Saturday, June 13, 2009

Rambling in the Brambles

Actually, thanks to the maintenance crews out at Cougar Mountain Regional Park, there were no brambles or nettles to catch upon during SRC's 7.8-mile race this morning. Here is the quick report:

Number: 7
Age Group Place (Males 40-49): 28/33
Overall Place: 99/190
Official Finish Time: 1:24:28
Distance: 7.94 miles (according to Motionbased)
Time: 1:23:49
Overall Pace: 10:33
Number of gels consumed: 1
Number of cups of water: 2
Blood: Yes!
Number of Time Thinking I would be DFL: 1

And here is the slow report:

Fourteen Days to the Marathon and I don't want to do anything to get hurt. But I also need to sharpen my speed a bit in the remaining workouts. As ever, my intent was simply to run this race as a training run but, put a number on me and surround me with a bunch of sweaty people huffing up and down the hills and I just have to go. It is, as ever, as PuddleThumper predicted. I can't NOT race.

Last year 230 people finished this race but his year it seemed less crowded, something I noticed during my warm-up mile, an easy plonk down Old Man Trail to the Quarry Road and down to the main park gate and back (thanks to all the volunteers out there directing traffic, and especially to the guy at the main gate who wished me luck). Of course, I started wondering if I would be DFL until PuddleThumper told me that she had overheard some other runners asking the same thing AND that there was no way I was as slow as them. :-P Spent some time stretching and then listening to the RD's course briefing and it was time to go.

PT and I lined up mid-pack, behind a guy with an unusual tape-job behind his knee. He was talking to the guy next to him about what pace he was going to run, something between 9 or 10 per mile. The RD yelled GO and off we went out to the main road. I was running easily, somewhere between 8 and 9, waiting for my legs to work themselves in. Lots of people passed me and I passed some, the usual and then the traffic jam onto the trail.

I trotted along in the middle of a pack until the trail got a little wider and passed to the front and just kept the end of the lead pack in sight. The sounds of the other runners receded and soon it was just like any other trail run out there, all alone with my thoughts, breathing, and footfalls. It was nice and I was running smoothly and deliberately.

Lost Beagle didn't seem to hard this year, probably because of a distinct lack of runners. I just dug in and started ascending and even missed hitting the two trees that I ALWAYS hit no matter the direction. Pretty soon I started catching people in the group ahead and passed them. People were pretty encouraging, "good job!" as I went past and returned the compliment. The descent down Anti-Aircraft began in short order and then things started getting a bit strange.

I got passed twice on Anti-Aircraft, one guy I had passed on the ascent and the other came out of nowhere. That is fine. I was still going along. Then I noticed both of them walking up a steep section of the trail and I pushed on past. I would see both of these guys again as they passed me again on an downhill section but then I caught and passed them finally over near Shy Bear. I was in the lead along Cougar Pass Trail to the water stop (at "3.04" according to the RD) where I stopped and ate a GU and drank two small cups of water and one cup of Nuum. It was pretty warm and humid and, as I was just schvitzing (this was beyond sweating), staying hydrated for the next 4-ish miles was going to be important. By this time the pack that I had passed earlier was emerging from the woods and coming down Clay Pit Road. I took off and had a bit of a time re-establishing my rhythm. The trail here was climbing but it was also pretty smooth compared to the previous section where I had had to jump logs and dodge rocks and roots on pretty uneven ground. This is one of my favorite sections of the run actually, as Mine Shaft gives way to East Fork Trail which has a fairly fast and slight downhill to Fred's Railroad. Still running basically alone I came up behind a woman who has stopped running and is sort of walking bent over. I asked after her but she was wearing headphones and didn't respond. My guess is that she went out WAY TOO hard and just blew up (saw her at the finish as she was expressing amazement at how hard this was and how different from a 5K she had just run).

The action heated up as more and more people came blasting up behind me and passed me as we turned on Fred's Railroad. I had rabbits, some people to chase. :-)

After Fred's Railroad, a relatively wide trail, Shy Bear comes as something of a shock. It is narrow, rooted, and pretty hilly. I love it actually, especially since I knew we got to skip Wilderness Peak, this time round, and found my crazy legs again as we went along. Started catching people including "came out of nowhere guy" who was walking slowly again. Began to see hikers as well. In fact, the further into the race we got the more hikers there were and the more harassed they seemed to look.

Heading down into the aptly named Deceiver Loop along Long View Trail I started remembering how hard this section was for me last year during the 7 and 10 mile races. Up! Down! Up! Down! Around! Around! Up! Down! Up! Down! Around! Just when you think you are done you turn a corner and find that you are not. Steep too. I tried keeping a fairly steady running pace on the uphills and downhills (there are precious few flats) and found that I was catching up to the runners who had blown past me on Fred's Railroad. One woman (Pixie-ish Runner Woman), who kept passing me on the downhills (with a breathing pattern that sounded, well, pixie-ish) and who I passed on the uphills, mentioned something about the deceptive hilliness and asked if we were at the last climb. No, I said, we've a way to go. The climb out of Shy Bear Marsh got interesting as I joined a "marching pack" going up the hills. I kept running here too and noted people stopping. Good for me as I was able to move up. Got stuck behind someone wearing headphones which was a bit frustrating as they simply could not hear me. Another runner and I bulled past the blocker and then up onto Fred's Railroad for the last 1.1 miles, a short gradual climb and then a mostly downhill after the East Fork intersection. I picked up the pace here, as did pretty much everyone else, and the race was really on.

I was in the lead of a few people going past the East Fork intersection. The RD was there and I heard him say "Ouch!" as I went past. Didn't think anything of it actually. Perhaps one of the people behind me had fallen and skinned a knee, a few people did. Just kept going and passed a runner wearing long black pants, a long sleeved black top, and loud headphones. She didn't like getting passed and stayed on me as we went down Bypass towards Old Man's Trail and the finish at Sky Country. This is curvy, steep in parts, where is used to be possible to really blast and run on the rims of the trails (think race track banked turns) but not anymore as they have smoothed the trails out and put down pea gravel (I hate this). I picked up the pace though and then happened to look down and saw the reason why the RD had said "Ouch!"—my nipples were bleeding and the blood was starting its way down the front of my shirt. Well, that was distracting! Not enough Body Glide and I knew then that I had chosen the wrong shirt. That was enough for Long Pants Woman (LPW) to pass me and go into the lead. But she started flagging as we bottomed out and turned from Bypass into the gradual climb up to Old Man's. I pushed and caught her and then sprinted past her running between 7:00 and 6:30 through to the finish line (she had made her move too early). I think I heard "99" as I went through. LPW didn't look too happy.

Came across the line feeling very happy and calm actually. Not at all out of control as I had last year. I was, however, really self-conscious about my nipples which, now that I knew about them, were beginning to throb. Spent some time stretching and went down to the car to change my shirt and to suck down a chocolate almond milk. PuddleThumper was out running her cool down so I got some of the best lemonade and went to stretch some more. She turned looking very happy and we watched the awards (including the youngster male and female winners who were, shall we say, amusingly unsure of themselves).

Great run! Not as fast as last years race (1:17 and change) but certainly stronger and steadier. I am also not anywhere near as beaten up as I was last year. This bodes well for the Marathon, doesn't it?

I wonder where "Bumblebee Man" and "Jingly Keys Woman" from last year were. Hiking Pole Man was missing too. But today I met "Came from out of nowhere guy", "Strange Knee Taping Guy", and "Pixie-ish Runner Woman" who floats the uphills. What a crew!

Can't wait for the 10-miler but first, the marathon. :-)

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