Sunday, August 10, 2008


"But we reach the steep sides of Robinson soon enough, and, from there on, it's every man at his own pace. Quite what this pace should be is hard to judge. Gut feeling suggest that one should plough most of one's resources into doing this one big ascent as quickly as possible, since the rest of the course is effectively just an undulating ridge. Experience suggests that undulating ridges can be deceptively demanding."

Richard Askwith, Feet in the Clouds


Me (thinking): Hunh, what are all those people running out towards the start, we have 45 minutes to go.
Me (speaking): F*&%@! (this is a family blog)
Me (thinking): Wait!, the race starts at 0830 instead of 0900!
Me (scrambling): Hoo Ha! Hoo Ha!
SM: . . . those are the changes we have made to the course this year, any questions?
Me (thinking): Doh!

That is how I began my race. Well, actually not, but close . . .

The bottom Line:

Official Time: 2:49:40
Unofficial Time: 2:48:03
Official Place: 137
Gender Place: 101/115
GPS Tracks:
Number of Gels Consumed: 2 (at 5 and 10 miles)
Race Firsts: Ran over eight miles without tripping over anything (this was a 13 mile race, use your imagination)
Fun Factor (scale from 1-10): 6

The Blow-By-Blow:

Weren't the opening ceremonies for the Olympics spectacular?

Yep! I know this because I was up until past 2300 watching them and even found the Parade of Nations fascinating (haven't watched an opening ceremony since the 1976 Montreal Games actually). All I could do was say "Wow!", think about the symbolism, try to ignore the vapid commentary by Lauer and Costas, and wonder how corporations like ExonMobil manage to think of themselves as good citizens.

Was this the smartest thing to be doing the night before a race? Probably not, but then I am not always known to do the smartest things before races. :-)

I awoke at 0530 and started getting ready to leave by 0700. Why so early? Well, let's just say that getting up so early helps to get lots of things moving. Ate a boiled egg, some toast, a banana and drank some juice (something a little more balance, I think). The forecast was for rain and cool temperatures and, for once, they were right. It was cool and really raining. Actually, it was pouring like a day in early spring or late fall.

Got to the trail head and was not able to park in my customary area because all the spots were taken (hmm, strange). Went out to the start to see what was happening and struck up a conversation with the Timing Guy (TG) who was setting up. He said that he wished he was running as it was going to be fairly cold just sitting there and then added that this was the first time it had ever rained on one of these races. As I thought there was 1.5 hours before the start I went back to the car to listen to the radio, read, and have something more to eat and drink. The rain became more intense.

At about 0815 I noticed more and more people coming in and moving rather hurriedly towards the start and realized that the race actually started at 0830 and so jumped out of the car and ran up to the start just in time to hear the end of the pre-race brief. There were a surprising number of new faces and black numbers (people running the series have red numbers) and a few people I did recognize but have not really met (RB the Dentist, TallGreenLakeRedHairedRunningGuy, and one person who PT works with along with Trek Pole Guy (who had both of his knees well-taped)).

I had two goals in this race. First, and most importantly, was to survive the course and finish the whole series, my first such experience, and second, to finish in somewhere around 2 hours and 40 minutes based upon my performance on the 10 mile race. No problem about the first but the second, well, that was the wild card. You see, I am still not quite recovered from the Ragnar and my runs since then have all been real struggles.

The Start

We started, as ever, in a rather low-key fashion and a little-bit late with a light mood. It was still drizzling as we went along towards Clay Pit Road on some old, old concrete. Some wag commented that he "thought this was supposed to be a trail run and what were we doing running on pavement" to the general merriment.

Given how much I have been through over the past few weeks (Ragnar, hamstrings, and general beaten-upedness)I had decided on a rather conservative strategy and just went along in a kind of ground covering shuffle. It was going to be a long race and there was no need to go all out. Besides, running a few seconds faster at the start makes for a much slower finish.

Not Standing In Line

The turn onto the trail went much faster than in the past as I was well in the back and the pack was overall faster. We went along and then went up Anti-Aircraft Trail out to Tibbetts Marsh Trail. It was a bit odd to be running these different trails in the reverse and somehow easier too. Frankly it was nice to not run on Lost Beagle. :-P Passed some people at this point and was passed but mostly was running my myself. It was pretty hot and steamy, too hot for my jacket and hat and I had to take them off while running uphill and trying unsuccessfully to stow them in my pack. My glasses were fogging despite cleaning them with anti-fog stuff (a bad sign actually).

The first water station was at about 2.4 miles. I dropped my jacket and hat off and drank some water with a few other runners, one of whom expressed dismay at the fact that we had only gone 2.4 miles thus far. That is the interesting thing about trail running, it takes a long time to go a short distance and you cannot measure either in the way that you would on the road.

Things went on pretty normally and we hit the first major climb up to Wilderness Peak. This climb went well, better than it has in the past, and after about an hour of running I started the descent down Wilderness Cliff Trail which I tore up during the 10-mile race. Things were not so easy this time . . .

Running Blind

It was pretty hot and steamy on the cliff trail and my glasses really fogged with the consequence that I had to slow down and stop periodically to wipe them. Lots of people passed me and I must admit this became a bit dispiriting and as my spirits fell my fatigue increased. The trail was pretty technical and running without my glasses was really not an option. No floating like a butterfly for me, going slowly and carefully only increases the beating . . . 

Running Happy

The climb up out off Wilderness Cliff out onto Longview Peak and Deceiver went pretty well and I passed people walking on occasion. Mostly I was alone going over ground that has become very familiar over the past four months. It rained on off-and-on and then beautiful shafts of sunlight began coming down through the trees and I started thinking how beautiful it was, so green and pleasant. It made the work easier even though I had still have more than half the course yet to complete and I concentrated on running as much as I could. The miles ticked off.

