Being a trail monster means helping promote the wonders of trail running. Sometimes that takes presidence over personal gain and rightly so. helping others transition into the unique mixture of running slower times, working harder than one ever had to on the roads and exposing ones self to the possiblity of injury, it sure doesn't sound easy but when you throw in experiencing the wonders of nature, enjoying the company of a great group of people, The huge feeling of accomplishment when you poke out of those woods, well......nature, fun and health sells.
Sunday was the Bruiser 12+ miler at Bradbury mountain. It is a tough course that feels difficult right from the start. The real difficulty though, doesn't show up until the last two miles, this is where you earn the right to wear the T-shirt, this is where you find out what you are made of.....believe me, there is no breezing to the finish here.
When I trained through the winter, running snowmobile trails, braving the cold and storms, running through the spring mud, finishing my first 50k, spending most of my summer on the trails, one thing that was always in the back of my mind was to PR the Bruiser this year.
Last year I ran the Pineland 25k and out of those 15.1 miles, I had a fantastic 10 mile trail race in me, it was awesome....but the last 5 miles was pure hell and the first time in my life that I thought for sure I wouldn't finish.
So I spent the summer trainning to run last years Bruiser as a way to redeem myself. I planned the race in my mind and followed a walk/run method while training for the 50k. I wanted to feel good at the end of that race and I accomplished that.
This year I wanted to step it up and actually race the Bruiser. I figured the 50k would give me a solid base and it did. Through the summer, I spent a lot of time promoting trail running and accomplished a few new faces in the woods. In the process I ran a lot of trail miles with a newbee, Mike. He had not run in quite a while and we did a couple summer road races together.
Mike took quite a liking to trail running and about 2 months ago he decided to step it up and train for the Bruiser. This would be a brave move considering his training
up to this point and the Bruiser is a very tough first trail race.
His plan was to pace with me for the first 10 miles and then use the what ever happens approach for the O trail. I agreed to this stradegy and was happy to help but in the back of my mind I still longed for the PR.
We trained on trails and three weeks ago we ran a practice 12 miler including the O trail. The practice time came in at 2:55:12, it seemed to me if I paced Mike for the Bruiser, I would surely not PR this course this time around. I was OK with that as it felt good to get new runners on the trails.
Two weeks before the race I had a thought, if I could speed mike up a bit on the bruiser course, perhaps I could still attempt a PR. We began running the bradbury East side as often as we could and started doubling up on the O trail. One; to get Mike in "Bruiser" running shape and two; to get me in sprinting O trail shape.
My new plan was to pull Mike along for the first 10 miles as fast as I could, besides giving him a chance to finish with a great time, I might just set myself up for a PR. I know it was far fetched and agressive.....but I thought I could pull it off.
I spent many runs working with him and running far enough ahead on the hills to get him to push his own pace. I talked and talked about stradegy and understanding the body enough to run fast when it felt good and slowing down when it didn't...in other words adapting to the conditions.
He did so well,I felt certain he would be estatic with his results. When race day came, I was quite nervous and started doubting my plan. What if I pulled him into a pace that was too fast for him and he didn't finish, that would not be fair at all.
Could I let my own personal goals intefere with my friends first race?
I positioned myself and Mike near the rear of the group, hopefully to keep us from getting too wound up in the beginning. I couldn't believe how nervous I was, but I didn't show that to mike. I found myself thinking about taking off after a couple miles.....surely Mike would be OK with his pace by then. Well, suddenly Ian said go and we were off....no more worring about it now.
During the first two miles, I decided to do what I promised and help Mike pace. Our splits were quite fast and I knew we would have to settle into a little slower pace.
I found myself creeping up in speed and stopped a couple times to let some runners pass to keep Mike and I together. He was actually running pretty fast compared to our trainning.
My body just wanted to let lose and run, I felt I had a great race in me. At mile 4 water stop I hung around for a couple minutes and talked with Emma. My thought was to let mike continue and work his own pace for a bit plus I would get a chance to speed it up a some while attempting to catch him.
