At this point, I had slept terribly and was now paranoid my kids had the flu. Also worried that my husband and I might get the flu. And what about the huge trip coming up? Now I’m running late for my race and I haven’t eaten yet and there’s gonna be ice and OH MY GOD I AM FREAKING OUT.
My anxiety? Off the charts.
Finally at the race!
After “calming” myself down in the car for the 30-minute drive to the race, I arrived much later than anticipated and was in a bit of a rush. Once I parked, I opened my car door to figure out which winter accessories to wear. I opted for an unlined neck gaiter, a lightly lined headband, and mittens. I also brought my handwarmers and sunglasses.
It was a short walk to the starting area. Almost 200 yards from my car I realized I should have worn the warmer accessories. Since I was pressed for time, I made the decision to stick with what I had and I’d make do.
Get ready to rumble
I’ve said this time and again, and I’ll stick with it until the end — one of my favorite parts of running smaller races is seeing so many friendly faces. The running community in northeast Ohio is tight knit and it’s so fun to see friends. Especially after not seeing anyone for months due to winter.
At the starting line, this race was no different. I got to see so many people I just adore and before I knew it, the race began!
The first couple miles were road miles. And almost entirely uphill. My friend Liz and I walked quite a bit to conserve energy. She had her yaktrax on her arm, ready to go. I had my stupid fancy ice shoes on my feet.
When we entered the park, I was so relieved to see the trail was mostly dirt with very little ice. I thought the race director maybe overreacted in her email. Or perhaps the ice had melted since she had sent it.
Then there was some ice. And then a little more. And then Liz sat down on a rock to put her trax on.
No sooner had she put her yaktrax on than had we started the bulk of the race — which, as it turns out, was almost entirely on ice. This was my first experience running Olde Girdled Grit. I had heard it had some steep hills but didn’t know much else. In this regard, I’m glad I went in blind because it was a doozy.
So much ice…
The hills probably wouldn’t have been too terrible except for the ice. First we went downhill. There was almost no safe way to do it. I had no, and I mean ZERO, traction going down the hill (or ever). Not even a little bit. Clinging to the wooden fence for dear life on my way down, I still slid several feet. I saw people basically skate down the hill on their asses. And after the hill came the stairs. They were ice-covered, too. And then the bridges.
At one point we were told “it’s totally runnable for a few miles up there” — meaning once we got back UP the hill, we could run. I was so tired from the way down and then the way back up, that I had very little energy to run the flat, runnable portion. Liz and I ran/walked.
What’s going on at home?
Meanwhile, I was still nervous about my kids. My husband had texted me before the race that he got them an appointment at 9:45 am. I anxiously awaited a message. Fortunately I was able to talk to my husband around 10:15. He said no flu, just a virus. Phew! Relief. When he asked how Liz and I were doing, I looked at my watch — we weren’t even five miles in!!!!! HOW on earth could that be???!!! 75 minutes later and not even five miles?! What the what???
I’ve never wanted to legitimately drop a race before. On Saturday, I was practically begging the powers that be for a place to drop where I could take a DNF. It never came. I really just wanted to cry.
When I say I “ran” Olde Girdled Grit, it was more like a sad attempt at hiking with a few steps of a saunter thrown in for good measure. 98% of the course was totally unrunnable for me. I was slipping and sliding every which way, and I was mentally checked out. My legs hurt, my brain hurt. I was just done.
But I knew I had to get my head back in the game in a positive way to be able to finish. Liz and I decided to list four good things about the race. We made it to six. I would say that’s pretty darn good considering how dejected I felt out there.
After miles and miles and miles and miles of barely hiking on an ice rink, we finally made it to additional “runnable” areas. But by this time we had been out on the trails for three-ish hours. I plain just didn’t have enough fuel in me. I thought we’d maybe be out for 3 hours at most. Certainly not almost four. To add insult to injury, I began getting cold since we weren’t moving very fast.
I was completely, 100%, depleted. Mentally and physically. I tried to run but couldn’t muster the strength. It was a sad state of affairs.
Sorry, you’re running that again?
The best (worst?) part of all this? There was a full marathon and a 50k. And those folks had to run that nonsense multiple times!! You couldn’t have paid me enough to go back out there. Not ten million dollars. No way, no how.
It was a really terrible race for me. I never want to experience that kind of a run again. There was nothing fun about it. Oh, except for the suspension bridge. I did rather enjoy that. But the rest of it? For the birds. Never again. Unless it’s in the summer. If it’s in the summer I’ll do it.
The Garmin tells the story. Looking back at my splits I see several 20-minute miles. Some are even 22 minutes. Only one 11-minute mile. And the next fastest is 12:33 pace. This is so far off my normal pace that it’s almost embarrassing. Except that it’s not. Because it was legit ice for 9 of 13 miles.
What went wrong?
So many things went wrong. Starting off with a minor panic attack, spiked anxiety, not wearing the yaktrax… so many things went wrong. This was supposed to be an easy, relaxing run on the trails. And it was anything but that.
The good stuff…
But there were a few good things about the experience. First, Liz accomplished running her first ever trail half, which is huge! I’m so proud of her for that. And she pushed me along when I would have rather crumpled up and called Uber with instructions to use the “find my phone” beacon had I been left to my own devices.
As always, Greater Cleveland XC puts on a top notch event. Aside from the ice, which is obviously outside their control, the course I think was nice. The aid station with the fireplace around mile 7 was fabulous. And the post race soup was amazing.
The Olde Girdled Grit 2020 trail half marathon is in the books. Will I do it again? Not a damn chance if it’s in February. That was just too much nonsense for me.
I know this isn’t my usual “race recap” so in case you’re here for that, here’s the skinny:
Parking: Easy. Food: Good. Atmosphere and friends: Excellent. Swag: Excellent.
Thanks for following along over the weekend and checking out my Instagram stories. While this race definitely did not go as planned, I enjoyed a serving of humble pie and mental toughness, a decent boost in mileage, and got to spend quality time with a good friend. I think that’s a win, no?
Have you ever DNFed a race? Tell me why!
Do you run trails in winter?