So, when I went to get my bib for tonight's race, Rebecca recognized me, and said that she had found the post while looking for articles on the race. I was still amazed that someone had found it that quickly, and I'm thankful for everyone reading these posts, and to Rebecca for posting it where others could find it.
I walked a few laps around the track to warm up and then made a quick trip to my car to drop off my water bottle. I had contemplated running with it (it's a small running bottle with a bit of nylon to keep it on your hand while you run), but decided I didn't need it. During the last race I had found myself wanting for water midway through, but I had made it. I figured that I would be fine this time around, too.
We all lined up near the start a little before 6. I found Matt, whom I had talked with briefly after the last race. We chatted for a few minutes, and then Rebecca got up to say a few words. She remarked with a chuckle that no one had gotten lost last time, reminded us that there was no one out there to tell us where to go, and to just go straight if we were in doubt. Then we were off.
I started in the middle of the pack this time, and found myself running way too fast once again. Matt pulled a little bit ahead of me, and I tried to keep up with him, but he was moving just a little too fast for me. At the end of the first lap, I managed to catch up briefly, and then he was off again. I did my best to keep up the pace, to keep passing, and to keep moving, which worked for the first mile. Right before the end of the first mile, Brian Teague ran past me, talking with another runner. He had taken pictures of the last race, after having run it himself, and then repeated the trick on the Prospect Mountain race last weekend. I don't know how he can run and then immediately hold a camera steady enough to take pictures of the other runners coming in, but I'm grateful for it.
I slowed down a lot on the second mile's hills. During the last race, mile two was when I found myself fighting the urge to walk almost constantly. This time around, it wasn't quite so bad. My knee was hurting, I was thirsty, but I would live. So I kept running, right up until we passed the water towers near the mall and the course started descending. The big toe of my right foot got caught on a root or a half buried log, and I found myself sailing toward the ground. I caught myself on my hands in a break-fall, but I didn't have time to throw my legs back. My right knee, the one that had been hurting, the one that always hurts, ended up covered in dirt and what appeared to be blood. The race had me in its thrall, though, so I jumped back up and kept running.
Two other runners whom I recognized as being around my pace cut past me just then, and I felt a surge of adrenaline. I flew down the hill, focusing on turnover, and I passed them in short time. I was determined to finish strong. When I got past the people cheering at the edge of the track, I poured on whatever energy I had left. During the run last week, I had nothing left by this point, and I just did my best to finish. This week, I didn't have that problem: I ran the track portion at the end in the 7s, and finished at 29:20, a full 35 seconds faster than the previous week, another PR. (I know I'll plateau eventually, so I'm enjoying these PRs while I can.)
Afterwards I walked over to the point where the track meets the woods road, and cheered other runners on for a little while. After that, I caught up with Matt; he had also bettered his time from the previous week. He said he was constantly looking to see if I was catching up to him, but I had lost sight of him after the first mile and hadn't seen him at all after that.
I'd like to say a huge thank you to Rebecca, and all of the staff and volunteers who put on these series. The races are a LOT of fun, and they're well run. I strongly recommend that any area runner check them out. There are two more left in this year's series, on the 20th and the 27th.
One interesting aspect of running the same course week after week is that you can compare gear when you're pushing yourself over the same terrain. There's a lot that you can't control, such as the weather, or how you're feeling, but you can use the experience to get a rough feel for how you perform when using certain gear.
I had already decided, going in to this, that I would run this course with different footwear each time, to try to finally figure out what shoes I want to wear for this terrain. I've dialed in my road footwear (Brooks PureFlow 2), but my trail footwear is still all over the place. After this race, I also realized that it might not be cut and dry. I love my Bikila LSs (Vibram FiveFingers) for the type of terrain in Coles Woods, and they also did great on hikes up smaller mountains, and even Mount Equinox. When it came to the High Peaks, though, with its mud and and eroded faces, they fell short. I found that I had to push my foot down completely against the rock to get traction, and when I didn't, there was a good chance that I was going to slip. The treads on the Bikila aren't that deep, and I think that's the source of the problem: get enough mud on them and you're in danger of not making contact with the terrain. So I might need to settle on one pair for woods roads and smaller mountains, and another for the High Peaks and similar terrain. Regardless, I still have a lot to learn.
On the first race of this series I ran in my Trail Gloves (Merrell), which are perfect for this terrain, and I didn't have any problems with them. This week, I took out my Spyridon LSs, which are the trail running FiveFinger model. I have a love-hate relationship with these shoes; they bite well on most surfaces, including some ice, but they tend to hurt my feet. I'm not quite sure where the problem is. In today's race my feet were OK, but my knees were hurting. I'll probably run in my Bikilas next week, and I'm curious to see if my knees end up hurting during that run. For the final week I might take out my road shoes.
I'm also trying to nail down running backpacks and clothing, as I find myself gearing up for longer and longer runs. This race, to keep it simple, I just ran with an SPI Belt to hold my phone and my keys, and I found myself forgetting that it was there. Last week, I, uh, well... I ran in my work clothes. So my phone and my keys were in my pocket; no pack needed. It wasn't horrible, running in jeans and a polo, but it was definitely sweaty. (I do most of my midweek runs like this during the cooler months, when sweating isn't a problem.) This week I stuck to a normal running outfit: wool running shorts and a wool base layer up top.
Well, that's enough rambling for one day. Until next time, be excellent to each other.