One great thing about the Little River Trail is the 9 a.m. start - 9:40 a.m. for the 7K. I stayed up late (about 12:30) and planned to get up at 7, but wound up getting up 6, raring to go. I felt strong from skipping the bike on Thursday and swimming instead, then taking yesterday off completely. As I like to do but, rarely have the opportunity to do in the morning, I puttered around the house. I had some coffee and made a chill-out CD for the ride out. CJ came down stairs and asked me if I was racing and I fed him a breakfast bar and some milk, and got another cup of milk ready for his buddy Ryan who slept over last night. CJ and I talked a bit and that helped me relax even more since he was not his typical 6 a.m. ball of fire. I showered, he flossed his teeth, then gave me a "kissing hand" and wished me luck. I gave him a "kissing hand" back and got my stuff together and headed out. Everyone else was still sleeping.
I read something somewhere about how some people "drift" or let things happen to them and react. I tend to do that when it comes to racing. Feeling good, I told myself if I made it to the race before 9 a.m., I'd try to switch to the 10-miler. At 15 degrees, it was too cold to stand around 40 minutes waiting for the 7K to start. I stopped at a gas station to take a dump about 8:30, but the bathroom was out of order. Not sure if there was another before the park, I backtracked, found one, then headed back to the race start. I got there at 8:45 a.m., parked, went to pick up my bib and was about to stick with the 7K when the guy in front of me said he wanted to drop from the 10 to the 7. I took it as a sign and asked if I could switch, too. They agreed, we swapped bibs, and I returned to my car confident karma was working for me.
I quickly formulated a 10-mile game plan: go hard on the first long fire road downhill, let people pass on the next single-track downhill, but hold my own on the hills. The flats would be a judgement call depending how close I was to a hill - because I run best going uphill. I truly do. That's my strength.
Everything played out exactly as I intended. I rolled through the course creating gaps on the hills while people would tend to close a bit on the downhills. Just as I knew I shouldn't pass people just before a downhill I think the people closing in on me knew not to try to pass just before an uphill. As we got to the hillier portion of the first half, I had distanced myself from all but two who passed me as I walked through an aid station. Then it was just me - perfect! I didn't check my watch, but ran for quite some time without someone passing me.
Then, after I knew I was past the halfway point (there are no mile-markers), a woman passed. "Oh no she didn't!" I thought. But I felt it was too early to try and keep pace. She flew on the flats and downhills and created gaps on the downhills that I could never quite close on the uphills. I was still running within myself until I finally checked my watch: 52 minutes. Based on my memory of the course, I knew I was likely having a good race. I felt strong. So, I decided to go hard on the downhills again and stay on her heels for an eventual pass. Knowing her speed on the flats and downhills, I could never quite get close enough just before a hill to pass. So, I stuck to her heels and at one point, as she went around a sharp turn, she seemed surprise to see me and then picked up the pace on the uphills. Still, I clung to her heels on ever downhill and her pace going uphill was now equal to mine.
We reeled in one woman, the only person I passed on the course up to this point, then closed in on a guy. The woman I was trailing passed him, but he fell in right behind her, unwilling to yield his position. So, I clung to his heels. Not sure of how much more of the course remained, I held in check the power I had to pass. Suddenly, I passed a group of volunteers who told us there was only a half-mile to go. As soon as an opening appeared, I cut loose and passed the guys and the woman I trailed for so long. "Go get 'em!" she said.
For a brief moment, I thought I had made a mistake and wouldn't be able to hold the pace - forcing her to pass me back. This little fear kept me motivated to keep up my final sprint and I raced to the finish with a 4-minute PR - comfortably I hope - 10 seconds ahead of the woman.
While I've been making steady improvement running over the past few years, I was totally surprised by a 4-minute PR. I thought last year's 1:27 would be hard to beat but I knocked that out with a 1:23 this year. I placed 41 of 277 overall and 9 of 62 in the 40-49 Age Group.
My gear choice was perfect - CW-X Stabilyx Tights, Avi Stoltz Shoes, a Mizuno Biogear undershirt, my very old and trusty New Balance heavy base layer long sleeve shirt, a Columbia hat, and a pair of glove liners (yes, my hands were a bit cold, but I prefer slightly cold and dry to warm and sweaty). Nutrition was simply some Gatorade prior and water on the course. No gels this year, so I am super-stoked with a 4min PR without a gel!
In the end, super glad I switched to the 10 and super happy the Trailheads let me switch! Great race!