Official time: 21:23. 15th of 135.
Winter is here and that means it's time for the South County 4th Season Trail series. Put on by local speedster and recent WTAC member Mike Galoob, it's a great mix of trail distances at a variety of southern RI trails.
The first one is a 5k held on some old/new trails in Old Mountain Field in Wakefield. I waited until the last minute to register for this one as I wasn't sure how confident I was in my bad foot. After getting a spiffy new brace and taking it for a test run on Friday, I felt optimistic enough to attempt this race.
I did the course as a warm-up with Mike C and we were both surprised by how technical and tricky it was. Muddy sections, stone bridges, briars and big rocks: this course had a little of everything. It was fun chatting with Mike and there were no issues with the foot on the warm-up. I was glad to have a preview of the actual race.
Soon it was time to line up. Lots of WTAC folks. Lots of TNT people. I took off fast along with everyone else as people were trying to get into good position before the race entered the woods. I entered the woods in about 16th place which was just about right because there was very little passing going on around me on the trails.
I took off so fast that I was already pretty tired entering the woods. Luckily the first section is all rooty and required a lot of concentration - kept my mind off the exhaustion. I focused on keeping up with the blue shirted guy ahead of me. The trail crossed over some tricky rock bridges and then settled into a newer section that was already getting pretty muddy from the lead runners.
Once the course turned onto an established trail I took the opportunity to pass blue shirt guy and the yellow shirt kid ahead of him. From this point on there was no one ahead of me - but I was constantly aware of being chased. At one corner I glanced back and saw that it was Mike B and Yellow Boy right on my tail.
As the trail approaches the Old Mountain parking lot there's a series of miserable switchbacks that left me exhausted and frustrated as I nearly went off trail several times. Any momentum I had was constantly being erased. And the chasers were right behind me! The course skirts the parking lot and gives spectators a chance to cheer their runners. Turns out that Yellow Boy had a lot of crowd support and that his name is Sam. As the trail turned inward for one last cruel uphill section, I heard a fan tell Yellow Sam to "pass those old guys." Ouch.
As the course spilled out of the woods and onto the field Yellow Sam did as he was told and zipped past me. I should have risen to the challenge but I was just happy that I had made it through the entire trail race without friggin' up my foot! We reached the last straightaway and I checked the systems to see if I could mount a kick but the trails had left me exhausted. Mike B had juice enough though and passed me as well, almost catching Yellow Sam in the process.
So I finished in 15th with a respectable time of 21:23 and fifth for WTAC. I'm slightly disappointed that Sam (who turned out to be 11 - yikes!) and Mike B got the best of me at the end but I'm very pleased that I was able to tackle this technical trail race with no foot issues. This was a big confidence boost and I plan to get back out in the woods on a regular basis again!
After the race I chatted with folks, ate some grub and did a cooldown with WTAC guys, picking up some course flags along the way. Got back for the awards and found out the Tuesday Night Turtles won the team division. Curses! However there are plenty of races left in the series for WTAC to find their mojo!