Monday, January 13, 2014

1/12/14 Roots Rocks Cinderblocks Race Series, Up and Over Rock Candy Mountain 5.5 miles

First of a three race series and I may or may not run all three.  First year for this Guerrilla Running event.  Back in 2008 I ran a Rock Candy Mountain race.  That one was 8 miles long.  Today's event is billed as 5.5 miles and I don't think it will take us all the way to the top.  The course map looks like a nice lollipop.  I won't have to worry about the fast guys screaming downhill toward me.  I plan to work hard on the uphill and be careful to not fall on the way down.

This area is just a small part of the Capitol State Forest.  So many trails and logging roads.  I have parked at this area a couple of times in the past year to do some training runs and to figure out the trail system.  I am excited about this race because it is another opportunity to get to know these trails.

For most people, the story of the race will be the weather.  It is awful out.  It has been stormy for two days now and it is particularly bad this morning.  39 degrees and raining sideways.  I register for the race and go right back to my car.  Just sitting in my car, it is rattling and shifting with the wind.  I have shorts but decide to keep my running pants on over them.  The pant legs will get wet if the puddles are deep, but I don't think that this material will hold much moisture.  I stay with my heaviest rain jacket and wear a hat and gloves at least for the start.

I am hoping to get in 40 miles this week and I would really like to do 7 or 8 today.  I had planned on an easy 2-3 mile warm up, just to get the miles in.  But 20 minutes before the start it is all I can do to get out of the car and shuffle an easy mile.  Now that it is near start time the wind and rain seem less.  Probably snowing up top.  I will keep all the gear with me.  At least I don't need to carry water on such a short run.

Start - We line up and start right on time.  I had thought that we would run up the road a little way to where there is a trail junction. But no, there is a trail right here that I have never seen before.  Craig did point this out to me as I was warming up, so it is not a total surprise. What is tricky is where to position myself at the start.  If it is a single track trail, I don't want to get stuck behind slower runners.  I also don't want to hold anyone back.  I think a wider start for a quarter mile or so would be a good idea.  But I will deal with whatever and when we go off I am about in the middle of things.

50 feet - Onto the trail and it is a puddly muddy mess.  As I feared some people are trying to pick around the puddles.  I know that my feet are going to get soaked sooner or later and I have decided to not hesitate around water today.  Splashing through gives me  a chance to pass some folks.  Start climbing.  There are some social runners, and it is wonderful that they are out here.  I just need to be patient and pass them when I can.  I knock off 4 or 5, then move up to the next batch.  Little did I know that most of them will finish ahead of me today.  Just when I am wishing that I had started closer to the front, I get into a good groove with some runners at about the pace I want to be going.

Mile 0.5 - My mile marks are total guesses.  I won't look at my watch much today.  The trail crosses the road.  Now we are on a trail that I took one sunny warm June day with three friends.  It is muddy and steep.  On that day, two of my friends just could not make it up and we had to turn around.  No problem for me today, except that I am walking a lot more than running. 

Mile 1 - Giant brown puddles.  It is such a fun experience to slosh through a deep puddle.  The water is so cold that my feet instantly feel frozen.  But in a few moments I am comfortable again, just in time for the next puddle. One puddle surprises me with water almost to my knees.  Now a raging rivulet where the trail should be.  Relentless uphill.  Wish I could run it, but I just have to grunt and walk.  I pass a couple of people.  Runners are thinning out now.  More uphill.  Course description said that we would climb 1,000 feet in the first two miles.

Mile 2 - Out of the woods.  The trail ends at a logging road.  There is a volunteer here who tells me to turn left and that it is all downhill from here.  What great news.  And now I have a wide road that is descending gently.

Soon my leg power comes back and I can run well.  I see two runners way ahead and I lose them around a bend.  I will see them one more time, but they are going as fast as I am.  I am so cautious on the downhills, fear of broken bones.  But this is wonderful.  Other that the many sharp angular large rocks that dot the logging road, this is very runnable.  I could turn an ankle for sure, but I am feeling good about this.  I probably would not drive my little car on a road like this but I am enjoying the running.

