It’s no secret that this summer I’ve been focused on speed and shorter distances. I probably had no business registering for a long trail race but there’s something about this race that brings me back each year. This was actually my first trail race since running Full Moon last year! I usually run a few more in the spring and summer but I’ve been so focused on 1 mile and 5k training that I didn’t want to risk injury or throw off my training. Since my “season” technically ended July 4th I figured I could use Full Moon as a long training run before I start marathon training.
It’s really hard to describe Full Moon because it’s unlike anything else I run. This race takes hills and heat to the next level. You can count on the heat index being close to triple digits when you start and the hills just keep on coming. It’s one of those races that you have to experience and while you’re doing it you tell yourself “never again!” Then after the race you replay it over in your mind planning what you can do better/ differently for next year.
John and I arrived around 7:00 which left me an hour to get checked in and prepare- plenty of time. We saw the 50k runners leave and then I focused on getting my stuff together.
Before I ever ran Full Moon I was warned to go out conservative. I ran this race in 2015 and 2018 and in both cases I went out very controlled and picked it up (a lot) on the return. In 2015 I finished in 2:10:46 and in 2018 I finished in 2:06:08. I had an ambitious goal of sub 2 hours for 2019 or at least a PR. I was pretty confident a 25k PR was possible since I was in better race shape this year than the previous years. (Last year I also raced a 5k the morning of Full Moon- what was I thinking?!) After looking at previous splits and last year’s Full Moon winning time (he went 1:59) I knew I needed to start a little more aggressive. I wanted to keep all the splits under 8 (with the exception of mile 8).
The first mile felt great. It’s mostly downhill on road surface. Mile 2 picks up on the gravel service roads and then the uphill fun begins…
There were about 4 or 5 guys in front of me and Logan and her boyfriend fairly close behind me. They passed me around mile 6. It was around this time I tried turning on my flashlight and it would go on for about 10 seconds and then shut off. It’s done this before when the battery is low but I had been charging it all day so this didn’t make any sense. Between getting passed and my flashlight not working I completely lost focus for most of the mile. I started to get discouraged and for a second I considered turning around- how could I run this race without a flashlight?! But there was no point in turning back since I was so close to the turnaround. Towards the end of the mile I glanced down at my watch and realized I better get back in the game and stop feeling sorry for myself. I still had a long way to run and I needed a new game plan. Surely I could catch one of the runners in front of me and pace with them? So that became my new plan. Move up as fast as possible to the turnaround to catch one of the runners.
Mile 8 is the toughest of the course and at this point it was dark. I started passing some of the 50k runners (they started at 7 pm) and I tried not to scare them since I didn’t have a light. (I usually just said something to them so they knew I was coming up behind them.) Right before I reached the aid station at the turnaround I saw a few of the 25k runners ahead of me coming back and I tried to pay attention to how many of them there were and how much of a lead they had. I was only at the aid station for about 15-20 seconds so I could refill my water bottle. I considered leaving my flashlight since it was basically dead-weight I was carrying but I didn’t know when/ if I’d get it back so I just kept it. By mile 9 it was really dark and I decided to try my flashlight again. This time IT TURNED ON! Thank you God! Seriously- all I could think was that it was a miracle! Yes, I tend to get dramatic when I’ve been running alone in hills, heat, and in the dark… The light wasn’t very bright but it stayed on and it was enough that I could see right in front of me. I was extremely paranoid about accidentally turning it off and losing the light so I tried to maneuver my flashlight and water bottle so they didn’t touch. I just needed to make it last as long as possible! With every passing mile I was counting down. I ended up passing 2 or 3 of the guys in front of me. I knew if my light went out I would need to wait and pace with one of them. It would be nearly impossible to try to run this without anything because it was so dark.
The whole flashlight fiasco was extremely motivating to keep pushing and run hard while I had the light. It added to the challenge but was a good distraction for my mind. When you’re running in the woods on trails in the dark by yourself you have a lot of time to think! I could not catch first female and I had no idea how much of a lead she had since I could barely see in front of me. I kept pushing and stayed positive. I wouldn’t break 2 hours but I knew I was on track for my fastest 25k. In the last mile my flashlight shut off twice. It stayed on but again, I wasn’t sure how long it would last. I was just so thankful it made it to mile 16!!
I crossed the line in 2:04:29- a new 25k PR!
Ironically my last 2 PR’s have both been 2nd place finishes. I always say I’d take a PR over a win any day! They are much harder to come these days and I know competition pushes me to get there. On the plus side this was my first time to win Masters at Full Moon and this race always has unique overall awards.
This race has a huge breakfast buffet for all finishers after the race. I’m not used to eating a big meal at 10:45 at night but I knew I needed something. After drinking at least 2 full cups of Gatorade I made a breakfast plate. I wasn’t able to eat too much but it helped and then John and I headed home.
Overall very happy with how it went. Obviously anytime you can run a PR it’s a good day! A few things that could have helped: 1.) a reliable flashlight, 2.) I probably should have worked in a few more longer runs. I did get in a 15 and a 17 mile run but the rest were shorter (since I was 1 mile/ 5k training), 3.) I’d really like to be able to pace with someone- at least part of the way next time. I’ve done this in the past and it definitely helps. This was my first time to run the entire 25k solo and it was mentally draining.
And yes, as hard as it was I’ll probably be back to run it again next year! I’d like to try again for sub 2. Getting closer…