Sunday, August 1, 2010

Picking the right races

It's been a great start to the year for my running. In May I PR'd at the Fargo Marathon finishing in 3:56 and some change.
 My first 10K of the year, early in July, I outright won the entire race. Not because I am anything close to being a fast or elite runner, but because there were only 20 people running in it.
My very first Overall Win!
My second 10K of the year was tough to find. There are not many Sunday races in the area and I had to work on Saturday. I happened to stumble across a 10K trail race in Aberdeen, SD. It's about a 3 hour drive from Sioux Falls but I have been wanting to do some sort of a trail race for quite some time now and this was my opportunity! 
It had been raining off and on in the Aberdeen area and they were predicting rain for Saturday night. When I woke up on Sunday there were puddles in the parking lot and the Weather Channel was flashing severe thunderstorm warnings. Ugh, it was really going to suck if I drove all that way to have the race cancelled due to lightening! As I drove out to the sight of the race though the clouds started breaking up, in fact we had a brief shower about 5 minutes before the race and that was it for the morning. I was excited and apprehensive both about the trail being muddy, especially since I had no idea how difficult it would be. 
Bring on the mud!

Getting to the starting line, I lined up in the second row. I was not so bold to even think that I would finish near the front but nobody else seemed to want to be up there. The 5K and 10K runners started at the same place and time. I was quickly grateful that I did start at the front because the first two miles were all single track trail with lots of twists and turns and very few places to pass anyone. I tucked behind a group of ladies that were mostly running the 5K and just worked on maintaining my pace and control of my feet on the slippery turns. I think I probably ran with a smile on my face at least the first mile or two. It is such a fun adventure ducking under branches, jumping over tree roots, dodging the mud puddles while running as fast as you can without ending up on your ass. 
The trail wandered in and out of the trees which made it very difficult to judge how far you had traveled. The tree canopy was very dense so I really couldn't trust that my Garmin was measuring distances accurately either. Quickly into the first mile I had a guy right on my heels, I offered a couple of times to let him pass me, but he waited until we reached a clearing somewhere around the end of the first mile. I let him by and focused on running my own race. Not long after, I was caught behind somebody that had gone out too fast. She was really breathing heavy and slowing down but there was just no room to go around her for awhile. In the meantime the person I was pacing myself behind was pulling away. We came out of the trees and into a field at one point where there was just enough room to pass so I did. For awhile when we ran back into the trees it  seemed like I was running all by myself. I couldn't see anyone in front of me and I certainly wasn't going to risk looking behind me. Before long I caught the lady that I had been following, she offered to let me pass but I just wasn't ready. She really started to slow, so I took the pass. When we came out on to the road again, I realized that I had also just caught up with the guy that passed me at the end of the first mile. It felt good when I was able to recover a little on the road but had plenty of speed to still pass him. Back into the trees, and I was alone again. I had no idea how many people were ahead of me or how close anyone was behind me so I just continued to run my own race. Once again we came out of the trees and they had us running in a grassy ditch. One of the volunteers yelled to me, "just a quarter mile to go!", but I couldn't believe it because my Garmin had just turned over to 5 miles. Instead of putting the hammer down and finishing hard, I just continued on until I was sure that the finish was close. I finished in 54:05 which is a 10K PR for me. I am pretty sure that this race was about a mile short of a 10K, but I'll take it.
I finished second place overall and second place in my age group, winning $50 and a medal!
Second place spoils, not so bad!
I cannot remember a race where I have had so much fun. I will definitely be doing another trail race someday soon! 

Pre race shoes

Post race shoes