Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Brush Mountain Breakdown

It’s hard to believe I’ve been running long enough to make this my THIRD Brush Mountain Breakdown, a unique local trail race in the Jefferson National Forest. They offer 3, 8, and 15 mile options.

The first year, my goal was to just finish the 15 miler. I did.

The second year, my goal was to stay healthy on the 15 miler since I was preparing for the Richmond Marathon. I didn’t. I had a nice wipeout that left my left knee sore for quite a while. But I still had a strong marathon!

This, the third year, my goal was to enjoy, not fall down, and not require a long recovery. Jake recommended I do the 8-miler since the race fell on a non long-run weekend (Richmond marathon again) and I had done very little trail running this summer. This was the first time I had raced at a distance that was not the longest one offered. It was a little hard to swallow, even though it made sense.

The 8-mile course

The small pack of loyal racers lined up at 10:30 and with some final instructions from James, we were off! The course begins with a brief downhill section on a wide service road, where we jockeyed for position knowing the first mile on the trail was single track making it hard to pass people. I was feeling good, as we all do at the start of a race, and went out way WAY (did I mention WAY) too fast doing a 6:30 pace for the first two minutes. I maintained my position, but my heart rate was near redline and my eyes were watering. I hate being passed and hate hearing people on my heels so I was reluctant to back off. It took all my concentration just to pick through the rocky trail through my blurry eyes, especially down the hills. About a mile and a half in I realized what a mistake it was to run someone else’s race instead of my own. I backed off and regrouped.

Our club’s tennis pro, Bill, had taken up running this year and he trained on the trails quite a bit and I had a sense of his pace. When he passed me (arghh!) I made the decision to stay on his heels no matter what. With so few runners, you can end up running alone, and I much prefer to follow someone and have confidence in knowing I am not lost! It’s like drafting but in a mental sense as they do the work of picking through the trail!

I consider it nothing short of total weakness to break to a walk up a hill, any hill.

I walked at least six times on this run.

Those hills were total quad burners at any pace. The mental chatter grew defeatest. I figured I would turn that into a challenge and see how positive I could be, that this was a test of mental strength. I would grind out the hard parts (e.g. ascents) and fly on and enjoy the other parts. I started to notice that I wasn’t going any slower up the hills at a walk than others who were “running”. Still, I forced myself to resume running sooner than I wanted, telling myself that folks could catch me if I was walking, but not if I was running. Jake had run this course with his Garmin so I had a mental image of his elevation chart and kept reminding myself that every uphill was followed by a downhill!

It felt so good to return to the service road and the final stretch of the race. What a treat to just roll and not have to worry about where to put my feet, which by this point felt pretty beat up in my standard non-trail running shoes.

I finished in 1:18:28, 10th place out of 29, 2nd woman, and just behind the tennis pro! It wasn’t a smart or fast race for me, but a good reminder as I head into Richmond that I need to run my own race from start to finish.

Yes, I met this year's goals as I enjoyed the race, did not fall down, and did not require a long recovery. I saw lots of bloody knees this year, a badge of honor, but a distinction I was glad to be spared. Jake had a tough run with a major flare-up of an injury, but he pushed through to the finish. This is a race that takes heart.

Brush Mountain is the one race I would like to continue doing year after year....but maybe back to the 15 next year :-)

Ginger and me, both 8-milers!

Me and Tanya (Trail Queen!)