The Dam Half was held yesterday, 10/19, at R.B. Winter State Park at 10:00 a.m.
I awoke around 5:30, and immediately had breakfast and a sports drink along with some coffee. My buddy Eric showed up around 7:00 and he and I along with the boys headed north. We dropped the boys off at My dad and step-mom's, then proceeded to R. B. Winter State park where we met our other buddy Chris. We arrived around 9:15, and checked in then worked on staying warm. The temperature was the coldest of the racing season so far.
Race went off promptly at 10:00. I was up in the front and went out with the pack at around a 6:45 pace. Way to fast, but I decided to stick with it at least until we got into the single track. A mile into the race was the first climb, and I do mean a climb. The mountain was directly in your face because of the rapid elevation gain. My lungs were already screaming because of going out fast, now they were ready to explode. I got to the top and the course levelled off, but I had a hard time getting my heart rate back down.
Around the 3 mile mark, Eric caught up to me and passed. I kept him in my sights, but he was able to run over the rocks faster than I could or wanted to. When we got to our first downhill, he descended like a skier. At this point, a group of three runners who were drafting me, passed.
After the descent was climb number two, which was like the first climb only in a two step process - climb, level, climb. As I started up the second climb, Chris yelled to me. He now had caught up. My jackrabbit start was not paying dividends, but at least I got my hear rate back down and felt better. At the top of the climb, we immediately descended, and Chris passed me, but I managed to catch back up to Eric.
I stayed behind Eric for about two miles, but couldn't make up any ground. Again, I just couldn't manage a decent pace over the rocky terrain. Around the 7.5 mile mark, we came out of the woods and ran on a forest service road. Here I was able to open up and dropped to a 6:50 pace. at 8 miles, I caught Eric and passed him, but Chris had too much of a lead on me.
From mile 8 to mile 11, it was pretty smooth sailing, but it was broken up by stretches with rocks. I managed to navigate the rocks well, but on a smooth stretch, I was tripped up by a tree root and went ass-over-tin-cups. I fell well, and avoided injury. around 10.5 miles we broke out on another forest service road, and I could see Chris about 300 yards in front of me, but there was no way I was going to catch him. I looked back and there was no one behind me. There were two runners about 25-30 yards in front of me, but I was certain at this point that I wasn't going to get caught, nor was I going to pass anyone, so I settled into a comfortable pace to save myself for the "Stairway to Heaven."
The "Stairway to Heaven" was the hardest climb of the day, because it was not only steep and through a rock garden, but it was at the 11.5 mile mark. The only nice thing was that the race crew had Zeppelin's "Stairway to Heaven" blaring at the base of the climb. It used to be that I could never hear that song and not think of high school dances as it was always the last song of the evening. Now, I associate it with cramps, because my calves knotted up like golf balls as I made my way to the top. Once over the top, it was all downhill, but my calves kept reminding me that perhaps the couple of beers I had during the Penn State game weren't really a good substitute for a sports beverage.
I managed to keep it together, and hold my position and crossed the finish line in 2:12. I wanted to cross in under two hours, but I just wasn't ready for a trail race of that difficulty. The biggest hindrance was the rocks and my lack of a good trail shoe to deal with the terrain. That's going to change as I plan on returning next year and lowering my time.
Results and Final Comments
* Finished 27th overall; 10th in my age group 40-49 (would have been third if they went in five year increments)
* Was only beat by one person older than me, that's worth something (in fact it was worth a fine beverage at Selinsgrove Brewing Company, a place that is listed in a national magazine as one of "50 places to have a beer")
* Trail Shoes, Trail Shoes, Trail Shoes!!!
* The Mid-Penn Trailblazers are an awesome group of runners and put on a great race. I hope to do more of their races in the future. Many thanks to all the volunteers who made this both a challenging and successful event.
* Keep your eye on this site for photos: The Dam Half
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