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Trail racing, especially on technical trails, has a big x-factor to them. While you can predict how someone could potentially run on the roads, there's too many intangibles to figure out how someone can perform on the trails. Personally, I know I struggle greatly on them and would fail miserably at having a trail racing career. However, the Dry Creek Half-Marathon was somewhat of a more sissy trail race, which is great for both trail running veterans and trail newbies. About half of it is on gravel jeep roads, with the other half being mostly on single track trails.
My initial goal was to use it as a progression run and find my rhythm over the first 10 miles and then close up the last 5k pretty quickly, if I was feeling up to the task. BUT, I noticed that Josh Helton was entered into the field. Josh ran for Belmont University a few years ago, moved to California, where he and his dog set a world record in the road mile, before moving back to Nashville. He's been training hard and since I knew that I am a terrible trail runner, I was a little bit worried. My new goal was to start off a little faster than expected in hopes that I developed a big enough cushion where he wouldn't go after me, especially because he was going to run at a more progressive effort.
Originally, I was going to run in my Newton Distance shoes. Connor Kamm ran in road shoes last year and said he was fine. But since there was rain in the forecast and rain in the days leading up to the race, I decided to bust out my "real" trail shoes and run in my Boco Sol's.
I ran the first GPS mile in 5:28 and come back a little faster in the second mile with a 5:27 (had a decent downhill). I was feeling pretty smooth and backed off some so I wouldn't get over my head too quickly. It was a smart decision because the fourth mile dropped over 300 feet. That may sound like I should have run fast but most of the drop was a result of a single insanely steep downhill, with bad footing and it ended at a creek, which even made my feet get wet!
I spent my time "running" down the hill at an insanely slow pace while wondering how the heck trail runners fly down those things. I was lucky not to bust my face but I did bust up my quads because I had both feet slammed on the brakes the entire time.
After running through the creek, it was time to run up an insanely steep uphill. I immediately hated life and thought the entire field would pass me as I was going over 9:00 pace, according to my watch. After about a half mile and 300 feet gained later, I was done with that crap and back on mostly flattish trails.
I ran that hilly fifth mile in 7:20 and briefly debated opting for the 10k as I was pretty worn out. And I was even bleeding from a renegade thorny shrub!
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I passed the 10k finish line, which was a little bit over seven miles (it was advertised as longer than a 10k), so I was hoping that this half-marathon wasn't going to be over 15 miles. After a brief detour on the wrong route, I turned around and was back on on track for what would be three miles of rolling gravel jeep roads, before making a 180 degree turn and coming back to the finish.
Every so often, I would check over my shoulder in case Josh was sneakingly reeling me in. I would usually be able to see about a tenth of a mile or so behind me and the coast was always clear, so I kept a moderate effort and tried to relax some while clicking off 6:00ish miles.
I pushed hard for a mile to run a 5:26 and it seemed like I didn't lose much ground. But I was getting tired and knew that if I had a slower mile, he could instantly make up most of the gap and as he reeled me in, would become more confident. And the dude is a miler, so I wanted no part of getting in a kick with him!
I tried to push the 12th mile but only mustered a 5:36. I still had a comfortable lead and backed off a hair in case I needed to throw together a massive push at the end. Luckily, I took the win by a little over 20 seconds and finished in 1:18:01, which broke Connor's course record by over two minutes.
Now, the official results say I only won by 12 seconds and ran a 1:15 and change, but I had a bigger win that that!
After the race, I was trashed and laid on the ground for a while and was too worn out to do anything.
The race had a potluck afterwards and even had some guy dressed up as a hipster making hamburgers...my kind of race!
All in all, it was a good change of scenery, even though it was at a much harder effort than I wanted. But it was also a reality check and let me know that I really need to get into gear!
Here's mine and Josh's mile-per-mile breakdown, according to Strava. The dude was reeling me in and he ran each of the last nine miles faster than me (we both had 13.1 miles and it was 1:18:01 vs. 1:18:24)!
5:28 - 6:14
5:27 - 6:03
5:43 - 6:08
6:22 - 6:33
7:20 - 7:18
6:13 - 6:06
6:23 - 6:16
6:01 - 5:31
6:04 - 5:35
5:34 - 5:27
5:27 - 5:25
5:37 - 5:33
5:44 - 5:32
We ran the last .1 miles at 6:02 and 4:42 pace, so he made up eight seconds in that last tenth!