Monday, March 21, 2011

Grasslands Marathon 2011

This race was to be a long training run. This is not supposed to be a technical trail and a chance to build more trail experience and muscles. I would love to find a way to do a long trail run every Saturday. After I spoke with a lot of friends that have run this course I decided to go with a road shoe. I went with the Brooks T6. I think the launce might have been a better option but no real problems to speak of. At the last minute Shaheen got a bib so she could ride down with me and run with me. This made the day 1000 times better. I had someone to talk to both during the drive and for most of the race we ran together. These trail races are so awesome. It is so relaxed everyone is so cool. Before the race I saw Libby, Mike K, Tim, Mike (Pedro) and finally met Kim Gray. She is a nut running two marathons this week. What a great idea. I will put it on my list.

Mile 1 - 8:57. The goal was to go out at a 9 min pace or whatever felt real comfortable. We started out a little too far back in the pack we passed all but maybe 10 people the first 2 miles. It was a pretty easy pace.
Mile 2 - 8:25. We picked up the pace this mile as we worked our way around more people.
Mile 3 - 8:37. This would end up being about our average pace for the entire race including stops at aid stations.
Mile 4 - 8:04. By now we had broken away from the pack and we were positioned perfectly between two runners. One ahead to open the cattle gates and one behind us to close them.
Mile 5 - 8:04. We are starting to learn that you need to really watch all the trail marking and not just blindly follow the runner in front of you. We never got off course but we had to call out some turns to the guy in front.
Mile 6 - 8:22. The sand is getting deep and we are learning to deal with it. When I hear another runner struggling with something it makes me stronger. If I hear them complain about temperature, wind or the trail I know that it is bothering them and I can deal with it.
Mile 7 - 8:16. A couple of runners (orange shirt and blue shirt guy) pull away from us and we back off and let them go. I figure there are 3-5 guys up in the front that we will never see and about 5 that will fade and we will run down by the end.
Mile 8 - 8:34. We pass the second aid station and we only stop for a second to dispose of our GEL trash. We still have 10 oz. of water left each and we can make it another 4/5 miles to the main aid station. The next two miles are the toughest with the deep sand. I get the feeling Shaheen has not spent too much time at the beach. But she is tough as nails and learns to adapt.
Mile 9 - 8:51. It is interesting in the sand how you try to go side to side looking for the firmest path to avoid the soft sand. I see some people moving off trail to try to avoid it but I don’t feel it is slowing me down too much and I figure if I run in it I well get stronger. Shaheen follows me like I have some secret. Little does she know that I am trying to work harder. We also have to open and close a cattle gate this mile which is about a 15-20 second delay.
Mile 10 - 8:08. The sand lets up a little and the pace picks up.
Mile 11 - 8:26.
Mile 12 - 8:17.
Mile 13 - 9:42. We hit the main aid station here. We had about 1 ½ min stop. Bathroom, refilled handhelds with water and I grabbed a couple cookies for the road. So the pace was pretty good. Loved having Mike K there at the aid station for me. He refilled our water, told us we weren’t too far back from the leaders and told me the Blue trail (second half) had a lot less sand. He said we looked good and Shaheen was the first female. I told him I would be back in 20 min. (joke)
Mile 14 - 8:40. We had a couple of spots where I had to make a judgment call on what direction to go. Each time we would run 200 yards nervous we had missed a marking and then we would see the trail. There was a lot of stress if I made a wrong turn because Shaheen and another guy Steve was following us.
Mile 15 - 8:37. We start running into some of the half runners. I am a little surprised we are seeing them so soon but these must be the walkers. About ½ of them know to move to the right and the others don’t. Headphones are not a good idea on a trail race. Some of these people couldn’t hear us calling out as we were coming.
Mile 16 - 8:55. We also hit another gate this mile. Somewhere around here Steven caught us and passed us. I made a mental note of what he looked like. White shirt and Camelbak.
Mile 17 - 9:13. We hit an aid station here. We were there about 40 seconds. Shaheen topped off her water and I disposed of my second gel and got another cookie. I was getting my money back on these fignewtons.
Mile 18 - 8:23. We are passing tons of half marathoners. But other than the other runners the trail is very easy. The white trail which was the first half of the race was a much more difficult trail than the Blue trail which is the second half of the course.
Mile 19 - 8:36. Shaheen starts to fall back just a few feet at this point. I can see some marathoners that I hadn’t seen since the starting line.
Mile 20 - 8:52. Here was the hard mental part of the race. I had plenty left in my tank but this was a training run. We had a vote with racing Nick and training Nick if we should slow down to a 9 min pace or continue with the current pace and catch some of the marathoners.
Mile 21 - 8:23. As you can see my ego and racing Nick won so we kept a good pace and passed a couple of marathon runners. I figured I was about 7th or 8th place by now but that is just a guess.
Mile 22 - 8:45.
Mile 23 - 10:23. This is the last aid station. Took my third gel, refilled my water and ate a cookie. I spent about 2 min at this aid station. I waited for Shaheen and when she got to this station I could tell the heat was getting to her and she needed to eat and drink. Ego Nick was having a tough time because when I first got to the station I saw a couple more marathon runners. I felt real bad leaving Shaheen but I figured she needed a few more min. She was either going to have to walk the last 3+ miles or run them. There was no ride home from here.
Mile 24 - 8:14 I figured those 2 marathoners had 2 min on me and I could get one min per mile and run them down by the end.
Mile 25 - 8:17. I had picked up the pace a little but I felt very strong. I caught the one marathon runner (blue shirt) this mile. We talked for a few seconds and he told someone we passed that he was going to hang on to me to the end. We had a good climb along the lake and I hammered out the next ¼ mile to drop him. I know, not very trail like.
Mile 26 - 7:54. I could see the next marathoner (Orange Shirt) as I caught him he had slowed quite a bit. I flew by him and said hi. I wasn’t sure if I would see Camelbak guy but I was giving all I had to run him down. I could see the cars and figured he was too strong to catch. With less than ¼ mile to go I finally saw him and I caught him. He sounded disappointed when I flew by but congratulated me on looking strong.

Total: 3:42:31.
Distance: 25:82
Pace: 8:37

I was very happy with my race. I had taken it somewhat easy and had a lot left in the tank in the end. I think I ended up around 5th place overall but I don’t know. Trail races don’t spit out the results right away. But as I am learning trail races is not about the time or even about the place unless you are top three. It is about enjoying the race and finishing. I have a lot to learn. I have never had more fun in a race and I need to give a special thanks to Shaheen for coming out and running with me. She was only a few min behind me and she recovered, ran a strong last 3 miles and caught a couple of those guys as well. She appeared to be the first female by 15 or so min. running next to her always makes you a rock star. Now I need to go find another trail race. I am addicted. As always a big special thanks to my amazing wife Sunny for holding down the fort and letting me spend my Saturday out of town racing.