Feeling a little burned out after US bank, i spent my vacation week in california not even thinking about stairs, nor looking for a gym. Instead, i hiked, and when i found it convenient and felt like it, ran. The first big hike was up Mt Baldy, where i bonked ( no fuel, i think ). But the rest of the week was fun runs and hikes.
When i returned to chicago, something else was on the itinerary--train runs! I had one on my schedule, and before i knew it, i had another! So i started getting outside and running, which was really nice. Kelley ( girlfriend ) had the chicago marathon, and i supported her there, and was tremendously inspired by all the runners. The next weekend we both lined up at bullfrog, and took off when the siren sounded.
|In the crowd at the start|
It was my first real trail race, so i took it slow... I ended up behind quite a few people, as maybe 100 people, almost all of them going way too fast for their ability, passed me up the first steep hill. I didn't mind much, as the path was initially wide and passing no big deal. Soon, the path narrowed, and i discovered the problem with crowds: most people run downhill WAY slower then i do. But with slow runners in front of me, i couldn't bomb down the hills the way i usually do, and every downhill was costing me 10 or so seconds. So, i made an extra effort to pass people and get out of the pack. By mile 1.5 or so, i was mostly free, though more tired than i wanted to be, and i'd still hit clots of people.
On of my strategies was to hike any serious uphill since i hike up hills 90% as fast as i run them, and i find it much easier. As the race course split between the 5k and 5.5mile course, ( i was doing the 5.5 ) there was a steep, grassy, and wet uphill. There was no one behind me at the base of the hill, but someone charged up the hill full tilt soon after me, and by the top they were on my heels.
But not for long. I was fresh, and as the trail flattened, i took off, while my shadow was out of energy. A quarter mile later, they were out of sight, and i was mostly alone again. I passed a few people, then at mile 4 or so, i saw someone about an 1/8 of a mile ahead. He seemed out of reach, but i focused on my form and breathing and every time i checked, he was just a little bit closer. Finally i was right behind him, and we hit a steep downhill, and a scooted past him. Soon he was 30 or 40 feet behind me, and i felt great!
|Motoring up the trail|
Until the trail forked, and i had no idea where to go! I stopped and looked each way, trying to figure it out, and the guy from behind just sailed past me. Still unsure, i followed, feeling kinda deflated. I'd worked by butt off to get past the guy, and he sailed past me because he'd known where to go. He started to put some distance on me, and i didn't have the energy or will to close. We broke into the clearing that held the finish line, and he put a little more distance on me, and i finished about a minute behind him.
|Looking at the clock. Will I finish in under 48 minutes?!?!|
I caught my breath and spoke to a few people, and soon kelley arrived. We talked, ate some race food, and headed home.
Later i was amazed at how well we'd done. I was 30th overall with 47:59, and kelley was 50th with 53:30. Amazingly, we'd both placed 4th in our age groups. The guy who beat me for third was the dude in yellow i was trailing! With a little more strategy and course knowledge, i think i could have finished ahead of him, or at least had a shot on that last steep hill with my stairclimber's legs.
The next weekend was the muddy monk 5k, also with Kelley. A little more wary, i went out pretty hard and beat most of the pack to the narrow windy path. On the path, with fewer people to pass, i could stay behind people until there was a good spot to pass, and used my saved energy to put some distance on them. There was a muddy stream crossing, and a muddy area under a bridge, so i was glad i had purchased some real trail shoes! There were logs to jump over, branches to duck under, and even a few fallen trees you sort of had to scramble through. Before i knew it, the path had looped back and i realized we were under a mile to finish, perhaps quite a bit less. There were still a number of people around me, and i was less shy about passing, hopping onto the trail shoulder and sprinting past 2-3 people before getting back onto the trail. Finally there was a woman running at a pretty good clip in front of me, and i was gassed. At this point, it was all i could do to stay with her, so i stayed behind her happily.
Until we got into the clearing with the finish line. The path widened, and she seemed pretty wobbly, and ran down the center of the 90+ degree turn. I took my chance, and energized by letting her pull and the sight of the finish line, i took the inside track and sprinted to the finish.
I looked at my clock and was amazed to see 21:50! I had just run a HUGE 5k PR, on a muddy trail, with obstacles! But my joy was short-lived, as my app informed me the trail was only 2.8 miles. So my pace had been 7:40, which was still good ( matching last year's PR 5k pace, that set of flat paved streets )
Kelley finished soon after, and we enjoyed the free beer and vegan hot dogs provided by the race, as well as some of the great snacks. One of the people i sprinted past at the end found me, and, laughing, high fived and and congratulated me on my speed. We had a nice chat, and both said we hoped we'd see each other at a race soon.
|Nom nom nom nom. Plus, my hair is attacking Kelley.|
|It's ok, it's fuel.|
I had tremendous fun at these two events, and compared to stair racing, the value is incredible! It's more fun picking off people on trails than grinding away on the stairs, and the races are much cheaper and have more swag and food. I'm not giving up stairs, but i'm definitely going to do more trail races!