nomeatbarefeet

a vegan couple: eating; running; living–minimally.

Tag: fall back 5

Fall Back 5 2013 – Race Report

And so we headed back down to Saratoga for another running of the Fall Back 5 mile trail race. We have run this the last 2 years, but this year I would be running it alone. Katie’s knee had been bugging her for a while now, and she decided the previous weekend that it would not be wise to try and run on it. Bummed as I was she was kind enough to drive down with me to watch me run.

The day turned out to be a really nice, albeit a bit chilly. The sun peaked through the cloud cover all morning offering moments of warm amidst the gusty wind. Trail conditions were also really great, with the usual wet spots being next to the springs.

The Race I had been planning for this race since the Jay Peak 25k in September. I knew that a 5 mile trail run required much more speed and stamina, so I tried to get in a good number of hard tempo training runs…because I actually wanted to race this race. No putzing around—I wanted to push myself.

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The bullhorn went off and I jumped off the line with the lead runners, settling in behind them. Across the open grass, onto the wide trail and then…”wait, do we go right?” The trail was blocked off by a yellow tape? Hmm, well f it. Each runner hopped the tape (the last of us tearing it down) and headed off down the trail. I hoped this wasn’t foreshadowing of problems with the course. Sadly it was.

I hit mile 1 right at the springs, water gushing up on the other side of the river and the smell of sulfer in the air. We bounded up a flight of stairs, getting a nice view of the river below. Then the course headed into single track—one of the reasons I love this race is the gorgeous single track that weaves around the park; its beautiful.

I pushed ahead of a runner, but made sure that I didn’t over exert myself. I knew that top 5 was out of the question as they had all but pulled away, but I could still keep an eye on the two runners right in front of me. I stayed right behind them as we hit the single track around mile 2 where, 2 years prior, a dog had kept a number of runners at bay. I was still wary that something might happen, but thankfully all was calm. As we headed out of the single track we crossed an open grassy area of trail that bisected it; I noticed that the trail had suddenly become unfamiliar. “Shit, this doesn’t look right.” I said out loud. The guy right ahead said that it would suck if it wasn’t. Then I saw the guy farther ahead of us turn left onto a dirt road, but hesitate and look around. “Damn.” I said, “This is the wrong way.” I immediately turned and headed back to the grassy trail, telling another runner that we had to go back. I turned back onto the open grassy area and took off.

But now I had suddenly moved up two places. I felt bad. Should I have waited? Should I slow down?There wasn’t anything I could do now but run the race. Back into the single track, out across the parking lot and then across a wide field, and then around a few trees. At mile 3 I glanced over my shoulder and saw that I had put some distance between myself and the two other guys. My lungs were starting to burn a bit, and my legs were feeling drained, but I knew that a hill awaited me…so I pushed on.

Descending my favorite section of narrow switchbacks.

Descending my favorite section of narrow switchbacks.

Then I hit one of my favorite parts of the course: a steep winding section of single-track switchbacks where you could almost swing around the trees when you hit the corners. I felt giddy as I descended—happy for the terrain and happy because I knew the end was closing in.

I ran across a park road and then through a little gully next to a stream. Weaving through some more single-track I came out along another park road manned by a volunteer. I didn’t need him to direct me towards the mile 4 sign which lay at the foot of the hill I had been fearing. Last year I had to power hike it, but not. this. year. damn it. Legs turning fast, arms churning, breath exploding out of me I blew up the hill (or was it a saunter?) remember to continue my fast turnover as I crested. I so desperately wanted to walk but I knew I was almost there. Rolling single-track greeted my exhausted body in the form of numerous quad killing ups and downs, winding me around and around and spitting me out by another park road. This one, I knew, was close to the end of the race. I ran along that road and then went back into a short 200m section of wide dirt trail. Then I was out by the beginning (see the the last yellow triangle before the finish).

I pushed down the gravel path and tried to breath. As crossed the finish line I had no idea how fast I ran or what I placed, but I felt exhausted and happy. A damn great run.

***Update: results have finally been posted, and mine was 34:14. Good for 6th place, but still 2 minutes off my best time. I will have to work hard to get back that speed.***

Fall Back 5 2012

We decided to go back…

For our last race of the season Katie and I rose early Sunday morning to make the 3 hour drive down to Saratoga for the 2012 Fall Back 5 Trail Race. We ran this race last year and had a great time, so we couldn’t pass  up the opportunity to run it again. The weather turned out to be a bit warmer than last year (40s as opposed to 20s) but the higher temperature was offset by an overcast sky.

The Course

The course was basically the same as last year, winding through a series of cross-country trails around Saratoga Performing Arts Center and the surrounding area. They run a section of pavement and added more flags to mark the course. We weaved past the springs itself, up a flight of stairs, and then took a mixture of single-track, gravel paths, and open fields for the rest of the race. The better (and more prevalent) markings really helped, and I avoided getting off-track. (I saw exactly where I had missed a turn last year and come out ahead of the lead runners. No problems this year.)

It was rather hilarious that the Race Director pointed out the the above fact, plus last year’s major issue: dogs loose on the course. A bunch of people laughed when he commented that there would be no dogs this time, though I am not sure people fully understood how crazy and unsettling it was to come around a bend and find a dog snapping at you. Thankfully the only animals I saw were copious numbers of squirrels.

Thoughts

This is a great race for anyone new to trail running: the course is very runnable; it is reasonably flat with only a few short steep ascents; plus it allows for some fast times. A diverse mixture of runners means that you get lots of road runners attempting trails, and lots of trail runners getting a scenic (albeit speedy) taste of the Saratoga foliage. Many leaves were still on the trees, though those that had fallen made the footing a bit precarious. Katie and I both commented on a fun but treacherous switch-back descent that was covered with leaves—”leaf running” can be tricky. (People in Vermont like to refer to this time of year, after the leaves are off the trees, as “Stick Season.” Pretty self explanatory.)

One of the great things about last year’s race was the swag: the long sleeve tech shirt was a rarity among race shirts; but the true gem in my eyes were the samples of Vega Sport products. When we picked up this year’s bag of goodies, (surprise, surprise!) there were again Vega samples! For a smallish race to provide such quality (and vegan) products to participants truly endears this race to me. Though it was bittersweet to finish racing for the year, I cannot think of a better race to go out with.

Neither Katie or I did as well as last year’s run, though I did managed to finish higher (9th and 2nd in my age group). We haven’t been running all that much, and what training we did this past summer was not focused on speed. But it wasn’t a concern: we had a great time. We got to spend time together doing what we love—being together and enjoying nature, and I know that if we can we will come back again next year.

Thanks to everyone who volunteered and put together the Fall Back 5. We hope to be there again next year.

(There were people taking pictures but they haven’t been put up yet. Should they do so I will add them to the post when I can.)

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