On Sunday, I got an early Christmas present in the form of a new local trail race - the Old Mountain Trail 5K. Leading up to the race I had the chance to scout the course on two occasions, and felt that I had a good plan. Not knowing who would show up for this thing besides my two fast WTAC teammates, I decided to go out very aggressively to reach the woods ahead of the field, and then let my trail running experience carry me through the technical trails that followed. I didn't want to start too slow as to get stuck behind inexperienced trail runners who I couldn't pass on the narrow trails. I knew this was a tad risky, but because of the layout of the course, it seemed like my best shot.
The morning was very chilly. I was wearing warm up clothes over my racing gear, but still couldn't stay warm. Justin and I headed out to run the course as a warm up. I noticed that despite our easy pace, my lungs felt like they were working hard. The ground was frozen, so it made the muddy and wet sections much easier. We got back to the start just before the schedule 10AM start. Due to the long line at registration, the start was pushed back to 10:30. It was hard to believe so many people came to run on such a cold morning one week before Christmas. I fidgeted in my car with my family and my Dad until 10 minutes to go. I ran around the fields and then waited up front with my coworkers Dan and Brad, looking for Justin and Jeff, and noticing some other fast-looking dudes around me. Finally it was time to start.
Waiting at the line with Dan and Brad
At "Go!" I took off. I was up front, but had company. Right before entering the woods I got passed by two runners - one who looked like he should win and another who looked like an overzealous teenager. He then moved well over the rooty pond trail so maybe I was wrong. Before reaching the far end of the pond I was passed by two more runners.
I was feeling a little disappointed, and questioned my rationale for going out so fast. One more guy in a racing singlet muscled (literally) his way by me before we turned onto a side trail that had the only significant hill on the course. I went by the guy here, and then quickly was in a line of 4 runners trudging up the the steep climb. I was desperate to get ahead and use my climbing ability to regain position. I snuck by one person, but ran out of real estate. As we began the descent, the man in the singlet passed me again. Now in 5th place, I was gaining on the teenager, and finally I went by as we crossed a power line. I was feeling okay. I was going as fast as I could, and felt like I could maintain my speed for the duration.
After I carefully made my way over the rocky stream crossing, my teammate Jeff Walker went flying by me with another guy in tow. Just like when he went by me in the Li'l Rhody Runaround this year, he was moving incredibly well. He likes to contend that trails aren't for him! I made my way along this twisty trail that frequently crossed dry (or barely running) brooks. The last crossing I noticed Jeff and two others first splashing through the brook and then getting tangled in briars on the other side. I knew to stay right and hopped the brook, which helped me momentarily catch up to these three. The course turned left onto a level grassy wide trail and I fell behind again. I could also hear footsteps behind me. As the trail then turned into a field, I caught a runner for the last time. A new runner went by me a minute later, and right after passing the 2 mile mark, my teamate Justin caught me. He kept mentioning something about getting stuck behind a dinosaur. I eventually realized he meant the runner in the giant dinosaur costume I saw at registration.
The last mile I ran alone. I tried to keep up my pace. A couple of times I looked back and saw no one. I wasn't far behind Justin and the other guy, but I wasn't making up any ground. I made sure to push the last hill and descent to the finish. I ended up in 7th place in 20:36. Official results here. Overall, I felt good about my effort. If I didn't start so fast, I think I would have been stuck going slower than I wanted on the trails, possibly behind a dinosaur.
Post race, I chatted with my wife and then Justin and Jeff (5th and 4th overall respectively). I got to see my coworkers finish and then my Dad. Anyone who wore shorts had bloody legs. Jeff's looked particularly disgusting. My running team - WTAC won the team competition.
This was the first of a 5 race series. Can't wait for the next one in three weeks!