About 8.5 miles in I started climbing Far Country Trail, the trail that would lead me down to the dreaded DeLeo Wall and as I popped over a rise who do I see? Trek Pole Guy! Whiskey Tango Foxtrot! How the Hell did he get in front of me? Just as I was about to pass him another runner out for a jaunt came up from the other direction and said we were near the crest and then had a 1.5 mile downhill to "enjoy". Trek Pole Guy didn't look like he was doing well and seemed to be barely making headway. I said "Good on ya" as I passed and went on down the hill.


Usually by this time in a race I have smacked into something or tripped over something else at least a few times. I had missed my opportunity to hit the trees on Lost Beagle and had yet to trip over, smack into, or otherwise crash against anything thus far but my luck (or agility) gave out around 9 miles or so when my left foot just stopped after as it caught a rock or a root (not sure which). My toes rammed to the front of my boot and I just stopped and said "Ouch!" and then thought, "I am going to loose some toenails." My whole leg felt as if it was on fire and I hobbled on down the trail knowing that if I stopped I might not start up again. After a few minutes of running the fire stopped and things returned to "normal".

DeLeo Wall

As predicted, this exceptionally pretty part of the trail kicked my butt. DeLeo Wall starts off deceptively easily, a gradual rise on a contour line moving to the South West and then it just heads straight up 100 feet in about 1/10th of a mile. I tried power walking but probably just walked. I could hear people coming up behind me but it seemed that they were having just as much trouble. At this point the sun was coming out and it was burning the mist away revealing the valley to the south. I also noticed just how much I was sweating, my shorts were sopping wet and gave no indication that they were going to dry.  At least this trail becomes a really pleasant (and soft) jaunt through the woods after you have finished the climbs. 

At 10 miles I stopped at the water stop and drank a cup of something, got a "Good Job" from the volunteers, and realized how tired and beaten up I was. After two hours and thirteen minutes of running there were 3.1 miles to go and I knew I was going to make it but there was no way I was going to make my goal time because I barely felt I could trot along. I was still running alone but did get passed by a couple of people at this point (one of whom I passed again as he stopped to shake stones out of his shoes). The Marshall Hill Trail out to Wildside Trail is mostly rolling downhill and the running was pretty easy even though I was feeling banged up. This part of the course put me in mind of the quote by Richard Askwith on racing up Fells (see above) that PT had reminded me of earlier in the week and which I was taking a bit to heart. I also realized that I had been listening to the same song in my head the whole time, "I'll Tell Me Ma!" sung by Ronnie Drew on the Chieftains album, "Live from Dublin: A Tribute to Derek Bell"—such a spritely and playful song but deeply disturbing an annoying by this time in the race. Earworms are funny things. 

Catching Cheetahs

Cheetahs are fast. Really fast. But 13.1 miles on trails really is not like 13.1 miles on the road and I don't care how hilly the latter is. I had this epiphany when I started catching Cheetahs, people who had zoomed off at the start or who had passed. They were mud covered and walking, two of them within the next mile. Walking very slowly, exhausted looking. I asked the first if he was OK and he just grunted. I went on.

That does not mean I was going well. Between 11 and 12 miles I could feel my own legs shutting down and it was taking more and more mental will to go forward to the final climb of the day, Cave Hole Trail.

Cave Hole

I've run this trail, actually a rather wide road, dozens of time, up and down. It is about .7 miles long and climbs something like 383 feet overall and today I could not do it. I tried to run, looked up ahead and saw one of the people who had passed me walking, saw the steepness of the road, and I just couldn't. I trudged up the trail and felt depressed every time I turned a corner and saw even more climbing but finally I could feel that the trail was leveling out and I started running again. Soon I saw a big sign with an arrow and a figure standing next to it. She was directing runners onto Nike Horse Trail and shouted some encouragement to me and went "WooHoo" or some such thing as I went past.

The Finish

Nike Horse Trail is aptly named, horses are much in evidence (use your imagination) but it has the great advantage of being basically downhill and soft. Heavily Muscled Guy was waiting by the fence for another runner and said "Good Job" as I went by and I said "Thank You" and then the ribbons of the finish area were in view, I did the best I could to kick in some speed and put a smile on my face (or was it a grimace), and crossed the line running an 8:10 pace. People stopped what they were doing and clapped me in and I heard something like 2:48:xx as I came in at 11:24:41 AM.

I think I had my picture taken but am not sure. I think I was smiling as I had my picture taken but I am not sure. Made a bee line for the watermelon and ate the most delicious piece I have ever had.

The first person I noticed was Trek Pole Guy! 

The Aftermath

I went into the field near the finish area and stretch, stopping every once in a while to clap another runner in and then went to claim my jacket and hat. With a smile on my face I told the RD that I thought Cave Hole was sadistic. He laughed and said that last years course was harder. Pretty soon he was handing out prizes for the series winners and the event winners, interrupted every few minutes by another runner coming in (there seemed to be so many yet to come in but I have no idea how many). The winner of this race ran something like a 1:35:00 for the 13.1 miles, a 7:15 pace. Me? I ran an overall 12:38 pace according to my Garmin.

I did it! I finished the series and did so with a smile on my face and in my heart. I am so happy.

I am also deeply exhausted and very sore and could barely walk by the end of the day. But I also managed to go to the opera in the evening and to generally enjoy it AND to remain in a relatively good mood.

I wonder what is next for me?

Oh yes, I am not going to loose any toenails! :-)

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