Thursday, September 22, 2011

Bagging the Marathon

So, about 2 days after my last blog entry, I decided to email the race director of the Nipmuck Trail Marathon to have him take me off the list for the race. I was pleasantly surprised when he emailed me back saying he was refunding my entry fee. Say, what?! Wow. That would never happen in a big road marathon. Gotta love trail racing. I actually wasn't as bummed about it as I thought I'd be. It's just not in the cards for me this year. I have a different plan for next year, so I'll just stick with shorter distances for now and just do what I can.
With the $50 refund from Nipmuck, I was able to put that to the Mountain Epic 12-mile race coming up on Oct. 9th, which I'm psyched about. I think it's going to be really tough, but I love tough. I may ask why I keep doing this to myself during the race, but afterwards, all the pain is forgotten and all that's left is the love for the run I just did.
September has been a good month for me with races. We moved out of my in-laws' vacation house in Center Conway, and, miraculously, the horrible illness that had been plaguing me for over a month was gone within 2 days. Makes me wonder about the house and possible mold, but anyway. The timing was perfect because I had 3 races within 9 days, and I wanted to feel good. So, finally feeling better, I started off with the Millen Mile at Kennett High School that I reluctantly agreed to. My last 1-mile race took place at the Athens Twilight Criterium $1000 Mile Challenge in 1996 where I proceeded to embarrass myself in front of thousands of people by coming in last. So when Tim Livingston asked me to do the Millen Mile, the feeling of horror swept over me while remembering my last 1-mile race. But, alas, I agreed to do it, knowing that I'm at least faster than I was then, and that the crowd might be only 100 people as opposed to 1000s.
True-to-form, I didn't train for the Millen Mile. My last speed work was in August of 2010 for no other reason than that I hate it. Ha ha. I hadn't even actually run just a mile by itself since the dreaded 1996 race, so I had no idea what I was capable of with this. I arrived very nervous, more nervous than I've been for most regular races. My armpits were sweating and I had the nervous shivers. After a warm-up with some of the other runners, the race finally got underway. I went out fast, as I always do, and surprised myself on being able to maintain a lead for the women right off the bat. I moved quickly for the first lap, but as I got into the second lap, I felt myself slow a little bit, but the woman behind me must have, too, since she stayed pretty much the same distance behind me the whole way. I saved a little for the 4th lap, fearing the second woman would blow past me right at the finish line, and finished 1st woman in a decent time of 5:46. Not outstanding. And it didn't even put me near the caliber of the first male, Kevin Tilton, and it probably would have still put me last at the Athens Twilight Criterium, but hey, I'm in Conway, so all is good. I was presented with an awesome glass bowl as a prize, and I love it as my new fruit bowl.
Finishing the Millen Mile
Two days later, feeling healthy, in fact great, this time around, I headed over to the Bradbury Bruiser 12-mile race back in Pownal, Maine. This course was different than the Mountain Breaker since it followed the mountain bike trails. Fortunately, I have experience with this type of course (Little River Trail Runs, Philosopher's Way), so I was excited and felt like I knew what I was getting into. I went out fast and stayed fast for pretty much the first 10 miles. The trail wasn't too hilly or technical, compared to what I'm used to, so I was able to keep a good speed. It reminded me of a cross between the Little River Trail Run and the Mountains-to-Sea Trail race, both of which I've run in North Carolina. I'd heard the talk of the last two-miles of this course and was a bit nervous about it, but I knew it was something like Little River, so I tried not to save too much, knowing I wasn't going to be able to keep the speed up.  