Friday, November 13, 2009

Wrapping up the trail series

Wow, I've been it is Friday and I still haven't updated this thing. I actually have something somewhat interesting to talk about too. Last Saturday was the unofficial and unsanctioned South Dakota Trail Running Championship on the Flume Trail outside of Rockerville. This was the final race in the 2009 Black Hills Trail Series. Doing some simple math (the kind I'm best at), I realized that in order to finish in 1st place in the men's open (39 and under) division, all I needed to do was earn 3 points (8th place). And that was only if the guy in 2nd place, who hadn't shown up for the previous two races, showed up at this race and won, earning 10 points. Well, as it turns out, he didn't show up, which means that I didn't really need to be there either, but I didn't drive all the way to Rockerville just for shits and giggles, plus the race was free, so I signed up for the 16K (there was also a 10K) and hit the trails.

A 16K works out to 9.6 miles in American. But before we started the race director told us that the 10K course was actually a little short and the 16K course was actually a little long, which I guess means that they balance each other out. In any case, the 16K course was kind of like a figure 8 with a short out and back section between the two loops. We took off in a mass and as soon as we hit the trail, I realized that maybe I had probably lined up a little further back than I should have, but in reality maybe it was a good thing because it forced me to run a little more under control for the first half mile or so until the trail widened out and I could start passing some people. Consequently, the front runners in the 16K got out ahead of me quickly and I had no idea how many of them there were, not to mention that I had no idea who was running 10K and who was running 16K. So, I just cruised along on some fast section of trail for the first couple miles before we hit a hill. The hill didn't even seem all that bad at first, but suddenly my pace went from 7:30ish to 11:20ish and I found myself powerhiking to try to get my heart to stop hammering against my ribcage. The biggest hill was right after the 10K and 16K courses split, which really made me wonder if maybe it would have been smarter to run the 10K, but I pressed on and was soon rewarded with a long downhill stretch. But, of course, this was the section of trail that was an out and back, so I knew that every step downhill now was a step I would have to take uphill on the way back. The downhill did help me get my running legs back though and I was able to cruise through the second loop at a decent clip but by that time all of the 16K runners ahead of me had pulled away and I had pulled away from all of those behind me. I basically ran the last 7 miles of the race without seeing a single other runner. I did see some dude hiking, who managed to point me in the right direction when I spaced out and veered slightly off the leaf-covered trail and a few bowhunters who were probably pissed off at the number of runners traipsing through the woods and scaring every deer within a 16K+ figure eight area. Eventually, I made it back to the big hill in between the two loops (it didn't seem so bad going back over) and then headed down the other side toward the finish. As my Garmin clicked past 10 miles and it still didn't seem like I was very close to the finish, I realized that this 16K course wasn't just a little long. Turns out, it was almost a full mile long as my Garmin read 10.5 miles (a little over 17K) by the time I got back to the trailhead (and no, I didn't get lost....that I'm aware of...and if you don't know you're lost, are you really lost?). Time was being recorded on the honor system and as I wrote my time down next to my name I counted the 16K runners who had already finished and saw that I had taken 8th place. Just what I needed (but not really)!

So, over the course of 7 months and 5 races (I missed the July race because I was running the Missoula Marathon that day and there wasn't a race in August), I managed to amass enough points to win the men's open division of the trail series. I've described the series before as being like NASCAR....sometimes the guy who wins the most individual races doesn't always win the overall championship. I didn't win any races, but I showed up to most of them and managed a few top 3s and top 5s here and there and that was good enough. Overall, it was about as much fun as you can have with your clothes on (seriously) and I'm looking forward to doing it again in 2010 (that rhymes). My reward for winning the division was a cool hunk of rock with a 1st place plate on it and free entry to one of the series races next year. Maybe not quite as nice as what the NASCAR Sprint Cup champion gets, but still pretty cool.

Oh, and besides all that, I had a great week of running. I logged 71 miles for the week, my first time over 70 since before Lean Horse. There seems to be some physiological response when I run 70-80 miles....that mileage range just seems ideal for me and I have some of my best runs in that weekly range. So, I plan on keeping that up for awhile.

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