Friday, July 29, 2011

Two days of taper

I am just entering the second half of my 48 hour taper and rest period before the Anacortes Art Dash Half Marathon tomorrow at 9 a.m. I don't really taper for half marathons, but I do like to give my legs at least a full day of rest before a big race. Hence, no running or cross-training today (Friday).

Yesterday morning I decided to add an unscheduled morning run. I was feeling so good after my highly successful Wednesday speed work (6 x 800, last one 7:30 pace) and all the good runs I've been having lately. I did 6.67 miles (taper distance) in one hour. This included 2.2 miles warm-up, three miles at half marathon goal pace (8:34, 8:31, 8:20), one mile at 8:50 (supposed to be marathon pace) and then a fast finish half mile (though I think it was back to 8:30-ish, not too fast).

I am feeling really positive about my performance in Anacortes tomorrow. Who knows, maybe it will just turn out to be another 1:55 half, and that's fine. But maybe...who knows what might happen?

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Tuesday, July 26, 2011

A perfect day

Yesterday (Saturday)* was pretty much a perfect day as far as I am concerned. It was perfect combination of running and summer fun. There are lots of things that can happen to constitute a perfect day, but yesterday was a pretty good example.

The prelude to the perfect day was Friday, a pretty darn good day. Friday was the first day of summer! Yes, I know, summer was supposed to start a month ago. But here in the Pacific Northwest, the onset of summer weather has been severely retarded. *Let me insert here a sincere apology for any whining about weather to the 80-90% of the country that is suffering from obscene heat and humidity. I know that complaints about 60 degrees and cloudy sounds a little pathetic. In fact, for running our weather has been perfectly fine. But for normal summer activities, it's hard to stomach needing to turn on the furnace after work!*

So where was I? Oh yes, on Friday the sun finally came out. Which made a lovely setting for my 18-miler Friday morning! Especially as it was still in the 50s and 60s throughout the morning. I made a bit of a time calculation error and was lazy as well, so it was closer to 8:00 than 7:00 when I started out. This contributed to a bit of stress about time, as I needed to be ready for work by noon (earlier would be better).

I had mapped out a planned route but ended up changing the last half as I went. I was going to finish with a few miles along the waterfront, but that would put me in a place where I could not cut the run short if I ran out of time. So I decided to stick a little closer to the center of town throughout.

I found it pretty easy to maintain a comfortable 9:45 average pace. The first mile was slower but I had a couple faster ones too which evened things out. My dual goals were to stay under ten minute miles but not work too hard at doing it.

Physically the distance felt okay (mostly) but the mental part was a little harder. It is always hard to wrap your (my) mind around how much further there is to go when you've already gone so far (like ten miles). I think the time limits added a little more stress as well. I did try to focus on smaller chunks of distance, like five-mile and two-mile segments, to keep it manageable! After the first ten miles I put on an hour-long podcast to help with the next six miles.

After sixteen miles the last two seemed harder, physically as well as mentally. When I got to seventeen I realized that I had overcompensated on the distance and I was still a couple miles (at least) from either home or Starbucks. I wouldn't have been overly concerned about nineteen miles instead of eighteen but there was still the need to get to work on extra ten minutes could be a problem.

So instead I turned and headed to my office instead (arriving at 18.04 miles, a few minutes under three hours running time) and got a ride from my secretary. She took me to Starbucks and QFC (where I bought enough sushi and watermelon for lunch to feed a family of four, assuming that included two children who didn't much eat sushi) and then drove me home.

The rest of the day was work, which included cake, and then later Rod and I got pizza from Papa Murphy's for dinner.

So that led up to Saturday! A few weeks ago I signed up for a 5-mile race in Snohomish, the River Run, part of the KlaHaYa Days summer festival. Luckily for Snohomish, the weather was even nicer than Friday, bright and sunny even at 7 a.m.

The race started at 8:30 and check-in was at 8:00. I meant to get there at 7:30-7:45 to allow for plenty of warm-up, but stopping at Starbucks in Marysville plus a bathroom stop in Snohomish (not knowing the porta-potty prospects) took a little longer than I expected, so it was almost 8 by the time I parked.

I jogged over to the registration table (through a street of food vendors setting up for later) got my number (45, how apt), and then returned to the car to drop stuff off and get ready to run. I jogged up and down the neighboring streets, wondering how Friday's long run would impact the race. My legs felt good, not stiff or sore, but they didn't necessarily feel light and fast either.

