My intent today was to get a view of the Bradbury Bruiser 12 mile course. The Trail Monsters had a run scheduled there and they were planning a couple loops of the 12 mile course at what sounded like a fast but managable pace for me. I was not going to run two loops or anything crazy like that, just hoping to pull off one 12 mile loop to help me with the technical aspect of this course and to be more familiar with it on race day.
As we met in the parking lot, I felt a little out of my element, this group had a mean age of probably 30-35 and consisted of very experienced and qualified ultra runners. While walking up to the group I took stock in what I was attemping. Me being a tiny bit older at 52, A tiny bit less experienced, my longest trail race before 2008 was 5k, My largest accomplishment was one Marathon 2006 and one 25K trail race 2008. My running history a short 6 years.
Ian imediately put me at ease and introduced me to the group. I recognized most of them as I have been reading the trail Monster's blogs and following their races. I was excided and aprehensive to be here. I usually run alone and really did not know what to expect. I felt extemely accepted and only had one worry left, would I be able to keep up? One thing I do know is that I love trail running and was in the comany of others who did too.
One we started running, my jitters disapeared, the smell of the woods, the sounds of our feet pounding and snapping as we carefully placed them around roots and rocks. Everyone was talking as if we were just sitting around a campfire with our favorite beer and a blanket on a cool summers night.
I felt very comfortable running and the first few miles just seemed to fly by. Our pace was hugging somewhere around 10:30-10:40 and though only slightly slower than my race pace for this distance on trails, I felt I could continue. We stopped at around mile three as Ian took survey to be sure we were all happy with the pace and discuss the run so far. He tends to speed up and relies on Emma to monitor his pace.
Emma followed me in the beginning and lived up to her reputation as she continually made sure I was OK. I felt at ease with her from the moment she stepped up, shook my hand and introduced herself. I hit a huge root as negotiating a sharp corner and almost went down. Somehow I regained my balance and didn't go down. Emma seemed more worried about me than I was. I was actually quite impressed with my capability of staying vertical and until today have never taken a digger.
Somewhere around mile 5 Lilly went down thanks to a large rock that appearantly jumped up and grabbed her feet. It didn't seem to faze her much as she stood right back up and continued. I almost went down behind her as I had to veer off the trail to keep from running over her. This worried me a bit and visions of my own potential fall would surely leave me helpless as this old body would probably give up while laying across the rocks and roots unable to find the equlibrium to get verticle again. That would be embarassing!
Well not more than 5 minutes had elapsed when I found myself falling toward the ground and my feet were no longer doing their job. The trip to the ground was quite easy and seemed slow motion. Every limb of my body was trying with no success to stop the inevitable. The sound of my breath being forced out of my body, the breaking sound of my water bottle strap and the pain of my knee trying to push a rock deeper into the ground was not so easy.
To my surprise, I jumped right up and started running again. There was some talk of me putting my own body in jepardy just to make Lilly feel better. Yeah...that's what it was, I couldn't stand the thought of her being the only casualty of the day and I threw my body against the ground to prove it.
This was my first trip to the ground on trails I must admit, it was not much fun. My mistake was following too close to the person in front of me and losing vision of the ground and my footing. When road running I tend to focus on the person in front of me and I think this is what I did without thinking. I realize now that I should have stayed back a bit....Oh Well a good lesson learned.
I did well up until about 8 miles. I realized as we started climbing a bit more, that the pace was speeding up. I clocked mile 7 at 8:59 and along with the energy I expended from the fall, this pace took it's toll. Though mile 8 slowed down to 9:36, it was too late and my heart rate was close to race pace. I could feel the effect and knew I would have to slow down.
I let Ian know, and he stayed back with me long enough to explain the rest of the route. His explicate directions were mutilated by my lack of memory. I found the first right hand turn but after that was just guessing. It helped a little that I could still hear their talking and followed that sound.
Mile 9 was horrible. My body was fatigued and the hills slowed me to a crawl. I felt like stopping but somehow continued. I started feeling a little better and by mile 10 was back on a 10:30 pace. I finished the run at 10.72 miles. Somehow I must have turned wrong and shortened the course.
There was no one at the finish so I assumed they had already passed and was on their second lap. Overall I felt good about this run. I gained a good prospective of what I should plan for race pace at the 12 miler in a couple weeks.
This was the first time I looked at my knee and was quite suprised to see long streaks of blood extending right down to my ankle. Damn, if this was the race I would surely win the special award that Ian gives for the most blood.
I have no long term injuries from the fall, I still managed an average 10:38 pace for 10:72 miles. Not quite the 12 I was planning but with 1:53:01 on the clock it was good training for the race coming up. I enjoyed the run today and appreciate the chance to run with the Trail Monsters.
Am I ready to race the 12 mile bruiser? Well, what I do know, is that I am ready to cross that start line, I will start slow and after that we will see what happens. I will enjoy the trails reguardless of how my finish ends up.