After about three quarters of a mile, I started getting worried....no mike in sight, perhaps I wouldn't catch him. Finally at 1.5 miles from the water stop, I saw a glimse of him up ahead. I caught him, got back in the lead and we resumed our treck together. He slowed a little in mile five without me but not too bad.
I checked my watch as we were almost half way. I was suprised as I calculated our pace. If we kept up this way, I would have an outside chance to beat last years time.
This part of the race was amazing. The sun peeked through the trees, the temp was not too humid and everything just seemed right with the world. I was getting my second wind and could tell that Mike was too.
I decided to get mike to work on surge passing and we worked on two runners that were not too far ahead. We put them in our sights and reeled them in. It was so much fun to stop thinking about the race and just concentrate on these two runners.
We caught and passed them both and also a runner that was struggling a bit, probably from starting out too fast. This was surely the funnest part of the race so far. With over eight miles behind us, I started getting pretty excited about my chances, as long as I reached the O trail in under two hours, I decided I would pick up the pace and try to sprint out a PR.
Now, sprinting on the O trail is not what it seems. The heavy switch back design along with all the rocks, roots trees and obstructions do not allow sprinting per-say, but more like a faster slow pace. My fastest sprint on this trail was 28 minutes and that was when I was fresh. Today, after ten miles of Bradbury running, a sprint would probably be more like 30-36 minutes or maybe even slower.
After mile 9.5 water stop, I decided I was going for it, the PR was mine to lose. It felt great to speed up a bit and I was very confident. I reached the O trail head at 1:53:40. A huge smile crossed my lips and I was bubbling with excitement.....that was until I tripped on something. I am not sure what it was but, the next thing I knew, I was frantically trying to re-establish my balance.
I somehow kept myself from going down but in the process my right calf cramped up from the stress of trying to maintain myslef and it just locked right up. What a horrible feeling, I was sure I pulled it or something and stopped long enough to stretch it out the best I could.
It still bothered me but I was at least able to keep running. It wasn't long before my other muscles started cramping. I am sure it was because of the altered gait as I was favoring the right calf. It seemed that the PR was quickly fading away and I was going to be fighting for the ability to just finish this race.
Right then, it dawned on me. This point right here was where we find out how determined and how tough we really are. How bad did I want the PR? How strong was the urge to overcome the adversity and do what I needed to accomplish my goals. Now was the time to man it up and take my race up a notch.
I pushed as hard as I could but couldn't keep my eyes off the watch.....seconds ticked by and minutes passed. There was a point that I almost gave up .....somehow, I kept plugging even though I wasn't moving very fast, then it happened.... I ran right into a tree. This is when I realized that I was losing it. I have never run into a tree while "running" at a pace that was just slightly faster than a walk....ever! I was spent and I guess just plain done with this race.
I was giving up.....on the PR....on the race completely... I was ready to walk the rest of the way. Suddenly a voice broke the the tunnel vision of my mind .....it was George A, he was yelling "Come on pathfinder, now is not the time to rest. There will be plenty of time to rest when you finish. the end of the O trail is only 400 yards away....get going!" People don't realize how important a spectators words of encouragement can be.
This fired me up and even though it probably didn't look like it at this stage of the race, but in my mind I was sprinting and the legs just had to deal with it! I exicted the O trail and realized that I was going to PR after all. I dug down deep and found a pretty decent kick. I don't know if it was like the horse running for the barn syndrome or what, but I was kicking like there was a bear on my butt.
I finished strong and at least four minutes faster than last year. It felt so good, to accomplish the PR even after pacing a friend for nine miles. I ran back to the O trail to cheer him on and actually ran in the last quarter mile. He pulled off a 2:33:42........a full 22 minutes faster than his practice run....how great is that?
The lesson I learned from this experience is to never give up, no matter what your mind is telling you....just keep putting one foot in front of the other....it is the only way I can truely say I did my best.
12.4 miles @ 2:26:12 (11:48 pace)