One year ago I participated in my first ever organized running event: The Dam Half Trail Marathon. Bounding through boulders, splashing across streams, and skittering down rock strewn trails was a blast and I was hooked on trail running and racing.
This year I decided to run PA Trail Runner Trophy Series in its entirety. I was somewhat confident I could win my age group after my inaugural result coupled with consistent winter training. The Series has some great races and I wanted to test my legs over the course of the season.
Naturally, in an attempt of self-sabotage, I let the registration deadline pass me by for the final race of the series. This left me borderline depressed at missing my chance to finish off what I had started and contemplating running an ultra marathon as punishment. A flurry of emails and phone calls ensued and the Dam Half Race Director allowed me to run on the basis that I was car-pooling with another runner (my brother is the smart one and had signed up in advance.......that and there are only so many parking spaces at any PA State Park). Thank you RD!
The race profile looks impressive on paper. Vertical lines jut up and and drop down. Only to repeat again. There is talk of the "Stairway to Heaven" and blown-out quads. If the Dam Half is your first running race you will find the hills hard and the rocks even harder. You may even hate your life for a brief period until you reach the BBQ chicken and corn bread at the finish line. But if you run the entire PA Trophy Series you will find yourself thinking as you run down a jeep road, "This course seems flatter than last year".
As usual a handful of runners blasted down the road at the gun. I wanted to follow but not too close.....my goal was to conserve energy until the jeep road sections around the mid-way point. This seems to be my goal for every race but it usually only lasts until the first hill.
I kept it smart early on, content to follow and maintain a steady pace. When I reached the second aid station about six miles in I grabbed a gel and took off without looking back. I covered the next 2 miles of ascending and descending jeep road in 13:10 while passing two runners. I was feeling good about the pace but knew I was running out of time if I wanted to catch the leaders.
Unfortunately I had waited too long to make my move. As I raced down the last stretch of jeep road before the final climb, I could make out 2nd, and 3rd place runners a 1/4+ miles ahead. They glanced back and then turned off the jeep road and onto the final climb of the day. I panted up the incline a few minutes behind desperate to keep my footing and make up ground, hopeful that the flash of color above was the pursued runners. Alas, it was only some industrious spectators who had taken to the course. They graciously cheered me on, but it was evident I had underestimated the ability of the race leaders who were already blistering the descent towards the finish.
I rolled in with a time of 1:46:35 good for 4th place overall and 1st in my age group. I was a whopping 14 minutes faster than in 2011. I also took the overall series win in the 30-39 age group.
Next up the Megatransect.