This weekend, distance runners up here are all abuzz about the Seafair Marathon (going on now). I’d originally planned to run Seafair, but it conflicted with Kris’ plans to do this morning’s Shore Run with her friends (a reunion run in memory of their friend Cheryl Germany). Fortunately there’s another, lower-key alternative this weekend though, a small trail race in Bridle Trails State Park. They have a family-friendly 5k, a 10k, and a 30k run, so there’s something for everyone. Our family was well-represented. Kayla decided to observe her birthday by doing the 5k (as she did last year), and invited her good friend to join her. Kris also did the 5k, finishing in the top ten in her division.
Bridle Trails State Park is where I do most of my running near home. We’re only about a quarter mile from one of the entrances, and there’s no better place to run on a hot summer day. Most of the park is protected by a cool canopy of trees so you’re out of the sun. The community had also done a great job of preparing the trails for the event, evening out eroded portions of the trails and marking the many turns necessary for the 5k and 10k loops.
I’d planned this as a training run, and went into it with no particular time goal. Because of that, I also didn’t worry too much about being careful with my prerace dinner. Rather than my usual plain pasta with vegetables and olive oil, we feasted on vegetarian tacos. Lots of them. With beer. With pie. Erk.
So after digesting the equivalent of a Big Rock, I shouldn’t have been surprised that the little miners in my tummy were hard at work all night. I think I may have gotten about three hours of quality sleep, and had given myself permission to blow off the race and sleep in. But when the starting line is easy walking distance from the bed, why would you really want to blow it off? So at 7:10, I lumbered out of bed, gobbled some wheat toast with PB&J, and headed over.
The 30k was comprised of three 10k loops around the park. While waiting at the start, I stole a glance at the course map and noticed we were mostly staying to the perimeter trails of the park (other than a mile-long detour on the eastern edge. Support was very modest – two water stops (one at around 1.25 miles, the other at about 5.25 miles), so it was good that I carried some Cytomax with me. It looked like there were about 30 of us lined up at the start. With a group this size, I either finish artificially high or low (relative to my ranking in a larger race.
As we started, I went out a bit faster than planned. My first few mile splits were faster than I wanted. The first loop was in the neighborhood of 53 minutes or so (forgot to take the split until a minute or so later). The second was a little bit faster (possibly a minute). The third was a little slower. My splits averaged out to be fairly consistent, but the mile-to-mile variance was pretty high (minimum split was around 8 minutes per mile, maximum was about 9 minutes per mile). I’m generally more consistent in a marathon. Numbers aside, I felt like I started out too fast, and I definitely felt tired on the third loop.
The first trip around the park was pretty easy once I settled down a bit. Things got a bit tricky towards the southeastern corner, where some jerk had apparently made off with the markers for the course. I’d noted that we were to stay to the perimeter most of the way, which meant I could guess correctly most of the time, but some of the racers were misdirected. I went through the chute feeling good, and was off for my second loop. The only significant hill on the course occurred about 1/2 mile from the chute. I know this hill well, as I often start my runs in the park with it. It’s probably about a quarter mile long, and you gain perhaps 100 feet. After getting spoiled by the mostly flat course, you definitely notice it! I encountered a bunch of 5k runners right around mile 9 or 10. They were pretty easy to spot – a thundering herd of several hundred, some going very fast, others working really hard (and not going fast), many wearing headphones. And lots of kids – which is pretty great!
I ran into my own daughter about 1/3 mile from the 5k finish, and we ran together for a bit. As I came through the chute for the second time, I had quite a cheering section to greet me – including Kris (who had finished her 5k), and our friends the Wang family who had two entrants in the 5k as well!
Heading up the trail just after the madness of the chute, I heard footsteps behind me coming up fast. I was a bit surprised because I didn’t think any other 30k’ers were so close behind, but shouted out a greeting anyway. It turned out to be my friend Landy who had decided to pace me for the final loop. This was both good and bad news. Good news because he’s great company. Bad news because I wouldn’t be able to slack off as much as I’d wanted! Although his son had run him pretty hard onthe 5k, he still had lots left in his tank. We chatted (when I could talk … breathing was becoming more challenging), and enjoyed our trip through the woods. I’d sort of planned on picking up the pace for the final two miles, but got a bit waylaid by a couple of small hills between the 4 and 5 mile marker. For the final mile and a quarter though, we coasted down a nice descent towards the horse corral and the finish. I didn’t realize just how wasted I was until I stopped. Didn’t set any records, but definitely had fun! My time was 2:39:47 – good for 10 out of only 13 men. Still – I don’t think I left much out there – couldn’t have gone much faster.
Even with the inconvenience of the missing course markers, I’d definitely recommend this race. The venue is great, and the organizers work hard to put together a nice event. The volunteers were great too – there were a lot of them, and they were all working hard! Since it wasn’t about results for me, I didn’t really care if I’d run a bit too far (or not far enough). That might have mattered more if it’d been a full marathon. It sounds like next year they’ll use a combination of signs and chalk on the trail to mark the turns. That’s not foolproof, but it means the jerks will have to work harder to misdirect the runners.
So – even though the time wasn’t so important to me, you can still learn quite a bit by looking at the splits. Looking at the numbers in more detail, I can see that the overall trend of my per-mile pace was slightly up later in the race. As I mentioned before though, the interesting thing is the mile-to-mile trend. In the graph below (blue line shows my per mile pace, red shows the trend of my cumulative average pace) it looks like I alternated fast/slow miles a bit. It’d pay to be more consistent, which means starting slower.