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...

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!


  1. "If you want to improve, be content to be thought foolish and stupid."


    You must be improving, har har har!

    Great job on overcoming obstacles that would have couched most other runners.

  2. @ Josh - Ha! Thanks. I love that quote. I *must* steal that quote from you for other purposes...

  3. Brilliant report, Scott! I'd say that it was smart to run the race. Sure, you chose to tax your energy reserves and immune system while your body was fighting the onset of a sinus infection. But, you were going to get sick anyway. So, at least you were smart enough to have a bit of fun before doing so.
    Great report as usual, man!

  4. @Ash - I like your thinking, dude! Thanks for reading.

  5. @Sean - Thanks! That epilogue applies to a lot of my life..

  6. No. Rest now. Or do you have any entry fees paid already. If so then run. Sick be damned.

    I've ran races like that. No passing. I find most people have different specialties so downhill you pass and uphill you get passed, sort of thing.

    Get better.

  7. @BFNZ - Luckily, I have several weeks before my last race of the season, so I have time to shake this sinus thing hopefully. Thanks for the well wishes!

  8. Any race report that prompts a reader to ask "why are you doing this to yourself?" is great one. I hereby make you an honorary "running-down" member.

    I had the same experience with the switchbacks. I felt like a rat looking for cheese.
    The congestion on that narrow trail is real problem that they need to think about for next year.

    thanks for the entertaining post. Looking forward to the next one!

  9. @ac - Woo hoo!! A "running-down" member! Do I get a t-shirt (I do love my running swag)? Or a pair of Tigrams TenToes (tm Running-Down Inc.)?

    Seriously, though, I really appreciate the compliment, AC. Your blog inspired me to start blogging about my racing and running. As always, looking forward to your race report...

  10. I was out there with fact, just a few minutes BEHIND you. I usually run trails, but this one ran me. The overabundance of roots and rocks combined with an allergy/cold/congestion-induced phlegm-fest to ruin my already questionable form and result in joy-killing chafing and blisters. I like to sprint finishes but from mile 6 on figured there was no way that day, but when I came over that little hill and saw the finish line RIGHT THERE, I grabbed my hat and FLEW. I have never been SO GLAD to see a finish line...ever. Nice write-up!

  11. @Heather - LOL! Between you and me, we brought the phlegm storm to Philosopher's this year.. If I'm sick like this next year, I'm gonna have a t-shirt made specifically for this race: Arisnotle Philosopher's Race Team.

    Thanks for reading!

  12. I hope you are feeling better! Great race report and no trips to Mount Doom ;-) I wish I possessed your level of sinus and respiratory fortitude, but I can live vicariously through your report as it sounds exactly like what I was dealing with at the time too!

  13. @Andrew - Thanks, I'm feeling much better now. There was definitely something going around. Both my kids and my wife had the same crud the week before I caught it.


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