Medoc Trail Races 10 mile (first time for everything!)

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These looked so cool! I secretly coveted one.

About a month ago, the cool folks at the Medoc Trail Races announced that they were making special prizes for the top three men’s and women’s, and the top master’s man and woman. The pottery plaques were so gorgeous that I actually checked past race results to see what kinds of times were placing. In a small trail race, I can sometimes squeak into an age-group or master’s win. I quickly determined that I had no real chance of getting a plaque and promptly forgot about it.

Madison is my new running buddy. Check out this great program on Irun4.com

Madison is my new running buddy and this was our first race! Check out this great program at http://www.whoirun4.com!

I was really, really looking forward to the race, though. Friends have raved about how well-organized, fun, and friendly the race is, plus all the great stuff that runners receive. In addition, it was my first trail race of the season, and a chance to take a break from marathon training. With 13 miles on my training plan, I figured I’d race the 10 miler, which I’d heard was not too technical, and do an easy 3-4 on Sunday for recovery.

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Races for the Peeps ALWAYS start with coffee.

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Becky and Janine lacing up. Becky, injured and not-racing, was rocking her camo socks. She proceeded to walk/run “a mile or two,” which turned into 10.

Eight Peeps and Friends of Peeps departed early from the coffee shop. Janine drove her Suburban so we would blend in once we left city limits. Picked up our race packets, said hello to some friends doing the marathon, and cheered them as they took off. Then, we got ready. In the pre-race excitement, Becky changed from “cheering” to “walking” and Steve was debating whether to go short or long sleeves. I suggested that he might want long sleeves since he was planning to walk. “Wellll…I might run a bit…” he said. I shot him a look. “Don’t be an idiot!” And Becky hadn’t even brought running shorts. Clearly this group is all about pre-race planning.

Our race started with a 1.5 mi out-and-back on the park road before running through a field and into the woods. I felt a little uneasy when I realized I was toward the front, but my trusty Timex said I was running a reasonable pace; no sub-8s of foolish exuberance here. Jumped onto the trails and felt the joy of cutting loose and flying through the woods. As I’d heard, the trails were extremely runnable–mostly gentle grades, many flat sections, and only a few places with lots of rocks and roots. Mostly I like being pokey on the trails, running a longer distance while looking at flowers and trees (I can’t help it) and spending time with friends. But it’s also fun to race. So I did.

I realized, though, when I hit mile 3, that gasping for breath while running is a poor strategy when you have 7 miles to go, so I slowed a bit and chatted with my fellow trail runners, who are always fun. Beautiful trails meandered along the creeks and went past pretty large trees for the logged-over Piedmont. I wondered about leaves obscuring the trails but the paths were mostly clear. Sometimes, they were narrow single-track but more often they were wide enough for chatting and easy passing. Perfect trails and perfectly cool, overcast running weather.

It’s easy to get complacent while trail racing. Often, I’ll fall in behind someone and ride there comfortably, catching my breath, chatting a bit, and realizing somewhat later that I’ve significantly dropped my pace. This happened a few times, most notably in miles 3 and 4 where I posted >9 minute pace. Time to bust a move.

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One of the many beautiful stream crossings on the Medoc course. I’m always cautious on bridges but didn’t slip this time.

It was around mile 7 where a woman I’d traded places with twice turned off on a spur with another guy, screeched to a halt next to the river, and turned around just as I came by. She jumped back on the trail behind me but slipped and fell. I slowed and turned around. The other guy was with her and she said she was fine, so I motored on, sure she’d come flying past any minute. I felt bad because I know first-hand how much momentum a fall can take out of your race. Miraculously, I didn’t fall at this race–having fallen at Uwharrie, MST 50K, Running of the Bulls and the Blue Ridge Relay, ALL IN 2013, I was glad to end that particular streak.

We started catching the marathoners still out on their first loop and in for a beautiful morning on the trails. As I passed one man, he said “third female.” I looked around to see who he was talking to, then said something suave like “Who, me?! HOLY SH*T!”

At mile 8 my legs suddenly got that cement-like feeling, and I realized that I probably should have eaten something before the start. I had a good breakfast of steel-cut oatmeal, milk and coffee, but that was at 5:15 am and I was now running out of fuel. As we neared the finish, I hoped there was not much of a field/road final sprint, because I didn’t think I could win one if someone came up behind me. I couldn’t really believe that I was as close to the top as the man had suggested, but thought I might have a shot at Master’s and didn’t want to chance it.

As I ran across the field, my vision started closing in on the sides, a direct precursor to passing out. Fortunately, I made it across the line and spent a few minutes trying to shake off some dizziness. I sat down for a bit and talked with John from Greenville, who I’d run with for awhile. Then somebody (? I was still woozy) came over and told me that I really had won third female! I couldn’t believe it! Woo HOO!

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Two losers showing off their finisher’s medals. I didn’t beat Steve’s time from 2011, which I’ll hear about for the next 363 days.

Shortly thereafter I went over to the finish and was having a friendly conversation with Scott of Tar River Timing, when out of the corner of my eye I saw a long-sleeved gold shirt approaching. “Excuse me, I know this guy,” I said. “RUN, YOU LOSER!!!” People stared. Scott said,  “Did you just call him a loser?” “Of course I called him a loser!”

“Well done. How did you do?” “1:26.” “Booo, you went too easy. You could have gone faster.” “Says who? You should have gone slower. You weren’t even supposed to be running! How’s your eyeball?” “The bubble broke into a million small ones.” “Cool, so now you see like a bug.” We grabbed cameras and sweatshirts out of the car and found a good vantage point to watch for our friends.

