On Saturday, I ran the 2nd winter trail race of the new South County 4th Season Trail Series. I had a much different mentality going into this race than the first, where I was very aggressive on the technical single track course, and not knowing who would show up, felt like I had an outside shot at winning if I could get to the trails first. For this race, I knew what sort of competition I would likely face (especially from my teammates and running partners Jeff & Justin), and figured I would finish in a similar position as last time (7th). I didn't scout the course ahead of time, but Mike (the director) told me it was flat and fast. This time I wanted to go out slower, and see if I could get stronger as the race went on.
My dad and I arrived at Scarborough Beach at 11AM. It was very warm (in fact record breaking), but at the beach there was a strong SW making it interesting. We met up with the other WTAC runners as they arrived and then I ran the course as a warm up with Justin, Jeff, and Steve. The course was extremely scenic and in great shape for a fast race. The top 3 finishers from the first race were not in attendance, but there were plenty of new fast looking runners in the crowd, many in team garb. Team racing is fantastic fun!
I lined up on the line and waited for the siren. I tried not to sprint, but found myself in 3rd position. I backed off, trying to save myself for later. Many people began passing me. The field we were running through was pleasant enough at first - especially when we had to hurdle two small fences. But my enthusiasm quickly faded as the thick wet grass slowed me down. As we exited the field and dropped down to the beach, I guessed I was in 20th place and not happy with myself.
On the beach, I settled into a good pace. I was a few seconds behind Justin and Jeff and thought about moving up to them, but I was going as fast as I dared. I passed a few runners and clocked in a 6:11 first mile. Soon after, the course veered away from the hard packed beach and crossed over the dunes to a trail. I wasn't worried about anybody behind me, and was focused on the runner ahead of me (Jason S.). I caught him on the brief uphill road section before entering the main trail of the Black Point fishing area. The trail is level with a couple of downhill sections. I pushed hard enough to put some distance on Jason, but had some work to do to catch the next runner in front of me. I was disappointed with my second mile split of 6:35. The course then wound through an old stone house and back through the dunes before spilling out onto the beach.
The wind was strong. I might have slowed down, but I knew I was gaining on the guy in front of me. I passed him, but then had 3/4 of mile left to run with no one near me. At least I could see my teammates pass some other runners way up ahead of me. I finished in 19:58, good enough for 8th place. I was happy to find out that WTAC was able to finish in first place again. I met a local runner who ran the Pisgah Mountain 23K this past September. I waited for my dad to finish and then headed to my car for more clothes. Justin, Jeff, and I ran the course again as a cooldown, and made it back in time for the awards/raffle.
Overall, I really enjoyed this race. I like being part of a team and competing against other teams. I'm not completely satisfied with my performance, and finishing so far behind Jeff and Justin will motivate me going forward. Bring on the 10K!