Time for another run around Watchaug Pond at the Li'l Rhody Runaround. Last year was a mess as I ran on a weak ankle and twisted it badly at mile one. I finished the race but it was ugly and easily my worst race of the year, both from a time and health perspective. This year I had no ankle issues and other than lingering back pain I felt ready to race. I didn't really plan out a strategy for this one. I figured a sub-55 minute run was doable - I was just going to go out strong and see how it played out.
Over the past week Amanda had been thinking about running this race and once we got the babysitting squared away she decided to go for it. We arrived with plenty of time to register and get situated. Saw the usual WTAC suspects and a bunch of other fast guys. It looked to be a deep field and I warned myself not to go out too fast. I ran the first mile of dirt road as a solo warm-up and then it was time to head to the starting line.
|An orange mob takes off|
It was a fast start and I quickly settled into what I thought was a 6:15 minute pace. I glanced at my watch and it was about a 5:50 pace - whoa, too fast! Fellow WTACer Nate caught up to me and we exchanged greetings. We ran alongside each other and I followed him into the singletrack. I could feel the train of runners slow a bit on this first trail section and Nate and I passed a few runners right before we came out at the playground.
The pace picked up as we ran through the Burlingame campground and Aaron "Sandals" Rome passed us just as we entered the woods. Nate passed Sandals a few moments later and I decided to follow suit. I had made the decision to stick with Nate for as long as I could. My only misstep came shortly thereafter during the plank section. I tried to jump on a big rock for a shortcut and my feet slipped - I nearly landed flat on my back. My shoes found traction at the last moment and I was able to remain upright.
After 3.5 miles we were approaching the water stop and the Buckeye Brook Road section. I was working hard and decided to drop back from Nate a bit. The field was spread out at this point. I could see a couple guys off in the distance behind me and two in front of Nate. The pace picked up slightly for the brief road section and when I re-entered the woods I really had to focus and try not to think about how hard I was working. Keeping the pace up was difficult now and Nate seemed farther ahead. Looking back I could see Boj and another guy gaining on me.
The uphill "stairs" section towards the North Camp road really took its toll on me and even the following downhill section was wearing on me. I could hear footsteps behind me but I tried not to worry about anyone else. The last couple miles of trails were brutal at the speed I was running and I just wanted to get to the road section. I wasn't sure how much I'd have left but just knowing that the last mile is road would be a relief. Just before crossing Cool Spring Road I passed another runner and shortly after that Boj passed me.
|Coming around the last turn|
It was good to see Muddy cheering us on as we came out on King's Factory Road. I tried to pick up the pace as much as I could for this last section. I could still see Nate off ahead. Boj clearly had more left in the tank and began to put distance on me. The runner I had passed caught to me with about 1/3 of a mile to go and told me to keep with him. I managed to maintain his pace briefly before he too pulled away from me. I was exhausted as I made the turn into the parking lot and thrilled when I saw I was going to finish in under 53 minutes.
Stood around chatting with everyone afterwards, so happy to be done with this race. It was tough. Did a cooldown with the guys and then ran the course backwards to cheer on Amanda...but she had already finished! Like a fool I ran all the way out to King's Factory Road looking for her. I ran back to the finish, now truly tired and starving and found her down at the picnic area with everyone else. She did amazing, finishing in 1:16:51. Pretty awesome considering this was her first ever trail race and by far her longest footrace.
|Happy to be done!|
Everyone seemed to have a great time at this race. Greg Hammett won yet again and there were some big PRs from WTAC. Speaking of WTAC, they did a great job at this event and it was by far the biggest field they've had with over 400 runners! It's great to see so many people coming out to support trail racing. Hopefully this bodes well for the South County 4th Season trail series. This was a bit of redemption for me after last year's difficulties. I came in 20th overall but 11th in my Age Group which goes to show how deep the field was. A great race!