But this was different. And plus, I really wanted to see how my fitness went along in competition out there, especially when I'm the lightest I've been in years and very well trained.
Today, I really had a choice between 2 trail races. The first one, Wolfes Run, was moved to Bloomingdale Park because Wolfes Pond Park has never fully recovered from Hurricane Sandy last year. I don't know the trails there, but I would suspect that they were pretty flat in that park. I needed hills.
In comparison, the Chimney Rock 5 Mile Trail Run near Bridgewater, NJ touts a total climb of over 2000 feet in elevation (I not sure about that, but it does have some major climbs in it) and is very, VERY technical. Lots of roots, rocks, mud, you name it, the trail has it.
This is actually one of the "easier" parts of the trail at Chimney Rock.
I also did Chimney Rock two years ago when I was heavier and in not so stellar shape. I wound up walking all the huge hills on the course. Anyway, I knew I was going to beat my time of 57:53 from 2011. The question was, by how much.
I arrived there in plenty of time, saw some of the people I know from the Raritan Valley Road Runners and chatted with them at length. Most know that I was attempting the Grand Slam this year and wished me luck. I found out that a couple of people from that club are going to the Vermont 100. Both of them are real good runners; I would suspect that they might be contending to win the race outright. I definitely wish them the best of luck and will see them up there in July.
The day was actually quite nice. Mid 40's, not too windy, and lots of sun, an ideal day to be on the course. I wore a thin long sleeve running shirt and shorts with gloves. No hat was needed. For the hour before the race, I was feeling quite good and ready to go.
The course crosses a stream and a road, then does 2 full loops in the main section of the park. Each loop starts off with a really nasty technical section near a river, then a lung busting major hill climb up to Hawk Watch. It then meanders around, up and down until the end of the loop where we have a very technical, no holds barred downhill back to the start of the second loop. The second loop is almost the same...Cough up the second lung up the big hill, then a small detour on a trail that we didn't do on the first loop, then down that big technical scary hill back. Cross the road, then the stream, then uphill to the finish.
At 9AM, we started off. The stallions in the group quickly got to the front and took off. I held my own with a pretty good group as we crossed the small stream and road, and got to the technical section. Here I almost missed a footing and almost ended up in the river. It was a quick reaction with my other foot that halted the dive. I noted to myself that I was to be very careful the second time I entered that section.
We finally got some good running trails as we started the ascent up to Hawk Watch. I remember quite clearly that I had to stop two years ago and walk up this bad boy. But this year I changed my gait and methodically got up the hill with the rest of the crowd. I was still a tough haul, but I was more than ready to handle it. We levelled off and I quickly recovered, pushing a very good pace. I passed a couple of people at the top, then passed a couple of people at the aid station before the descent down.
The downhill section turned out to be the most impressive. With the balancing exercises that I've been doing, I actually did great in this section. My footing was quick on the rocks, I didn't lose much speed, and I was loving it! I managed to pass another guy down this stretch before starting the 2nd loop.
At the start of the 2nd loop, now that I wasn't crowded in with other runners, I had a better time with the real nasty technical section by the river. No problems this time as I climbed the big hill again up to Hawk Watch. I was a bit tired, but I kept running up the hill again. Halfway up the hill, I know I didn't have to walk because again, I was methodical in changing my gait to accommodate the slope. I got to the trail detour and caught up with a couple of guys ahead of me and decided to hang with them a bit.
We we all flying at the top of the ridge there, then started our final technical descent toward the finish. I passed one of the guys, but the other guy was a better downhiller than me. I tried to stay with him as much as possible, but he really picked up the pace. The increased pace did make me pass another runner. It was quite the fastest speed I've done over a really rocky terrain and my footing was perfect. I got down to the bottom of the hill, then crossed the road and stream back toward the finish. The last 100 yards or so was a tough uphill. It was not easy to open up here, but the sight of the finish line drove me forward. I finished at a time of 46:52 on my clock, which is a 9:22 min/mile pace on this rugged course. Wow.
A quick mental calculation and I realized that I PR'ed on this course by over 11 minutes. That is substantial on a 5 mile course. :-)
Oh, and one last thing, what is a tough trail run without some blood-letting? On the downhill in the last mile of the course, my left leg brushed up hard against a tree trunk on the side of the trail. It's a nice sized scratch from the knee on down to the calf. Although a little painful, it's only a flesh wound and I'm perfectly fine.
I wound up getting 2nd in the 40-49 age group, which is a nice ending to an achievement today. The post race celebration had pizza and beer, which I had to decline, of course. Primal diet and all that. I'm glad to get reacquainted with the people from NJ again. They are great runners and therefore real tough competition. To get an age group award here, in this tough race, with tough runners, is something to be proud of.
Great write up, Pete. Good seeing you out there, and looking for great things with the Slam from you this year. I predict another stellar finish at VT this year.ReplyDelete