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Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Race Recap: Rocks and Roots #2

Photography by RobbMcCormick.com
The Rocks and Roots Trail Series includes two races over two months. Race #2 took place Sunday, February 8 at Alum Creek State Park. The race includes 6 distances: 10k, 20k, 30k, 40k, 50k, and 50 miler (52.5 miles, to be exact). I ran the 10k.  [Race Information]
The course and elevation.

Pre Race
We arrived just after 7:30am, giving us enough time to relax in the car. Last time, there was a gorgeous sunrise and bitter cold temperatures. This time? No sunrise and an overcast 40 degree day. It was chilly, but nowhere near as brutal. Instead of double layers of long-sleeves and running tights, I wore a tank top, hooded zip-up, capris, and a Buff. We trekked to the starting area around 8:00am and most of the walk included blacktop covered in slippery ice and snow. Alex wore shorts and a t-shirt, so he took advantage of the campfire near the starting line.

The Race 
Like last time, the line up was pretty informal. I thought about heading to the middle/back of the pack, but decided to stay put near the front/middle. The first 3/4 of a mile covers a flat prairie with three water crossings. The race organizers added rocks to make them easier to traverse. The prairie grass was matted down and covered in slush. Careful footing was the name of the game.

The wooded part of the trail was an even mix of snow, ice, slush, and mud and it was very slippery in parts. Guess what? I fell at least four times. Maybe five. I also caught myself a lot. I fell making tight turns, I fell up a muddy hill (it was spectacular), and I fell on more ice. It happened every time I zoned out and stop concentrating on the trail ahead of me. I'd think about finishing or how good I felt (relative to last time) and I'd bite it. At one point, I said something about not falling for at least a mile and 1 minute later I was on the ground. I don't know if it was my shoes, my tired legs, or just general clumsiness. I have a giant bruise on my knee and some road rash on my ankle, but nothing terrible.

Muddy shoes after the race. 
Anyway, about a half mile in I found my mark. She was running a steady pace and I wasn't tired keeping up. There was a guy in front of her and we made a nice pack (there were some people directly behind me, but I couldn't see them). We kept trucking through the aid station at mile 2.5. I remember getting extremely tired after the aid station during January's run due to the many up and downs. This time, I kept my eye on the people ahead of me and powered through. They slowed down, sped up, slipped around, and I was able to keep up.

Photography by RobbMcCormick.com
When the lead guy let us pass, the group directly behind me also lost steam. Mile 3 is tough on the trail. I ate my gel on a relatively flat section, but fell up a steep hill because I was thinking more about my gel than my footing (and I squished most of the water out of my water bottle trying to catch myself). Around mile 4 our pack became a three lady group. Between mile 5 and 6.3 I was beginning to feel exhausted. (Maybe more mentally than physically.) If I didn't have my pack leader and my support in the rear, I think I would have walked or slowed down after mile 5.

The last half mile of this race is no joke and I knew what was coming up. After a road crossing the trail topography is up and down. You can hear the finish line, but can't see it. To make things even more difficult, the hills were coated in mud. Earlier, I was thankful for mud because it meant I wouldn't fall, but this mud was thick, deep, and sticky. In fact, our pack caught up with some other runners and try as we might, we all walked. The second to last terrible mud pit/hill was followed by the course photographer, so of course everyone started to run again. The final mud pit was within the sight-line of the finish. Our pack got separated but I stuck it out and crossed the line after my original mark.

With my post-race chili.
Stats and feelings 
I looked down at my watch when I crossed the line and my time was about a minute and a half slower than January even though I felt much better. That last half mile of mud was killer, but as soon as I finished my energy was back. My legs weren't as shaky and I knew if the course wasn't slippery I would have beat my previous time. I'm kind of bummed I walked through the mud, but I'm not sure I could have run it anyway.

I've realized something about myself in the past year: I cannot start in the back. Why? I slack off. If I see someone walk, I think I should walk. If I feel gross, I don't think twice about slowing down. But if I'm in the front half of the pack I find myself thinking, "keep up with [my mark]. They've got a good pace." "Just a little longer." "You'll get there faster if you keep running." "You can't walk. You'll get passed by the people behind you." When I look back at my suckiest race (Emerald City), I believe starting far back set me up for a mental battle I couldn't win.

Final time: 1:18:13 (12:37/mile)
Overall 46/126 (36%)
Division 17/78 (21%)
Last month's time was 1:16:51, but I did better overall (previously 40%) and in my division (previously 27%), so obviously the course was a bit slower for everyone.

Up next: We'll be volunteering at a St. Patrick's Day 5k, but we don't have another race until Scioto Miles on March 22. Crazy!

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