Wednesday, May 11, 2011

None Shall Pass - Philosopher's Way 15K Trail Race



I'm feeling a bit run down. Literally. I would change the name of my blog, but Running Down is already taken by some shirtless douche-bag who happens to win the master's category in almost every race I enter these days. Damn that guy! ;-)

Before I delve into the specifics for Philosopher's Way, let me just say this - never run a race when you are already sick. Unless, you like being even sicker. Or are a masochist. Or are stupid, like me. The temporary fun (ha!) of the race will in no way compensate for the major ass kicking that the little virus hitchhiking along in your sinus will administer the week following the race. Enough said.

Pre Race
This was a local race for me. The trail is less than 10 miles from my house, but I decided not to preview the course. That was probably a mistake - the first of many.

I woke up the morning of the race with a pounding headache. The same headache I had been suffering with all week, only cranked up to 11.

"Screw you, headache!" I thought. "I've paid for this race. I'm doing it!"

Little did I know that I had not even begun paying for this race.

1000mg of Tylenol later, and I was headed to the race.

Race Venue
I gave this guy my post race bagel
After parking, I staggered through the parking lot towards the dirt road that led to the race headquarters. After losing every single battle with my pre-race coffee for the past 6 months, I had finally admitted defeat and had drunk only water that morning. This made walking... difficult.

I walked a long way. Then I walked a long way, again. How far away was the race headquarters?! Didn't they know that sick people would be running in this event and that we... err... they didn't need to be needlessly expending energy with a walk through the country side?

Turns out the race headquarters were tucked into a small field about a third of a mile away. Along the dirt road to the race site, there were friendly signs warning you not to stray into the forest. It seems that the race site is situated next to a former landfill, and the water, plants, soil, and the air itself is potentially hazardous if you step off the dirt road. I had been wondering why that first stream I passed was full of what appeared to be nasty looking red algae. Having been attacked by semi-mythical beasts during other races, I was now worried about a potential new nemesis - Swamp Thing.

The Stats
Before I get to the race itself, here are the illustrious stats!

  • Pre race coffee consumed - Zero! (pardon me while I wipe away the tears from my keyboarrrrrddddgggggffggghhhff)
  • Pre race ibuprofen consumed - Zero! That stuff is like anti-matter to my colon. 1000mg of Tylenol will do just fine thanks.
  • Swamp Thing sightings - Only one.
  • Trips - Only one! New tripping PR for me! Woot!
  • Falls - Zero. Yeah, that's right, none! Look out, I'm on a two race non-falling streak!
  • Time - 1:43:13, 11:04 pace. I think I finished after the guy riding the mountain unicycle.
I'm slower than even this guy


The Race
I did one smart thing this race. I started near the back of the pack. Of course, I can't really claim that this was intelligence on my part, since I didn't actually see the starting line marks on the dirt road and had just accidentally staggered a bit too far past the start. But none the less, I started near the back.

After a short trot down the dirt road, we entered the single track trail. And stopped. And I mean dead stopped. There was a line of traffic funneling onto the trail which was moving about the same speed as the line for a race port-o-potty (HA! I got my crapper reference into this post - coffee or no coffee!!).

The first couple of miles was one giant conga line of back-of-the-packers. Except for feeling very heavy legged, I was having a great time. It's funny how even physical sickness can melt away during a run. I guess that's why I continue with this self abuse. By the time we hit the first aid station, I was feeling really good and decided to move up in the pack.

None shall pass!
Unfortunately, this race was run on a single track mountain bike trail. A very twisty and tight mountain bike trail. Passing was difficult at best. Every time I attempted to pass someone, I would end up dancing through the trees beside the trail. Sometimes I would make the pass, other times I would nearly decapitate myself on low hanging branches and end up two spots further back. Of course, everyone who attempted to pass me had the same problems. After one woman attempted to pass me and failed on 3 different occasions (not due to me.. I even full stopped and let her pass the fourth time), I started feeling like the Black Knight in Monty Python's Holy Grail.

This comedy of passing errors would continue at the back of the pack for the rest of the race. I think I passed some people 4 or 5 times.

The trail was so twisty and convoluted, I became totally disoriented towards the end of the race. I think I ran some sections of trail 3 or 4 times in different directions. I blame Swamp Thing. I saw him licking up the flour trail markings near the scummy pond in the last 3 miles of the race. Or, maybe I was tripping on Tylenol.

I didn't even realize that I was running the same stretch of trail that I started on until I saw the crazy banked wooden mountain bike bridge less than a mile from the end. Even then, I still couldn't get my bearings. I kept hearing the finish line noise but since the trail had so many switchbacks, the noise seemed to be coming from all directions. By the time I knew the finish was right in front of me, it was too late to sprint. And to think, I could have finished in 1:43:13 1:43:10 if I had timed my sprint just right. I should have previewed the course...

Post Race
Sick. Sick as a dog (I've never been exactly sure what this means, but it sounds right)! Rotten, nasty, miserable, sinus-cold sick! Tylenol and running endorphin speedballs are great, but you come down hard off that stuff. Real hard...

Epilogue
This was a confusing race for me. I enjoyed it, but was miserable at the same time. I ran very poorly, but would run it again tomorrow if I could. I'll just blame my own Epicurean philosophical nature. Pain is acceptable as long as it ends in greater pleasure.

Who's got no thumbs and is the
founding philosopher of one of my
core belief systems? This guy!