Friday, October 16, 2015

Pisgah Mountain 23K Trail Race 2015

Since this is so late, I'll try to keep it brief.  This is one of my annual "must do" races.  I always look forward to the trip up to Chesterfield, NH and visiting with my brothers and their friends.  This year I had to either drive up later the night before, or just go up really early.  I decided to sleep in my own bed at home and make the solo journey before the sun rose.  The trip up was good and I ran into my brothers at the school (registration).  We headed back to Greg's house to hang out for a while.  Usually I'm feeling very jittery, nervous about the impending race.  This year I was just enjoying the company and not focused on the race at all.  I'm not sure why.  I certainly trained enough.  I certainly seemed capable of another PR and my first sub 1:40 effort on the course.  Greg hadn't been training much at all and there was even a shot (not great in my mind) that I could beat him on a longish run like this today.  I just wasn't fired up. 

Pre race instructions.  Wild Endurance up front.  Photo by Fred Ross

The race began and Greg and I took off out in front.  My main plan was to run with him or even ahead of him if I was feeling good.  What happened is what I should have anticipated: he took the race out hard, at least too hard for me.  This is how he trail races: run away and hide.  It doesn't matter if I'm his big brother.  I appreciate his ruthlessness. 

The start.  Photo by Fred Ross

The first two miles are basically uphill on dirt roads to reach Pisgah State Park.  I feel like climbing is an advantage for me, but I found myself trailing Greg, and not feeling good at all.  No one was yet nipping at my toes, and I had the thought that my race was already over.  Worse was the thought of suffering for the next hour and a half by myself.  I was totally lacking any killer instinct.  I ran on and had a moment of positivity when I was actually catching up to my brother on the screaming descent in the park.  Maybe I would catch him on the next long hill climb?  No dice.  He disappeared for good.  I felt crappy climbing again. 

The last couple of years I have been pushed by guys on my tail.  This can be crucial to make sure you are running your fastest during a trail race.  After I summited the long climb, I talked myself into working hard for the duration.  Even as my attitude improved, I was not getting the help I needed from behind.  I would glance back at spots with long looks and just not see anyone.  I knew that once I climbed the very long and challenging Pisgah Ridge and I still didn't see anybody, I was not going to be passed.  The ridge climb went okay - no hiking - didn't feel terrible.  Nobody in sight behind me.  My place was settled and I just needed to keep trying to reach my time goal. 

Somewhere around mile 8.  Photo by Fred Ross. 

The last five miles went well.  I felt stronger on the Davis Hill/Hubbard Hill than ever before.  Usually the roots in the deep woods feel terrible on tired sore feet, but not today.  According to a photographer I was a minute and a half back on Greg, and then a short time later I saw my sister-in-law Jen, who told me I was only a minute back.  Positivity flowed back through me.  Maybe he is tiring?  I just controlled what I could control which was my effort. 

Finally the end was near as I exited the park and made my way on the final mile plus road section (unpaved then paved).  As I made the crazy fast descent I got a glimpse of Greg.  Things could get interesting!  I didn't have much more to give since I was going all out, so I just had to keep at it.  There's a decent hill climb and knew that would be the deciding factor.  I reached the top and Greg wasn't that much closer.  I spent the last half mile chasing him, but the race finished and I was 28 seconds too slow. 

As I crossed the line I finally looked at my watch.  I had figured that I would have at least gotten the sub 1:40 I was looking for, especially since I was so close to Greg.  He told me before the race he was in 1:39 shape, but I figured he was really in 1:36 shape.  I was happy to check my time.  But what I saw was not what I was expecting.  1:42:17.  1:40 slower than last year.  Huh?  Hard to figure.  The weather was gorgeous and the woods were dry.  I'm chalking it up to three things: not pumped up beforehand, going out too fast the first 3 miles, and then not getting pushed from behind during the middle miles.  It does make a difference. 

Afterwards, I felt fine about the race.  This was definitely my chance to beat Greg in a race and I blew it.  Oh well.  It was fun and I'm always glad to hang out in Chesterfield. 



  1. Nice race Jonny. You'll get Greg yet!

  2. Always enjoy reading your blog posts, but especially when it's a race I've done before. Totally agree on the getting pushed factor generally improving your race performance.