This race has almost as good a name as the Michael Scott's Dunder Mifflin Scranton Merideth Palmer Memorial Celebrity Rabies Awareness Pro-Am Fun Run Race For The Cure. I have a T-shirt from that event and thought about wearing it today, but since I have not worn it yet I was afraid that what happened to Andy Bernard in that race could happen to me. So I donned regular running clothes and headed to Millersylvania State Park for my 150th race. I have raced out of Millersylvania too many times, but I have not raced on the trails. This will be my first cross country race. The Light at the End of the Tunnel would be considered a trail run, but this race will have more closed canopy, leaves and sticks on the ground, sudden turns and MUD than I have ever experienced in a race. Still it is great for a beginning trail runner like myself, since I probably will not get lost, the trails here are flat, and it is a short race so hypothermia will not set in.
This race is free for Club Oly members so I finally paid my dues and became official. I am now a member of Club Oly, Fort Steilacoom Running Club and Marathon Maniacs. The race is two loops with a slight variation on the second loop. Rich explains the course to a couple of us and since we had time it seemed like a good idea to run one loop as a warm up. Matt, Amber and I head off to scope out the trail. Amber is a gazelle and both Matt and Amber are significantly faster than me so it is nice to run an easy warm up with them. Lots of leaves on the trail and one section with some MUD followed by a shin deep puddle about 15 feet long. We pick our way around the puddle and discuss whether to run through it during the race.
The fog has lifted and it is a sunny cold morning. I knew this would be a small race but as we line up at the start I count a total of 8 runners including myself. I know four of them. Three I do not know are on the Evergreen State College cross country team. Unless one of them is slower than I suspect I am pretty much garunteed to finish in 6th place. That is fine, I am just out to have a good work out and fun time.
Start - Across a bumpy field and onto a dirt trail. Quick left turn onto a dirt road. I glance at my watch. 23 seconds into it and my prediction is holding. Five runners already out of reach, Barb and Ruhama behind me. Maybe one of those top five will fade, but I doubt it. Three minutes into the race and I make a turn onto a trail. The leaders are nowhere in site. With all the turns and deep forest I will not see them till it is all over.
Mile 0.75 - Running hard and struggling a little for air. I have no idea what my pace is and I really do not care. I am not at my 5K peak and you can not compare trail pace to road pace. I have a new attitude these days. Just grateful and happy to be running. For my next couple of races I really have no time goal. My foot problem has kept me from being able to do serious training but I am getting the mileage in. Sometime next week I will celebrate my 100th mile for the month, and will have completed at least 100 miles in each month for the past 4 years. It is a beautiful fall day and I am running alone in the woods. After all this rain the moss and lichens are bright and happy. Lots of leaves to cushion the trail. So many shades of green. Tall douglas firs and smaller hemlocks. "Alright Andy, 7:07 mile 1". I am fairly shocked to see Race Director Craig standing there with his stopwatch. I know he is fast but how did he get out here? That was unexpected and very nice. Guess I am not all alone after all. And it holds that the best races are put on by runners themselves. What a nice event this is. Oh and my pace sure seems great. Jody has the GPS for her long run this morning, so I don't really know how fast I am going. I think that 7:07 is faster than my real pace, but maybe not.
Mile 1.1 - Three nice little MUD sections. Then the big puddle. I stay to the side, only slowing a little bit.
Mile 1.3 - On to another trail. This one is a single deep rut with slightly bumpy grass on either side. During my warm up lap I ran on the grass, but now I find myself in the rut. I decide to move to the grass but turn my ankle and alost fall as soon as I hit that surface. Back into the rut I go.
Mile 1.5 - Loop one is done. Rich is there to cheer and tell me to be careful on the bumpy grass. This is not going to be a 5K, unless I suddenly got a whole lot faster. Looks more like a three mile race. That is fine.
Mile 2.5 - Almost done with the second loop. I have been thinking about that big puddle. I really need to run through it just to add to the experience. I will, no I won't, yes I will, no I won't. Here it is and in I go. But I am afraid of what lies beneath the leaves. It could be horrible shoe sucking MUD. I move over to the side. I am being a wimp, I need to get back in there or else I will regret it. No regrets. HTFU. In I go for the last four steps. Water splashing up my legs, even hitting my arms. Now on dry land. Why did I do that? It was fun though. Now my shoes are twice as heavy, my feet are sliding around in the shoes and I am slowing. Oh who cares, I am almost done.
Mile 2.8 - Turn onto the dirt road and pick up the pace. No problem with energy today, I could keep going a whole lot farther. But here is the turn to the field and the finish line.
Mile 3 - Craig hands me a "participant" ribbon and says that it was three miles, not a 5K. I think it was even shorter than that, but it is fine, lets call it three. I loved running in the woods and really enjoyed this little race. I do another lap as a cool down and see Amber running the other way. I wonder if she thinks that I am still racing. By the time I get back, everyone is done and getting ready to leave. Craig offers me a loaf of pumkin bread and I change out of my soggy shoes before heading home.
6th place of 8 runners. Last place male, but first in my age group :)
150th race, 24th race of 2008 (new record for most races in a year)