Monday, June 4, 2007

No.48 finished in 48 minutes - Wissahickon LBRR

Wissahickon Trail Classic 10K Race Report

At the sound of "ready set go," four hundred runners, the fittest crowd I've ever seen, began their journey through the Wissahickon woods. I was #48, a low number due to alphabetical reasons. I was shaved but not tapered, having just run 10 miles on Thursday. But so much adrenaline was flowing through me that I had forgotten all about that.

We started at the Northwestern Avenue and ran along Forbidden Drive, a wide dirt path along the creek, for a mile. After two minutes of jostling and surging , I settled into a spot where most of the people around me are running at my pace, whatever it was. As I promised my untaped ankles, I held back a little bit because I knew how dangerous it is for me to run on the trails when I am wiped out. At mile 1, we went into the trail opposite of the covered bridge. Knowing that the trail was single file, I tried to get a better position before going in, but it was still backed up on the initial uphill. Getting a little impatient, I charged up the hill and picked off at least ten people. I was feeling good. The rabbits started to fade on the plateau, so I kept up the passing for about a mile. But then the trails then went downhill. My footing was bad, and I slowed down a ton. I just tried to hang on to my position, but as hurried as I felt, about five people flew past me. Nothing new here, actually.

We wounded up on Forbidden Drive at Rex Ave where some Wanderers were cheering and taking pictures. It was nice to have people call out your name. "Go Helen!" gave me a momentary boost, and I passed back the five people who passed me on the downhill. I went into the trails hard again, but this time with less vigor than the first time. I really felt this hill, but so did everyone around me. Going up to the Indian statue, I passed Dave, who hollered out to me. It was totally out of context since Dave is the tech guy at Temple and I didn't know he was running this race. We chatted a bit and I learned that he didn't realize this was going to be a trail race. Then I kept going. After a couple of guys, I saw Phil, one of two Wanderers who helped lay out the course. I cheered for him for a bit, and then moved on. Now, there were two women in front of me, who were so far ahead earlier that they hadn't been on my radar. They're on my radar now.

The trail from the statue to the covered bridge was a slippery, windy, rocky, rooty downhill. My heel slipped out a few times during the sharp turns, but thankfully my ankles stayed in place. I just told myself to concentrate and be careful. As I turned onto Forbidden, I passed the two women and a few guys. I resisted the urge to sprint, however, since we were only 2/3 through.

At Bells Mills, we entered another trail that took us through "the meadows." This time, I didn't have anyone to follow because the people ahead were way ahead and the people behind me were well behind. I had to find my own way. On the long, steep hill into the trails, I was so tired and so slow that I considered walking. I kept expecting people to catch up but I didn't hear a sound. Panicked that I had gone off course, I desperately looked for a course marker, taking my eyes off the ground, and causing me to misstep twice. At that point, with my heart beating out of my chest, I knew I had to ease up if I wanted to be alive during the descent.

Once I got up to the top, I know it's just going to be flat and downhill from here, but the course made 90 degree turns every 100 yards. I picked up the pace carefully. Knowing that we 're almost done, I called up all the mental energy I had and grunted and ground my way down the hill. This was no time to conserve, and I know this downhill well, having jogged up here to pee before the race. On the way down, volunteers and spectators kept appearing out of the trees to cheer for us. Once I got to the bottom, I saw the "FINISH" sign and just sprinted towards it, absorbing the sounds from the huge crowd that had gathered.

When I finished, the clock read 47:something, but the official time was 48 minutes flat, which is well better my goal. I was 26th overall, 4th among women, and 1st among women ages 30-39, good enough for a $50 gift certificate at Applebees. I was very happy that I ran hard, took risks, and my ankles still held up. It would've been nice to have my top gear and had people to follow in the meadows, but it's much nicer to finish without injuries.

I grabbed some water and hung around to cheer for the other finishers, including some of the people I ran with in the woods. The finish became a big party where people commiserated and swapped stories. I recommend this race for everyone, though I hope the race organizers will cap this at 500 next year and provide more than two portapotties.


Anonymous said...

You did great! That was a tough course. What kind of training enabled you make all those hills without walking?

Helen said...

Thanks! Yea, it was a hard course, and in last year's race I had to walk up a few hills. This year, I have incorporated hills into my everyday runs and have a stronger base overall, and those help. But I'm still a real wimp going downhill on trails.

How did you do yourself?