I thought I had just enough time for 1.5 miles before gathering at the starting line, but at about 1.3 miles I stumbled over the sidewalk and fell. The throwaway water bottle I was carrying flew out of my hands and I tried to fall softly. I ended up with a bleeding scrape on my right hand, a big patch of road rash on my left leg, and a few other random scrapes and scratches. Mostly my breath just got knocked out of me. Several people ran over to ask me if I was okay.

Once I gathered myself together (deciding that my warm-up was over and I needed to go to the starting line), I noticed that my hand scrape was bleeding so I grabbed a napkin from a food vendor, which I clutched throughout the race. I didn't think to pour water over the wound before discarding my water bottle, which I regretted...I hoped that the bleeding washed out any bad stuff!

I seeded myself in the starting area near the front, but not too near. I didn't want to be held back, but on the other hand I knew there were some fast runners there! (I literally knew some of the fast runners.)

When the gun went off I started my Garmin and took off pretty hard. The first few blocks were downhill, so it was "easy" to go fast. I heard several people say later that they went out too fast, and I suppose I did too, but that extra fast first mile helped me in the end, I believe. After that the rest of the course was generally flat, with only slight inclines and declines to the road.

The five-mile or 8K race turned out to be short, 4.9 miles, and the mile markers were just a little shy of full miles instead (at least the first one, which made the others a little short as well. A guy with a stopwatch called out "7:10" as I passed the one-mile mark! It was a nice thought, but not quite a mile. My actual time for the first full mile was 7:39.

After that I settled into a good eight-minute pace for the next two miles. Somewhere in there a tall, slender blonde woman caught up to and passed me. I tried to stay pretty close on her heels because she seemed to be maintaining a steady eight-minute pace. Eventually she slipped ahead, probably concurrently with me slowing down a little more. We turned around at the halfway point and I grabbed a cup of water at the aid station. Mile 2 - 8:01. Mile 3 - 8:02.

Now I was in the second half. This should be where I kicked it back up to a negative split--but I was getting tired. I liked seeing the oncoming runners and cheered them on, but couldn't help slowing a bit. I may have been allowing myself to slack a little in mile 4 with the intent of pushing hard in the final mile...I know that went through my mind but I'm not too sure I could have gone faster anyway. Mile 4 - 8:13.

Sometime during these miles I caught up to another woman (not the tall blonde) who had been ahead of me. She was walking a bit. I said something encouraging about how fast she was and she said, ruefully, that she had gone out too fast. When she started running she passed me again but I soon passed her walking again. I felt bad for her and wished she would try to run along with me. She ended up finishing just a little behind me.

I really did plan to kick hard in the final mile, but that hill from the beginning was my nemesis. I did run hard, but just couldn't manage a sub-8 pace. However, thanks to those fast starting miles and a course distance just under five miles (4.9), I saw 39 on the clock as I neared. I was going to break 40 minutes and PR! I was stunned! And thrilled! In the final steps of the finish chute, another female came up from behind and we crossed the finish line simultaneously. Since she was running so fast, she pulled ahead of me after the finish and turned in her bib tag before me. I didn't really care but felt a little bemused.

Finish time - 39:31. Final .9 mile - 7:32 (8:25 pace). Average overall pace - 8:04.

While I was waiting for results to be tallied I went back to my car and got my phone so I could communicate with the world. Then I checked out the age group results and I was listed third in 40-49! But by the time the awards were given, it turned out they had missed someone who was first in AG, which bumped me to fourth. Bummer. I was fourth in the Yankee Doodle Dash 10K, but there the other three were all way I could beat that. Here I am pretty sure I was within a minute of both third and second.

Once I knew I was out of the awards, I didn't stick around. Instead of leaving, though, I walked into downtown Snohomish to check out Snohomish Bicycle Shop (I had a Living Social voucher to spend). But they didn't open for half an hour. To pass the time, I wandered into a neighboring cupcake shop. I ordered a mini cupcake and some tea, and watched the parade from a window side table. Once the bike shop opened, I was able to spend my voucher on a bike rack, water bottle holder, and a shirt on sale.

So far that morning I had run 6.2 miles. I felt like I needed to run at least a couple more miles to finish off the week. When I got home I headed out to squeeze in a two-mile run. Or 5K.

