Back on the trails and it feels so nice! Going fast is nice, but negotiating rocks, roots, slippery plank bridges over swamps, mud, and other trail runners really is where it is at!
As advertised the weather was dreary:
but that didn't stop nearly 100 runners from coming out to the race.
Breakheart Dan swung on by the honeycomb hideout to pick me up for the race. As I climbed into the ride, still wiping the sleep from my eyes, Dan says, "Well, at least it isn't raining up here yet!" It was actually relatively dry on the trip over to Ravenswood Park in Gloucester, as we only had light rain until we reached the parking area. Even then the rain was light, but it was downright cold.
I chose to run with a Nike Dri-Fit skull cap hat, my totally awesome NMC Gardening-style Running Gloves, short sleeve Asics T-shirt, lycra long sleeve turtleneck base layer, RaceReady LD Sixer Shorts, Drymax Trail Socks, and Asics Trabuccos. At first I thought I might be going a little too thin with the clothes, but after many miles and many races I have this down as a sort of an unconscious science.
I decided against wearing the Vibram Five Fingers because I have a few sore spots on my feet, and with the trail promising to be super rugged with roots, rocks, and wet leaves, I decided to go with the trail shoes instead. I think I need a little more training with the Vibrams on rugged trails. I did miss the 'light on feet' feeling, but was happy to have the added protection on three or four really gnarly sections.
I was also glad to have my Drymax Socks. My toes were very warm and well protected, and they remain yet another piece of gear with which I am extremely happy.
We headed over to the start and I shed my sweatshirt. At the start the RD quickly said a few words and then sent us out into the wilds. The course is a neat collection of rolling hills with all types of terrain mentioned above. We began on some relatively tame, but narrow single track, which didn't provide much time or space for the faster people trapped in the middle or the back of the pack. After the initial stretch of single track, the race empties out onto a nice wide gravel carriage road and the group began to stretch out. Of course, as the legs started feeling good on the smoother surface, the course headed off into the woods yet again for some more single track. One of the unique elements of the course were three stretches of plank bridges across swamps. The bridges were all about 18 inches wide, so no passing happening here!
Beyond the terrain there were a couple nice panoramic views of Gloucester Harbor and the churning Atlantic, but I found I was much more interested in the trail than the view, and totally missed the vistas looking for trail markings and obstacles. I found the course to be fair; Fair in the sense that each runner really had to work hard to watch his or her footing with the gnarly single track full of rocks and roots and leaves, but the stints on the carriage roads and boardwalks provided a few nice respites from the white knuckle running.
The course is fairly close to the advertised distance, I had 4.33 miles, and the race application boasts a distance of 4.1. Here's a shot of the course via Google Earth:
Breakheart Dan ran a great race, even after running long yesterday in preparation for the Stone Cat 50 Miler. and it was great to see Bill Howard back on the trails after a little time away (but still able to kick my butt!). Beyond the regulars it was nice chatting it up with other folks before, during, and after the race. It may have been rainy, windy, and raw, but the same old warm trail community was there in force
My average mile pace was right where I hoped it would be, and it appears the speed work I have been doing has inspired a couple of the skills I had to stick around. I am hoping I'll start to heal a little faster, and will be able to build my base and get back to a long run. Either way, I think I have learned that in life we must constantly remind ourselves to be thankful for the things we have, and stay away from the poison of envy. Of course, I want to get faster and be back to the long training runs with my friends, but I have been able to race twice in the last two weeks. I am blessed.
One final point, and I am not mentioning this to garner sympathy, but I also feel blessed that I am able to run on the trails because I feel like my eyesight has actually got worse over the last few months. I could see the obstacles in the trail today, but the foliage and the lack of sunlight really made life tough for me on some of the technical and steep descents. I wasn't quite able to focus on some of the contours of the rocks, and had to slow down (much to the chagrin of those close behind me) and take some sections a little slower than I'd have liked. I want this blog to be mostly about the trail and my running, but my visual challenges really come up on days like today.
I know you aren't supposed to name yourself when you run trails, but I feel like an appropriate trail name for me would be 'Radar'. We'll see if it catches. :-)
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