Sunday, May 27, 2012

Dirty Bird 15K

Dirty Bird 15K – Trail Race – May 26, 2012

Let me start by saying that this was my best race so far this year!

I showed up for this 15K (9.3 mile) trail race in Wooster, OH yesterday. It was about an hour away, and it had rained the day before so the course was soft and a bit wet at places, but not too bad. It was also warm (60s, rising to 80s). This is part of the Dirty Trail Race series-- the longest race in the series so far (the others were 10Ks mostly).

In previous races of this series, I have finished 10th and 11th overall, so I was expecting a similar performance.  This is a picture of myself and race director, Jim Christ, who is usually a serious guy. My number 818 is the first indication of things to go well (18 has always been a lucky family number.)

I see that two good local runners have showed up for the first time in this series:

Bob Pokorny just ran Cleveland in 3:08 (in the heat!) We are the same age, and he is a solid runner-- definitely a lot better than me. Connie Gardner is the area's most celebrated female ultra-runner with a time of 18:21 in Burning River 2008 and about 3:05 marathon PR. At least in theory, they are both a lot faster than me!  Here is a picture of the two of them (left) with a friend, Andy Kall, who finished 3rd overall.

The race starts and I position myself in the front. Bob storms ahead and I am running behind Connie.  Here is a picture right at the start, taken by Curtis Cathcart:

The course is all twisting like crazy. It feels like I am running in a maze. I have no idea exactly what we are doing but I have the impression that we are running in circles; nothing is straight or flat.  This is how the course looks in Google Earth, and I am not kidding!!!

I am staying behind Connie, thinking, "she is a legend, I cannot possibly finish ahead of her, so I might as well stay behind." But the pace feels a bit slow, so at some point I move ahead. My pace for the first few miles is 8:30 min/mile, which is quite fast for such an irregular course.

I am running alone, when I hear a runner approaching. Looks like a young girl. She follows me for a while. I ask: "Are you going to follow me to the finish?" She answers, "no, I am going to pass you", and moves ahead.  A few minutes later, I see the same girl coming from the back. This is strange because we are running technical trails. I would have seen her if she had stopped. I ask, "what happened, didn't you just pass me a while ago?" to which she answers, "no, that was my twin sister!"

Now, this is very confusing. Not only are they twins, but they are also wearing the exact same running outfit! (As it turns out, they are not twins!  I see from the results that one is 22 and the other 24) I manage to follow the second sister and we are chatting. She is 22, and thinks she is better than her sister. They are running cross-country in college, but they have not run difficult trails like these before. While I am following I feel that my pace has slowed a bit, a welcome relief. Finally I decide to pass and invite her to follow me and I'll pace her. But it is clear that she can't, and our gap is growing. "Go get my sister!" she yells. Well, I wish, but her sister is well ahead.

Another picture of me by Curtis Cathcart. I am running with my Panasonic 3D camera in my hands and no water bottle. I tried to take a few pictures while running but at the low light of the covered trails, they came out blurred:

I passed two more runners in the last 3 miles. I saw a guy coming behind me and closing our gap but ran the last mile very strong and finished ahead. As I finished, I asked for my overall placement. 7th overall!!! Wow! That's the best I have done in the series!

The results are here:

Bob finished in 6th place, and I finished in 7th place, less than a minute behind. Connie Gardner is in 12th place. And I am right in between the sisters who finished 1st and 2nd overall female (Connie was 3rd). What is interesting is that both Bob and myself, Grandmaster runners, finished ahead of ALL Masters runners! (Cheers for the old runners!) I ended up with the 2nd GM award, a nice hat.

Here is a picture of the “twin sisters”. I see from the results that they are Grace and Emma McCarron. And they are not twins! (one is 24, the other 22)  but the twin outfit was certainly confusing!

Overall, I am very pleased with my performance in this race! Clearly, when the distance increases (9 miles vs. 6 miles) my overall placement improves. So, I am looking forward to the Buckeye Buster 50K next Saturday, the first real test of Ultra-running endurance before Burning River 100!

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