I went into Wednesday's race fresh off of a full week's rest. Well, it was a week of rest in that I hadn't run since August 12th, but I had 3 mildly exhausting Physical Therapy sessions and a visit to the chiropractor. (Nothing super serious and I'm all better now.) The point remains, my legs and lungs were fresh and that's what matters at Dirt Cheap!
It was Saucony night at Dirt Cheap and as I run in a lot of different Saucony shoes (primarily Kinvara 3 and Kinvara TR), I decided to give the Salomon SpeedCross3 a break this night and take the opportunity to run in Peregrine 4. (An awesome shoe, BTW.)
The race had an interesting start as only seconds before we were take-off, Race Director\Course Marker\Expert Hill Finder, Boots had just made it back to the start line with a bundle of flags in his hand and began whispering messages of slippery bridges and "prickers." All the while his partner, Ellen relaying snippets via her ever-present megaphone. In addition, we weren't quite sure if the route would remain properly marked (last year's race had some flag removal/re-routing by some 'derelicts'... which made me question the bundle of flags in Boots' hand. But too late for that now...)
With a mild threat of rain above and a lingering evidence of previous rain already on the ground, the countdown clock hit 00:00 the men's wave was off and running!
We started down a slippery slope and through a damp field before we tucked into the woods for our first hill, a ~50 footer just to get the heart rate up a bit. From about 0.75 miles to about 2.25 miles, the course was mostly flat with a few small climbs as we crossed over the park road to run some slightly less traveled trails along Holt Rd and into the guts of the park. And it is within these miles that the course felt a bit like an Adventure\Obstacle Race with low hanging branches requiring crouching, creeping vines festooned with prickers grabbing at (and retaining) various bits of skin and rock laden mud puddles underfoot.
I was able to maintain about a 9:00/mile pace which was slightly above my comfort zone, but I was with a few pretty capable runners and it felt good to stick with the pack to face the prickers together. We started to thin out a bit once we had gotten through most of the rough stuff.
Between miles 2 and 3, we had a few climbs, but an overall downhill feel. Mile 3 had a real nice downhill to help pick up some speed and it was here that I decided to hang on to my 9 minute pace for however long we had to run (somewhere between 2-3 more miles.)
We came out of the woods around mile 3 to run up Park road towards Lake Ave but quickly dipped back in the woods to follow East Creek back into the guts of the park. In addition to running along the Creek, we got to run *in* it. How refreshing! Exactly what the legs needed.
Until I popped out of the woods at just over 5 miles, my focus was on keeping my cadence high and breathing. That was the only way of preventing my little lizard brain from compromising on my pace or my goal.
Once I was out of the woods the focus became finishing strong. We had a climb back up that slick field and then a quick dip back into the woods for one last climb up Suicide Hill. I worked as hard as I could up that hill trying to finish strong. Luckily, I had Ellen and a crowd of people at the top for encouragement.
In the end, I maintained my pace despite my lizard brain and my heart trying to renovate my rib cage. 5.3 miles in 47:56. Good enough for 25th overall and 4/24 in my Age Group.
I celebrated with a couple fist bumps, a little splash in the water to cool off, a slice of watermelon and a bun full of relish and mustard that hid a well grilled hot dog.
Thanks to Yellow Jacket Racing and the Dirt Cheap volunteers for another fun Wednesday on the trails!
(oh... and if you are interested in any of the shoes that I mentioned above, you can get'em all well-fit to your foot at Fleet Feet!)