After a 10 week break from racing, I was eager to get back out and running this weekend at a race which is quickly becoming one of my favorite non-OCR events. Masters Of All Terrain is a Florida-based trail running series which sets itself apart from other events due to the meticulous planning and precise execution that is a staple of each event they host. In a nutshell, it’s a great event lead by incredible people who are passionate about putting together a quality experience for their runners.
August races are few and far between in Florida, as intense heat and humidity promises to make nearly any outdoor event extremely uncomfortable. Yet despite this fact, I was not the only person itching to get out and race this past weekend, and a large crowd was already gathered in the festival area when I arrived to the venue. This being my 4th time running a Masters Of All Terrain race, I think it is great to see each event attract more and more avid trail runners and adventure enthusiasts, and it seemed as though this event had the best attendance yet! Offering distances ranging from 5 miles up to ultra marathon length, along with the option to also compete in a “Ruck Division” by carrying a weighted pack through the course, MOAT races are unique and challenging, and are a local fan favorite.
I had decided to take on the half marathon, and after a summer spent focusing my training on power and strength, I realized that this race might pose a challenge as distance running has not been a recent priority of mine. After weeks of power workouts, and more time spent in the gym than out on the pavement, I found myself staring at the starting line of a 13.1 mile race.with one simple goal – to complete the race that I had come to run.
I feel that this particular MOAT race can best be described as “beautifully brutal”. The half marathon course consisted of an eight and five mile loop, and each mile presented gorgeous scenery as runners wound through the pristine tropical grove. From grassy fields to technical single-track trails, from tall grass and sugar sand to exposed roots and low hanging branches, racers encountered an exciting and varied course that required incredible focus and careful attention to foot placement.
As the race progressed the heat quickly climbed into the high 80s, and I found myself very thankful for any shade that was encountered along the course, for the occasional breeze, and for puddles that ended up feeling incredibly refreshing when splashed through. My Camel Bak and salt tabs became a blessing, and water stations equipped with orange slices, pretzels, chips, and gummy bears were a godsend. The heat was brutal! Upon beginning the final 5 mile stretch, the race transitioned into an experience which required mind over matter. With heat bearing down, my primary focus became simply to continue putting one foot in front of the other, and I focused inward, coaching myself through the final miles. Crossing the finish line brought with it a sense of relief coupled with pride for pushing through the discomfort and persevering to the end. I had done what I came to do.
Race experiences that provide a challenge such as the brutal summer heat make crossing the finish line and earning your medal that much sweeter. Overcoming not only a physical, but also a mental challenge creates a pride in oneself that is indescribable. So while it was not my fastest half marathon, it is one that I’m so happy to have completed as I always strive to appreciate each life experiences, even when they may be uncomfortable.
Another great race is officially in the books! And as I rest sore calves today I’m happy to have chosen the MOAT half marathon as my return to racing in what is guaranteed to be an epic fall season. Well done Masters Of All Terrain, thanks for a great race!
(PS. To the folks who helped push my car out of the muck when I became hopelessly stuck on my way out of the parking lot… THANK YOU!!! Your willingness to jump right in and help is so appreciated!)