Folsom Lake Trail Half Marathon Race Recap (2:03)

Folsom Lake Trail Half Marathon

Wow, a race recap? Remember when I used to blog about those? The Folsom Lake Trail Half Marathon was the first race I’ve done in nearly 15 months. Truthfully, it felt good to pin on a race bib. I’ve missed live races. I’ve come to enjoy virtual racing from time to time, but nothing beats an in-person event.

This week in the newsletter, I talked about precautions the Folsom Lake Trail Half Marathon used, including wave starts, only 3 people across the mat, no communal food, masks at the aid station, and no cups. I felt everything was handled appropriately, and I did feel the risk of COVID was low.

It’s been so long; I might have forgotten how to write a race recap. Anyway…

Before the Folsom Lake Trail Half Marathon:

The week before the race was busy. At late as Thursday, I wasn’t even sure I would make it to the start line. Most of the week consisted of getting loose ends tied up, as well as driving for a good portion of it.

Ultimately I just got a hotel in Folsom instead of driving home and driving back. Folsom to Napa is about 90 miles, and I was already out there anyway. Pricey? Yes, but worth it to me. Getting a hotel also committed me to running the Folsom Lake Trail Half Marathon because I wouldn’t wake up race morning and think…eh, I don’t feel like driving that far this morning.

Folsom Lake Trail Half Marathon

At the Race:

I got to the race a 7:30 am, which was plenty of time. I was looking at the Folsom Lake Trail Half Marathon as a fun race. My dream goal was to break 2 hours in the half marathon on that course. 9:09 per mile on rocky trails is challenging, so it made it a good goal. It was also kind of silly because I really didn’t know a lot about the course.

Gear Used: For shoes, I used the North Face VECTIV Flight. Since it was self-supported, I also used my Camelbak hydration pack filled with 1 bottle of Gatorade and 1 bottle of water. Plus one GU that I took halfway through the race.

The Start:

We started the Folsom Lake Trail Half Marathon in waves, but only 3 people will allow across the start line at once. I started around the 5-6th across, so my chip time was about 30 seconds slower than my gun time.

The Folsom Lake Trail Half Marathon Race:

The first mile was my fastest, and I ran in about 8:30 mile. I thought, whoa whoa whoa, have I done something super dumb? Am I going to regret this? Have I had all of this pent-up adrenaline waiting for the next race? After settling on the trails, I realized the first mile was just a fast mile. Since it was an out and back, that meant the last mile of the Folsom Lake Trail Half Marathon would be slower.

The next mile I ran in 8:51, and I felt better about it. It felt smooth. It was the same mile I had previewed the day before.

I had run 2 miles on the trails the day prior because I wanted to get a good feel for the trails and decide what shoes I wanted. There were a couple of stream crossings in mile 2, but it could cross with a few jumps between rocks. Running at Skyline in Napa has helped me get better small stream crossings. I no longer stop for 30 seconds and decide which rock seems suitable to jump over.

The next couple of miles began small inclines and declines. There was no significant hill during the Folsom Lake Trail Half Marathon, but there were no flat portions. Everything was either up or down and rocky. It reminded me more of a cross-country course.

Mile 3 of the Folsom Lake Trail Half Marathon was tough, and I logged a 9:09 mile. I thought, is this where I’ll start fading? The fourth mile was faster and had a lot more smooth downhill, and I logged an 8:51.

By mile 4, it was getting toasty. When California heats up, it heats up fast. It can change 10 degrees in an hour! I delayered my hat and gloves and stuffed them into my pack. I was surprised my delayering went as smooth as it did. I thought I might need to stop to do so. Somehow I was able to do this while running, and I didn’t fall.

The next couple of miles of the Folsom Lake Trail Half Marathon were uneventful, and I focused on getting to halfway. Somewhere around 4.5 miles, the leader came back. It was nice to see someone! I was running alone with no one around me. Finally, around 6.7, I heard the cheers of an aid station. We climbed a large, steep, rocky hill to get to the aid station. There were gels, but I didn’t need anything and turned around. I glanced down at my watch and noticed 6.8 miles in. I laughed because since it was out and back, I knew it wouldn’t be 13.1 miles.

Folsom Lake Trail Half Marathon

Turning around, I knew the harder miles of the Folsom Lake Trail Half Marathon were yet to come. Miles 10-11 were going to be rocky and steep. Plus, now, I was tired, so and my body on trails when tired is set up to trip over something. I focused on staying relaxed.

The adrenaline of the halfway point carried me to around mile 8. I passed one person. I began seeing racers from other waves going in the opposite direction. It was nice to see more people as I love the community piece to running.

Around mile 9 of the Folsom Lake Trail Half Marathon, I saw a female ahead. To my knowledge, I was in fourth place, but with wave starts, it was hard to really tell. If you thought you would compete for a place, it said to run in wave 1, but you never really know. Anyway, I thought I might be able to catch her.

Mile 10-11 brought the same climbs mile 3 did, and my body was exhausted. I kept pushing, and I ran in 9:27. I was disappointed, but I knew I was tired. I thought, is this where I completely fade? I realized the 3rd place woman wasn’t getting any further away from me, so it was just a hard mile. Honestly, I was glad she was there because it gave me confidence that “the mile was just hard.”  I knew that because I ran the mile, but sometimes it’s just nice to see.

At miles 11-12, I felt like they were never going to end. I logged a challenging 9:27 for mile 11 and 9:06 for mile 12. When I reached mile 13, I told myself, “just one more mile.” I knew it was slighter shorter. The third-place woman had shifted into another gear, and I knew I wasn’t catching her.

Finally, I saw the finish line—my first finish line in over a year. The last time I saw a finish line, I was in a sprint with a good friend (which lead to my broken foot). I crossed the finish line in 2:03.

Folsom Lake Trail Half Marathon Thoughts:

I had a really good time racing, and I met my dream goal of a sub 2 hour half marathon (obviously, this was longer than 13.1 miles). I felt that the Folsom Lake Trail Half Marathon was a low-risk activity and the staff and volunteers made the race low risk but also enjoyable.

I like trail racing and running, but I am looking forward to doing some road races soon.

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Questions for you:

Have you run a race since the pandemic started?

Do you like trails or roads better?