In preparation for the Rockledge Rumble 30K, I trained weekly at the North Shore rails on Wednesdays after work. It was definitely warm, but my goal was to get used to the trails and a pace that I could handle. I put in about 8-10 miles each night that I went out there. I definitely encountered my fair share of mountain bikes. They were pretty courteous. I usually wear headphones, but for safety on the trails, I go without them. It helped me listen for those bikes and enjoy the nature of it all. One thing about no headphones was that I would heard the occasional rustling on the sides of the trail. That would always get me running a bit faster.
I’ve heard that trails are easier on your body, but I think it’s still pretty darn challenging. Per my Garmin which is probably not totally accurate with elevation changes, here’s a look at the ups and downs of the 30K trail race. There definitely seemed to be more ups than downs.
Before the race
It was definitely different at the start of the race. As Mark O. stated, Trail Races are chill! They definitely are… it seemed a lot less stressful, except for my usual butterflies and excitement.
I caught up with friends before the race. They gave me some last minute trail tips. Thanks to Steve Griffin on recommending on lining up closer to the front and letting others pass you up. It’s definitely challenging to pass on the trails.
A huge thanks to Felix for coming out and cheering me on. It’s so great to have his support. He was at the turn around point twice and of course, the start and finish. He’s the epitome of an encourager. He doesn’t say, “Yes” just for you to hear “Yes”, but he says that right things. It’s a hard thing to say, but there are certain things you say to someone that’s feeling fatigued. He played his role very well. Thank you, Felix!
The First 15K
After we started, we had about a half mile on the road until we got to the trailhead. This definitely allowed us to separate a bit. Once we got into the trails it probably took a mile or two to settle into a good pace. I intentionally made sure not to pass anyone until 3-4 miles out. I wanted to stay behind people to force myself to have a slower pace. Then I started passing people with a couple of others, but would settle in behind the next runner. You definitely have to keep your distance more on the trails than on the road. If you’re too close it’s too hard to see roots or upcoming twists and turns.
It was great to see Felix at the first water station. I pretty much didn’t need anything so I trucked right on through.
On the final portion of the first 15K I had a great conversion with a female runner. I told her that it was my first trail race. Her great trail race advice to me was to not be a hero and walk up the steeper inclines. You don’t lose much time by doing it and you save your legs.
The Great Fall of Mark
Up to this point of running trails and running, I have never fallen. I was told that everyone falls… so I was waiting for it. It finally happened! I was completing the first 15K. I saw Felix up a head and I’m sure that I was about to wave to him, but next thing I know… BAM, I was on the ground – face down. It was a 4 point landing as I caught myself with both hands and knees. I dusted myself and laughed it off. Felix let me know that he was 5 seconds from filming me as I was running up. He got to see me fall, but didn’t record it. That would have been fun to see. He said that I was a good sport about it. Well, I’ve heard that everyone falls, so I might as well be a good sport. :)
My knees were sore after the fall, but no blood… so I guess no foul! I wore the dirt on my hands like a badge of honor!
The Second 15K
The first 15K was definitely enjoyable. The second 15K was WORK.
I didn’t mind the loops as I like things to be a little predictable. I can count down to the Murrell Park water stop and then the way back. It’s kind of a way to break the race down into consumable chunks.
The field was definitely thinning out after the first 15K. I passed 3-4 people on the way back out. I was getting the hang of it… looking for an opening and then “on your left”. The big thing about passing in a trail race is knowing that you’re going to be committed to a pace faster to the person in front of you. I’d hate to have them ask to pass a few minutes later.
Once I got to the water station, I refueled a bit and chatted with Felix. I told him that I was ready for this thing to be over and that I was getting fatigued. He encouraged me to keep pushing and that he’d see me at the finish.
The last portion of the race I took a short wrong turn which probably cost me a minute. When I caught up to a runner that I passed up earlier, he said, “You took the wrong turn, didn’t you?” I said, “Yep” as he wished me well as I ran by. I was so ready to finish. The wind was brutal toward the end as you ran toward the finish line.
Steep steps at the end… really!?! I was determined that I was going to conquer those steps and do it with a smile. I remember recently having a Twitter conversation about finishing happy… that forced the big grin on my face. To the right is proof that I bound up those stairs with a huge smile on my face!
Before running the race I did have a time in mind. Since my training runs were done at a pace of 9:30 minutes per mile. I was hoping to shoot for 10:00 minutes per mile which would have been about been about finishing at 3:06 for a 30K. I finished at 3:13:45 for 19.4 miles. So, I was pretty darn happy with that time. I know that I shouldn’t have a time goal for my first trail race, but that wouldn’t be me.
I was very surprised that I finished as the 6th male and 10th overall out of 73 runners in the 30K.
I’ve signed up for the Grasslands Half Marathon in March, but am looking for additional trail races for 2013. The great thing about the Grasslands race is that my sister, Denise will be here from Ohio to race that one. I cannot wait to see her then and to enjoy the race with her.
I’ll definitely be back for next year’s Rockledge Rumble… possibly the 50K?