This past Sunday I checked off one of my product goals for 2011 a little earlier than anticipated. I ran the B RRC Prettyboy Trail 10k up near Prettyboy Reservoir in Parkton. Going into Sunday, I was eying this race more as an opportunity to do some trail running and have fun in a much more low key setting than last weekend’s GINORMOUS 5k downtown. I’d already had two quality workouts last week, a rep session on Wednesday and an abbreviated cruise interval session on Friday. The race would be more of a strength workout because of the hills and whatnot. I was planning to go hard but not quite all out and hopefully work on some racing strategies up near the front.
Sunday morning I put on some rocktape (like KT tape basically) because my left achilles had been sore for most of the week on and off since the 5k. I’d been babying it, heating, rolling, stretching, eccentric loading, everything I know to do to keep it healthy. Because of that I changed my original plan of doubling the course after to get a long run to ‘just race and get a reasonable warmup/cooldown and don’t worry about the mileage.’ I picked up my friend Johnny and we arrived at the race site with about 20-30 minutes to spare.
After registering I put decided to go with the Ghost 2s instead of the Cascadias. The race was taking place mostly on smooth fire roads with two stretches of pavement and about a mile of singletrack at the end. We jogged down the starting stretch and ended up following one of the RDs as he was putting last minute course markings up on the end of the course. So basically my warm up consisted of jogging the last mile or so of the course. I was happy about this because it allowed me to know the end would be ~600m of pretty steep uphill. Fun!
By the time we got out of the woods, I saw most of the runners already gathered down the road a bit at the start line with the other RD giving instructions. I jogged down, took my sweats off (opted to stick with my green Brooks shirt from the Shamrock 5k over the singlet, it was too cold for a singlet), wolfed down half a banana and took a swig of water before making my way to the line. I looked around and saw a few guys who I figured would be running up at the front with me. My plan was to go out with whoever felt like leading and try to make a move before we came to the singletrack at the end.
Ready, start! I took off at a quick but comfortable pace and was in the front right away. I glanced to the side and noticed I had about a step or two on everyone else but figured I’d keep it relaxed on the downhill. Pretty quickly I realized without pressing, I was opening up a gap already. After a quarter mile we hit the bottom of the downhill and began climbing toward the fire road. I didn’t increase my effort but I was still increasing my lead. It was a strange feeling but I just went with it. As I turned onto the trail, I decided to go for it. I picked up the pace considerably. The trail was mostly flat, maybe a little gradual incline at this point, and I was able to really hammer. I came through the first mile in 5:58 which kind of surprised me (more because I’ve never seen mile markers on a trail course but it was apparently laid out by a very exacting XC coach) but felt completely sustainable. The next mile wound in a lollipop fashion and featured a decent amount of climbing which afforded me some nice views of the reservoir below. I hit mile 2 in 12:25 (a 6:27) and shortly after came back out onto the original trail. I didn’t see or hear anyone behind me and as I ran back the way I’d come, I let my legs go on the fairly steep downhill. It was neat passing people coming the other direction, most of them offering encouragement. I gave some thumbs up but wasn’t very vociferous. I came up to the centrally located aid station and began an out and back section. I heard one volunteer say I looked like an antelope which made me smile. I passed mile 3 in 18:27 (6:02 mile) and was amazed that the pace felt comfortably hard. I was really curious to see how much of a lead I had as I was coming back. I passed a guy in black shorts and then a local ultrarunner who finished just ahead of me at last year’s NCR half marathon. They didn’t look that far back but I was probably not judging very well. Regardless, it triggered my desire to not get caught after leading the whole race. So I pushed harder as the trail inclined. I saw Johnny running really well a few moments later and then I was bursting back out past the aid station again.
I made a quick right onto another lollipop section, passing mile 4 right at the start of it (24:28, 6:01). The trail descended down towards the water and I was running on soft pine needles. What goes down though must inevitably come up and I worked the winding switchbacks til I got back to the fire road. I kept telling myself not to slow down because they might be gaining on me. I hung a right at the aid station and in a little bit I was exiting the fire road section and back to the pavement. Right before the pavement I passed mile 5 (30:40, 6:12). The paved road was basically a quarter mile fairly steeply downhill to the singletrack trailhead and I hammered it. Hopping the guardrail I plunged onto the trail with somewhat reckless abandon. This was the section I’d run earlier so I sort of knew what to expect. There was a lot of up and down here and my legs were definitely beginning to feel the accumulated effort of the previous 5+ miles. I figured if I could get to the final uphill stretch I’d be safe. And I finally did get there. And it sucked exactly as much as I figured it would. It was steep. And it stretched on and on. I briefly considered walking until the image of someone catching me here at the very end entered my brain and that kept the legs churning against gravity. Finally I saw the white house that I knew to mean I was almost done. I passed the mile six marker and just through everything I had left into it. I crossed the line (or actually just two little flags in the ground) in 38:56 (mile 6 was 6:48, the last bit 98 seconds). That’s only a little less than half a minute off my (admittedly weak) 10k PR. After grabbing a bagel and some water I hung around to wait for Johnny and watch the finishers. Second place was about a minute or so back (but he kept on going for a second lap) and Johnny ran strong to a 7th place finish.
One of my goals this year was to win a race, any race. Obviously a small, local race is the sort that I have any shot of winning at this point but it is still a cool feeling to cross a finish line first for a change! No awards ceremony, no trophy or certificate (hey, this was $2!) but I’ll take the satisfaction of a race well run (and led wire-to-wire) and getting out on a beautiful trail any day.
And for reading through all this, a reward. Pictures (courtesy of the BRRC) You can see a few more at my Facebook album :