Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Li'l Rhody Runaround 2016

Official time: 53:12    10th overall.  2nd in Age Group.  Results here.

Ah, the Li'l Rhody Runaround .  I have a love/hate relationship with this race.  On one hand it's a fun local trail race put on by WTAC, five minutes from my house and every year more and more faces are familiar to me.  On the other hand it hasn't been a great race for me over the years.  The first miles are fast and usually leave me spent for the second half of the race.  The last stretch on road hasn't been my cup of tea either.

Nonetheless I arrived in good spirits for this race.  It was cold as hell with the wind coming off Watchaug Pond but I knew it wouldn't be as bad in the woods.  The warm-up along the dirt road showed a lot of puddles and I hope it wouldn't be too wet in the woods.  I didn't think I could match my 2013 PR of 52:51 but I hoped I would be within a minute of it.

I lined up with the usual suspects and made a real effort not to go out too fast.  I backed off and stayed a few paces behind Jeff Walker.  I was surprised there wasn't a glut of people passing me as they have in years past.  Perhaps the water hazards on the first mile were creating logjams and preventing people from opening up.  The lead female went by me just before the singletrack and I fell in behind her.  By the time we reached the playground the lead group was already a ways ahead of us.

Shoving water in my face - Photo by Paul Gray

As we entered the woods the pace felt just right.  At a curve in the trail I could see several people not far behind us.  I stayed behind the lead female until the wood bridges ended and we made the sharp right at Klondike Road.  The trail became a bit more technical and I noticed a slowdown from her so I motored past and put some distance on everyone.  Jeff Walker was long gone at this point and after a few minutes I could hear footsteps behind me.  At around 3.5 miles Leslie O'Dell went past followed by another fellow in red.  Red Shirt then passed O'Dell and I pushed to keep up with them.

I stayed with them for the next several miles.  One or both would put distance on me but I would close the gap on certain sections.  Their pace was manageable and I began looking at my watch to try to figure how close I'd be to my PR.  I thought I was about a minute slower but it was hard to judge.  The last section of trail is fairly technical and I stuck behind them, though in retrospect I should have pushed harder here.  At the last trail incline I went past the two of them and increased the pace in anticipation for the final road stretch.

Rock hopping with a mile to go - Photo by Scott Mason

Finishing up - what am I looking at? - Photo by WTAC

Normally I'm toast at this point but I was feeling good and was managing a low 6 pace.  I heard footsteps behind me with a 1/4 mile to go but I didn't dare look back.  Mike B was at the final corner and said I had a telephone pole length which didn't sound like much so I pushed towards the finish with everything I had.  I finished in a solid 53:12, only 21 seconds off my course PR from 2013.

I'm very happy with this race.  I usually go out too fast and can't hang on but this time it worked out great and I was able to draft off others for most of the race.  It left me with something for the end.  Had I made my move earlier perhaps I could have bested my 2013 time but I'm not going to quibble about that.  Overall I'm feeling fit and healthy and looking forward to competing in the winter trail series that is right around the corner!

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

On Racing

Yes my blog has been pretty quiet this year.  After the stress fracture back in the early months of 2016, I lost my taste for updating it.  Once I began running again, I found it hard to rekindle the interest.  I've managed to eek out a couple race reports at least but that brings me to the crux of this post - my lack of racing this year.

So far I've mustered only four races this year.  Two races of the winter trail series (which led to my stress fracture), Run with the Beavers and the Kismet Cliff Climb.  Trail races one and all.  Even though I'm healthy I haven't had much of an appetite for racing and certainly not on roads.

I pulled the trigger on the Li'l Rhody Runaround with a week to go.  I honestly wasn't really feeling it but felt like I should get back out there.  This race has always been a pain point for me and indeed I would often choose the Mews 5k over it (as much for the beer and the camaraderie of my non-running friends).  But I'm keeping my non-road streak going and hope to put in a good showing.  To that end, let's look at my previous races on this course:

2012 - 1:04:59
A complete shitshow.  I went into the race with a weak ankle and rolled it a mile in.  The rest of the race was slow decay.  One of my better write-ups though.  Perhaps suffering breeds creativity.

2013 - 52:51
Redemption race after the previous year.  I was nearing the height of my trail powers speed-wise and put up a solid time.

2014 - Sidelined with a knee injury due to the NipMuck / Bimbler double team.  I directed traffic in the parking lot instead.

2015 - 56:40
Trying to run this race the week after the Rhode Island 6 Hour Ultra was a silly thing to do.  After a couple miles my legs revolted and I mailed it in the rest of the way.  Looking back I'm surprised I finished only four minutes behind 2013.

So now I enter 2016 healthy and rested.  I'd love to PR but since I've completely neglected workouts I'm not capable of a 6:36 pace for this race.  But I guess you never know.  I ran most of the course last weekend as a refresher and once the race is underway the usual adrenaline will help carry me along.  My basic plan will be to not go out too fast as always (unlikely) and save something for the second half of the race.  We shall see!

Stay tuned for the race report which will perhaps kick this blog back into high gear.