I felt sure that I would be slow after the hard run earlier. But surprisingly, I didn't feel too bad. I ended up with a 5K progression run! 10:05, 9:12, 8:31 (and this included a hill), and .1 at 8:01 pace! Total time 28:38.

I stopped at QFC and Starbucks where I picked up lunch and a beverage. Then I went home and made this.

Rainier Cherry Pie. We brought it to my parents' house on Sunday and it was delicious. Because the cherries were sweet I only used 2/3 cup sugar in the pie. The crust was like shortbread. It was a great success.

The rest of Saturday was easy-peasy. A short bike ride, teriyaki chicken, leftover cake from work for dessert. We watched Year One (movie with Michael Cera and Jack Black) on TV. It was sort of funny..although I did fall asleep a little.

It really was a great day. Not only did I get in some amazing running, I got to stroll around Snohomish, do some window shopping and real shopping, and soak up a summer day. I can't imagine what I would have wanted to do differently.

*Yeah, it took me a long time to get this done.

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Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Juggling the schedule (and catching up)

I seem to have a bit of difficulty sitting down and writing right now (as opposed to sitting down and eating, sitting down and watching TV, etc.) So here's a quick catch-up since my last post a week ago. Hopefully it won't be too long and tedious.

I continue to feel pleased with my ability to follow my Portland training schedule. (We'll see if I still feel pleased after my upcoming 18-miler.) Now that I'm back to the long runs, I know that the amount of time running takes out of life will have more impact on my plans and the plans of others.... so I have tried to plan my schedule to accommodate life, and stay open to changes as needed.

My longest run so far (since Boston) was my 16-miler last week, which I did on...Thursday night. Talk about tweaking the schedule! We had plans for the weekend, and I suspected that spending three hours running might be burdensome, so I put the run on Thursday night after work.

Now, I am not a huge fan of running after work. Even though my body tends to be looser at the end of the day, my mind is weary and that makes my body weary. I am not someone who finds a great release in running at the end of a hard day. But sometimes it is the only option. So I did it.

I got home from work as quickly as I could, changed clothes, and was out the door at 5:40. Earlier I had mapped out a route so I had an idea how I could accomplish the sixteen miles. This basically consisted of doubling my typical eight-mile route. I generally prefer doing something different than multiple loops, but for this time of day I wanted to stick to an area that had plenty of sidewalks and little chance of encounters with commuters rushing to get home. There were plenty of those on my downtown route, of course, but I felt secure on the sidewalks.

I was able to get under a 10-minute average pace somewhere during mile 3. My only speed goal was to (hopefully) average under ten for the whole run. Most of my individual miles were 9:45-9:50, with a few faster splits to average out my slow beginning and a lag (9:59) in mile 11. I started out with music on my iPod, but after eight miles I switched to FM talk radio for a change. I suspected that I might be a little slower with the radio, but my pace tended to be pretty constant regardless.

The radio was a bit of a mistake in another sense, though. I didn't realize this, but apparently radio drains your battery a lot faster than recorded music. About halfway through mile 13 I was planning to switch back to music for the final kick, but I was dismayed to see my battery fully depleted!

So I had to do the last couple of miles music free. Except for this running through my head, the last thing playing on the radio before I lost power.... (click at your peril).

I finished with 16.06 miles, 9:51 average pace. It felt hard. Not hard to run or maintain that pace, but the entire run just felt hard on my body. I attribute that to the overall exhaustion from the workday and the run. When I got home, I got in the car and drove to the nearest open Starbucks for a post-run mocha!

On Friday Rod and I drove east to his cabin in Eastern Washington (north east central Washington, to be precise). We had hoped for a little more summery weather than at home, which we got, interspersed with rainstorms! It was still an opportunity to lounge around and read, go see the Harry Potter movie (I have now seen the first and last movies, though I have read all the books), and catch a free concert at the Ephrata summer music festival. (Also eat barbecued ribs on Friday night and pizza on Saturday!)

On Saturday I got in an early 10-miler on the hilly gravel roads around Rimrock. I didn't stress on how much slower I was on gravel roads than pavement (10:45 average pace overall). I don't know if it was the slow pace or that gravel on dirt really is easier on the legs, but my legs never felt beat up after that run. By Monday they felt fresh with no weekend residual soreness! I was able to run 6.41 miles in an hour Monday morning, 9:21 average pace. The rather short distance was due to my need to get to work on time--an ongoing burden!

