Sunday, November 29, 2015

4 Mile Trail Race

Ran the 11th annual Wilmington Road Runners Turkey Trot 4 mile trail race in the Carolina Beach State Park Saturday morning. Had a pretty solid race with a time of 25:08. Finished 4th overall out of 239 runners and won top Masters award.  Also several of the #CapeFearFlyers kids that I coach ran and won or placed in their respective age groups, as did some of my fellow coaches.

All of us had a beautiful late fall morning to run, sunny skies with race time temperatures in the sixties, and a light breeze. In fact on places in the course not shaded it got a bit warm out.  Participants were treated afterwards to a full, catered breakfast, including banana bread pudding which made quite the impression on a lot of the athletes.

The night before, as per my usual routine, I spent some quiet time down on the beach.... watched a full moon cast her feathery yellowy light down onto the rolling waves, and the flowing currents in between. I feel really alive and touched by life in these moments, as well as contemplative, and spiritually connected to the entirety of the world present, past, and unseen.

I thought about my Mom and prayed for her up in heaven. In fact I thought of and said prayers for several of my friends and their parents whom they lost recently... many of them dear friends through our shared love for the sport of distance running. I even got a little teary eyed and cried softly, which felt healthy and good. As I bade goodbye and gave thanks for the communion, I looked at the unfurling and crashing waves and asked if I could harness a little of the ocean's energy and strength for the next day's race.

Picked my packet up early Sat am at the visitor's center in the state park, had a nice chat with my friend Brenda about some of the local races that occurred on Thanksgiving, then parked my car down by the start line area to get some warm-up drills, stretching, and miles in. Saw Peyton and we headed back into the woods on the trail for an easy 15-20 minute or so jog while we chatted away, before looping back to the marina and meeting up with the Flyers kids and other coaches.

Led the kids on a 15 minute run, showed everybody the finish line which is in a separate part of the park, and got a few striders in on the main road before heading over to the start line back by the Cape Fear River. Was fumbling around with my Garmin watch as the race surprisingly to me began, and I almost ran over Sawyer and another kid while trying to reset and start the thing. Fortunately no-one went down.

The first half mile followed the main road back out the park, which lends itself to most of us going out a little faster then we would like as to not get to jammed up behind the pack when entering the single track trails. Though the pace didn't seem too fast Saturday, and I felt fairly comfortable settling into a race pace before making the right turn and entering the woods. Followed a tall guy whom I chatted with briefly on the road about a hole, for about the next 2 miles. I kept thinking (and was actually temped to ask) how old are you, are you over 40?  (he ended up winning the 35-39 AG).

But on sugar loaf hill he slowed and I surged ahead of him , and ran the next mile or so by myself, save for the occasional glimpse of a lone racer up ahead on the trails. Gradually the distance between the two of us narrowed, until with about a half mile to go I caught up and ran behind him for a bit. I sensed he was not in position nor had the desire to challenge me if/ when I made a move... which I did with about 3 tenths of a mile left. It helps for me to be intimately familiar with the park's trails, not only the terrain, but to have a fairly precise knowledge of how far away I am from the finish at all times.

Cruised it in fairly hard but not all out after a brief glance or two back to make sure my fellow competitor in fact was not coming back after me. Splits afterwards revealed a fairly even effort, and there were 2 sections of the trails about 100-250 meters in length of real loose sand that slowed the pace down. Felt I could have gone a little faster overall, especially had I been pushed harder, but also ran a steady, consistent, and fairly intelligent race. All in all I'll take it. And I hope I've learned over the years to not pay too much credence to the typical runner's psyche that no matter how fast we've run, we feel we could have gone faster. Albeit it's true, but not something to get overly hung up on.

Had a lot of fun hanging out afterwards, eating breakfast with and talking to many wonderful friends in the running community. Our journeys are all unique, but on days like this they can all converge for a few brief moments in time...