The weather was nice again, as it was for every winter race during the series. It was sunny, 50 degrees, and breezy. I had an active week, and my legs were still a little sore from basketball two days prior. I spent the day working and playing in the yard with my family before the 4PM start. I was as relaxed as I could be heading into the race.
I got my bib number, and then headed out to run the 2 mile loop with Eric W, a local trail runner I met at the 2nd race when I noticed his 2011 Pisgah Mtn Trail Race shirt. I was familiar with the 1st mile. Unlike the week before, the ground was dry, except for a very deep muddy section near the bike path. After this spot, the course veered left up a newly cut trail, with a few high logs to jump for good measure. The first mile ends at the start/finish area, and the 2nd mile quickly climbs up a fairly steep hill. After the summit, it passed between some ballfields before entering the woods on another brand new single track trail. This trail was technical due to the two rocky stream crossings, the numerous logs to jump, and the tight turns. However, it was mostly flat. The 2nd mile then climbed a switchback back up to a baseball field and then dropped quickly back down to the start/finish area.
After the warm up, I ran into Jon Short who decided to give the race a try after our 6 mile run on Thursday. My family arrived and found the playground. I chatted with my WTAC teammates Jeff, Justin, Tom, and my dad. The other usual suspects were there too. Mike explained the format and the course to the field, and next thing I knew, I was running.
After a quarter mile, I was in 3rd place (not a great idea) behind the series leader and my teammate Tom. Soon I could hear familiar breathing behind me, and knew it was Justin ready to pass, which he did right after the first mile (6:31).
Justin ready to pass
The second mile was probably the most exciting. As we entered the single track, I could feel people right on my heels. I tried to hammer this technical area as best I could, but I wasn't shaking whoever it was.
Once we were on the wider switchback, I was passed by Aaron and Ben. I knew Aaron would probably finish ahead of me, but I hoped to catch Ben again before we finished. So there I was in 6th place before the 2nd mile finished (6:33 split). I began my second loop and watched the race play out in front of me - Justin was now with Tom and Ben was sticking to Aaron. It didn't seem anyone was close behind me. I kept up my intense effort, but would've liked some company. I also felt slower, which was manifested in my 6:56 3rd mile.
nobody else around
I began a lonely mile 4, except for lapping the occasional runner, including Mike's 7 year old daughter near the end of the woods! After crossing the start/finish area (6:44 split), I could see the runners ahead on the open field. Justin was now ahead of Tom, and Aaron and Ben were catching up to him. I was probably 20-30 seconds behind. But once I was back in the woods, I was all alone again. I finished mile 5 in 6:57. Mike told me it was time to make my move. I liked the encouragement, but the steep hill I immediately had to climb, soured my enthusiasm. I did look forward to the single track in the woods every lap though. At the switchback section, I checked to see who was behind me, and still there was no one. I finished mile 6 in 6:50 and could now see that Tom was the closest person ahead of me. I thought there was a chance I could reel him in over the next couple of miles. I also was debating in my mind if I was going to have a shot to go for 9 miles. It seemed possible. But after completing mile 7 (6:53) and then struggling up the steep hill, the idea of stopping at 8 seemed like a good plan. I wish I had the energy to really hammer the last mile, but it wasn't to be. When I hit the switchback and looked back, I could now see WTAC teammate Jeff closing in on me. I feared he was in full-fledged gazelle mode, and I knew he'd try his best to catch me. I tried to find another gear as I finished my 8th and last mile in 6:52. Total time 54:20. Mike told me to go back out and try for 9, but there was no way I could have done a 6:40 mile, not to mention the 5:40 I would need. Jeff finished up 20 seconds behind me. We then got to watch the exciting finish, of runners sprinting to the finish line before the 1 hour time limit. Aaron just got in 9 miles, but Ben missed out by mere seconds. What a great concept for a race!
Post race was fun chatting with everybody. It was nice to see Jon Short complete 7 miles and my dad did 6. Justin came in 2nd overall and finished with 9 miles. I was happy with my effort, and my overall pace was one second off my mile interval pace and 15K pace of 6:47. My first two miles were probably too fast, but I think it all evened out. I wish I finished 8 miles a little sooner so that I had an outside shot of 9 miles. My dad and I received personalized mugs for competing in all 5 races and the WTAC won the team title for this race and the series overall! I'm going to miss these local trail races. Thanks to Mike for putting this all together.