That is the one word to describe this year’s race. I really felt the lack of training compared to last year’s race …and yet… …and yet… well, I’ll get to that later.
Weather Pretty damn near perfect. Temperatures ranged from the 50s into the 60s. Sporadic sun in the early part of the race gave way to more and more sun until just after I finished, at which point it proceeded to flash-rain for a few minutes and then clear up. That was it. Pretty amazing weather compared with last year. Humidity seemed high enough to cause my cramping.
Trail Conditions Virtually perfect on the lower trail system. The boardwalks were a bit slippery under the tree cover, but most of the double and singe-track sections were dry(ish) and highly runnable. There were a few muddy parts (it is a trail race after all!) which increased in frequency racers nearer the climb; mud was pretty much guaranteed as we climbed the mountain. The descent was a bit hairy due to the wet logs and rocks that were hidden under brush, leaves, and high grass, but it wasn’t anything too terrible. Far better than last year!
Race I realized after today that in last year’s race report I almost exclusively focused on the climb and descent of Jenkins Mountain, resulting in my (sadly) excluding any real discussion of the first 9 miles or so. This year those early miles were the deciding factor in my race.
I feel like this race can be divided up into four sections: (1) Everything up until the climb; (2) The climb; (3) The descent; (4) The final push.
For whatever crazy reason I started off with the front runners, heading off at a blistering pace. I don’t know how long I held onto this, but slowly I started dropping back from 5th to 6th to 7th as my legs simply couldn’t handle the speed at which I was pushing them. Add to that I was nursing a cold and the gradual cramping in my side and then my quads (though not until the end) and it proved to be a really hard time from about halfway through (1) until I started (2).
Before the race I talked with the guy who (I think) turned out to be the winner, and he commented on whether (1) would let him get some speed in. Um, yes. Given that the climbs tend to be more rolling and short, this section really lets you open up your legs…but with the continual warning that there is so much more to come that you need to temper how hard you push.
As I began climbing (2) my legs were simply cursing me. Really. I’ve never heard such foul language from a pair of legs. I let more runners pass me, trying to keep a smile on my face but with a grimace in my heart. Reaching the summit I was surprised to find a volunteer checking in on us! And another one on the descent! (Note: The people who help to put this race on are truly wonderful wonderful people. I cannot thank them enough. The bugs were out in force and the two women atop the peak were getting devoured…I hope they made it back.)
I made up some speed on (3) the bushwhack descent, but the brush was so thick at points that you really could not sustain a steady pace. Jumping over and ducking under logs and whole trees; hopping over a brook; swatting mosquitos…just another day on the trails. All the while I knew the final stretch (4) was coming. I had tried to keep eating but food tasted like sawdust. The warmer temps had resulted in a bit of dehydration——I could have easily used another bottle, but instead I was nursing the one down to the last few drops. As things leveled out and I returned to the main trail my legs were toast, my lungs were phlegm filled, and my energy was sapped. Again…again I simply could not sustain a run for the entire final push. I had to stop, walk, and I was pissed. I wanted to keep running but I just couldn’t do it.
This last section seemed to stretch on and on, but finally the trail ended back at the main road to the VIC building, and turing right onto it I rounded the bend to see the finish.
…and yet… when I glanced at the results page I saw that I finished in 2:16:38, which was actually only 30 seconds slower than last year. When I realized this after getting home I was dumbfounded. How could that run, which seemed to incessantly drag on and was so miserable and painful at points have resulted basically a similar time to last years run? Two points I can take away from this: I have come a long way in a year in the sense that my overall level of fitness seems to be such that I can drag myself through a race even when I don’t have as much training as I’d like; that said, I clearly see that if I can push myself in training I can see tangible results in my fitness.
My hope is that this will kick me into gear to feel better about running the Great Adirondack Trail Race in June. A positive attitude, a bit of blind naivety, and a desire to just finish can get you far.