About a week ago I received a little post card in the mail informing me about Fergus Cullen's Pawtuckaway Bears Trail Races http://www.ferguscullen.com/granite.html to be held on Columbus Day. My training plan happened to call for a thirteen mile run that day and I had the day off from work. Kevin had been saying that he wanted to take me mountain biking at Pawtuckaway to show me what a beautiful park it is. So, it seemed like a good idea to run the race and then tour the park on bikes. However, I am definitely not in racing shape. In fact, I have just started the base building phase of my training cycle. Would running there just make me feel worse about my running? I e-mailed J.P. He has been helping me with a training plan to turn myself back into a real trail runner (instead of the half-assed trail slacker I have been of late). He told me to go ahead, so I did.
We left the house around 6:30AM. Kevin teased me asking, "are you having pre-race jitters?" To which I promptly fell asleep and snored for the rest of the drive. I was very relaxed because I was using the race as a training run (I'm just not fit enough to race at this point.) Also, I didn't think I'd see anyone I knew running a race this short and way down in Southern New Hampshire so I figured no one would ever have to even know. But as soon as we arrived I saw Dianne, Brian, and Nathan (who went on to win.) A little while later I saw Bob N. Jeeze, I guess I can't sneak off and run a race secretly after all.
Five and ten milers started together, running down a paved hill for about half mile before turning into the woods. Most of the trails were pretty wide, but that doesn't mean easy. There were also some nice single track trails to run on. All of it was very scenic and very hilly. The footing was tricky at times, but all of it was runnable. I didn't walk a step, very different from the types and distances of races I usually do.
Once the five milers turned off at the 2 1/2 mile mark, I ran mostly alone. At two points, I passed two young guys who looked to be in their late teens or early twenties. Each time one was puking and the other was waiting. The waiting guy told me it was the puker's first race. When he was done heaving they'd pass me back and disappear. After the second time I didn't see them again. In the results http://www.coolrunning.com/results/10/nh/Oct12_Pawtuc_set1.shtml, it looks like they moved up in the pack and finished well.
I really loved the run. The turns were well marked and the trails were very enjoyable. I ran relaxed, but slightly faster than I would have run at home. For a long run I usually average from 144 to 148 for a heart rate and my average for the race was 152. So I definitely wasn't killing myself. But it did occur to me that I wasn't going to allow anyone to pass me if I was approached from behind. I guess I do have some competitive spirit left inside of me somewhere!
With four miles to go, I came upon Kevin on his mountain bike. Since there was absolutely no one else anywhere in sight and I definitely wasn't in the running for a win, he biked the rest of the way with me. I wouldn't have him do that if there was any chance of placing. One time at Clarence Demar Marathon, I finished just behind a woman who had her husband bike beside her the entire race. He helped her stay on pace, handed her gels and drinks, and got in my way over and over again. She finished second and I finished third. If she had won, I would have said something to the race officials about it. So I pay attention to this sort of thing. I love to have Kevin's company on the trails so I was happy that there wasn't any reason he couldn't bike with me at Pawtuckaway.
Once Kevin joined me I decided to start pushing a little harder. I warned him that I wasn't going to let anyone pass me so I might have to leave him in my dust (ha!). But no one ever came up from behind so I got to keep my bicycle escort all the way in. We finished by running up that same insanely steep paved hill that we had started the race by running down. I did leave Kevin in my dust on that climb, but I think he let me.
I went for a cool down run to get my thirteen miles in for the day and then jumped on the mountain bike for a tour de park. We biked the easy dirt park roads for a while and then Kevin took me on the Woronoka (sp?) Trail. This is very technical single track. Kevin had helped with the building of this trail and had told me about it. Within the first 100 yards I banged up my knee pretty bad. But I kept plugging away and surprised myself over and over again by getting the bike over or around things that looked impossible. I had to walk the bike over some stretches, but tried to ride anything that looked even remotely possible. This slow methodical plodding along on the bike takes an incredible amount of mental and physical energy. I love it! As soon as we got to the end of the trail I thought, "Phew, I survived," Then Kevin said, "I'm going to take you to Fort Rock next!" Yikes. http://www.bikerag.com/nh-exeter_fort_rock_pics.htm