Monday, November 12, 2012

Camp Croft Half Marathon Report

With chilly temps at the start, we warmed up through the race to “entirely comfortable.”  I felt strong throughout, except for the usual down time from the radio tower--the highest point of the race, I think, but certainly not the end of the climbing--at mile 6 or so to the next aid station at 8.1 miles. 

I managed to go out just as fast this year as last, this time talking with Mark VG, so I’m blaming him (do you read this, Mark?). And going into the single track I found myself at the head of a long line. As we headed into the steeper climb, I figured that couldn’t last. Sure enough, four guys rolled past Mark and me. For a while they were close enough that when they went off course, I saw them and hollered them back on. That, I told them, was the best move I made all day, I even passed one of them. 

I ran through the first aid station. I had a full bottle still, and a pocket full of GUs. I called out my number, chatted with the volunteers, most of whom are equestrian users of the trail. I appreciate them coming out for the race, which raises money for the Friends of Croft State Natural Area. They’re enthusiastic, and their cheers from the second aid station helped me get there without hurling. 

I didn’t mean to separate myself from anyone, but did by running through the aid station. The next mile-plus is flat and fast double track. I was still being conservative, wanting to save legs for the last four plus miles when you can really run and pick off the carnage from the tough course. 

Then came that bad spot. I felt a little nauseous, and ended up running mostly alone for a mile. I stopped at the aid station before a long downhill to the creek crossing, and filled up with gatorade to try to get some sugar in me. It didn’t help much, and I struggled through another mile or so. 

Crossing a closed, paved road gave me a boost, starting into the last part of the race as I had it. That Brian had caught up to me and even pulled ahead a bit for a while made me feel like I better get my giddy up (you reading this, Brian?). Except for a guy who came flying by--his first trail race I found out later--I led another little group through to the aid station two miles from the finish. Another enthusiastic crowd of volunteers there, including my friend Bud, but I ran straight through this aid station, too. 

Two guys latched on behind me through the last piece, the roughest trail, I’d say, mostly from overuse. Deep ruts, perpetually muddy sections, exposed roots to grab at tired feet--as I say, if you still have legs, you can take in a bunch of people through here. I’ve paid some attention to it lately, and have run it a pile of times in the last four or five years. As the guy behind me said, I seem to know the trail.

So having those guys behind me was a little disconcerting. I told them I felt hunted, and they both said they were hanging on. So was I. Then the guy right behind me told me he had completed an Ironman triathlon the week before: I thought, if I can’t drop the guy recovering from an Ironman... 

Through no real fault of my own, I did pull away. As we turned to climb the last stair-step “hill” to the finish, I decided I needed to put in some separation, and accelerated at the top of each step. I know how much that hill hurts; my friend Cate calls it a “f*** you” hill. 

I finished in 1:55:45, almost three full minutes off last year’s time. I’m not quite sure what to make of that: I’m probably not as fit, but I felt like I ran a smarter race this year, and a solid effort throughout. I always hope to say I ran as hard as I could, and I think I did. Since it’s the first time in a while I haven’t run faster than previous years on any race course, I’m not too worried about the age thing. 

As always the race was very well organized and marked. Thanks to Seth and all the volunteers who spent their morning feeding water to strangers.

My buddy Jason Sullivan, ultra-runner and inspiration.

Sporting the Team Fox jersey.

Wait, y'all are going the wrong way.

We all hit our watches to a chorus of beeps.

Even though I was a little wobbly, the show must go on.
We taunt the athletes every year at this event.

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