Tuesday, May 28, 2013

The Art of Mud Running

This past weekend I took on my 4th 50K trail race at the Pineland Farm's Trail Running Festival and it ended up being the muddiest race that I have ever run.  This also happened to be my 3rd wet and muddy trail race in a row.  I think I am starting to perfect the art of this type of race. 

The weekend started out nicely when they let us our of work early on Friday for the long weekend.  After getting some errands done, picking Neil up, feeding him, and putting him in his PJ's we hit the road for a 2ish hour drive.  We knew we were going to be in for an interesting weekend as it poured the entire drive up.  We arrived at Julie and Dale's house (Our gracious hosts / Amy's childhood friends who have now hosted us for 3 trail race events in the last year) around 10pm.  When we got Neil out of the car, he seemed a little confused, but figured it must be time to party.  We were able to get him back to sleep about 45 minutes later after a bottle, some cat chasing, and intense hugging.

After a wonderful breakfast of Canadian bacon and scrambled eggs by our wonderful hosts we headed over to the trail festival to watch a few events for the 1st day (5K, 10K, Barefoot 5K, and Canicross 5K -- aka run with your dog).  We arrived in the middle of a torrential downpour and were soaked within minutes of getting out of the car.  Lucky for Neil, we had the jogging stroller and an umbrella which kept him from getting too wet.  SRR had a pretty good showing taking 1st and 3rd in the 10K and everyone who ran finished successfully with a smile on their face (albeit they may have been sarcastic smiles).

Race day began shortly after 6am with a breakfast of banana and a bagel.  We arrived back at Pineland Farm's around 7:20 with the SRR folks funneling in about 10 minutes later.   We lined up at the start about 10 minutes before 8 and may have even began the race a few minutes early.

The 1st few miles showed us exactly what we were in for.  The trail sections had been pummeled into soft gooey mud from the races the day before and the field sections were just as bad with some areas having the mud up to 5'' deep.  We all did the best we could trying to find the best path through.  I am sure we almost doubled the width of the some of the trails over the course of the day.  Somewhere around the 5th mile I ran through an unavoidable puddle that went up past my knees.  And man it was cold too.

Around mile 10 as morale was hitting a new low point, we arrived back at the starting area and headed out on the other side of the farm, where only a 50-milers from earlier in the day had run.  While it was still wet and somewhat muddy, having a much more solid footing again gave me the feeling of new life.  I was able to pick the pace up over the next 5.5 miles knocking my average pace down and finishing the 1st lap in 2hrs, 21 seconds, nearly 3 minutes faster then my 25K race on the same course, with no mud, the year before.

Fortunately, or unfortunately depending on how you look at it, I finished the 1st loop just after the 25K race started.  So as I came blazing around the corner with a full adrenaline high, I started to pick off the 25K runners.  As most of them were on the side of the trails doing all they could to stay out of the mud (something they would later learn was completely futile), I had no choice but to take the path down the middle.  About a mile into the 2nd lap is when I started to hit the real crowds and was forced to descend without regard slipping and sliding all over the place.  About another mile later I caught up to my sister and another SRR runner, Andy, and surfed right down a mud slope in between them as I yelled "Hello" and kept on going.  As I powered up the next hill, I heard them yelling "Go Scot, Go" so I picked the pace up some more.

The adrenaline high ended around mile 20 as I was trudging through one of the fields.  From this point I was just counting down the miles until I got back to the start area and out of the worst of it (aka mile 26).  My pace began to suffer with each mile and more with each muddy section.  I figured my shoes were at least 4 times there initial weight.

Finally at mile 24.6, I took my first walking break on one of the steeper rolling hills on the course.  I took 3 more on similar hills over the next 5 miles, but all-in-all I was still holding a pretty reasonable pace.  My main motivation at this point was to stay under my 50K PR Pace (8:17) as I felt I had come too far to accept anything less.  I was able to stabilize around 8:09 dipping to 8:10 before the final mile.

As I popped out of the woods with the finish line in view, the clock read 4:12 and I said "Yes" out loud.  I finished is 4:12:58, 1st AG (of 30), 7th OA (of 206), 8:09 / mile.  To say I was happy with my result was an understatement.

I want to give a huge shout out to all SRR runners who both ran and hung out and supported us.  We had at least 8 people who placed in the race or won their AG and took home some maple syrup (the trophy) and at least another 4 or 5 who took on their 1st trail run or ultra race.

After a couple of showers and a few meals, we headed over to the house our friends were staying at.  We tapped the keg of summer ale and relaxed.  Neil hung out with Milly, Karen's dog, and must have been licked a couple hundred times before we headed out.

All and all good race, great friends, and a fun weekend.

- Scot

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