Today (and for the rest of the week), I put into play another another juggling act, switching around my scheduled runs. Originally today was a tempo run, Friday would be the 18-mile long run (already a switch from the typical schedule), and Sunday would be a medium-length pace-type run.

Rod had some ideas about things to do on Sunday, so I agreed to switch my weekend run to Saturday. In fact, I switched it right into a five-mile road race in Snohomish! I noticed that my tempo run today was supposed to include 4-5 tempo I traded that to Saturday. The race will be my tempo run.

So today's new plan was eight miles with three at half-marathon pace (8:30) and three at marathon pace (9:00). Unlike some other runs, I thought I could manage that fairly easily. By "easily" I simply mean doing it. I don't mean that it would be an easy run.

And it wasn't especially easy, but it got done. First 2.2 miles warm-up at sub-10 average. Then three miles at HMP goal pace (8:29, 8:23, 8:31), followed by three miles at MP goal pace (8:50, 8:58, 9:05), and a fast finish with just under half a mile at 7:44 pace (mostly downhill, I'll admit). If I'd realized how close I was I would have bumped it up to a half mile finish, but there was that whole pesky gotta-go-to-work thing happening again.

The next run isn't until Friday--18 miles! I need to try to start early in the morning so I don't run out of time. I realize that doing an 18-miler the day before a road race is not a recipe for a PR. Well, I'm not looking to find that sub-40 five-mile in this run. Really I consider this a training tool, running a hard(ish) fast(ish) race on tired legs. We'll see how it goes.

I'm still planning on getting out a race recap on Langley. Plus I want to write about my experience with body composition testing today. (It was a good experience, very empowering!)

Sunday, July 17, 2011

A win or a fail?

I'm going with a positive spin and calling it a win. I'm talking about my speed work run on Wednesday morning.*

I was out for my second run since the Langley Half Marathon on Sunday (recap to come). I did eight miles on Monday, easy but 9:20 average pace, figuring that the DOMS would be setting in soon. Sure enough, my quads were quite a bit stiffer on Tuesday. However, they weren't bad by the next day, which was a much quicker recovery than last year!

On my training plan for Wednesday I prescribed the usual 6-8 miles with 3 x 1-mile repeats at 5K pace. That seemed like a good idea when I came up with it--certainly easier than a longer tempo run. But Now? I had my doubts.

The first question was what to call 5K pace. I decided on 7:45 to 8:00, ideally under 8:00. In a "real" 5K I would hope for 7:30-7:45 pace, but I didn't see that happening. In fact, I questioned whether I could manage faster than 8:15, even.

I started with my two-mile warm-up. I was encouraged when I did it under 20 minutes, but still, it's a big jump from 10-minute pace to 8!

But I sacrificed my lungs to the running gods, and threw myself out there for the first mile...7:50! I was shocked and pleased. I jogged for a quarter mile and then tackled mile 2. Again a pleasant surprise--7:49. Another quarter mile rest.

The last mile was hardest. I was fatigued, and this mile had uphills and a turnaround. I gave it my all--well, most of my all, as much as I could dig up, and finished this one in 8:01, technically two seconds out of range. To make a 5K I tacked on another tenth (unfortunately about 8:30 pace). If you add up all the splits I did the 5K in less than 25 minutes (running, not including the recovery jogs, of course.

Then I ran easy the rest of the way home, for a total distance of 7.5 miles.

So my last speed mile was out of range, but I think the effort was a success overall.

*I actually started writing this on Wednesday night, but fell asleep and had to take it up later. I wrote over the weekend in an area with no signal, now I am hoping to be able to post back in civilization!

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Friday, July 8, 2011

A little more about the Lord Hill trail run

I have gotten more input into why my 10-mile trail run showed up as 9.73 miles on my Garmin. Maybe I'm not a course cutter after all!

First I read another blogger's post about how her trail runs measure short. Then my brother-in-law, who lives on Lord Hill and runs in the park, says his GPS always measures way short. This is because the trees in the woods sometimes interfere with satellite reception. Then when Garmin corrects that, it does so in a straight line, but the actual trail is wiggly and winding. That's how the mileage gets shortened.

I feel better now.

Here's a good picture of me running (borrowed from Facebook). I have no idea who that woman is behind me. I don't remember her at all! (But I guess she passed me.)

Oh, and my official time was 2:02:33. And I was third in my age group (out of 14).

