Sunday, November 29, 2009

Blackstrap Hell II - A Race Report

I knew this race would be tough. But it was even tougher than I thought. 10k of very steep hills coated with slippery mud that were rugged, gnarly and insanely tough and that is no exaggeration! It was a LOT of fun. I loved it.

This race is put on by fellow Trail Monster Running member, Jeff. What makes it interesting is he uses a staggered start. Runners go off in waves, alone or in groups of up to three. The projected slower runners go first and the projected faster runners go last. The goal is to have us all crossing the finish line within a few minutes of each other.

Me? I was seeded in the middle... 20th out of 40 people (as of the night before). I liked this for a variety of reasons. A) I haven't raced in a long while. B) I haven't race a shorter race in a much LONGER while. C) As a result of A and B, I knew there was a good chance my pacing would probably be off which leads to... D) Because of C, it would be good to have rabbits to chase and cheetahs on my tail, and the competiton of both could keep me honest.

Well... point "D" turned out to be true, but definitely not at first. I started with Tim and my buddy James Demer. James is super fast, and I know he is MUCH faster than I. Either Jeff overestimated my running lately by starting me with him or underestimated James, or a bit of both. That's not a complaint though. Projecting everyone's times based on previous races is never going to be an exact science by any stretch, especially when the data is limited with some runners (like me). Jeff did a really great job overall with this, and as it turns out we all finished within a short block of time within each other (except for three people who got really lost).

So, we were off. Long story short, I went out WAY too fast the first mile. I was leading the three of us and laboring away while noting that James would occasionally ask a question or make a comment, and he was anything but out of breath. I decided to put on the brakes and let James pass, and do my own thing without worrying about keeping up with that beast of a runner.

The race went on and about 2.5 miles in Ian and Chuck flew past me on a downhill. Crap! Not even halfway done and these guys already caught me (remember, we're supposed to be finishing around the same time because of the staggered start). They were really moving!

However, shortly after that, I was feeling my groove. I was flying well on the downhills and cruising the ups at a pretty good pace, feeling warmed up and in sync. All cylinders were clicking and I was running hard but also comfortably. I was working an uphill and saw a female runner ahead of me (I forget her name). Near the top, she turned left on to a trail and so did I.

I then heard Tim yell from behind me, "Hey Jamie! You're going the wrong way!"

"No I'm not!" I exclaimed, probably sounding like a five year old. Two out of the three arrows marking the trail did point left afterall (one was a snowmobile arrow, I should have ignored that.. the other was probably the backside of an arrow used for the other direction), and only one of the three said to go straight. There were also flags that went the direction I was going. Turns out this was for an earlier section of the trail. Crap!

"Yes you are! Trust me, it's this way!" Tim yelled back.

"Are you sure?!"


As I ran my way back to the trail where Tim was I saw Floyd and Peter (two notoriously ridiculously fast runners) fly by ahead on the correct path. Ugh, I was indeed going the wrong way. I yelled to the girl who was ahead of me that it was the wrong way, but she insisted it was right and I think she kept going. I estimate the whole ordeal cost me about 45 seconds to a minute, so not too bad. It definitely could have been worse. Not a big deal.

So, on I went. With about a mile or so left, I looked behind me and saw a runner closing in. I couldn't tell who it was, as we were on the powerline trails and the sun was in my eyes when I turned around, but as the trail ducked into the woods and then meandered this way and that, I could see it was my buddy Ryan and he was gaining ground.

I like Ryan a lot. He's a great guy and insanely funny. He also hooks me up with great deals on cross country ski equipment. However, I didn't want him to catch me and I made it my goal to not let him do so.

We meandered and weaved between the trees and down the hill and I could see Ryan was gaining ground. We then did a U-like turn by crossing a creek and heading uphill on the other side, and I could see Ryan was now REALLY close. But somehow, I managed to fend him off on the uphill. Then there was a downhill to the finish and I crossed it at a good sprint (and then did a somersault for fun).

I crossed in 1:01:36 and 12th place overall based on the actual net times. I was hoping to break an hour, and had actually predicted to Jeff I'd finish in 57:57, which I knew was ambitious but I wanted to give myself a tough goal.

So, I'm a tad disappointed, but only a tad. I haven't raced a shorter race in a long while and didn't know these trails that well, so I don't think I did that bad considering that. The larger part of me is pretty pleased. I'm still not taking for granted that I am running TRULY injury free for the first time in well over a year. That alone makes any run fun. So that combined with a solid effort and not too bad of a finishing time (for me) for racing the first time in a long while, I'll take it with a sincere smile, but also with the realization that I still have some work to do.

BIG thanks to Jeff for putting on such a fun, challenging and unique event! It was awesome and a great time. The pizza and beer that followed afterwards with almost everyone there was also a grand time as we rehashed the day and enjoyed each other's company. I feel truly fortunate to run with such an awesome group of people. You guys all rock!

Crossing the finish line

Ran 6.3 miles @ 9:51/mile pace.
Rugged, rocky, muddy trails.
Insanely hilly.
Mid 40s, sunny.
Brooks Cascadia 3, shorts, sleeveless shirt.


middle.professor said...

Great to see you running strong on the trails again Jamie. Remind me next year to mention "do not follow snowmobile arrows!!!". And that's a sweet google earth image of the course.

Blaine Moore said...

Good to see you out on the trails, Jamie - nice race! Now I just need to get myself in race shape so I can do some catching of people next year...

sn0m8n said...

You'd be cooler if you'd let me catch you.


Sounds like a great little race, wish I could have been there to give the trails a blast :]

Grellan said...

Great to see you enjoying a race after a long absence. You might have dipped under the hour if you hadn't gone astray.