Posted Wed, April 21, 2010 - 7:54 PM
Last weekend was a rare one for me, with two "official" race events. On Saturday morning, I subbed for Tom on a 4-person team at the Trail Mix, an annual 50K/25K trail race at Hyland Lake Park Reserve. The the elite event is the solo 50K, or four loops around a 7.8-mile trail course. They also offer a two-loop solo 25K, and the team event is for those runners who aren't ultra-level; four people start at the same time and each run one loop, then their times are combined. Tom had signed up with Kelly, Justin and Molly in the even-mixed division (two men and two women), but swapped onto his friends' team at the last minute because one of their runners bowed out. So I ended up running for the whimsically named "Rainbow Unicorn"!
I actually haven't been running much (or at all) this year, but figured I'd rely on my base to keep from embarrassing myself. I really wasn't sure whether swapping me in for Tom would help the team's placement, but that did turn out to be the case.
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The park was competely full - all the lots were jammed and the Bloomington police were sending overflow parking, including me, to the open field north of Jan's place. It was a rush at registration and at the start line, but we finally got everything squared away about 5 minutes before the start.
We all started together with 150 other people at 9:30 AM, and ran the single 7.8-mile loop on a mostly grass surface. Justin, Kelly, and I started out at a wicked pace, around 6:35 for the first couple of miles. It was fun running in such a big pack of people, and the course brought us past many of the 50K runners as they were on their final loops. Disturbingly, some of the 50K leaders were running faster on their fourth loop than anyone else was running on their one loop. But still, with all the people, no matter which course, there were plenty of opportunities to draft, plenty to pass and be passed, and plenty of the usual ebb and flow in energy level interacting with the contours of the terrain, the texture of the trail surface, and the surrounding runners.
I started to lag from the pace after the first two miles, which I knew to be too fast for me to sustain. Justin and Kelly moved ahead a little, and added some distance when I power walked one of the steep hills in the northern loop to regain some breath. Justin ended up out of sight, although I stuck about 100 yards behind Kelly for most of the race.
By the second water stop, I had settled into a sustainable pace somewhere near 7:05, and had a good run down the east side of the lake to the third water stop. But only a few hundred yards after that, I knew there was a Big Hill, hidden around a corner. I shortened my stride up the steepest part of the hill but kept the legs churning, and ended up in the wash - by passing three times and being passed three times. After that the big hills were done, and we looped through the group camp and back around the lake. I didn't lose sight of Kelly until near the fourth water stop, which was marked at 6.8 according to the sign. So that left one mile even, and I kept pretty much the same pace into the finish, without that much trouble from the slight uphill right at the end.
Justin, Kelly, Tom, and I all finished between 51 and 57 minutes, and Molly came in at 61. All of us seemed to be satisfied with our runs. It was a strong enough effort to put Rainbow Unicorn 3rd in division, although the Nelsons took first place.