Mile 3 - Still a gentle downhill on the road.  Two things start to trouble me.  One is that so much of this course is on a dirt road.  I expected more trail.  Also the course markers are a little flaky.  I did see two blue ribbons recently, but are they there for some other reason?  Oh, good news, here comes a runner catching up to me.  She asks if we are on course.  Well I think so.  If I had seen a turn I would have taken it.  Hmm, now she has me really wondering.  We are still flying down this road.  Now there is a junction with a steep downhill road.  An orange flag there that might mean something.  I think we should continue on, but oh, here come three runners up the side road.  They report that there are no course markings there.  The four of us, including a nine year old boy continue on.

Mile 3.5ish - The four of us reach a major intersection of logging roads.  No markers of any kind.  Clearly this is not right.  Another runner joins us.  If we were still on course there would be about 40 runners coming in to join us here as we are now standing still.  Some discussion, but obviously we must turn back.  I have decided to only turn down a road or trail if I am absolutely sure that it is correct.  I will work my way all the way back to where the volunteer was and go back down the way I came up if needed.  That would disqualify me I guess, but better that than getting lost.

Mile 5 - Two more runners standing in the road, shouting about whether we think that steep road turn off is the way to go.  I say no.  The kid is still with us.  One woman and I are running pretty fast up this road trying to get back on course, we have left some of the others behind.  Now a trail turn off that is labeled "Rock Candy Mountain Trail" and it is going downhill.  But it is not race marked at all.  This can not be right.  I start to get thirsty. I can run 5 miles with no water, but how long am I going to be out here for?

Mile 6 - Another trail junction.  Now we see a branch and an aluminum can in the road, sort of pointing that way.  No other race markers.  But just a few feet in it is clear that this is the way to go.  Plenty of ribbons and an arrow.  Trail is heading down and in the right direction.  We wait until the kid and another runner catch up.  We are all sure that this is correct.  I will never know if the two runners that had been way ahead of me were part of the race or not.

Mile 7 - Rough muddy trail steeply downhill.  Time to assign blame?  Some runners were showing their frustration up there on the road.  Yes the turn off should have been better marked.  But really it is up to the runner to know the course.  I was provided with a map on line a few days ago.  I took a quick look at it, and I thought that I knew the route we were taking, but I was very wrong.  After the uphill slog, I was in the zone blazing down that road going as fast as I could.  I was also just plain unlucky that there were no runners right with me, there were two people way ahead who I blindly followed, and there was some random blue flagging along the road way past the turn off. 

Mile 7.5 - Down a rivulet trail, so wet and muddy.  Cinder blocks to prevent erosion perhaps.  Lots of cinder blocks on this trail.  My feet have good grip in these shoes and I never lose my balance.  In no big rush, but it is fun to go fast on this trail.  Finally catch up to two runners who are slower, but smarter than me.  They took no wrong turns.  Pass a couple more people, then a Dave Risvold sighting.  He is all done and just waiting for someone.  Must be close to the end now.

Finish - 8.56 on the GPS.  I think that I kept an OK attitude, but it certainly was not what I was hoping for.  Funny, I got those extra miles in for my weekly mileage.  And it sure was an adventure.  One woman wanderer and I finish together.  The kid and another lostie had gone way faster on the downhill.  Of the seven, there should be three behind me and another four that I passed near the end.  In the results page there are another 8 people who finished after me that must have also missed the turn.

One runner created a video recording and it is fun to watch:
 I am in that video at about the four minute mark.

I downloaded my GPS data to Google earth.  That whole long tail at the bottom is the extra out and back that I ran.   Clearly going off in the wrong direction.

Next race in the series is February 9th and I hope that I can run it.  If I am there I will try to not take the scenic route.

67th of 82
race# 316

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