This past Saturday, I ran the 3rd race in the new South County 4th Season Race Series. The Belleville Pond 10K took place in Ryan Park, one of my favorite places to run. I've run here hundreds of times over the past seven years, and felt confident about this race. My dad and I arrived pretty early and I waited around for Boj and Justin to show up while I watched the parking lot fill up on this gorgeous day. I was excited to see such a good turnout for a new trail race in RI. It also was evident that there was going to be some stiff competition. My plan was to run my own race - not get caught up in a fast start and going too fast on the flat fast sections trying to stay with faster road racers - and wait for the more technical trails of miles 3,4, and 6 to gain ground. I ran a 2+ mile warm up with Boj and had tightness and soreness in my left calf. He let me borrow his calf sleeve and I decided to race with it since it felt helpful and comfortable.
At the start, I found myself up front, but trying to not overdo it. I was breathing easy, but my calf was annoying me. It never got worse, but never got loose either. Once we hit the straight railbed, I was passed by a number of guys in various team garb - NRA, TNT, and FuelBelt. I didn't let this bother me as I knew that I would meet up again with them on the single track. At the 2 mile mark I checked my watch and was at 12:40. This was the pace I was shooting for, but I knew the next couple of miles would be slower. I passed the FuelBelt runner (Jay S) upon entering the power line and then shortly after the gnarly water crossing, I passed the 2 TNT runners and Aaron R (NRA). My confidence was soaring as I felt I was pulling away from them, and actually I was now gaining on Boj, who looked like he was just cruising along. Before hitting the powerline again, I could see Justin right on Glenn G's heels so I shouted out encouragement to him. The trail spilled out onto an open field and I could hear footsteps close behind me again. I knew we would soon be back on technical single track, so I let Aaron and the two TNT guys go by me, without trying to speed up. I didn't make up any ground on the first section, and then felt terrible trudging through the thick sand on the motocross course. The thought of doing tricks in the air off the jumps still crossed my mind - maybe I could win in points MarioKart style. I pushed my favorite single track section pretty hard, but it was evident that everyone ahead of me was comfortable with this sort of terrain as well. My splits for mile 3 and 4 were each about 6:50, if the math I was doing in my head while racing was correct. Mile 5 was mostly back on the flat railbed and although my split was 5:55, I wasn't able to catch anyone in front of me (I got close to Boj who then took off after mile 5). Mile 6 included some of my favorite single track in the park and I think I could literally run it blindfolded. I just cruised through this section as fast as I could. Once we got onto the field, I could see someone not too far behind me, so I switched gears and sprinted to the finish.
My time was 41:16, 9th place overall. Going into the race, I thought I could finish under 40 minutes, but it wasn't to be. Unfortunately my team, WTAC, was missing a couple of key guys, and we finished in second, but seeing all the team jerseys out there, I was really happy with this. It was fun hanging out afterwards and talking with other runners. It's great to meet local people who run trails besides me, and to talk over everyone's experience that day on the course, which was well liked. I tried to join Justin and Boj for an extended cooldown, but my calf was so tight and sore, that I bagged it after a mile or so, resorting to hiking at times. I'm looking forward to race #4 in two weeks!