Race Recap

Some Thoughts From The Mokolodi Scorpion Trail Race (2019)

Remember my 5K PB race?! Well, the following day (22nd Sept. 2019), I participated in the Mokolodi Scorpion Trail Run. As soon as I saw it advertised, I registered immediately for a number of reasons, 1) It was a week before my Run The Berg Trail Race so I was keen to get one more trail done, 2) The late start meant I would get more practice running in the heat, and most importantly 3) I wanted to test my hydration pack which had just arrived in the post.

As Ditiro had done the Half Marathon the day before, he opted for the 55km MTB challenge while my friend Elisa and I ran the trail. It was quite a small group of runners and when it was time to go, most of them set off quite quickly. I was quite happy to be at the back of the pack and my first 3km were comfortable, 07:14/ 07:01/ 07:21 min/km.

The terrain in Mokolodi is quite rocky and rugged with a mixture of narrow paths and jeep track. The route took us past the dam and also included the climb up to World View which always has some good views. With very little rain, things were still quite dry and brown.

My mid run paces were slower, 07:45/ 07:52/ 08:04 with my slowest being the climb up to World View (08:54). After the climb, my paces increased again, 7:19/ 7:32/ 06:33 and for the first time, I was quite relieved with a short course – 9.27 km. Unlike the day before where I had continued running past the Finish Line to get the right distance, this time I ground to a happy halt! I soon spotted Elisa and we then had our fair share of fresh orange slices and met up with some other runners as we waited for Ditiro to come through.

On paper my race was a good one. I liked the route, the small crowd and my new shiny medal. But something was missing. And although it’s hard for me to admit – what was missing was real enjoyment. And this has nothing to do with the course design or the race itself. It really is a case of, “It’s not you, it’s me”. 🙂 I found an article which looks at ‘3 easily avoidable rookie errors’ and it really hit a chord with me. I’ve discussed the difference between trail and road running before but I’m going to look a bit closer at what I’m struggling with on a personal level.

What Is Stopping Me From Enjoying Trail Races

1/ I’m Overly Concerned About Pace: On the road, I focus on time and pace, and I love it! But doing this on trail doesn’t make too much sense. When you think about it, you can’t compare your times on tar with those on unpredictable terrain – muddy paths, rocks and roots, gravel, tufts of grass, narrow passages, water crossings, etc… Every trail experience is different, some easy and others technical. But whatever it is, it’s always going to be very different from road. When I asked my cousin Tapiwa who is an avid trail enthusiast, if she thinks of pace on the trail, her response was simple, “I don’t care about pace. I only look at my watch to see how long I’ve been out for. For me, effort matters more than pace”. She is spot on. But I still struggle to get out of my head and I continue to feel disheartened when I see paces on my watch that I would never see on the road. This is affecting my ability to tune out and enjoy the surroundings.

2/ I’m Impatient and Frustrated: The article emphasises that there is “Only one route to progression on the trail – patience and consistency”. I put a lot of work and effort into road running, taking things one step at a time and enjoying my small achievements. But I’m very impatient when it comes to trails. I don’t do many of them but for some reason I seem to feel that trail running should come easier and when it doesn’t I get frustrated. Why do I feel that I can just wake up and do well on trails with little to no practice? Just like I’ve put effort and time into road running, the same should go for trails. I also need to learn not to be so hard on myself and in ultra runner Cecile Bertin’s words, “Little by little the trail runner gets fitter, faster and stronger…never forget that it’s always nature that wins at the end. Respect and accept it.”

3/ I Feel Anxious: When I’m on the trail, I think too much. Am I doing this right? What am I doing wrong? How far till the end? What’s my average pace? I panic about hurdles that may or may not be there. And with all that thinking, I barely get time to enjoy the ride. In the end, I just work myself into a state and feel powerless and out of control. I asked Tapiwa what she enjoys when trail running. Her response was completely different from mine, “I see more beautiful sights on trails…I get a high on trails. The high makes me feel super human. Even when tired, I still find the energy to go up or go down… I just focus on how I’m feeling and it just makes me want to do an even harder trail to get that high.” Where she feels at her strongest, I feel at my weakest and most vulnerable. The article mentions that “ultimately it’s down to you to find a way that makes running enjoyable for you” and stresses that this involves keeping your eyes off your watch and that “a nice deep gulp of nature can make the whole thing worthwhile.” I’m not seeing the beauty around me because I’m so busy panicking about how I’m going to navigate it.

