Stayed at my in-laws last evening, which is only about 25 minutes from French Creek State Park, the venue for Pretzel City Sports Dirty Bird 15K trail run. As I was driving to the race, I couldn't get the Grateful Dead Tune out of my head, "Cold Rain and Snow" - Run me out in the cold rain and snow/ Rain and snow, run me out in the cold rain and snow.
While there wasn't any snow, there was definitely cold rain as in about 38 degrees and a steady drizzle. I arrived at the park around 10:00, which was an hour before the 11:00 a.m start. I checked in, then immediately went back to my car to stay out of the rain. Around 11:10, my buddy Chris R. showed up. We touched base and decided to go for a warm-up run around 10:30.
Warm-up went well, and we met up with two other friends Andy G. a former student of Mine, and Eric D. who ran the dam half with us a month ago. After the warm-up, it was decision time as to what to wear. I decided with the conditions to go with tights, a wicking top and a running jacket as an outer layer. I also wore cotton gloves and a hat. This was the first mistake of two that I made today. I was over dressed, and the extra clothes just got heavier as it got wet. I would have been better sucking it up at the beginning and just going with the tights and a lighter top. I could have ditched the gloves, and the hat. They served no purpose after the first climb.
Start went off promptly at 11:00 and for the first quarter of a mile or so the race went down a park road. I went out at about a 6:50 pace, too fast for the total race, but I didn't want to get cut off from the pack as we entered the woods. as it turned out, I started too far to the back, and when we got to the woods I had to contend with a long line of single file runners, which were hard to pass - this was my second mistake. After turning into the woods, we started a long climb. It wasn't as steep as anything at the Dam half, but it was long, and people started slowing down. I passed when I could, but pretty much was trapped, so I just stayed up with whoever was in front of me, then passed when I had an opportunity. After we crested the the first hill, we had a long stretch down on single track. I decided to go 'balls to the wall," and barrelled down the hills. It paid off as I picked up a few places.
The trails were extremely muddy, and I was gaining weight as I ran, because my clothes were soaking up rain. My shoes felt like ankle weights. I settled into a hard, but sustainable pace, and kept with my strategy of conserving my energy on the uphills, and barreling down the backsides. This was working well, and I picked off a runner here and there, but I was nowhere near the main pack, so resigned myself to maintaining my position and trying to prevent being passed. This worked well, until I got to one steep section, which I was forced to walk. I was passed by a runner close to the crest of the hill. I thought I wouldn't see him after the top, but he ran conservatively downhill, so I barreled past him and stayed ahead until the next hill, where he passed me again. I thought I would catch him on the next downhill, and almost did, but he was able to stay ahead of me.
With about two miles to go, I opened it up, and was wondering where Chris and Eric were. Chris is strong on the hills whether we are biking or running, but I didn't know how far behind me he was. I thought he would have caught me, but there was no sign of him. I really felt good the last two miles, and although I couldn't catch the guy I was back and forth with on the hills, I did manage to reel in 4 or 5 more runners. I pride myself on my sprinting ability, and sure enough the last 300 meters provided me with enough space to catch and pass three more people as we headed into the finish. I finished with a 1:21, which was good for 58th place.
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