Ahh, the wonders of nature.
It's one of the reasons that we who run engage in trail runs. You get some nice scenery and some exercise...not a bad deal. This past weekend I ran the Dam Half at a state park. I had run it the year before and decided I would do the same this year. Like the year before, I found myself a little pressed for training time and ended up well-trained for a 7 mile race. The Dam Half is 13.1, not too much more than 7. No biggie.
That and it's all about enjoying the scenery, right?
It was about 40 degrees when we were waiting around (read: freezing our asses off) in our shorts, but once we got started, I knew we would warm up quickly. I started out running with my buddy, Brad. He pushed our pace in the beginning and then we got caught up behind some slow guy. I thought we were running too slow, so I told Brad to pass him once we had a chance on the single track we were on and we did. Then I thought Brad was running too slow, so I told him that I would set the pace and passed him.
The one thing I almost never do in a race is look back. A) It slows you down B) taking your eyes off the rock-strewn course we were on is plain madness and C) it just feels like a sign of weakness...as if you're worried that the person behind you will catch you. Evidently, looking behind you can also be used to see if your partner is still with you. Brad was not.
Whatever. Slow poke.
I was tempted to look around at the scenery...it had turned into a beautiful day. I then remembered that until you got to the short sections of fire road, it wasn't a good idea to look around thanks to the rocks in the trail.
Hmmm, the wonders of nature.
I kept a steady pace and ground up the occasional steep climb. I was running pretty good around mile 10 and hit a technical (read: miserably rocky) flat section. I was a little tired at that point and a rock -- cleverly disguised as a much shorter rock -- tripped me up. I stumbled and realized I was heading rapidly for the 'lose it' stage. I put a hand out and saw a cluster of rocks best quantified as a "face full" coming up at me, so I came up with a better idea and threw myself sideways off the trail. Sadly, my plan also involved a tree which I ran my shoulder into. I stopped abruptly -- as planned, of course -- and since the tree was only about 5 inches in diameter, I got to hear the leaves rattle as well.
Uh-huh, the sights AND sounds of nature.
Anyway, I jumped up and did the most important thing -- looked around to see if anyone noticed. No one was around, so I trotted off down the trail and then thought to check my shoulder to see if it was working.
It was. After a quick -- well, not so quick actually -- 700 foot climb over rocks and a field of largish boulders, it was only another mile and a half until I made it to the finish line.
Despite the lack of proper training for the distance, I did run really well. I made it in 3 hours and one second, which is a half an hour better than last year's time. It was a great race with great organizers and I got a nice medal and a really cool, bark-textured bruise.
Brad clocked in after the 4 hour mark, so it turned out that I had plenty of time to enjoy the park after all.