Sunday, December 10, 2017

The dirt Half of Half and Half

I tan the 6th annual RunnersWorld Half and Half Marathon today, wisely opting for the trail half. I have done the double half (trail first then road) twice in the past, and 13.1 miles of pavement mostly flat after frolicking through the woods over hill and dale is a letdown to me. I'm just wired that way. Kathy Bratton, Derk and Barbara Pinkrton havedone awesome thngs with thisrace which is one of if not the best race heeld on Trukey Mountain. (Oh ok, T&T is awesome too. And Snake Run.)

I got there a little early but not early enough to visit with everyone I wanted to see. Here, I am getting in the line for the start of the trail half. They head west and then north for miles of nice dirt. (I designed the course--it's one I am most proud of as it strings together all of the easier trailz in the wilderness area, and conveniently has a few moderate hills laced in.)

I did catch up with Gina and candy--2/3 of the Vinita triplets. These ladies run a marathon or more every month, and always make it look so fun. Secretly, they enjoy beating me to the finish line. (More on that later.)

I was near the front of the crowd and foolishly decided to crowd in with the fast people and try to lead the race for a few yards. I got off to the side so as not to hold anyone up, and to reduce my risk of being trampled. I was 2nd or third for about 20 steps, and my blazing flash of speed made my hat fly off. Veering off to the side to retrieve it cost me my spot, and 50 runners or so flew past me. 

But I had the friskies and hammered down for about 200 yards and actually passed a few of them. I was starting to crater when I decided to take a photo opportunity and snapped about 20 pictures of the thundering crowd of trail runners as they overtook me.

As soon as the course leaves the wide trail under the power line easement and heads into the woods, we're on single track and a nice climb awaits. Things log-jam trough here, and it's best to just march up the hill to where the trailz widen. 

Mark and Lynna caught up and passed me. Mark went on to have a race 20 minutes faster than mine. I tried to catch him but never did.

Picture by Alan Bates
My goal for the day was to actually try to race--instead of treating the event like a leisurely hike with aid stations every 2-3 miles. I settled in with a group of runners who were running a pace that I could maintain. 

The race start had temps in the 30s, but with no wind and bright blue skies it warmed up and I took a short break to shed my long sleeves. At the end of the Ridge trail, the course crosses over the Powerline Trail to the west side.  I was enjoying a nice downhill when I almost ran over a friend--Randy Brinkley, who had taken a fall. I asked if he was OK, and he popped back up and was fine. We ran together for a half mile or so, then I passed him and tried to catch up with the Vinita girls. But then I caught up with Lynna, and we ran together for the next several miles.

The Pepsi Lake Aid Station had freshly made french toast which I did partake, and Fireball, which made a good french toast chaser.

Jelly Legs--a zig-zaggy trail that climbs up up a hill to Rock City is a runnable uphill. For me, I can shuffle up about as quick as I can pick my way down. This trail gets rockier every year due to erosion. Still, it's one of my favorite trailz and is a necessary evil to connect one easy trail to the next.

We blazed into the Upper Parking Lot Aid Station and I took a cup of Coke and got on my way. My race was going well. I was running--not shuffling. I kept seeing 13-ish minute/miles on my Suunto. This was a good thing for me.

We kinda got into another short-lived log jam as we headed west toward the YMCA. It thinned out rather quickly though, and I tried to keep up my slightly brisker pace. I started trying to size u how we were doing based on who we saw coming back. (The course is an out and back.) The front-runners were five miles ahead of us long before we were even to 5 miles. Victor and Clay were going three times faster than we were. But I saw people who I thought I could run with who were 2-3 miles ahead of me. Pondering this was discouraging, so I just decided to blank my mind out and just run.

Picture by Clint Green
We rolled into the figure-eight intersection and Clint Green took hundreds of pictures. He told me the gap between Clay and Victor was 37 seconds, and it appeared to be turning into a real showdown. I wished I could be a groupie and watch them duke it out.

At the Turnaround, Stormy and crew had what was probably the best aid stop on the course. As good as the french toast was, they had some kind of birthday cake which tasted like it was drenched with Eagle Brand condensed milk. I could drink that by the quarts, and if I did, I could probably not get out of the recliner to run. I'd be that 500-pound dude that they put on the cover of freak magazines. I took a Dixie cup crammed full of the cake (a cupcake?) and ate it on the way u the hill out of the Y. Lynna ran ahead, and by the top of the hill, I had eaten my cake, licked the cup clean, stashed it in my pocket, pocketed the plastic fork, and picked up the pace. I had just caught Lynna when she kicked a stump, and then like a slow-motion super-hero, she flew horizontally for a good 2 feet and hit the ground with a thud.

Her clothes were dusty, her face had a smudge of sweaty dirt, she had blood running down her hand, but she saved what was left of her cake. The three-second rule did not claim her treat, and no worse for wear, we motored on.

At the next aid station, I caught back up with the Vinita girls. Gina and Candy were just enjoying the race and looked far less stressed than I was. I took out of the aid station just behind them, and I told Gina I was breathing down her neck--teasing of course. Right then, she kicked a root and took a pretty good fall. I began to see a trend here. I catch up with someone, and they fall. 

With about 2.5 miles to go, my wheels began to falter, and I hit a brief bad spot. Misty at the Pepsi Lake Aid Station recommended Fireball or Piehole, and with a shot of alcohol in me, I took off with a power-walk until I reached the top on the gradual climb past Pepsi Lake. I started to believe I could run it in with my foot on the gas. Lynna got a second wind as well, and she put about 200 yards between us. The race was on. About halfway back on the Ridge Trail, we turned right and wound around to the north end of the Bunny Trail. I saw her make the turn, but I did not see her then make a wrong turn. So here I was trying to catch her when she caught up and passed me again. We were picking off a runner every now and then, and when we reached the place where we begin the descent down an extremely rocky potentially dangerous stretch of partially washed out trail, I stretched out my stride, increased my foot turnover, and watched my foot placement like a hawk. I felt like I made good time coming down, and I actually caught up with Scott Smaligo. We ran the final half mile in together and finished about a second apart.

I visited with Victor and his fiance Maddie for a bit. Victor finished second to Clay Mayes, who rarely fails to win any race he enters. Maddie crushed the field for her win.

I hung out, drank a beer, ate some great BBQ fro Rub BBQ. I got to visit with Belle Vie, and we got the selfy pic we forgot to get at T&T. Then I made my way home for a nice nap. 

The Vinita girls came through and headed out on the road for their FULL Marathon. They weren't even racing me. Had they been, they would have humbled me.

The course was marked well, and as always, the aid stationss were superb.

I finished in 3:37. Both my Suunto and Strava said I had a 15:34 m/m average, but my math says it was more like a 16:19 m/m. Either way, it was way faster than my last few runs have been. It's encouraging though.

1 comment:

  1. You always give the best trace reports!! So proud of you!