Monday, December 1, 2014

Trail Racing

Ran the Carolina Beach State Park 4 mile trail race Saturday in a time of 24:38. Finished in 4th place overall out of 253 runners, and won top Masters. Nice morning spent with my Dad and some friends old and new in the running community. Picture perfect late fall day too, with clear skies, little wind, and temps in the 30s and 40s.

It was one of those days running and racing wise where things seemed to click. I felt alright on a easy 1.5 mile jog warm up with my Dad before we went back to the park... and also added some in and out sprints in the State Park ten to fifteen minutes before the 9am start. 

I knew the pace would probably be pretty fast the first half mile or so on the main park road before we filed onto the trails... since its much harder to pass and make up ground there. Which is counter to how I like to begin a shorter race at a more relaxed/ controlled harder pace before getting up to race speed closer to say the 1/2-  3/4 of a mile mark. Secretly I was hoping it wouldn't be too frenetic early...which in retrospect it wasn't too bad...and there was plenty of distance to shake the field out. But nonetheless I knew the sprints would help elevate my heart rate to be more prepared for the fast early tempo.

Was in about tenth place when I did hit the trails. Its kind of surreal racing on roads and trails that I run on all the time, mostly by myself. But it also served to motivate me to do better. And it also served to put a little pressure on myself to come up with a good performance on my home turf.

I fell in behind a guy who judging from his appearance I assumed (correctly, 46 years old) was also a Master's runner. During the next 2-3 miles we would each try surges in attempts to drop the other. It was fun in a physically and mentally taxing way to be really racing someone in the race. Was also a younger guy with us too whom I kept incorrectly assuming was going to fall off our pace. Though he did late.

When in such battles I listen to the other person's breathing to get a sense of how they are feeling. I also thought about the final race scene in Once a Runner where the hero notices the shoulders start to droop on the runner he's pursuing on the final lap... therefore gauging that he's beginning to fade and tire.

Knowing the course and layout was a big advantage to have. As the two of us caught up to another runner, I plotted to commence a longer kick coming off a sharp turn and entering a longer and wider straight away on the trails. So with about 600 meters left (and I like this distance as one for a long, extended kick) I made what I hoped to be my last move and took off. The guy I had been racing said something quick like "go get 'em" which I assumed meant he wasn't going with me. But I took no chances and kept the hammer down for a good 200-300 meters until the course turned onto the last single track trail section to the finish.  I kept thinking as I had for most of the latter half of the race Steve Prefontaine saying "you're going to have to bleed this out of me to beat me..."

I couldn't hear anyone behind me foot step or breathing wise then. Looping down this last trail my legs really started to tie up and I dry heaved and nearly hurled. My friend Shawn was trail side taking photos and yelled encouragement and told me to pump my arms (which was much appreciated). I had spent my capital and was done but had opened up a big gap (I did look back) and was able to cruise it home on wobbly legs across the last elevated boardwalk section and under the clock and into the finishing chute. I love being able to see the clock at the end of good races... its such a magical thing to see it when we are running a satisfying time. (though on the flip side we may curse and rue it when we just miss a pr or some goal time).

As for my Dad he had an ok race... but was upbeat and vowed to put in a little more work for the next time. For me its a little rest then some mileage/ harder work outs before a 5k on Dec 13th. Then I hope some more base building over the winter.