Sunday, March 4, 2012

Mrs. Robinson's Romp Trail 10k Race Report...

Day 1 of my double race weekend went pretty great, I must say!  I was pretty excited about this one because it was taking place on a trail I run regularly and I would have MANY friends there.  I started this one off pretty early by trying to keep the running gods happy.  The race started at 9:00 AM, but I showed up at 7:00 to volunteer for a while before the start.  When I arrived at the race start (Shelter 14 at Wyandotte County Lake Park) I was the only one there other than Bad Ben (race director & lead Trail Nerd) and the timing company.  I help Ben unload water and get things set up, then helped with runner check-in (there was only race day packet pick-up) along with some other friends including Jennifer, Emily, Darin & the Jedi Master Sherrie.  We really had fun and so many people helping also gave us the freedom to talk to friends as they arrived as well.

I then spend some time talking to my many Trail Nerd and Olathe Running Club friends running the race including a couple ORC ladies (Rachel & Janee') running their first trail runs ever.  I let them know a little about what to expect out on the trail since I am familiar with it and told them I knew they'd do very well.  I also spent some time chatting with Jen who I run part of this trail with every Thursday night at the Trail Nerds B.A.R. run.  We both were also going to run the Pi Day Trail Half Marathon the next day so she'd signed up for the 5k instead of the 10k.  Well, I was of the opinion she could more than handle the challenge of the 10k along with Sunday's race so I talked her into upgrading.  There are so many people I knew there that it's hard to list them, so sorry to anyone I miss: Kristy, Jen, Jennifer, Emily, Ryan, Jason, Ben, Rachel, Janee', Sherrie, Darin, Erica, Dick and many more (I know I've missed some).

The start was probably one of the funniest things that's ever happened at a race I've been in.  Erica was running with her dog (Elliot Snickerfritz) and when we all headed over to the start line she made her way to the back.  Ben gave some pre-race remarks as everyone made last minute adjustments to their waterbottles, race bibs, shoes, etc (all the normal pre-race activities).  Erica was adjusting her waterbottle, so Elliot's leash was only loosely in her hand.  Well, a little sooner than she expected, Ben hit the horn to start the race and off Elliot went without her!!  I was starting with Jen & Janee' so we start running at the horn then hear Erica, "ELLIOT!!!!!"  Then, the next thing we know, Elliot comes flying around everyone motoring his way to the trail!!  Everyone laughed!  One lady was overheard saying "well, he won't know the way."  Little does she know, Elliot probably knows that trail better than 75% of the runners there!!  It was a very funny moment and a great way to start a race smiling!  Elliot was eventually caught by Emily and all was well, but we all appreciated the laugh.

My plan at the start was to take this one easy and really focus on being relatively fresh for the half marathon the next day.  I figured I'd just let Janee' & Jen get out in front of me on the single tracks and runn whatever pace they wanted.  This trail is fairly technical, especially the back half of the 10k, so I really did want to just take it easy.  Apparently they had a very different plan.  No matter how hard I tried, I could not get either of them to get out in front of me so as we left the road and got onto the trail I was in front of both of them but we were behind a very slow pack.  I figured we were all plenty strong enough to go faster than them so I let Jen & Janee' know that as soon as I got a chance I was going to pass the people in front and they should follow.  Pretty quickly my window opened and I went around two groups of slower runners.  It's tough in this trail to look behind you so I just assumed they came with me and I sped up a little but not too much.  Eventually I got a chance to look behind me and they had both stayed behind those packs and I was fairly far out in front of them.  I figured if I'm off by myself I might as well go ahead and run it a little harder than planned.

Once the dicision was made to run hard I knew I needed a good strategy so I wouldn't burn myself out and have nothing left for the next day.  This is where running the course regularly becomes a HUGE benefit.  I knew that the first half was a fairly simple trail and the back half would be were all the tough hills and rocks would be.  This was the 5th time just this week that I'd run the front section of this route.  I decided I'd run the front half fairly fast, but definitely use it to conserve energy for the hills on the back half.  Lots of people did the opposite.  I was passed by a number of people on the front section.  I've also learned in my short time trail running where I need to slow down to keep from falling and where I can push through even though it looks too muddy.  I was able to pass a few folks on muddy sections as they slowed to walks and I continued running passed them; then areas that I'd slow to walk through the mud and someone runningwould fall.  That helped a lot; the trail wasn't too muddy but it definitely had some slick areas.

