This weekend, I managed to achieve two of my trail-running goals: I finished a trail race outside of the Wissahickon without going off-course; and I managed to keep my cool. I'm pretty sure that those two are related.
I've had a horrible record in this regard. I'd done four trail races – the Wissahickon Trail Classic, Charlie-Horse Half-Marathon, and Half-Wit Half-Marathon (twice). In all three half-marathons I'd gone off course. In the Wissahickon race I managed to stay on course, but I'd also been going over that course for several weeks going into the race. So staying on course in the Ugly Mudder was something of an accomplishment.
The race itself – well, it's ok. It overlaps a lot with Half-Wit, but without some of the latter's more memorable moments; it's a Ron Horn race, and at this point I'm a little tired of Ron Horn races. I don't blame him – basically, I'd like them more if I could do more non-Ron trail races. This one is just over 7 miles, with maybe as much as a mile on road (probably a bit less). There's less climbing than there is at Half-Wit, but it's still a fair bit. A lot of the downhill is gentle enough of a slope that you're still running, as opposed to just letting go. Some pretty rocky footing – and a lot of downed trees. There was a very slight snow, which made visibility harder, not because everything was white but just because it would get in my eyes. Since in races like this you need to pay attention to footing on just about every step, that makes things much more challenging!
I do like the end of this race, it's quite clever. You scurry up to the parking lot from the road; I'm horrible at this sort of estimate, but it's maybe a 30 yard climb that feels more like a cliff than a hill. You scurry up it, using all four limbs, grabbing branches, rocks, etc.
I've written before about the issue I have with trail races: I'm a natural negative splitter, but in trail racing positioning is important, so it makes more sense to go out hard. This is particularly the case in the Ugly Mudder: it starts with a half-mile on the road, then there's a half-mile on single-track. So I wanted to get position for that first bunch of trail. In retrospect, that wasn't all that important. I'd have had room to pass. Thing was, I didn't fell like I had a full tank of gas while running. I knew that after the first mile or so, I'd have some recovering to do, and I was ok with that. I figured that I'd be able to get back down into a nice recovery pace and then be able to pretty much reset. But there was a pattern that developed over the course of the race: I'd be going along at recovery pace, start feeling fine, and decide to open it up a bit. Each time I did that, I promptly wound up feeling completely spent within 10-20 seconds, and I'd have to settle back down to the recovery pace. By the end of the race, I was running very conservatively, walking up the steeper hills and even some of the only slightly steep parts. I also had to take it easy whenever there was a wall to climb over or a log to go over. This helped me to not completely bonk, but it also made things less fun than if I was just bustling with energy, hopping logs and passing folks on the uphill.
I'm overall fine with my results, even though I don't feel like I ran a great race. I didn't prep for it specifically, and the night before Helen and I had gone out to dinner, eaten lots of tasty food (much of it not carbs) and drank wine and I definitely was feeling that during the race. I still managed to finish in just under an hour, which I felt good about. There were around 700 people, and the results have me at 42nd pace, which doesn't get me an AG spot, but it's nothing to scoff at. That said, I'm pretty sure that I placed in the 60s, not the 40s! I'm expecting there to be some sort of correction this week. Either way, I'm ok with it.