Sunday, March 10, 2013

Burn #2 (aka Revenge of the Bear Bell)

This morning was race #2 of the EX2 Backyard Burn Series at Wakefield Regional Park. The race website describes the course as "fast with mostly flat even terrain and only a few stream crossings. Competitors will run over cinder trails, under power lines, and along single-track." I had run parts of this course during the previously described ill-fated MLK Day 5K. Given that this was EX2, I was hoping for a far better experience. We stopped for a bathroom break at a McDonald's before getting to the course (yes, we were super early even though it was spring forward). I saw a cute sign and adopted it as my mantra for the day. It was really cold when we checked in and got our 28 degrees. I was starting to question the weather forecast of mid-40s by race start. I hung out in the car browsing Trail Runner and trying to stay warm. I finally got out with about 30 minutes until race time and was pleasantly surprised to find that it had warmed up. Suddenly, I spotted Bear Bell Man!! (JD snapped a stealth photo for me.)

Jim did his usual spiel, and we were off.
Courtesy of Swim Bike Run Photography (JD is in the foreground, and you can spot me in the leprechaun shirt in the back)

 We had a 1 mile prologue on pavement and gravel to string out the field. I got a little overexcited and ran this section in 8:30. I did not need to be doing that a week before my marathon since this was just supposed to be an easy taper run. I reigned myself in and settled in around 9:30 for the second mile. I let myself get irritated by the twisty single track and didn't enjoy the next few miles. Bear Bell was about .25 miles ahead of me, and I was hearing that damn bell at every twist and turn in the track. I was also getting really hot by the time we came through the first loop. I came through 5.5 miles at around 57 minutes so my time was irritating me too. I tossed my gloves near one of the race volunteers, pulled myself out of my irritation and started to really enjoy the run. Coming into the second loop, I caught a large pack of women who all looked to be somewhere in my age group. I kept telling myself to just hold onto this pack for as long as possible and hope that I had some kick to take some of them down at the end. We were running in a line of about 10 runners for 2.5 miles when gradually a few women dropped off. I was then left with a pack of 5 runners of which I was in the back. I started to pick them off one by one passing strategically and hoping that I could hold them off. My big break came at the water stop with 1 mile left to go. The remaining 3 women stopped for water, and I ran through the stop. I had one more small hill with switchbacks to navigate, and I knew I was home free. At this point, I realized that I was gaining on Bear Bell so I decided to try to take him down again this week. We hit some open field cinder track that was pretty straight, and I started pushing the pace until I finally passed him.
Courtesy of Swim Bike Run Photography...I'm a speedy little leprechaun, and you can see Bear Bell in the background.

 At that point I could see the soccer field and knew that the finish chute was straight ahead. I didn't bother to look at my watch, but I was really hoping to be near 1:40. As I was coming to the chute another runner yelled to me that I could break 1:40 if I pushed it so I gave one final sprint and crossed the line at 1:39:21. I was elated as this was my first distance trail run where I have averaged under 10 minute miles. I probably could have run harder given that the trail was mostly flat and not very technical, but I was trying to run smart and not burn myself up before next week. I was even happier because my goal last week had been to finish before Jim started the awards. My goal this week was to finish before all of the breakfast burritos were gone. I got my breakfast burrito! So only 9 easy miles and 5 days now separate me from B&A Trail Marathon. I'm in a good place mentally and feeling strong and confident that I can at least get under 5 hours if not the 4:30 goal that I really want. (no, we didn't play on the playground before the race)

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