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Janine finishing strong across the final stretch! Go J9!

Everyone finished strong and smiling. I heard my name called and went to get my award. I had won one of the beautiful pottery finisher’s plaques, a sweet pint glass, and a $40 gift certificate to Raleigh Running Outfitters. Wow! I was so surprised and thrilled. I still am.

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Most of our crew post-race. Top-bottom, L-R: Keri, Debbie, Kellie, me, Steve, Janine, and Becky. Where’s Chris?

We took some pics, chatted with other racers, chowed down on some delicious red beans and rice, and cheered in the first and second marathon finishers, who posted amazing times. [Lorraine Young was 1st female and 2nd overall, with a faster pace for the marathon than all but the top-five finishers in the 10 mile run! Holy smokes!]

I learn things at every race, and this one was no exception:

1. Pay attention and make sure you’re running your pace, not someone else’s.

2. Oatmeal lasts for 4 hours or 8 miles, whichever comes first. Eat something before the start.

Another new favorite race! Huge thanks to the race organizers (Rocky Mountain Endurance Club), park staff, and the great volunteers. It was an exceptional race and I hope to be back–maybe for the marathon next time.

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Awesome loot from Medoc, including my beautiful 3rd finisher’s plaque!

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Thanks for reading. And, special thanks to my speedier female running buddies. For staying home!

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Running with heart.

ImageSeeing this the other day triggered a forgotten, but crystal-clear memory of something my high school track coach told me. In running, we tend to emphasize the physical training and the mental discipline. Both are critical, but they don’t add up to 100%. Your heart has to be in it too.

The memory prompted me to google my coach, Mr. Warren Booth. I came across a fascinating interview with the public library, part of a new millennium project about changes in Monmouth County as seen by long-time residents. He coached track and basketball at Red Bank Regional High School his entire career (http://bit.ly/164ZGpP). He has since passed away, but I was glad to see that a scholarship had been established in his name.

The Coach Booth I remember had a booming voice and far more confidence in our small rag-tag team of girls than any of us had in ourselves. It never occurred to me to be surprised when he talked about his college days, but for a black man born in 1929, it’s notable that he and his three brothers all graduated from college. He always wore a suit and tie, although he traded the jacket for a navy blue shop coat when he taught shop classes.

He’d take anyone on the team who wanted to run, and a few who didn’t even want to do that. Our team was so small that each of us did the maximum number of events to compete against larger teams. I was an average runner, but versatile enough to win points where we had opportunities. [I’m pretty sure I was the only 5’4″ high jumper at the Central Jersey Regionals in 1988.]

I wish I could remember the context–I can’t even say for sure whether it came after a good finish or one of the disappointing ones.

What he said was this: “Steph, you will never be a star. You’re tough and you run smart. But when I see you put your heart into it, you are unbeatable.”

When I was 16, all I heard was the first part of what he said, and I remember the sting. The rest didn’t make sense to me. Other girls out-ran me all the time, and only rarely did I finish first. Twenty-six years later, I recognize the compliment and understand what he was trying to tell me. Thanks, Coach.

Relays and Christmas and Hills. Oh my!

The Blue Ridge Relay has become one of my favorite events. All year, I look forward to a weekend spent doing something crazy with friends who think it is just as fun as I do. Our team (the 12 Things of Xmas) has the MOST fun and the BEST team spirit.

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Oh yes, we’re staying with the Christmas theme! Look for the 12 Things of Christmas in 2014. We’re doing icicle lights next year.

My teammate Gordy always puts together an awesome slide show/video, and this year was no exception. I offer you the 2013 12 Things of Christmas video (and would like you to especially note just how dark it is at night, even with our rockin’ strings of battery-operated mini-lights):
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CC63iSST3Hs

Recently, I was surprised to be chosen to be one of the official bloggers of the Blue Ridge Marathon. The race has been on my radar for some time, because a) My friends Matt and Amy do the half every year and have told me how great it is, b) I recently saw Matt’s race t-shirt, which says “You run hills. I run mountains.” and c) Mountains! The course looks gorgeous. And, Matt is doing the full this year.

I’ll be hosting a contest on my blog the week of November 4-8 for a FREE race entry. Since you are one of literally TENS of readers, you have a great chance of winning!

Since the Blue Ridge Relay has a formidable amount of elevation gain and loss (27,000 ft over 208 miles), I figured that the Blue Ridge Marathon was a good comparison. Only I have to run farther, and there are no breaks. On the upside, I don’t have to drive, or climb in and out of a 15 passenger van 287 times.

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I don’t think this was actually on one of my legs, but it may as well have been.

This is my third year doing the race and I’ve done a different set of legs each time. In 2011 I was Thing 1, last year I was Thing 11, and this year I was Thing 10, switching with Thing 9 for the last leg. I ran a little over 19 miles and had 4000 ft. of elevation change (mostly gain). And I can say with certainty that this year’s legs were the toughest I’ve run. I definitely wasn’t in as good shape this year either, which played a part too.

My last leg included the steepest hill on the relay, which had a 10-16% grade for over a mile. For me, it was not that tough, because it was not actually runnable. Even doing run intervals seemed impossible, so I mostly power-walked it.

The Blue Ridge Marathon (26.2 miles) has over 7000 ft. of elevation change. Hmm, how am I going to pull that off? Hill repeats every week? Twice a week?

I love hills, but this is crazy! Stay tuned for this marathon journey. In the meantime, I’ll be training for Richmond, which has a very reasonable elevation profile.