Monday, April 28, 2014

Backyard Burn Trail Race Report

I'm not a fan of nature.  My idea of "rustic" is 3G data speeds.  Sure, it's fun to run outside, I'm very poor on treadmills, but generally my fear is based on several things.  Not the least of which is

They give me . . . a reaction:

This is pretty accurate, actually.

Plus, I'm not a fan of tripping over a tree root, rock, lava, whatever the fuck could be out there.  I'm an introvert who has to act extroverted sometimes, and it takes a lot outta me.

I'll just be here, thanks. It has free Wi-Fi.

Meanwhile, I have many running-related friends, as well as favorite bloggers, who keep talking up the wonders of trail running.

Yeah, it's amazing.  Got it.
I had the realization that I ought to ATTEMPT trails, even just a bit.  I'd qualified to enter the JFK 50-miler, and that the first 15 miles or so of that course are pure, hardcore . . . trail.  Presumably, that meant I was going to have to learn how to jump over the above-mentioned tree roots, rocks, and BUGS EVERYWHERE IN MY UNDERPANTS OMG JUMP JUMP JUMP

Me running on a trail.  Minus the tail.  And the cute.

So.  All of THAT brought me to my first Trail race, brought to you by the "Backyard Burn series."

I chose Race #4, which was in Prince William Forest Park.  There was a choice of a 5 or 10 miler, and I figured I'd ease my way into trails by (for once) making the smart choice and going with a short course of 5 miles.

I woke up and kinda had a major case of the nerves.  5 miles is less than I do for a WEEKDAY run, much less a race.  But, nevertheless, I coaxed myself out of bed, absolutely NOT wanting to do this.  I'd just done the GW Parkway race 2 weeks earlier, and knew I wasn't in "race shape" yet.

I had time to dwell and obsess; this race starts at a MUCH more reasonable time (9a.m.) than typical road races (HOLY SHIT a.m.).  I arrived a little early, and tried to convince my Garmin to locate me.  It took a LOOOONG time.  It was almost like my watch couldn't be-effing-lieve I was out there.  In NATURE.

But, after easy same day checkin/pickup of my stuff, they called us over for the briefing, and then we just kind of milled.  No chips, no timing mats.  These were trail runners.  Easy, relaxed, and no pretense.

Boom!  Off we went . . . not on a trail.

Seriously, the race starts off just running down a paved road, then you turn back and run UP the paved road.  And then . . . into the woods.  Nature waits.

Miles 0-2 ("Hey, this isn't so bad OMFG IS THAT A SPIDER??")

9:11, 9:32

The first two miles were just over 9 minutes each, although I was losing time on mile 2 with the generally uphill grade.

It was during this section that we crossed a bridge.  A swinging bridge.

Yeah baby.

A "swinging" bridge isn't some Austin Powers type thing.  It's not a bridge that wears and ascot and has very Open Ideas About Marriage.  Nope.  It's basically supported by ropes or effing twine I don't know I just know it freaking MOVED (a LOT) as I ran on it.

So as we crossed it, runners went up, down, left, right, and if "pooing yourself" was a direction, I'm pretty sure I did that too. 

Miles 2-4 ("I'm a runner.  It's what I do.")
8:42, 9:18

We picked up a nice downhill stretch for mile 3-4, and I started to pass a few folks, while trying to do my best at being sure footed.  I didn't see any falls, just the aftermath of one, where someone was checking on a guy who had slipped doing a downhill.  He seemed ok.

Mile 2-3 came in at 8:42, and I slowed myself a bit from mile 3-4 (9:18) because I wasn't sure if I'd end up like the scraped up guy.  But this was where I basically caught my breath and remembered that as much as I like to think of myself as a fraud when it comes to running, I'm not bad at this sport.  I just had to settle down and stop focusing that we were being watched by living things with 35 legs or something.

Mile 4-5 ("Oh, just quit.  It's a huge hill.  Wait, there's pizza up there!")

This mile featured two pretty substantial hills.  The first one, which was VERY steep, was marked by trail runners ahead of me all stopping to walk, which I do get from my reading of blogs, etc. is a Thing Trail Runners Do.  That's fine by me.  I fell into place, and walked.

The second hill came after some runners moved to the side to let me pass, and I started to finally feel like I was going to get through this thing. 

There was a REALLY big dude ahead of me during that second hill.  He was slowing down, and I really had no choice but to pass him, because if I --did-- slow, I worried about being able to get momentum to keep going.  He's in the background for these race shots of me:

So.  Effing.  FAT.


But I got past him, and wondered, with mild curiosity, where the finish line would end up being, as I know trail runs aren't exactly . . . exact.  I kept telling myself to kick.  I knew I had energy left, as these 5 miles hadn't been super hard for me, but I just kind of . . . settled.

Sigh.  That's exactly what I'd done for some of the later miles of GW Parkway.  I hadn't really learned anything, and certainly wasn't "back" into racing shape.

I was just there, running, when out of nowhere, the big guy passed ME.  As he did, he patted me on the shoulder, to encourage me.  Damn.  At this point, I wasn't really sure what to do.  What's the etiquette here? 

1.  Go WITH him?  You aren't really supposed to run side by side on trails, based on what they said at the briefing.

2.  Pass him again?  Trail races are friendly things, not cutthroat.  He was nothing but nice to me, and it seemed like he just wanted to really crank at the end.  Turns out that he was in his mid-20s (maybe he was weirded out that a guy in his late 40s had passed him?).

3.  Let him go?  But you're supposed to give your all at races, right?

I chose option #3, gave him a thumbs up, and made some crack about me drafting off him.  He finished less than 5 seconds ahead of me, and I just kind of trotted the sloped up hill towards the finish.  A guy called out our bib numbers as we came in, and that was that.

Finishing Time:  Under 47 minutes, faster than a 9:25 pace.  My last mile took under 11 minutes, but it was marked by me noticeably slowing down towards the end, as well as the early walking part.

But still, I'd survived Nature!

I looked for pizza.  And it was there.  So.  Much.  Pizza.  I held back from inhaling TOO much, as there were still 10-mile racers out there (probably being eaten by a grue).

If interested, he's the elevation map, at least according to my Garmin:

Backyard Burn Spring Race #4, Prince William Forest Park Elevation Map

And that's that.  My first trail run.  The numbers were about where I expected them, although I was a little surprised at how much worse my numbers were compared to road races.

Race by the numbers:
Overall:  Top 34.5%

Men:  Top 46%

Division:  A rather perfect median (half above, half below).  

Split?  Definitely a positive split again, perhaps by as much as a full minute, almost all attributed to the walk up the hill at the end.

Stuff I learned:

1.  Trail races are fun.
2.  Trail racers are indeed pretty laid back and chill.
3.  The food at the end of the BYB series is fantastic, and plentiful.

Stuff I didn't learn:

1.  A little more self-confidence here would have helped. I slowed towards the end, not just because we all walked a hill, but because I just didn't want to be competitive.

2.  This type of run really didn't assist me in seeing what JFK would be like.  Trails are different.  The JFK portion is far more treacherous, and this entire race, while technical, was quite forgiving and pleasant.

3.  I'm still scared of bugs.

That's that.  A good race, a fun race, but a race I treated more like an outdoor workout than anything else.  I just need to convince myself that it's ok to have done that.

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