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Monday, July 4, 2011

Yankee Doodle Dash

Happy Fourth of July (Independence Day)! I am taking a hiatus from eating to write a quick post. Hopefully this will keep me away from the delicious dessert options for a little while. I would like my stomach to feel a little less full before I put more in it!

First thing this morning was the Y's annual Fourth of July run. I was doing the 10K. They also have a 5K and a kids' race. And a one-mile, but maybe that's the kids' race.

The 10K started at 8:30, and I left my house around 7:30 to warm up and run to the Y. For 10K races I often do a 1.8 mile warm up. I thought I'd go about a mile and then turn towards the Y. Obviously I didn't need an hour for two miles, but I like to have plenty of extra time.

The way my legs felt as I headed out, I thought maybe I'd need all of that hour after all! My quads were still stiff and sore from the trail run, and I felt slow. My Garmin seemed to confirm that, flashing 11s and 12s as I ran plodded. There seemed to be a little Garmin voodoo going on, though, as my first mile popped up at 10:15. Not fast, but faster than expected. This gave me a little boost, and I finished mile 2 at just over 20 minutes.

(N.b., at this point I just succumbed to a small piece of rustic nectarine tart. It is very thin and light, not filling at all!)

I used the bathroom at Starbucks, then headed back to the Y for a total warm-up of 2.55 miles in just under 25 minutes.

It was about 8:15, and I used up a few of my remaining minutes standing in line in the Y restroom. Yes, I had just left Starbucks; I just wanted to be sure I had wrung out every drop I could. By the time I left the stall the line had quadrupled and I was relieved that I had relieved myself early. Ha. I felt sorry for the ladies still in line...some of whom had small children, so I am sure they wanted to empty their bladders before running! (Sorry, guess I read too many mommy blogs....)

I spent the remaining ten minutes milling about the in the starting area crowd and watching the aerobic dance warm-up. They did two songs, the first of which I don't remember and the second of which was, obviously, "YMCA."

Then we gathered at the starting line. I stayed a couple layers behind the front row. That worked pretty well because I didn't hold anyone back (I don't think), I didn't have to swerve around anyone, and I was able to pace myself by chasing the fasties.

At first I wasn't able to look at my Garmin, due to wearing contacts (bad close-up vision) and sunglasses (even harder to see, especially in the shade). But luckily there was a guy nearby giving his running mate a running commentary of our pace...7:30, 7:20, 7:45, 8:00 (slight incline, perhaps).

The 10K course covers streets that I have run many, many times (not just past races). In fact, most of it is on my regular weekday running route. This was good, I guess, as I knew exactly what to expect. This was just like a tempo run.

The first mile or more was a gradual downhill. I was able to eyeball my watch at the first split and saw about 7:56 (not sure about exact seconds). Pretty good, that was my goal pace for a perfect race. Of course, I would not be able to hold that for six miles.

In mile 2 we went uphill for about four blocks by the hospital. That doesn't sound far (and it wasn't), but it is a a challenging hill and it did slow me a bit. After 11th or 10th street we headed back downwards for a stretch before turning north on Alverson toward Legion Park.

(Just broke for a piece of plum tart. Don't worry, it's like air, really. I like it even better, the plums are so, um, tart and tasty! It's tartalicious.)

At this point I began running adjacent to an older male (you know, my age), who seemed to be running about the same pace as me. We traded places up through about mile 4. (That's where I dropped him.) During this last bit before the turnaround (just before the halfway point) I thought we were going downhill and would have to go back up after the turn. But it was one of those mysterious optical illusion false downhills, because after we turned it was clear that now we were going downhill. This would only last a short while, though, as we would soon approach the most irritating hill on the course (to me, at least).

I took a water cup at the three mile aid station. I had been feeling a little dry throat, so I gave up the seconds it cost. My second and third miles had been slower than the first, probably in the 8:15 range. I also knew that the first half was the faster half of the course, logistically and historically for me.

When we got to the hill I had mildly dreaded, my pace (and that of my pacer) slowed. What I have found about this hill is also that it is a challenge to get back up to pace when the road flattens out. For a long time my Garmin was reading 8:30 and I couldn't get it to budge. Finally it wavered to 8:25. Of course, it's not like I really trust the Garmin to be reliable.

Let me tell you, running 10K effort is hard. My breathing was labored and my gut was clutching. 8:20 felt as hard as 7:45, actually. Neither one of them felt particularly fast to my legs, and actually I am somewhat surprised that my pace was as fast as it was. I actually had felt a lot stronger on Friday, when I was running the same stretch at a 9:15 pace and chatting easily with someone riding alongside me on a bike.

