This morning was the Bradbury Scuffle "6" Mile Trail Race. I put 6 in quotes because in the pre-race instructions, Ian said, "Well, it's about 6 miles. Definitely a little longer. But, hey, it's a trail race."
I left the house this morning at about 7:15am. It was raining. This would become a theme for the day. As I said before it was pretty weird to be going to the race alone. I almost didn't know what to do with myself. Luckily, there was a pre-race show. I was there a bit early and had plenty of time to watch the Civil War reenacters pack up from the day and night before. It was really odd. All these guys emerging from white pup tents dressed in full uniforms packing muskets and such into the back of minivans. Anachronism central.
The rain let up to a light mist as I picked up my number and did a short 1-mile warm up. I felt good on the warm up. Never a good sign. I stretched and headed to the start line. Ian went through a whole host of pre-race instructions, and about halfway through, I realized I needed to take one last pee. I scurried off to a not-so-out-of-sight spot, but, hey, it's a trail race.
The race started, and away we went. It was still raining lightly, and my lower half was soaked quickly as I hit the first couple puddles right away. I knew I would be getting soaked, so I wanted to get it over with as soon as possible. A bunch of guys shot out right away, but I took it pretty easy at the start knowing that the first half mile or so was all downhill. Once we started to climb, I picked it up steadily. As I reached the Fox East Trail, I caught another runner and followed him all the way through this twisty, turny section. I've run this trail a number of times before, but this is the first time I've tried to run it fast. It was tricky. And now it was really raining. The trees offered some protection but not much, and everything was messy: me, my legs, the trails. Just the way I like. No really, it was great. What wasn't so great was my back. Due to all the twists and turns and the branches I was ducking, I could feel it tightening up. Not great only 2 miles or so into the race.
The Fox East Trail has a fair amount of downhill, but once you turn right on Ginn there's more climbing. In Fox East, the guy I was following had pulled away slightly, as I was taking it easy around all the tricky sections. Shortly after I turned onto Ginn, another runner caught me and passed me. As he pulled away, I tried to stay with him. I didn't stay right on him, but I had picked it up enough to pass not only the guy I'd been trailing through Fox East, but also another runner. At one point on Ginn there's a spot where the trail hairpins, and you can see a piece of the trail up ahead. The guy who had passed me had caught another guy, and I counted about 20 seconds until I got to the point I saw them. "20 seconds. I can get those guys."
Shortly, after that point, I recognized the terrain and knew that Ginn was coming to an end. That meant that we were about to turn onto the Snowmobile Trail. The Snowmobile Trail is all downhill. Or so I thought. Suddenly, I found myself going uphill. "That's OK, the rest is downhill." I probably said this to myself about 6 times. The short hills just kept coming. But my back felt fine, and I was really digging at this point. Really trying to catch those guys, and they were getting closer. Suddenly, I saw one of them coming back at me. "Straight!" I yelled. They had gotten confused just enough by the trail markings to have to pause a look. A door had opened.
As happens so often in these instances, the guys who have to stop get a quick shot of adrenaline, and they started to pull away from me. "Crap, I don't think I can get these guys." I gathered myself and put my head down, and we reached a downhill. I caught them and took off. I was going pretty hard here, since I knew that we only had to get to the bottom of the hill and take a right. About .5 mile to the finish. Or not.
I was completely wrong. The course did not go right on the Link Trail, it went back over itself and onto the Knight's Woods Trail. I knew this from the map, but it didn't register. I was toast. I'd gone too soon. These guys were about to eat my lunch. So, I just kept thinking about my form and tried to hang on. I actually reeled in another guy, and passed him as we went up the steep hill at the beginning of the Knight's Woods Trail. I was hurting. After the steep hill, there's a much longer gradual hill. That hurt, too...a lot. I kept waiting...and panting...and waiting...and wheezing...and waiting. They never came. The hill leveled out, and I made a decision. No more waiting. These three guys had there chance. My head went down, my arms really started pumping and I was off. (I say "off". I was probably running a 7:00 mile. Not exactly lightening. But, hey, it's a trail race.) I turned right onto the homestretch and caught a couple quick looks behind me. No one was there, but I didn't let up.
I finished 8th in 46:35 (unofficially).
I'm really happy with my race. It was a hard effort, and the conditions were really hard. It was wet and sloppy and just all around tough. And, I actually raced. I didn't just go out for a run. I raced. I waited. I relaxed. I pushed. I attacked. I actually raced. I haven't raced in a really, really, really long time. It was fun. I have to admit I was nervous before this race. Really nervous. Maybe because I was alone. I didn't know what to expect, but was pleasantly surprised. Now, onto Mt. Washington.
It was also a fun race, because I met Jamie at the registration and Stephen after the race. Good guys, and I hope to meet up with them for a run in the future. Also, huge kudos go out to Ian for putting on a great race. He has a knack for it, and I can't wait for the next one.
I forced myself to do a 1-mile, very soggy, warm down. It was a good choice. I had gotten pretty chilly chatting with folks at the finish, and it warmed me up nicely. Plus, I want to be able to walk tomorrow.
UPDATE: Official Results