My Garmin is always pretty far off on trail runs, but especially at WyCo Park, so I just ignored my watch.  I really had no idea how I was doing by the numbers or how fast I was going.  I only used it to glance at my heart rate from time to time to make sure I wasn't overdoing it.  When I finished the first half (the course the 5k was running) the course led us out of that trail, by the finish line and up across a road and into Fester's Wander.  This section is an interesting one.  It was actually designed by Ben's dog!  It is a tough area.  There are lots of pretty steep hills, some very narrow trail sections that drop off and it finished with a hill that is literally almost straight up and very rocky.  Fester's Wander is where I was hoping the energy I conserved on the first section would pay off for me.  I knew that this section would be much slower, but I hoped I'd saved enough energy to keep moving as fast as I could.

Well, my plan worked!  Many of the people that were running hard on the front half were slowing down on the hills on the back half.  I passed several people in the beginning of this section.  When I hit a tough hill I'd slow down to a slow jog or if it were steep enough I'd power hike it.  That is one thing I'm starting to get good at.  There is a difference between walking a hill and power hiking a hill.  Power hiking allows you to keep your pace up higher than walking but not elevate your heart rate as much as running the hill.  I felt very strong as I hit that last, super steep hill.  I power hiked it at a pretty good pace but toward the top I was getting close to a walk due to the angle of the hill.  I was still feeling strong when I hit the top and I felt like I'd kept my pace up enough to still be in position for a strong finish.

I got over the top of the hill where we headed back to meet up again with the final section of the 5k loop which we repeated as our finish.  I felt great; strong, fast, tons of energy left.  I hit it in a full out sprint.  I still figured I was a little over an hour in having not checked my watch at all, but I felt like with a sprint to the end through this fast section I could get a solid time, maybe in the area of 10:00-10:30 avg pace.  I was flying!  Jumping over tree limbs, still running as I ducked under a low tree, giving it everything I had!!  I came out of the trees and almost immediately heard my Ultra-mantor Sherrie yelling "GO BRYAN, FINISH STRONG!!"  That gave me even more fire.  I still hadn't looked at the clock.  I ran as fast as I could.  I couldn't believe it when I finally looked at the clock as I crossed the finsh line; I'd done it in 56:53 for an avg pace of 9:29!!!  I had no idea I was capable of that on a tough course like that.  As I crossed the finish line Kristy and Rachel (both ran the 5k) were getting some snacks after finishing there race and turned not expecting to see me.  Both yelled in shocked excitement!  It felt good to know that I had not only exceeded my own expectations, but the expectations of them as well!

I got some water and a quick snack and went over to talk with Sherrie and cheer for the runners still coming in.  I learned a number of lessons in this event.  Strategy works; it's that simple.  Sometimes it's best to use the less difficult beginning of a race to conserve energy rather than gain as much time as possible.  I learned that not staring at your GPS is a great thing.  I learned that the goal of having fun and enjoying the day can lead to a greater run that planning to run as fast as possible.  I learned that being at an event where I see lots of friends before, during and after can make an event feel more like a party which actually helps keep my energy up.

After the race we hung out chatting with various people for quite a while then Kristy, Janee', Rachel & I headed over to IHOP for some breakfast for lunch!  We had a nice time chatting. It was fun to see the excitement they both had for trail running after this event.  Rachel especially was really lighting up talking about how she wants to do more trail runs and she started peppering me with questions about what trails there are and when/where different Trail Nerds runs are.  I think a couple new Mud Babes were born at this event!!  After lunch it was time to go home and lay around for a while and rest up for the half marathon the next day!!!  Yet another absolutely amazing event put on by Bad Ben & the Trail Nerds!! Top notch!!

4 comments:

  1. That's awesome! I love races on trails I regularly run. Nice job!

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  2. I'm so glad I got to meet you in real life just in time for the mention in the race report. I am a fame whore. And props for the Elliot story. I'm not kidding when I say he spreads joy wherever he goes - ha!
    Can't wait for next time.

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  3. You ran strong and smart, Bryan! So gald I got to share the day with you.

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  4. Great rendition of the day! Like you, there were some great moments with the dog off to the races and flying down the last hill. I felt like a ninja hurdling logs and ducking under branches! Unlike you, I had no idea where I was running. Well, kind of... I ran the Run Toto Run a few weeks ago and every once in a while I'd think, "Hey, I think I've been here before..." The only time I knew where I was for sure was when I saw the rope as I ran/slid down the hill.

    Anyway, congrats on the awesome time and here's to happy running!

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