Monday, January 11, 2010

Little River Trail Run, January 9, 2010

Garmin Connect - Activity Details for Untitled

When racing on Saturday I felt alive. The morning event was a 10 mile trail race on a course I know well. Inauspiciously, the day began at midnight. I could not sleep any longer. I was jacked up and wired--tapped in to the work ahead. But sleep or no sleep my lungs and sinuses were working well. For once, I was not ailing from an upper respiratory infection. Despite the insomnia I knew I could crack a good one.

I ran easy for half a mile, down the Little River entry drive, down the walking path, down the fire road. I heard Ringo say, "Move Up," but I knew to be patient. I was somewhere between 10th and 15th position. No fear and easy breathing.

When the course went left, I did not die. "Go Left and Die" is a scary rapid on the Middle Green River, but going left for me meant something far from death, instead the true beginning of my effort when I could tap into my race plan. I surged forward with my first planned mile at an increased pace. Up and over the steep hill passing the accomplished hill climber who buried me last summer in New Hampshire. Duncan ran further ahead and I passed him too. By the time we turned right swiftly skirting the many ice patches, I was in fourth.

I could see Ben Hovis leading, James Pearce following, Mitch McLeod in third. Down, down, down to the river we darted. My mile ended in 5:37. I felt okay, but ready to ease back a bit. Luckily, the front three were easing up a bit. I stayed on their heals on the bank of the river. River right, that is, as one faces downstream. The terrain was frozen and fast, crunchy and sticky. My lugs dug in and I felt secure. The runners up ahead looked a bit sloppy and unsure of footing, surely what was keeping me close to these fast runners with moderate effort.

Short and quick up the steep hill away from the banks of the river. Letting them gap me rather than red line lungs and legs. I'd catch them at the top in the long and winding pathway back out to the road. I did reel them in though Ben began to gap James and Mitch. I tried not to care. My work would not and could not begin again until the next water stop, at about the five mile mark.

This was the easy time of the race. Measured. Disciplined. Care-free. Paradoxes, yet somehow true. Over the dry bridges, along river right again and bracing for the stairs. Don't move up too early. Don't red-line on the steep stairs up. As we ascended, I could see that Mitch was laboring. Gave me a chance to ease back and plan a pass the moment we turned left and off the single track onto the short stretch of fire road. I passed him quickly on the road and darted right and hit LAP amidst heard but not seen cheers for "Monk." Quickly, I was beginning to reel in 1st and 2nd, but they seemed to speed up upon sensing my shortening line. Now, my second mile of increased effort became about staying with them. When we went left off the trail and onto the dirt road, they went even faster. I know I was pushing, but they were still separating from me. At the least I hoped we were dropping any podium pursuers with this hard mile which was measured at 6:40. Pretty good for this stage of the race. My mind calculated that I was still averaging better than 6:30s, but no time to think about splits in more detail. My strong sense was that my legs were taking me faster over this path of earth than my previous three efforts in 2006, 2007, and 2009. But would I fade? The doubt wanted to creep in, but I kept it at bay and turned my focus back to the race plan of three by mile pickups. I had no plans to fade.

Duncan passed me. I passed Ben. Lows and highs, but I was focused on the farm in the distance at the 7.5 mile mark. I could not see too well as I approached. my eyes felt frozen and I think portions of them were. Slightly blind, I gathered myself through the two throbbing dips. These gullies were punishing, but yet they marked the end of my recovery period. I came out of the second dip, hit LAP and got to work in the next gear I could find. It was there and I locked in the clutch and set to work remembering that this hill had been my breaking point last year to Russell as he pulled in behind and readied himself for a pass. It would not go down like that in 2010. No fourth place would pull me in on this day.

I saw red in the distance and was disoriented. Was he ahead or behind? No matter. I could only control my own destiny. Pull red in or gap the crimson clad torso. It made no difference. Until I reached the stone walkway and the road crossing the mile would not be complete and I had many steps to cover before my race strategy could be realized. Up and down and up the very nasty teeth of that hill--the one with two trail choices at the top. I went left without any course markings. I knew the way, my legs have probably covered it 30 times racing or training. Then it was time for the long winding stair steps down, back and forth, back and forth. I could see the leaders ahead at one point. The two were separated from one another and neither seemed too far away--maybe a minute, hard to say.

The watch vibrated 6:58. Given the hills I was very pleased. I imagine that previous years that mile has registered nearly eight minutes.

I was done if I thought too much about it, but this is the time of the race we train for. I knew I had about ten minutes of pain to endure. A time equivalent to a Lower Wormhole in the Carolina North Forest and I'd be done. Get after it. Hold third place and run my P.R. for the course.

I could hardly see now with freezing water on my lenses. Fastest way to warmth was to run faster. I pushed and pushed and pushed some more. After coming near the asphalt walkway with less than a mile to go, I could feel myself losing concentration--slipping into that late race coma. The trail is difficult to pick up through here and I was getting sloppy. PAY ATTENTION. Watch your marks. Get home fast.

I passed the last road crossing and high-fived Zap. It felt good to see her bright self and it reminded me of other Little River races in years gone by. I passed what I assumed was a 7K runner from the other race, but he was moving fast, maybe a 10 miler off course? No time to wonder. I was not moving fast, but I did my best and attempted a sprint into the chute. I closed my eyes and it felt so good to protect them from the cold after an hour of exposure. I was so tired and so cold and so happy with 66:30 and third place.
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