I believe that my last three miles, before t he break to the finish, were in the 8:20s. After mile 4 I thought it would be good to speed up, and perhaps I did, but not significantly. I did leave my pacer behind and pass a few others, but I think that was more about them fading than me speeding up. I really wanted to put a push on in the last full mile, but....

However, I did manage a kick in the last quarter mile. It helped that we had a bit of downhill to the finish. When, I passed six miles I thought I had a shot at 50 minutes (meaning under 51) but my math was weaker than my legs. Or maybe I should say, as weak as my legs. I was, however, running around a 7:30 pace for this last quarter mile.

Sadly, I saw 51 minutes pass before my eyes while the finish line was still ahead of me. I barreled across and pushed my stop at 51:13. With a little luck, my official time may have been a second faster. According to Garmin, 6.25 miles at 8:12 pace. My official 10K pace would be about 8:15.

I quickly checked out the finish boards (old school, they staple up the bib tags in the order of finishing) to see if I might have placed in my age group. I've actually won my age group in this race in the past with a slower time than today's. However, today the 40-something fasties were out in force...well, four strong, anyway, as that's how many beat me. I recognized at least two names from the past. I'm sure they were all sub-50. I'm pretty sure I was fifth in age group. I'll probably study and analyze the results in depth when they are posted (don't worry, I won't belabor it here) but I didn't spend too much time on it today. I decided not to stay for the awards ceremony since I wasn't getting one. (Not sour grapes, just efficient allocation of time!)

My parents weren't there this year as my mother is sick, so I got no race pics and I had to take my own post-race picture.

With my 2.55 mile warm up and 6.25 mile race, I wanted to run at least .2 mile more to round up to nine miles. I chugged around the block on sloooow legs. Then I figured I might as well jog as walk down to Starbucks, putting me just over 15K for the day.

Perfect for a day of eating! Rod and I dressed in red, white and blue (well, I did, his just happened) and headed to the beach.

In the afternoon, Rod entertained us from the lawn.

It was a good day!

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Saturday, July 2, 2011

Lord Hill Trail Run

I should have taken pictures. When you're not running a race for time, does it really matter if you blow a few minutes taking scenic shots to illustrate your blog? (I don't have the skill of photography on the run.) But even on a just-for-fun run, I tend to get focused on the running and forget about things like pictures. Maybe there will be some pictures on the website or Facebook that I can borrow--maybe even one or two of me!

To backtrack just a bit...this morning I ran (and hiked) a 10-mile trail race at Lord Hill Regional Park in Snohomish (though it's really much closer to Monroe). My sister actually lives in the residential portion of Lord Hill, so it seems crazy that I've never been to the park. But this was my first visit. I still don't have a good perspective on how the park location relates to her house. Except that you go up a very long hill to get to it, and we ran up and down a lot of hills! As the race director said at the beginning, "Lord, the Hill!"

This race had several distance options: 50K and 20-mile (which started early), and the 10 and 5-mile versions. I personally think that the 10-mile is the best option, as you repeat the 10-mile torture loop for the longer distances, and cut out some for the 5-mile. With 10 miles you get everything without excess.

When I arrived at around 8:45 (the start was at 9:30) the earlier runners had filled the parking lot already, so I had to drive almost half a mile up the hill to park, and walk back down. Luckily I had plenty of time to get down, use the porta potty and get my bib before the pre-race briefing and raffle (I didn't win anything).

I was way too close to the front of the crowd, so I stepped aside a little and let some of the pushier faster runners go ahead of me. I had no expectations or desire to race this. I am not experienced enough at trail running to try, plus I was saving my legs for a "real" race, a 10K on Monday, plus I just wanted to have a good time. I had a vague hope of doing it in two hours, but as we began ascending the hills, I knew that was just a pipe dream.

As everyone knows, on trail runs you often walk up hills, especially steeper ones, and this trail soon headed uphill. To my recollection, the first mile, and perhaps further, was quite steadily uphill, and a good portion of that single track. For quite a while we had a very long stream of hikers trudging upwards. No one made any attempts to pass.

As we crested this portion of the course, the trail split and the five-milers turned left, while the ten-milers kept right. It seemed to me that most of the runners were doing the five-mile, as once we split I saw only a few people ahead of me. (Of course, I'm sure there were faster runners who had already taken off as well. And fortunately there were also people behind me, although I wasn't assured of that until I turned around and headed back.)

