Monday, May 6, 2013

7 Sisters trail race

I've had this race on my radar for a while now, but unfortunately it always seems to conflict with West Point or some other important orienteering race.  This year, West Point was a week earlier, though, so I could finally come thrash myself over the rocks and roots of the Holyoke Range!  It almost felt like I was coming home, and definitely felt weird not to be bringing an orienteering map, but I was excited to do a regular running race; it's been a long while. 

I didn't know where to start myself, especially given that I'm still sort of recovering from Lyme disease - I feel good, physically, but I had no idea how my body would respond to being pushed up and down hills with lots of rocks in the way.  I figured it was probably best to start conservatively, but that would mean passing a lot of people once I got going.  From a training run I'd done here to the Summit House and back, I was planning for a more or less three-hour race, though hopefully less - looking at past results, it seems the ladies tend to win this thing in 2:15-2:20, so it would be nice to be closer to that end of things.  The forecast was calling for a high of 73F, and it was bright and sunny, so staying fueled and hydrated would actually play a role today.  Given the rocky, technical, potentially brutal nature of this course, I was armed with the best tools available - a sticky-soled pair of Inov-8 X-talons, and an attitude that was focused on having a really great time out there. 

Off we went, and it took a solid minute for my part of the pack to actually reach the trailhead and start climbing.  Oooh, look at all those people running, that looks like fun! Very frustrating to stand still and watch other people go, but I'd told myself I'm not allowed to go crazy passing people, just stay calm, and you have 12 miles to reel them in. So, as we climbed I passed people where the opportunity presented itself, and sometimes where the opportunity wasn't *quite* there, and kept the effort more or less under wraps.

By the top of the hill, people were at least a little more in single file groups, and that made them easier to pass. I continued to make an effort to not kill myself, and by the second or third climb, which I was content to walk in a conga line, I was running and hiking with some folks who were at least moving closer to the speed I wanted to go. Then I'd pass them on the downhills. Some time after the first water stop, which was near the top of the Earl's Trails map, I started seeing a lady in a running skirt who I was having a bit of trouble running down. I got her on a subsequent uphill, but she did not disappear into the rearview mirror as fast as everyone else. I guess this was Debbie Livingston, and she's fast at this stuff, but it added a bit of urgency to finally be racing head to head with a woman, instead of all the men.

The downhill from Summit House to the turn-around was utterly lovely. Lots of slickrock (X-Talons were TOTALLY the right shoe - I've never been so happy with a shoe choice), mostly runnable grade, some pointy rocks, and amazing views. When SGB (fellow CSU teammate) passed me coming back up, I think my words were - "GOOO Squib!! This is AWESOME!! WOOOOO!" I got the news that I was the first lady on the way down the hill, and though I didn't really believe them, it turns out some of the usual suspects didn't bother to show up today. When I finally got to the turn-around, and hadn't seen any ladies, I realized I was indeed leading, and that was nice because it meant I didn't have to push so hard - I have team trials on my mind.

The climb back to Summit House was pretty relentless, but I was feeling good, and totally ok with hiking. I was really enjoying the day - any time the climb started to hurt, I would just think about what an awesome spring day it was, and I'd start smiling again. Passing loads of people on the way back, but for the most part they were polite and encouraging and I never even came close to running into anyone. At the cement blocks I knew I only had two climbs left, so picked up the pace a bit and reeled in two guys. No sign of Debbie behind me, but some hot spots under the balls of my feet meant that I was very happy when I started the last descent, picking off one more guy along the way, and finishing in 2:25 (watch time).  I like to think I could peel some 5-8 minutes off that if I'd pushed the return trip a bit =)

In the end, I was totally happy with the day. It was gorgeous and sunny and there were amazing views and that trail is totally awesome and I felt good and peppy and more rested than I have in months and to top it all I won the race and then we had ice cream! Though next time, I'm starting further forward, because if there were more ladies showing up to race, it would be hard to make up that 1 minute wait.

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