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....

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad


Alma said...

Very nice. I've been curious about those trail runs and one of these days I'll actually make it to one. Yes, pics next time please!

Lisa said...

Sounds like a great trail race! One of these days, you should come down here and run one of ours. You'd be a great running partner out there on the trails.

Btw, I had a trail race director tell me once that for these races he considers the mileage accurate to about =/- a half mile. He said that it is very difficult to get the distances exact on a trail, especially when they advertise a distance long before trail marking. It is possible you ran the race correctly and the satellites were correct.