"If your goal is plain survival, be clever - not beautiful"
- Hawksley Workman's song 'Clever, Not Beautiful'
There once was time where I'd get myself so worked up before races I'd be in the bathroom for too many minutes taking care of the byproducts of pre race anxiety. These days I only worry about essential gear, and that is pretty much it.
I am competitive, but I have been on sort of a weird path training wise since getting injured last October. It has been one of those paths that one might find themselves on just before dawn, still in darkness, going slow because the terrain is not altogether identifiable, but continuing to move forward because it makes the most amount of sense and is easier than standing idle in the vast nothingness with your thoughts.
This truly is a strange place to be in. A year ago I was starting to physically develop to handle the stress of running past an hour, but it really hurt. I had more speed, but my body was still converting back into a runner's body. People might think that is bull ticky, but having gone from speed baron, to sedintary man, to runner reborn, I have felt and seen the muscle groups in my body reconstitute themselves to adapt to the change in activity.
Oh yes, race report...
So I am definitely not in great shape right now 'racing' wise. I have been working on the longer runs because my IT Band seems to be cool with the combination of slow mileage and trails, which means less of a base, and virtually no speed or tempo work so far. My times are way off what I would like to be doing right now, but running slow sure beats sitting on the couch! Each race is a new adventure and a new opportunity to get just a little faster. Plus, next year when races are revisited I'll be shattering these times :-).
So the race itself, it is hard to say how great of an event it is because the field is limited to 250 and I am really looking forward to coming back next year! The Colonial Road Runners put on a great event, and you arrive to an army of smiling volunteers. The race is another with no frills - no T-shirts or trophies, but I would much rather have a finisher's award of freshly baked cookies! The terrain is a nice mix of challenging single track and easier fire roads, but it is everpresently rolling. I discovered once I found a little bit of cadence and smooth pace I turned an ankle as a little reminder of who was really in control. There are a couple brook crossings (my favorite!), and a couple switchback climbs. Plenty of juice, water, snacks, and friendly faces at the finish as well. I would suggest, though, if you are lucky enough to get in, make an additional donation above and beyond the $5 fee. All the proceeds go to the Trailside Museum, which draws its life from State funding, and we all know how that is working in these times. If you have the desire to run a trail race, odds are you love nature, and have or will have kids that will truly benefit from the animals and exhibits provided by the museum.
Breakheart Dan reciprocates this in his race report (found here), but the heat was sneaky. The weather reports made it obvious it would be warm, but I honestly think this was my first time running in 70 degree weather in months. The start was on a shady, paved section of the reservation, 3 mile and 10 mile trail runners bunched together. I walked through the crowd looking for my hombres, Breakheart Dan and kZ, but couldn't find them, and figured I'd pick a shady spot somewhere in the middle, knowing I'd see them at some point.
Start call goes off and I feel a little spring in my step. I figure I'll go with it for the first couple minutes, knowing the 3 milers will be directed off the trail at a detour over their course, while the 10 milers ease on down the fire road for the long haul.
Oddly enough the heat really wasn't bothering me those first couple miles. There were a couple of extended downhills, and I realize that in a race like this, pounding the ascents are great ways to get a few seconds back that will be lost in the climbs. I didn't look at my first split, I wish I had, and then just before mile two my body provided the initial signs that I had probably picked a pace that was not smart. Two mile split 17:23 (8:51, 8:32), which is where I should be, but am not.
Arrive at the first water stop, feeling alright, but definitely smelling the smoke of a fast approaching flame out. Mile three what where the first large hill arrived, which was just enough to zap the legs still tired from my Marathon Monday tribute training run, but I can't complain, my 18.5 miles is nothing compared to kZ's Don't Run Boston 50k adventure over these same Blue Hills, on tougher trails, over the course of 8 hours. Just about then I hear the dynamic duo scream out, "Rob"!
We ran together for the next four miles, surging every little bit, busting chops, bitching about the heat. The company was great for morale, and actually gave a little lift (it was that or the Double Latte Gel I pounded). I said a brief adios at mile 4 and ran the fifth mile in 9:14, which was a vast improvement to the 25 minutes it took to amble miles 3 and 4. The three amigos met up just about the midway water stop, which, as alluded to in the synopsis, seemed to come out of no where. We drank and doused, and Dan, with the comment of the Spring, in joy utters: "Agua Erotica!" Seriously people, you can't make this up! We laughed for a good quarter mile, and then another climb was a fitting mood killer - this trail running is serious business.
This is where I started falling apart. My quads were toast, my stomach was turning over, and the heat was breaking my concentration. I began to fall off and Dan urged me to go with him, which I was able to do for one of the climbs, but could not on a second incline. Mentally and emotionally I danced with the demons those next few miles. A runner or two would pass here and there. I started to feel slightly good, run a little, and then just get zapped by the heat and exhaustion. There were a couple of other friendly runners I managed to chat with a little. Mostly just encouragement as we yo-yoed with each other over the last two miles. I dug in an found that remaining push to look cool running through the finish and grab a spot or two, and then tried to find a shady spot to go and dry heave.
Of course, my two sons were excited to see me finish and wanted to hang, which sort of was cool, only I didn't want them to see Dad throw up all over himself.
(Still not fast, but smiling every step of the way - Photo credit Breakheart Dan)
1st half: 52:24
2nd half: 58:41
That would be a second half Bonk-o-rama!
Hung out with Breakheart Dan and kZ after the event. Listened to more of kZ's tale of DRK50K - amazing. Drank from the Gatorade cup o' bliss. Realized how I have never been very social, and if it weren't for this blog, I probably wouldn't have any other friends or experiences that have come from meeting others in the trail running community. Having friends to train and race with really is a blessing.
It is so cool to come to a race and greet people with names like Nipmuck Dave, kZ, Gilly or Pixie. Breakheart Dan and I have both lamented that we desire our unique trail monikers, but these things seem to come through a far more organic nature. Some do come from people's blog handles, so maybe it is time I change mine, I'd rather not be known as RunninRob, but I'd like to earn a moniker, rather than impose one on myself. If the stars align, and Dan, kZ, and I run the PF50k together, there may be enough exhaustion induced creativity to earn these names.
(Post race - a Motley Crew, coming to a course near you!)
Until The Next Adventurous Thought or Challenge...