I've been a bit slow getting a race report up to the blog. This for a few reasons. The end of the summer work-crunch, for one. And I did get a Wanderers report up to the club website. But I've also not felt so good about my race in general.
I'm super proud of Helen. She won this race going away. She did this despite having a few weaknesses in her trail game. She did this despite a mishap around four miles in when I led her off course (about which more later). And she did this despite showing up at the finishing line with scratches on both legs, both arms, her right hip, and even her tummy. Still won by seven minutes. Going into the race I was pretty sure that she would beat me. That didn't turn out to be the case, but another mile or so and she would have caught me, that I'm sure of. I was beaten at the end, she still had plenty of energy. Of course, when you win by seven minutes, you have that option!
I'm less proud of my own race, though. I had three goals going in: don't get hurt; keep my spirits up. and don't go off course. I went one for three.
Helen and I agreed that we would separate at some point, which I was guessing would be the first major technical downhill. That guess turned out to be accurate. My approach was much like the earlier races: go out fairly hard, get some open space for the hills, and then hang on. I just wanted to be more careful about seeing trail markers this time. The last two times I went off course it was from following other runners.
I don't blame myself for going off course. I was more careful this time, but someone stole the trail markers. At two crucial spots.
The first was the one around mile four. I was running on my own at that point. There was a fairly big group ahead of me, probably around 25 guys, but they were well out of sight. I didn't know too much about what was behind me, but Helen had been with me until fairly recently and I passed maybe 3 guys since we separated. At one point I realized that I hadn't seen a marker for a while. I didn't know for sure that I was off course until I managed to see a whole bunch of people coming towards me. I'd somehow reconnected with the route out!
At that point I knew we were off, so I turned around. Panicked, but trying to keep cool.
We figured out that we were basically directly above where we were supposed to be. I'd missed a turn-off down the hill and kept going. No one else had seen it, either.
Turns out, it had been stolen. Or at least, that's what I think happened.
Some people started bushwhacking down the hill and I followed suit. Eventually we met up with another trail and took it. This led to markers! We were back on the route!
I was feeling pretty good about the route at that point. I'd gone off track, yes, but I'd gotten back on and I'd kept my cool. At that point, my biggest fear was that I'd cut a huge part of the course off and that I was now leading the race. At mile 6 or so there was a water stop, where they reassured me. That was not the case. And no women had passed yet, so I figured that Helen was still winning. I was thinking at this point, no harm done, and I'd kept my cool. What I didn't know was that the bushwhacking portion had taken a lot more out of Helen than it had me. She really hadn't liked that bushwhacking section.
The rest of the race, up until mile 12, went well. I was paying the price for having gone out too fast, but I was ok with that. Or at least, I knew that it was a conscious choice. I'd been able to do what I wanted on the uphills (go pretty slow) and on the down (let loose) without worrying about other people.
The course itself is kind of strange –it's like a 10 mile loop, with a 3 mile lollipop added on at mile 9. My problem came after the lollipop. I came out onto the road, and a guy I recognized (one of the RDs at Charlie Horse) told me to turn left. If he'd said, "Turn left, then left into the woods in 200 yards" I'd have been fine. But he just said turn left. So I headed down the road. I got to one part which I couldn't make sense of – a bunch of chalk on the ground, a cone on the ground. That was it. The chalk looked like it might say to go straight. But it definitely was NOT an arrow.
I later found out that there, again, people had stolen signs. Taken down indicators. That was by vandals. Volunteers had taken away two of the three cones, and not kept a person there. So I just went down the road, until someone behind me yelled out to me. At that point I had to turn back.
And that's the moment I just couldn't recover from. It was disheartening, and still is, to see people I'd outrun just going past me, in a spot that I can't have been expected to be able to identify.
What did I lose? 2-3 minutes. Probably 6 places (or at least, that's the maximum). 2 guys passed me on my out-and-back, 3 more right as I went in, and then 1 more later on. It didn't cost me a prize. But I lost my cool, and I'd really been hoping on not having that happen. Turned out that I had the mental strength to go off course once early on, but not twice, and not late.
I didn't actually yell at anyone. And I was there to cheer Helen on. I'm glad about that. But I need to find a way to either stay on course or at least stay cheerful. Maybe if I go out a little easier that would help, if I'm not running tired at the end. Might try that next time.
So that's how my race went.
I also wrote a report up for the wanderer's site with some more details, including the impressive showing by Chris in the half-wit drinking contest.