The Woodland Trail Series is billed as 3 5-mile races. The August race historically starts 30-minutes early to accommodate the series awards ceremony and the potentially waning daylight, etc. This year, the third race was also 2-miles shorter. Not sure why, but for a race that costs $6 and which this year donated roughly $500 to the local food bank I won’t complain. Besides, it was 91-degrees at the start time (6PM) and according to Strava, it felt like 103, so it’s entirely likely 5-miles may have in fact killed me.
I wasn’t quite sure how the race would go – I hadn’t raced since the last TVFR race last month and my running lately has been terrible – so it really could have gone any number of ways.
An entire high school XC team showed up which really didn’t make me feel too good about my prospects for a decent placing either, so there were a lot of potentially ominous signs here.
Just as the starting command was yelled, a wasp landed on my leg and I spent the first seconds of the race trying to bat the damned thing off me – I wound up with a stinger just above my knee hassling me for the first half mile or so. That aside, I did my best to keep up with the fast kids for the first quarter mile or so before it became clear that wasn’t happening for me today. I did settle in behind one of those XC kids for a little while, perhaps a little over a mile or so.
He was wearing street shoes that didn’t quite fit him and I could see his ankle wobble a few times. I really didn’t want to be a part of that, so as soon as the single track opened up a bit, I skated past him. Another guy wiped out just ahead of me – far enough away that I could make an adjustment and basically bounce over him, but close enough that I was the first by him. I asked him if he was okay, but honestly I didn’t hear his answer and there was no way I was stopping while being chased by the pack. Sorry kid.
In the last mile, we had to track over a meadow. The trail itself was pretty much beach sand, and the grass on the sides was so tall anything could have been in there, so you were pretty much relegated to sucking up the sand. I resorted to walking at a few places – between the heat and just straight exhaustion, I let a big group of folks go by me.
There was one guy I know from the fun runs at Sneakerama and whom I saw at the last race. He absolutely crushed me last month – not even funny. This time, though, he ran past me and got pretty far ahead too. I found a little more gas in my tank, he ran out of his, and I caught up to him. Called him by name and encouraged him. We jockeyed like that for a while, alternating between finding a second and third and fourth wind, and slowly dying. Eventually, I pulled ahead.
I was able to find enough to finish the race, pass a few folks on the road and really hit a stride that felt pretty good. As it turns out, I placed second in my age group. The dude that finished first, was one of the group that ran by me while I was busy dying. He finished a little over a minute faster than me – which the more I think about it, the more I realize that I had it . Normally, I’d be angry with myself that I let it slip away, but I’m showing myself some kindness here – it was hot, with a preposterous dew point and I did my best. The dude that finished third was the guy I knew from Sneakerama and had encouraged to keep going. He told me after that he wouldn’t have gotten it without that prodding. This may be false – the next guy was about a minute and a half slower – but it felt good to help someone be their better self.
Men, age <mumbles a little bit> group second place!