Sunday, November 6, 2011

Rugged Man

Today was the Highland Rugged Man Trail Race. It is a 4.8 mile loop, primarily used as a mountain bike course, located in Highland Rec Area. The weather was perfect for running, partly sunny and right around 50 degrees at race time.

Learning from last weekend, I arrived early with plenty of time to warm up (even though it wasn't nearly as cold as last week). I hadn't run outside for about a week and wanted to get moving and breathe in some of that cool morning air. While I thought I was a bit out of practice, I felt really good at the start of the race.

Every trail or cross country style race I have done so far seems to have a long jam at the start, and this was no exception. The trail was tight and narrow, leaving little room to pass. As I knew I was in for a long race (longer than a 5k anyway) I wasn't too worried about passing people and passed only when people were much slower than the pack or if they pulled themselves aside.

I ran with a pack of about 10 people for much of the first couple miles. Not the leaders - probably 2 or 3 groups behind. Based on the terrain, I was good with the pace. I was expecting less of an overall elevation change than at Pontiac Lake, and that held true. What I didn't expect were all of the twists and turns and smaller but more frequent elevation changes. There were few straight parts and, when you were "rewarded" with a downhill run, it was rocky and rooty. For a person who runs about 90% on roads, this was a bit tough. Rugged Man was, in fact, suitably named.

I was going pretty well until just after the 2 mile mark, where I fell. I didn't fall hard and wasn't hurt too badly (small knee scrapes and a slight strain on my right quad which always gets strained anyway), but it seemed to throw off my rhythm. I lost my pack and never did catch up with them. This didn't not ruin my run, but I think this fall and another wipe out by another runner later in front of me cost me my 50 minute goal (which really wasn't based on anything anyway). Miles 2 to 3.5 were tough as the terrain got even hillier and I recovered. I seemed to get back into a groove around the 3.5 mile mark. I was in my usual "no mans land" with few runners anywhere near me, but I was able to push myself. The terrain improved as well and there were actually a couple straightaways and downhill sections that were not too rocky.

Near the end of the race, I saw a few people in front of me around a curve, but I wasn't able to catch them. I was able to put some distance between me and the small pack's footsteps behind me. Once I crossed the last little bridge, I sprinted like a madman towards the finish, even though there was no one near me. (I probably look like a goofball, but I don't want to leave any time on the course coasting to the finish.) I guess that is my thing now - if I have anything left at the end of a race, I'm gonna use it. The argument could be made that, if I can run that hard at the end, I should be using more energy earlier. Maybe so, but I don't feel like I am holding back.

I finished in just over 52 minutes, which is just under the average time for all males from last year's race. I expect that average to be pretty close this year. That seems about right and it is just where I am at this point. I really want to be good and, with continued effort, that time will come, but it has been a long road to average and I am pleased with this race and my overall efforts.

I may do the Midland Half-marathon or another race next weekend. I really want to do the half-marathon, but I don't think I've been putting in enough miles to feel like I am still well trained for it. I'm confident I could do it, but I want to do well (as in beat my Brooksie Way time and try to beat 2 hours). I hope to decide by mid week based on how I feel, the weather, etc. It isn't the off-season yet! I feel like every race I get to do from now on for the rest of the year is a bonus and I plan to be thankful for running them, no matter the result.

Congrats to Matt at Breaking Point 315 for his fine showing at Iceman (bike race)! Can't wait to read the full report.

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