Last weekend was my first ever trail race – the Dirty Spokes Heritage Park 8 Mile. I have not raced in several years – a couple of half-marathons in 2007, and a few 10Ks in ’08 and ’09 before I burned out trying to train for a marathon that hot summer of ’09. After a couple of years running on trails exclusively, though at low mileage with no real training program, I wanted to give trail racing a try.
Racing on trails is much different in that you can not pass just whenever. You have to pick your moments. In a road race, you may be running with thousands of runners, but you have 6-12 feet of asphalt to pass at will. After the first mile of avoiding stepping on heels, you settle in to that portion of the pack that is running at your pace, more or less. If you want to speed up or slow down, there is nothing hindering you, with plenty of room to go around.
The trail race – or organized timed trail run, depending on your degree of competitiveness – is a different animal. After less than a mile, it narrowed down to single track. Whatever position in the field I found myself in is where I was stuck, with very few opportunities to pass. Running in a bunched up single file snake for the first couple of miles makes me wonder how much effort needs to be put on field position in the first mile before it narrows down, or if it all comes out the same over the distance. Eventually, I ended up with people running at my pace, but one has to wonder what would have happened if I ended up closer to the front with limited passing opportunities. Would I get sucked along at a too-fast pace, and then die out sooner? Simply get passed more often, opportunities notwithstanding? Or just get a jump start on a better overall time or pace?
The last mile was killer – all steep uphill switchbacks. I was unprepared for that and was passed by 4 or 5 on that stretch.
- Time: 1:11:40 / 8:57/mile
- Age Group position: 8 / 28 (71.4%)
- Overall position: 99 / 268 (63.0%)
Oddly, my iPhone stopwatch time (Runmeter app) was 1:05:32 – a full 6 minutes faster. That much can’t be explained by start delay. But I did have stop detection turned on, so maybe that was it. Cell-triangulation based “gps” distance was 6.69 probably due to spotty coverage and/or extremely tight switchbacks. Even the official race GPS data (satellite based) showed 7.45, with the 8 miles based on a calibrated mountain bike wheel measurement.
I need to go back and look at my 10k and 13.1 times from a couple of years ago, out of curiosity and for comparison.
Coming up, I also have a trail half marathon in a couple of weeks. My current plan is to run that one slow – faster than training pace, but not all out, with walk breaks at 10 minute intervals. According to Galloway, whose approach I have been following more or less, this should enable me to have a much more enjoyable run without much of a time penalty. The walk breaks allow you to recover, and thus run in faster bursts for the run intervals, coming out even on time, but further from the physical brink in the end. I am hoping to avoid the “I want to die, why am I doing this??” feeling that typically comes with the last couple of miles in races (especially with steep uphill finishes *grumble*).
But a plan is just a guess in a party dress, as they say.