|A strong field and a snot rocket...|
After a quick warm up out onto the last mile or so of the course and back on its final climb I stripped down to the racing threads and met with some very fast runners on the starting line. Seems the wet conditions brought some of the Asheville area's top runners to test their fitness on slick trails and rolling hills. At the sound of "Go!" we were headed down into the Dupont State Forest on a double track gravel and muddy pit of a trail. The minerals were flying off of flats and up into faces and chests. Early on we had some laughs about the cross country feel of this race with a strong pack and the sloppy conditions. I settled in remembering that I had gone out too hard last year and has paid the price.
|Hanging around on the gravel road.|
Reaching the midpoint of the course the climbing continued and I was sensing that this was not one of those zippy and quick days. I went from 4th to 6th in this stretch as two very strong runners pushed ahead of me on the gravel road. We entered the single track in a strand of 2-6 running in a strong train at 6 minute pace. I sensed that I had been forgotten by the pack, considering the ease they had gone by me and the complete lack of response I was able to generate. I did know though that there was a lot of trail left and that if I could just run with strength that I might be able to hang around and move up near the end on the final climb.
With 10 minutes to go the course gave back a big dose of elevation. We screamed downhill in the soppy clay doing what could be done to stay upright and fast. I think it is these fast downhill sections that take away the most time on days like this as you just need to be less aggressive to stay upright, of course, had I not been racing in road flats I might have had more leeway... but more to come on that...
Entering the final mile I was still in 6th but just a few paces back from the 5th place runner and I was trying to gauge what the best course of action would be. It was tough to tell what his condition was. I couldn't hear him breathe above the rain and the splash underfoot but figured he might have overextended a bit during the single track climbing. I felt rested at this point so I moved up and waited for a sign.
The trail gradually elevated with some undulations and was really getting sloppy with standing water everywhere. I ran the shoulder through this section as we reached the first big spike in the terrain. I saw that I was feeling a lot better right then but was still hesitant to go on ahead. I stayed where I was for the moment until we flattened out and had a bit of running room for two abreast on the trail. I made a decisive move and figured if I was going to go, then I'd better make it good. I dropped in a good surge of a minute or so leading into the next good hill and really had no idea whether I still had company or not.
I reached the finish after a final steep and sustained hill with a respectable 45:52 a little slower than last year (7 seconds) but all in all a solid effort on a tough day for me. The top runner was in the 42's and then 2-6 were all within about a minute of each other from low 45 to low 46.
No More Slip n Slide
Following the race I set out to FootRx in Asheville to find some trail shoes (Monday I tested them in extreme technical conditions... stay tuned) and came away with a great experience there. The staff was extremely happy to be of service to each customer although the place was super busy. It was a real pleasure to have such a high energy, positive experience at a running store and feel like the staff cared about my needs. I know typical running store experiences include snobbery and pulling teeth... In short, when I require running gear, I have a new headquarters at FootRx. I recommend that you WNC runners all stop in and see what they have to offer you for the road and trail!!