Those last two miles definitely did not disappoint, and the talk was all true. It was like Little River x10. The trail was so windy, that I never knew where I was and it took me awhile to figure out if the people I was seeing were in front of me or behind me. At times, I ran right off the trail only to realize I was running into the woods with no trail underfoot. The biggest event for me was that I had my first trail running fall since 1998. Yes, that's right, I hadn't fallen trail running since my huge wipeout on the Appalachian Trail in NC in October of 1998. I've had more near-misses than I can count, and I don't hold back. I consider myself a pretty skilled technical trail runner, especially downhill, but this one finally did me in. All I know is that I tripped over something that sent me lurching forward in what felt like slow-motion sliding across the ground right into a tree with my left shoulder (yeah, my neck still hurts). The funny part is that as I was falling I knew I wasn't going to be hurt. Right after I fell, I was waiting for the, "Are you ok?" from a fellow runner, but apparently no one saw me fall. I  wasn't hurt so I jumped right back on my feet and kept going. I pulled into the finish line in 1:42:18 as first female. And I was even laughing at the brutality of the last 2 miles. It was just pure fun, really.
Trail Love from the Bradbury Bruiser
A week later, instead of my original plan to do the Pisgah Mountain 50K, I slept in, had coffee and meandered 10 minutes down the road to Echo Lake State Park for a second go at the Kismet Cliff Run. Last year, I just happened to be in town for this race. I'd come up for a short visit from Fort Bragg, NC where the hills aren't really hills. So the Kismet Cliff Run beat me to a pulp. It was really tough for me. I had no way of training for it where I lived, but I was still happy enough with my run. This year, I had the advantage of a lot of mountain running under my belt and two training runs on the course over the past 3 weeks. Although I felt like the course was still brutal during my training runs, I was actually able to run most of it, as opposed to last year when I walked almost all of the uphills. I still was unsure how I'd do this year. After the start, I went out somewhat fast, but I felt like I took the first mile a little slower than last year. My main goal was getting ahead of the two women who had gone out ahead of me. I passed them within the first half mile, but one woman held on strong behind me all the way up the first climb. Surprisingly, I ran almost the entire way up the first climb up Cathedral Ledge, even passing a guy I remembered from last year who beat me by 2 minutes. I noticed the 2nd woman still pretty close behind me so I pushed hard on the first climb and was hoping my downhill technical skills would push me even farther ahead. It worked, although she was still within view after I started my climb up White Horse Ledge. But with very little walking, I managed to pull far into the lead and knew I had it made. I get passed by a lot of men on technical downhills, but rarely by women. I just had to push through and run up to White Horse. I think there were a few spots I walked some steps, but I just kept running. Finally on the other side, I flew down the hills. This race is a short 5 miles so once you're up and over White Horse, the rest is a walk in the park. Three guys passed me on the downhill, but I managed to stay right behind the third guy all the way through the finish. When I was saw the clock as I crossed the finish line, I was floored. 51:39. Over 5 minutes faster than last year!!! And a new women's course record. Wow. I was so happy. Now it has me thinking how much better I will do at next year's Continental Divide Trail Race in North Carolina. I ran it in 1:01:?? last year with no good hill training. The course would be like a walk in the park to me now. I wouldn't be surprised if I beat my 2010 time by 6 minutes or so, but that's over a year away, so I'll have to stop thinking about that until next summer.
Start of Kismet Cliff Run. I'm #11 in the white top.
So, I guess you could say September has been a good month for me for racing and falling. I took my first fall in almost 13 years and then proceeded to take my second fall yesterday morning running down Middle Mountain. I have to say that one took me by surprise and actually hurt. I had to take few seconds to shake it off and catch my breath, and yes, now my neck hurts worse. Ha ha. That was a bad call on my part, by running right through the edge of a blowdown without the ability to see my footing. Yeah, real smart. I tripped over a root about half a foot high. But anyway, next up is the Mountain Epic in October, followed by the easy French Fry 5K and then, GASP, a road race, the White Mountain Milers Half Marathon. Hmm, should I get some road training in? Maybe not. Didn't need it for Boston, but maybe one or two. :)
Middle Mountain in the Green Hills Preserve. I had to climb up the tree a bit to get this shot.

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