I took a big step back in my mileage after Laurel Highlands, to give my legs and spirit a break. I spent time in my garden, vacationing and seeing family. Though I wasn't putting in a lot of miles, I did add hill work and intervals and felt I had gotten stronger.
I hadn't raced anything short in quite awhile, and I had no idea how my legs would perform on this hilly course at a fast pace. Lately, my runs had been lackluster. I felt like I was due for a good race.
|I freakin' love this race!|
I have serious home course advantage on these trails. I know every root, rock and hill on the course. I'm a decent technical trail runner, with little fear of face-planting on even the biggest downhills.
I know that the first mile on the road must be run at death sprint pace to avoid getting bottlenecked on the trail.
I know that the Do Loop hills must be respected, lest one emerge depleted with half the race yet to run.
|Many, many hills|
I was pleasantly surprised that I wasn't out of breath and my heart rate was right where I wanted it to be. My speedwork and hill training had paid off!
All the same, I backed off the pace and let my friends pull ahead. Quite a few women passed me. I didn't want to push too hard too soon. I hoped I'd be reeling many of them in later in the race.
I marched up the hills while others ran them. I used my downhill and technical trail skills to close the gap time and time again. I picked up the pace on the runnable sections. I kept my breathing controlled.
I felt strong coming out of the Do Loop and I began to pass runners who were starting to show signs of tiring, despite being less than halfway in the race. Those Do Loop hills are killer.
Usually, I reach Fountainhead (mile 8) with my mind and body protesting loudly. This year, I was ready to kick it up a notch. I began overtaking runners one at a time.
All too soon the lovely long downhill was over as I reached the turnaround. I was able to see that Jen, Katie, Cherry and Sara all had pretty good leads on me. Could I catch them?
Two and a half miles to go, with a long uphill to start it off. I was pushing now, feeling strong, not fatigued as I usually do at this point.
|My Game Face.|
When I hit the next mile marker with two miles to go, I knew I needed to make this hurt.
I cruised along the trails, faster and faster. My legs had found their rhythm, and they seemed to still have more to give.
I flew down the last big hill, passing three more runners. At the top of the final switchback, I poured it on. A few more women came back to me. There was still no sight of my friends, and then I burst out of the woods into the open field and the finish line.
Though I didn't beat my PR here, I did run my second fastest time. Unusually cool weather made this a great day to test my mettle. I felt good about my race plan execution. I was happy with my day and for my speedy friends.
Next year ladies, as Bob says, watch your back! I'll be hot on your heels!
|All photos courtesy of the inimitable Aaron Schwartzbard|