OK… OK… It’s not THAT big a deal. But given it’s only my second race in as many years… I’m kinda stoked about it… 🙂
The race was called the ROC7K, or Rhett’s Outdoor Challenge 7K. It was a first time event put on by the City of Columbia, Parks and Rec. I found out about the race through a sign I saw at the gym (also run by Parks and Rec). I will admit to being a bit dubious about a “trail” race that was put on by Parks and Rec. Usually, those types of races tend to be on watered down courses for “the masses”. But when I saw that this one was on Rhett’s Run, a 4+ mile mountain bike trail that I have run and ridden for years (it’s about a mile from my house), I knew there was no way they could water this one down. It’s a tough little trail on a good day because it is ALL on the side of a big hill. There are very few flat sections. You are either going up or down.
A 4.3 mile, completely off road and mostly single track trail run put on by the City of Columbia Parks and Rec. One distance, mass start, chip timed, markers at 1K intervals. One water stop. 80-90 participants, which may sound small, but not for a true trail race. You couldn’t fit 300 people. My guess is that they will probably cap it at 125-150 (or, at least, they should).
Rhett’s Run is usually mountain bike only. You are not “supposed to” run on it, but I have been known to accidentally wander on to a trail… or two… repeatedly. It is completely inside the city limits (in truth, about 2 minutes from the mall) at a big park called Cosmo. Contained completely on the side of one massive hill filled with forest, it is beautiful, solitary and for runners, I would say of mild to medium difficulty. Not too rocky but there are a few spots, not too steep… but there are a few of those as well. It is mostly singletrack that winds back and forth around the hillside with some sharp corners but nothing terribly difficult. In the spring during the thaw it is a mess in spots and there was a little bit of ice at the bottom in the usual places, but it was mostly dry and hard packed. It was a little rough in spots from hikers and bikers walking on it when it had thawed and then re-froze, but, hey, it’s a trail race.
Well. Think of any weather scenario. Except for extreme heat and lightning… we had it. Race time temps were in the mid 30s with a 10-15 mph wind. It was sunny. Right as the race started, the clouds moved in and the wind picked up to 15-20. But since we were in the woods, it didn’t matter. The temps fell about 5 degrees during the race. It misted a little bit and then, about 5 minutes after I finished, it sleeted hard for about 45 seconds, then rained for a minute or two, then the sun came out. The temps dropped another 5 degrees or so and the wind picked up.
Usually when I walk up to a race I know half the people in it. This race was different in that I didn’t recognize ANYBODY at first. In fact, there were only about 4 people of the 80-90 that raced. So I wandered up to registration, got my packet (and skull cap instead of a shirt! Yay for something different!), went back to the car and got my “race face” on. I forgot my race belt so I had to pin my number on. I erred on the side of being cold at the start because I knew I would heat up. Thin skull cap, two light layers up top, light gloves shorts and light tights. I went with my Saucony Razors since I had heard there was ice and mud on the course and I had put screws in them. In hindsight, I was too hot, wanted to toss my gloves and the screw shoes were overkill, but I don’t think I’ve ever really gotten it right in any race that my apparel needed more consideration than whether I needed to wear a hat or not.
I warmed up a bit with a couple of laps around the first turn and called it good. They called us to the line, thanked the sponsors, did a quick stretch and then fired the gun. Race number two was under way.
Have I mentioned I LOVE trail races. They are so laid back and low key. Except for the 3-4 guys racing each other at the front, everybody else is mellow and loving it. Instead of the usual mad scramble to the first corner, we took off leisurely and together. The course didn’t take us on to the single track for a quarter mile or so, which gave us plenty of time to spread out. There was a little jockeying for position, but it was all good. We dived into the woods in a group that, except for a few, ended up finishing within a minute of each other.
I felt like this was my “home course” race and I knew what was coming every turn. I could pace myself based on that knowledge and push here or back off there as needed. I still went out a little too fast and hurt more than I should have in the middle. The course went downhill for most of the first half and I knew I needed to save some for the up side. I was glad I did. People were, for the most part, courteous when passing and my offer to pull over and let people by was actually turned down by a couple of people who said they were fine where they were at.
At one point I made the mistake of looking past the next bump and went down. Luckily it was on an uphill and I actually just caught myself on my hands and really didn’t miss a step. I was more concerned about tripping up those behind me but we all got through OK. Eventually a few of the people behind me passed me and then I was mostly alone except for a couple of kids from the local track club. Both of whom unfortunately blew up about 1k from the finish. Oh, to be young and blissfully unaware of pace…
My legs felt really good. I got tired a couple of times but not bad. Granted it was a tough race with all the ups, downs, terrain changes, etc. I was supposed to be tired when I got done. My lungs felt OK, but I would like to have a little more capacity so I definitely need to do some speed/anaerobic work. I loved how tight the course was and how when you went through certain sections you could see or hear other people behind or ahead of you. So often when I run out there I’m completely alone, so the company was nice.
I thought I might put in some more miles when I got done but I put out a little more effort than I thought I would be able to, so 4.3 was enough for the day. My time of 41:38 was good enough for 28th overall and 1st in my age group, but I think I might have only been one of three or four people IN my age group, so take it FWIW. I was surprised at my 9:40 pace. That’s much faster than I thought I would run and is way faster than I have been running at Rock Bridge. It’s nice to feel like I’m running faster.
Anyway, another one in the bag…! Lots of positives to take away from this race. Have I mentioned I LOVE trail races? This could be a thing…