Yay! After nearly causing a slow moving car wreck in the business park where we were directed to park and pick up the race shuttle, after having a lackluster training cycle, and after having downgraded the “race” to a “training run” in my head (does anyone ever successfully do this?), my body proved to be in better condition than I gave it credit for. It carried me over the North Face Endurance Challenge 10K course – 5.85 miles (more on this later) of dirt, mud, asphalt, crushed gravel and a few large puddles – all with very few complaints. It kind of makes me wonder whether I should have pushed more, but even as I look back, I think the only thing I could have changed on Sunday was where I lined up.
[All race photos are screen grabs from UltraRacePhotos.com]
This is where I admit that on Saturday I did the anti-taper. My confidence was so shattered after running with the stranger on Thursday that I needed to make sure I could hold a pace. My pace. So I did an early morning 3-miler on Saturday and chased it with yoga – taking one class and teaching another. So the legs probably weren’t the freshest for racing. Good thing this was a training run.
Although I crossed the starting line running, everyone slowed to a walk as we began to wend around a congested loop circling a playing field. I walked for about half of that loop before being able to take regular strides.
|Executing the positioning plan.|
This worked out pretty well for me. Once on the crushed stone path, I stayed mostly on the left, passing. We came up to the aid station, where I expected to turn onto dirt single track, except it was asphalt. Weird. It eventually became a dirt path, and I found myself passing on the single track until runners started coming back toward us on the out and back. At times, the group would chat. The taller runners among us would call out when there were on-coming runners. In general, we weren’t a chatty group, but I also think that the trails were a new thing for most of us.
|Coming out of aid station, ~1.7 miles to the finish.|
Once we returned to asphalt – and later the crushed stone path – I found that my strength had been running on single track. I could hang with the runners in front of me on the trail, but they pulled away on the more even and regular surface.
|Back on golf course, getting chased by a half marathoner.|
The last stretch of the course was on the asphalt golf cart path. It’s crazy how an imperceptible downward slope helps me immensely. At about a quarter mile to go, I stalked down two 10K runners and shot past them just as the path sloped down. It looked like a bigger move than the energy I used – I promise – because about 10 strides later, 2 half marathoners zipped by me.
|Ahhhh! Can’t! Hang! On!|
|What’s up with my arms?|
But, it was a great finish for me – I actually had a kick!
Here’s the thing: I’m a trail running noob, and I completely understand that distances aren’t as precise for trail races as they are for road races. The trail 10Ks that I know about have always run long. When the 10K course guide listed the distance as being 6.4 miles, I mentally braced myself. Nearly 6.5 miles on dirt was not going to be easy with the training that I’d had. But I was as ready as I was going to be.
So, I was not expecting to look down at my Garmin at the finish and see that it had measured the course to be 5.85 miles. I mean, that’s half a mile shorter than advertised. It’s not even 10K.
Yes, my Garmin has been finicky at times, so maybe it measured the wrong distance. But off by half a mile?
|The course guide stated that the turn north toward the Potomac,
just past Sugarland Run (bottom right) was at mile 2.4…hmmm…
And, yes, while it would be awesome to have run 6.4 miles of trail in under an hour, given that I’m not in great shape right now and my best 10K on asphalt is just under 58 minutes, 5 years ago, I really doubt the race course was 6.4 miles.
In the end, I don’t mind that the course was shorter than expected. But at the same time, I thought I’d be running at least 6.2 miles. I guess I mostly have mixed emotions – I don’t feel like I can say that I ran a 10K trail race.
I’ll just have to register for another one, right? And wear a shirt that doesn’t ride up.