Of course, there is a chance that trail running is just not for me. And I will accept that. But for now, there is something that keeps pulling me to trail running and I can see myself enjoying it. But enjoying it will mean learning how to let go of these barriers that keep getting in my way. This was a lot of food for thought before I headed into the biggest Trail Race of my life – Run The Berg in the Northern Drakensberg Mountains of South Africa. Stay tuned for that recap! 😉

I’m joining two amazing runners, Kim from Running on the Fly and Deborah from Confessions from a Mother Runner for their link up, the “Weekly Run Down”. Hop on over to their blogs and others, and be inspired to be better and do better this 2020!

37 thoughts on “Some Thoughts From The Mokolodi Scorpion Trail Race (2019)

  1. I just ran a trail around the Table Mountain this week and I noticed that I was anxious about falling. And then I also worried that my slower pace was holding everyone else up. 😬 But as you say, it’s a skill that can be learned! I definitely want to get better at it, too! 😊

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  2. Very interesting thoughts about trail running! I find that it takes too long (in my opinion) to get my run “done”. I know very well how far my mile markers are from my house, but when I get on the trails I’m a bit lost and it feels like forever before I hit each mile. That’s frustrating. The trail marathon that I did was a lot of fun though because it was a big party atmosphere with very friendly people and everyone was just out for a fun day. I really liked that part of the trail race!

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    1. You’ve hit the nail on the head. I love the atmosphere of trails and the people. Such a great vibe. But yes, I get impatient. It feels long (and dare I say it, too long!) I did a 24km road run this past Sunday and on Saturday I have a 17km trail run… guess what is intimidating me more? LOL!

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  3. Your thoughts are so interesting. I haven’t done a trail race — that might be one gonal for 2020 — but I do let go of pace goals when doing the little trail running I do. Maybe if I did the same route over and over I’d want to see progress, but otherwise, you just can’t judge your pace. I think cycling helped me let go of that — in road events you still have to stop at stop signs and traffic lights, and even on the bike path you may have to slow down until it’s safe to pass. But, you’re right, trails may not be right for you.

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  4. You totally hit on everything with your “trail anxiety.” I”m not much into stats or pace (yes, I like perusing them AFTER a race)…but when I do trail races, I feel a huge sense of liberation from all things numbers and otherwise. I know the terrain is not gonna be as friendly as a road, and I know that will affect my finish time. For me, that gives me a sense of relief. I guess it shifts the blame to the trail and off of me LOL

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  5. “I’m not seeing the beauty around me because I’m so busy panicking about how I’m going to navigate it.” – yup, that’s me! I did manage to enjoy my ultra, perhaps because it wasn’t tooooooo scary underfoot and I’d done some of the route in our practice run a few weeks before.

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  6. I’d totally be anxious just like you. It’s too many things to think about, which is also my issue with complicated PT and exercise classes.
    Were you in a drought period, or is that the seasonal patterns for the baked landscape?

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    1. This is just a few weeks into Spring, and we have very dry winters. So that’s how it looks before we get our first rains of the year! And it’s amazing what a couple of rains do… everything looks green again. But in general, Botswana (especially in the south where I live) is known for not having much rain and for having long dry periods.

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      1. It reminds me of some Australian friends’ photos. They’re not fire effected but it was an utterly parched landscape, which subsequently blossomed. Amazing to see

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  7. I know so many runners that love trails but I just have to stick to road racing for now, lol. I’m just SO paranoid about tripping over rocks or tree roots, but I know that running on the trails is a little easier on your joints, which is definitely a good thing.

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  8. I’ve had those issues on trail runs too (on the road as well, but that’s a different story!). I like the idea of a trail run, laid back, relaxed. The competitor and type A in me struggles with that! I have to resolve this whole thing. I liked the way you laid it out!

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  9. Trail running is definitely a horse of a different color. It’s so far removed from road running and it can be very hard to switch mindsets between the two. You have the opportunity for such amazing trails so I hope you don’t write it off just yet, but if it turns out to not give you joy, you have your awesome road running on which to fall back!

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    1. Oh yes! I keep getting drawn to trails so won’t give up just yet! And I think I also need to start doing more trail runs, not just when I have a race. Trail running needs practice just as much as road running. But the tendency for people ( me included LOL) is to go from road running to trail races without doing many trails in between.

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  10. Love this….So spot on. Trail running should be approached differently from road running. This race provided us with last minute crucial insights before we tackled Run The Berg 😅 Despite the humbling moments it was a good race and we got in some quality chatting time while we waited for Ditiro to finish 😁😘

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  11. Good for you for giving this so much thought! I ran on roads for years before I ever did a trail race, and so far I’ve only done a few and yes, totally a different animal than the road. While I love running on trails I do not love racing them, because I like to relax and enjoy them, if that makes sense. I’m looking forward to your recap!

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  12. I don’t race on trails but have only ran there and yes the experience is very different. I stopped caring about pace because I finally came to understand that it is very different from road running. Enjoy it for now and see where it takes you. You might be surprised.

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