Eventually I had to stop for a moment and take off my sunglasses. It was a bright, sunny day, but much of the course was now in deep woods and it was too dark to see safely with sunglasses on. When I paused, the persons ahead of me widened the gap and I didn't see anyone again until the turnaround.

Except for the anxiety of wondering if I was last, and some inability to cope with my persistently slow pace, I enjoyed my solitude on the woodsy trails. I ran on the flat portions and most hills, and walked or jog-walked on the steepest portions, as well as the occasional wet and mucky bit, and over logs and big roots. Despite my care, I did manage to trip over a rock one time and flew through the air onto the ground. I came away with a scraped knee and trail rash on my left leg, plus a scraped right elbow, but no serious injury.

The trail was quite well marked with flags, especially at trail intersections, and I felt I was following the route quite easily. There were a few places where you might go either direction depending on what point you were at, but the flags and arrows on the ground kept things straight. I don't think I took any wrong turns. (This will be significant later.)

The aid station and turnaround was purported to be about halfway, but I am pretty sure I only had gone four miles or so (according to Garmin) when I approached it. I must say that the miles seemed to tick away very slowly. Undoubtedly because of my slow pace, but I also wondered a little if Garmin could be off...I especially wondered this at the end when I had a distance discrepancy.

At the aid station I finally rejoined some of the runners ahead of me, who had stopped to refresh themselves. That is one of the things about trail running that is cool (but odd)...people don't freak out about frittering away time at rest stops. I had my handheld, so I didn't need water, but I grabbed a fruit newton and a couple orange wedges before starting back.

For a while I ran just behind a couple who were on their second lap for either the 20-mile or 50K. I was happy to be with them at a tricky turn where the flagging was confusing. Eventually they pulled ahead of me but later I passed them and stayed ahead. This was not an exceptional accomplishment considering that they already had ten miles on me!

I did get to see other runners still on their "out" stage, which encouraged me that I was not last! I caught up to others, passed some, got passed by some, and ran close behind or ahead of a few on single track stretches.

While I was certainly not racing, in this second half I got comfortable with pushing my pace on the flat and downhill stretches, even those that were laced with roots and rocks. Of course "fast" meant seeing numbers in the tens, with occasional flashes of nines! (Although those were not the numbers I saw for splits!) But I also felt pretty strong on the uphills, and in fact at the end of the race I was complimented on that by a guy I had passed on the hills. (Of course, he passed me on the downhill at the end.)

Part of this route included bridle trails and I passed three girls on horses twice (at least I think it was the same trio both times). I also saw walkers and hikers at various times. No mountain bikers, though.

At six miles my total time was under 80 minutes, and I briefly thought that meant I could possibly finish in two hours. Of course that was a math error, using a 10-minute mile as a base pace, rather than even the 12-minute mile that was my optimistic goal pace. At eight miles, with less than 20 minutes remaining before two hours, it was clear that could not happen. Still, with two miles to go, I felt the lure of the finish pulling me forward.

Except that there was still a couple miles of hilliness to go. One last up, I believe. But then, for the last mile or so, the trail opened up into a smooth dirt and gravel road and I called on my racing legs to barrel down as fast as I could. I know I saw a 7 on my Garmin for a second or two (although my overall pace was 10:43).

And then I crossed the finish "line"! My time was 2:03. And my Garmin said 9.75 miles. What the heck? Was the course short? Had I cut the course somewhere? Were the satellites awry? I figure I would have been under 2:06 if I'd gone the full ten.

I suppose it is most likely I made a mistake on the course. How, I don't know. I'm still hanging on to the idea of a satellite problem!

In the end, it doesn't matter much. I wasn't racing and it's not like I won anything. Even though I was a little short of my scheduled ten miles, I made up for it with the .43 mile uphill walk to my car. I am still puzzled by it, though. (When I upload Garmin data I am going to compare the map with the course map to see if I can spot the discrepancy.)

Before leaving I ate my lunch made up of post race food. I had half a bratwurst and bun, some watermelon, and two gooey delicious brownies. Yum!

I really enjoyed this run, and I would definitely do it again if I have the opportunity. I might even do the March version, although the weather would likely be far more unpleasant then. I don't know, however, if I would ever have the guts to double the distance and do the 20-mile! I do think, though, I have a good shot at that two hour finish....

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