After six weeks of lamenting my lackluster training and 20-ish-mile weeks, I ran the best race I've ever run this past Saturday. Go figure.
The Medoc Trail Races took place on October 15, which turned out to be a beautiful day for a trail race. The only way the weather could have been better was if it were pouring rain, thereby making the trails a sloppy mess; forcing us to run an entirely different sort of trail race. But, I was more than happy with the idyllic Fall temps this time.
Medoc has a special place in my heart, because I ran my first marathon there last year. I also have an affinity for 10-mile trail races. So, I jumped at the opportunity to register for this one in June before it sold out.
Why not run the marathon again? I just didn't have the time to train the way I wanted to this year. We'll analyze that some other time.
So, here I am at Medoc State Park. In spite of having been here once before, I got lost during the drive anyway. (But, not too lost) Everything is covered with sparkly dew as the sun makes its final ascent above the trees. And, this makes for a nice scene as I pick up my race packet and wander around the starting area while the marathoners prepare for their takeoff.
Now, the trouble with dew is that it's wet. I wouldn't mind the wetness so much if I'd had the foresight to wear something other than my very non-water-resistant running shoes while walking across the dewy grass. By the time I returned to my car, my socks were already soaked, which inspired visions of blisters. I didn't want to get a blister during a ten-mile race. Sure, it wouldn't really affect my race. But, I'd be whining about it for a week afterward. I might even subject you all to a post about running-related blister prevention and treatment, because I couldn't stop thinking about the blister. It'd be a big one.
Fortunately, I had an extra pair of socks in my car. So, I put them on just before the start time. Whew! That was a close call.
So, feet dry. Damp, but not soaked, Inov-8 f-lite 230s back on. Jeans off. Shorts on. Favorite MST 12-Miler race shirt on with racing bib attached as level as possible. (Am I the only one who has trouble putting the bib on straight?) And, I'm headin' over to the starting line with four minutes to spare.
Should I stop for a pee break before the start? Those port-a-potties right beside the line were awfully tempting. But, others had the same idea. So, I just decided I'd hold it.
I glanced toward the front of the line and noticed Dave Roche in his standard racing attire. I almost wanted to start placing bets on who would win.
Roughly 190 runners loosened up and chatted before Herr Director signaled for us to run. We had a bit over a mile of out-and-back pavement to cover before hitting the trails. This kind of space gave us a nice survey of our fellow 10-mile runners and helped me figure out how my legs felt. I kept pace with an incredibly courteous masters runner for this road portion. I say that he was courteous, because he told me to take the single-track section ahead of him. That kind of management just wins all sorts of respect from this novice runner, that and his nickname: Nose Hair.
Once on the single track, my legs felt more at home and fully warmed up. So, I decided to pass a few folks. Eventually, I settled in behind a pair of running buddies who had a good pace going. And, I owe them a ton of thanks, because they really helped pull me in after we passed mile six. The gap between us grew. And, I didn't see them after mile 8 because of the relatively plentiful switchbacks. But, knowing that they were up there pushed me to try and catch them.
That's key, I think, for outdoing yourself in a race: Trying to catch someone faster than you later in the race. I've never really thought about that before, not much. But, I'm going to try it again; see how it goes.
While trying to catch that elusive pair of runners, I had the marvelous opportunity to meet Scott, who turned out to be even more awesome in four seconds of real life than you could have imagined by reading his blog. I have tremendous respect for Scott and all of the other marathoners I encountered that day, considering their three loops to my one. Each of you deserves a profound round of virtual applause. And, I hope the good-jobs and looking-goods that I seemed to be dispensing reflexively as I passed were not too annoyingly cliche.
Back to the race.
There are less than two miles remaining. I pitter-patter down a steep set of stairs without incident and plod along, feeling a smidgen of pain in my right hip flexor. I find myself wishing for a downhill portion, because that's when I feel fastest, which, in turn, gives me a bit of confidence. Ah, there's one.
I climb onto the road beside the park restrooms. And, I know I'm close now. I think I can even hear some cheering on the other side of those trees.
Out of the trees and onto the grass, which is still blanketed with dew; I follow the flags to the finish. I don't have the power for a sprint. This is fine, though, because I see the clock. Could it be wrong? I'd been hoping to at least get in under 1:30:xx. But, I somehow managed to pull off 1:14:03, which was good enough for 9th place overall and a 2nd place age group award.
While I waited for the award announcements, I partook of the plentiful food and beverages brought to us by the good folks of the Halifax County Convention and Visitors Bureau. (There were rice and beans people. Rice and effin' beans—meatful and meatless versions!)
Then, Dave Roche himself walked over to me! As I tried to quell my urge to ask for his autograph and quiz him about his training habits, we talked about how cool the race was, or something. I dunno. It was just awesome to meet Dave.
This year's swag consisted of a splendid cotton long-sleeve shirt, a Headsweats race hat, Icebreaker socks, and a finisher's medal! The post-race food counts as swag, too, as far as I'm concerned.
So, running more than 15 minutes faster than what I'd hoped to achieve at the finish line qualifies the Medoc Trail 10 Miler as my best race to date! And, once again, Medoc is at the top of my list for next year. The trails there are not the most technical. But, they're varied and fun to run. The race directors are fantastic, thanks to their incredible communication with registrants prior to the race and their overall ability to produce a great event. Plus, those directors manage to find some of the best volunteers in the entire state. (Thanks so much to all of you!) And, thanks to the band that entertained us while we cheered on the marathoners.
Now, I've gotta figure how to train, or not train, for whatever's next. What's next?
Some random, blurry photos of my own: