Saturday, March 26th, I ran my 5th Brrr-lingame trail race in the very nearby Burlingame State Park. I was looking forward to pushing myself around snow free fast trails. Conditions seemed to be very similar to the fast race here two years ago. I completed the two lap course in 1:06:09 (write up here) and was very pleased with my time at the time. This year I wanted to PR, but didn't have a strict time goal in mind. Despite being on local trails that I know well, I never place as high as I'd like. The fast guys can be fast here, and a bunch had preregistered or showed up on race morning.
I didn't arrive quite as early as I'd like, but still had plenty of time for a group warm up. The race field certainly looked fast despite not being huge. I was feeling well rested (no midweek workout) and ready to rock. I did a couple of field sprints right before the start.
I always get carried away at the start of this race. I just want to hammer the rolling single track and the adrenaline let's me keep up with the leaders. I really tried to hold back (my current racing theme), but after we crossed the field and enter the woods, I got really itchy to move up. I settled into 5th place. The front of the train was already pulling away, and I did my best to just try to keep up with Steve Brightman (in 4th). We hit the one steep hill during the first mile, and I closed the gap on all the leaders as they didn't seem comfortable with the climb or screaming descent on the other side. This was short lived and all four of them (Pat Moulton, The Erics (L and N), Brightman) pulled away from me. I wasn't surprised by this at all, although annoyed that Brightman is in such good shape these days. There was no let down in pace after losing contact with the lead pack. I had Bob Jackman and Muddy close behind me. My goal was to now discourage Bob, and I really hammered the climbs to create distance. This didn't work. I thought he might pass before we reached the ridge at around mile 3. This is a rather technical section and one that I hoped favored me. I worked it hard, Bob in tow. Suddenly as we neared the end, I realized we had caught back up to the lead pack. This was pretty exciting. I wanted to blast by all of them, but the terrain wasn't really conducive for that. Finally, as well spilled off the ridge, all hell broke loose. Just as I was going to make my move, Bob came crashing around me and most of the others. I made my way around some of the leaders as well. It was a great feeling. I knew this would be short lived as the trail widened and got a lot smoother. The top 4 again went by, and I found myself trailing Bob as well, with Muddy right on my heels. I was already mentally feeling drained by the fast race start and racing in this spot for the next 7 miles seemed daunting. Oh well. I just kept going trying to keep in front of Muddy and passing Bob on a steep little climb. After the descent on the other side, the trail opens up to wide double track for quite some time. Muddy went by me saying he was going to try to reel in Brightman. I wasn't surprised by this - Muddy crushed this course two years ago, and this distance is right in his wheelhouse. I then felt someone else pull along side of me, and I made a comment to him assuming it was Bob. Nope. A stranger. Who was this guy? I picked it up, not wanting this stranger to pass me before entering the famous bog bridge section. He stayed close though. Right before the first bridge Muddy (who was a few seconds ahead) took a digger in some mud. He popped right up and stayed ahead of me. He seemed to then run angry and increase his lead on me again. I got away from the stranger. Now running in and out of the camp roads, I seemed to be heading for no man's land. I just tried to do my best watching Muddy put distance on me, then he fell again, this time jumping over a high tree obstacle. It looked bad, but again he popped right up and kept moving. However, after a few moments he let up and let me go by him, in obvious pain/discomfort from his accident. I wasn't happy to pass him in this way - I hoped he wasn't too hurt and even wondered if he would drop out after the first loop (that was almost completed). My first lap was 32:02 - a PR. I knew I'd have trouble matching this on the 2nd, but I was feeling confident and rejuvenated. My first mile of lap 2 was lonely, and not as fast as the adrenalinized first time around. About a mile in I was surprised to hear somebody behind me, and at a corner I could see it was Muddy! I was happy he was still racing and now concerned for my place. I picked it up on the rolling hills (both ups and downs). I reached the ridge and tried to hammer it again, hopefully catching up to whoever was in 4th place (I never could see anyone ahead of me). No dice, but I did see Muddy closing in by the end. Ugh. Or was it? I realized that I was running hard and feeling really good. I only had 2 miles left. I had plenty left in the tank. Time to push. That's what I did, finally seeing 4th place on the wide double track before the bog bridges - Pat Moulton. I only know him as a super fast road marathoner (the fastest in RI with Matty P in CT now??). I've never seen his name in the results of a trail race. Maybe he was hurting or dejected - another victim of a Mike Galoob course. He was pretty far ahead, but I was motivated, picking my pace up to almost sprint mode. Maybe I could catch him on the bog bridges? It was awesome to feel like the hunter with something left at the end of the race. At the end of the bridges, I could see that he was only 10 seconds or so ahead now. One mile left of intermittent single track between camp roads. He seemed effortlessly fast on the road parts, but I kept closing the gap on the trail sections (which I was absolutely blasting through). The closest I got was the weird section that goes through thick leaves and berms down to the beach. I got to within a couple of seconds before he noticed me. Damn. Now he knew I was there and stepped it up. I was still moving fast. I desperately tried to catch up on the last two short single track sections. We finally spilled out onto the last stretch of open grass to the finish and it wasn't going to be. I finished in 5th, 5 seconds behind him. I did PR, with a final time of 1:04:44. My second lap was a semi-even split of 32:42.
This was a great race. The trails are easy enough to go fast, but challenging enough in spots to keep it honest. I'm looking forward to racing 10 miles of trails again two weeks later.
Fun article in Level Renner about the race here