Sunday, March 30, 2008

Has anybody seen my trail legs?

Use it or lose it, right?

Yesterday, I ran my first trail run of the year. It was my first trail encounter since a hike in October. It was my first trail run longer than 10 miles since last August. I had no trail legs at all.

The good news was that my hamstring was absolutely fine. The other good news is that I finished a really tough 50K. The less good news is that I finished last in 8:59:50.

The course was a short out-and-back to a 7+ mile loop. The race was limited to about 20 runners, and you could run anywhere from 2-5 loops. Most runners did 3 or 4 (the 50K was 4), but 3 people ran the max of 5 loops. There was a 10 hour time limit. My Forerunner showed 31.3 miles for the 4-loop option and it also showed over 10,000 feet of climbing. However, knowing that the Forerunner is terrible at measuring elevation, I tucked my Suunto altimeter into my hydration pack and it showed 4600' of climbing. Even that amount was a lot for me at this time of year.

On my first loop, I quickly fell in with two runners from Massachusetts that I'd seen at other local races. But, after half an hour on incredibly rocky terrain, I let them go. For the next hour or so, I have to admit I was truly unhappy. The course was way more technical than I was ready to run, and I didn't want to fall and hurt myself on the rocks. I knew pretty early that I was looking at an 8+ hour day. At one point, I thought to myself that I would just have to endure it, because I needed the training for WS.

Then, after about 90 minutes, a GAC (Gil's Athletic Club) member named Ed caught up to me. We'd done numerous races together before, but had never really run together. We started talking and decided to run together. We finished the first loop in 2 hours and took a 5 minute aid station break. We knew we were in last place, but I think we both enjoyed the company. We commiserated about being fellow members of the no-matter-how-many-miles-I-run-why-am-I-still-fat running fraternity.

The second loop flew by in 2 hours flat and we took another 5 minute aid station break. I had the feeling that Ed was going to call it a day at 3 loops, given that he has a 50 miler in 2 weeks. Even though I wanted the company, I encouraged him to be smart with a 50 that soon. We slowed down on our 3rd loop and it took us 2:12. Towards the end of the loop, Ed was slowing and I started to pull away just a little bit. At the aid station, he confirmed that he was done for the day, so I headed out solo for my last loop.

The race course was a trail called the Skyline Trail, but that trail was one of many in this park. The trail was marked by white blazes and you had to constantly look up for trail markers and look down to avoid tripping over rocks. Ed and I had done 3 clock-wise loops, so for variety, I decided to go CCW on the last loop. I also decided I was pretty much going to hike the loop, but I did want to stay under 9 hours for the day. I headed out for the last loop at 6:28:xx on my watch, giving me about 2.5 hours to make my time goal.

Going the other way, I got off trail a couple times. One fairly aggressive dog (an Aussie) decided it wanted to herd me in a different direction and its owner spent some time getting it to leave me alone. I was surprised by how strong I felt, at least from an energy perspective. My feet and legs were a bit beat up, but my pace was consistent. Going CCW, the tougher part of the loop was at the end. At one point, I remember thinking that I was pretty amazed that I hadn't fallen yet. Within a couple minutes, I took my one fall of the day. It wasn't a rock that got me though; it was a downed tree that was pretty easy to see. I just didn't pick my foot up high enough.

With about a mile to go, I knew I'd have to push to go under 9 hours, and I started running a bit. I hit the last easy trail portion with about 5 minutes to go and I made the finish just under 9 hours. I was the last person on the course.

Another early season 50K in New England is the "Trail Animals Don't Run Boston" 50K, held the weekend right before the Boston marathon. That race climbs 5700' compared to the 4600' in this race. But overall, I think this race was definitely tougher than DRB. I'll be running DRB in 3 weeks, so I will be able to compare my times on the two courses after that race.

Today is a rest day.

Oh yeah, great job Pat. Very nice run, considering that you doubled your long run for the year. I'm guessing you guys finished in 7:15 or so, but maybe you were faster.


Anonymous said...

Nice job! I twisted my ankle good into the second loop, and then again not long after. Started a third loop, but turned back as it was bothering me. I too wasn't ready for such a technical run and got beat up for it.

ollie said...

Wow, that sounds like a tough trail; tougher than I could handle at the moment.

Good job on toughing it out.

Patrick said...

Good job on your finish Damon, it was a tough course. I realize i hate all those small pointy rocks. ahhh, yes it beat me up some what. My quads were not ready for the down hills, the ups were pretty good. I also had one nasty fall, a little root stump the same colour as the leaves caused me to do a complete roll, good thing i was wearing the bladder pack! Feel better today, but will also take tonight off as 6 hours of driving does not count as a rest day for me ;)