Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Prettyboy Trail Race 10K

On Sunday, I ran the “Prettyboy Trail Race 10k”.  Maybe I’m just a juvenile at heart, but I chuckle every time I see that name.

It’s named after the Prettyboy Reservoir, which is one of the water supplies to the Baltimore Metro Area.

This is a local club race, put on by the Baltimore Road Runners Club.  (  $2 for club members, and $6 for non-members.  I almost feel guilty for only paying $2. 

The night before, I was a bit nervous, since my previous few runs felt horrible.  I didn’t get home until 9pm, and I hadn’t had dinner yet.  So I turned on the oven to make a pizza, then I realized that eating late the night before a race doesn’t work out so well.

This is one great reason for writing this blog.  I document what works and what doesn’t.  Hoovering a pizza at 9:30-10pm isn’t a good recipe for a fun, fast race at 8:30am.  So I turned off the oven, and pondered my choices.  Big carbs like pasta were out of the question, and pizza can sometimes cause difficulties in the morning.  Not eating at all would be crazy, since I need some energy, so I decided on a small ham and cheese sandwich.

It turned out to be the perfect choice.  I slept easy, and woke up feeling good!  Carb-loading for a 10K isn’t that important anyway.  It is not long enough.  I would say 10 miles or longer.

I had a sensible breakfast of oatmeal, then headed off to the race.  There was a big sign on the beltway that said, I83 closed due to accident at exit 30.  Ruh-roh.  Since I go by road names, not exit #s, I had no idea if that was before or after my exit.  So I tried going up York Road for a while, but it was too slow, so I decided to risk 83, and if it was shut down, then oh, well, I miss the race.

Luckily, exit 30 was beyond where I had to turn off, Mt. Carmel Rd, so I was good to go.  I followed the directions for a while, then I spied a shortcut, so I took that, of course.  I kept going and going, and I started to get a bit uneasy as the time for the race approached, and I still wasn’t there.  Then I saw a bridge over the Reservoir, and I thought, “I don’t remember having to go over the bridge…”  Just then, I saw a string of cars coming in the opposite direction, with skinny runner-type drivers, so I turned around and followed.  They took another wrong turn, but I figured out the right way to go, and I finally found the race, as everyone was lining up. 

Sorry for the rambling lead in to the story.  I’ll try to get better at that.

Most trail races begin with maybe 1/2 mile to 1 mile of road, to allow people to find their place before it jumps on to the trail.  This is because most trails cannot accommodate many runners at the same time.  Many, in fact, are single file only (called “singletrack”), unless you want to blunder through stickerbushes and wicked rocks NEXT to the trail.

I have found that it is VERY important, if you want to get a decent run in, to go way faster than you normally would at the beginning.  Don’t just start off with your goal pace.  I have done that many times, and then been stuck behind walkers as the race dumps into singletrack.  This is extremely not fun for many reasons.

So I was prepared, and at the “gun”, I started off fast, and all of a sudden, I was in the lead pack, threatening to take the lead!


I am used to running in the middle  to back of the pack, so I was a little thrown by being in the front.  I decided I must be doing something wrong, so I slowed down a bit, but I eventually realized that:

  1. My training is showing benefits
  2. Maybe club races are a bit less competitive, since there is no $$$ at stake.

So I just went with the flow.  We hit the first hill, I let the 3 guys at the front draw ahead.  I didn’t want to spend too much energy going up the hill, so I let a girl get ahead of me too.  Once we crested the hill, I overtook the girl, and we headed into the woods.

These trails are very wide.  They are not technically difficult, not many rocks or roots, so I was happy.  I was able to keep up my speed, I was in 4th, occasionally I would see #3, and I didn’t hear anyone behind me.  I resisted looking back, for two reasons:

  1. Looking back lets people know you are concerned about them, they may take it as a signal to try to surge past you.
  2. Not devoting 100% of your attention to the trail immediately in front of you is a good recipe for catastrophe.  Road runners can close their eyes, jam to their tunes, check out the scenery (including the foxes!), but trail runners who do that will faceplant or worse.

I hit the one mile marker, then the three, and I was feeling great.  I was wondering where the 2nd marker was, but I figured that I missed it.   Since i was already half done, I kept  pushing the pace; I was determined to catch up to the third place guy.  Then I saw the second mile marker.  I checked my watch, and sure enough, the 2 and 3 were mixed up.   So I had 3 more miles to go, and it was a bit disheartening.  I think I slowed slightly to save a bit of energy.

We got into a bit of singletrack somewhere around mile 4 or 5, and I must’ve slowed down, because I suddenly heard footsteps behind me.  (I’m not fast over singletrack)  I chatted with the two guys behind me, which was a good way to pass the time, and I realized running is a good way to socialize.

Jason, myself and Alex were running together for a while, then we got to a monster hill at the 6 mile mark, and Jason hammered ahead, and dropped both of us.  I really felt like walking, but I knew we were almost done so I trudged up hill, and stayed slightly ahead of Alex.

Then I was done.  5th place!  And I avoided getting getting “chicked”!   I would say what my time was, but I forgot to stop my watch, as usual.  I guess I’ll have to wait until the results are posted.

I think I averaged about 7:20 per mile, which is quite good for me, especially in a trail run.  And running at the front was fun and challenging as well.  You can’t just follow everyone else!

So that was my first attempt at a race recap.  I’ll try to keep them shorter in the future.

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