Saturday, January 19, 2008

Kev & I are sweet!

Thank you toes, feet, and ankles for all the abuse you take. Calves, knees, quads, and hammys; thanks for all your hard work. Lest I forget the hips and glutes, you two serve a vital role in all my training. To show my gratitude to you all, we'll go for a roughly 21 mile run through the deep woods, over varying terrain, and through very cold creek crossings. It'll be fun, keeping you all guessing with every footstep! No need to say thanks, I can still feel every one of you screaming in excitement!

Kevin and I had a really good race. We had no time goals going into it. He DNF'd last year, so we both just wanted to finish in one piece. I finished in 4:08 and Kev finished in 4:15.

The race started off pretty easy, on wide trails and fire roads. Then, after only a mile or so, we were in deep woods on a small single track trail. The only time we saw a real road was to cross it and reenter the trail on the other side. The hardest thing about this trail race is having to watch where your feet go, watch the branches to keep your eyes safe, and watch the white trail blazes to keep you on course. A couple of times I was leading a group of runners only to veer off into the brush, taking a few of them with me. We had to cross several creek crossings, so our shoes and socks were nice and wet. Kevin had a great idea about having a bag at the turnaround point, the race was an out and back, with an extra pair of socks and gloves. My feet loved the fresh, dry socks! However, they only stayed dry for about 20 minutes! Of course, in looking at the results, that 10 minutes we spent changing socks cost Kevin first place in his age group and I would have been 3rd in mine! Oh well, the short break was good for both of us.

There was one point where I made a poor decision and almost broke my leg. After the turnaround, I was coming up on a creek crossing that was about 2 feet below the trail and 2 feet across. I decided that it would be a good idea to leap over instead of slowing down to step over. Well, my right leg was my take off leg and was planted firmly, so I thought. Now when you jump, you tend to go up and out from the direction in which you took off. So if you go straight down, that's the first indication that something is wrong. My right foot slipped off the muddy edge at takeoff and came straight down. I'm very lucky that it landed in the water and soft mud, as my leg was completely locked for takeoff. Quick inventory of everything and I was okay, but made a mental note to not try crazy leaps for the remainder of the race. Kev watched the whole thing and seriously thought he was going to have to carry me out of there! He quickly reinforced the notion that I was not to try anymore crazy leaps.

We stayed together until about 3.5 miles remaining. At that point, we ran into a group that went 5-10 minutes out of the way and were coming back onto the trail. I surged ahead so as not to get caught up, but Kevin got stuck behind them. I was going pretty hard once ahead of that group. A couple miles later, I was out of the woods by myself to hit the final road crossing. Upon reentering the woods I followed a trail, however, it was the blue blaze trail and not the white blaze. Since I was running at a pretty good clip and didn't want to head back down the blue trail, I took off into the brush to where I thought the white trail was. Mistake #2. After tearing through the brush for a few minutes, I quickly realized that I was lost. I did a couple of 360's to see if I could catch a glimpse of the road, but I had been running with my head down watching my feet and not picking up any landmarks. At this point, I calmed and centered myself, listening for some movement from other runners. Bingo, I picked up a group about 100 yards away and watched their direction. I picked a line through the brush at an angle and picked up the trail just in front of the group heading for the finish.

Once finished and regrouped with Kevin, I got really worried as we could not find his favorite WVU sweatshirt that his Mom had given him. He placed it on a tree at the start, but it wasn't there when we got done. Now this sweatshirt means the world to Kev, so I was praying that we'd find it. It was so cold that we didn't look too hard immediately after the race. We headed back to the car to change into warmer clothes and headed back to the start. Turns out that the race folks collected all the gear at the start to move it down to the finish to have it all together. There was a huge sigh of relief from Kevin when we found it!