Sunday, December 11, 2011

Bump Ahead - Godiva Couch Mountain Run

There's a mountain in Durham, NC? Apparently so. Even more ridiculous, there's a Godiva Winter Series run which goes up and down that mountain. Sign me up!

I'm having a lot of fun with the Godiva Winter Series runs, and so is my son, Ryan. After our muddy, pooptastic adventure at the Godiva Misery Run, Ryan has been looking forward to the next few runs in the series. He's especially excited about the possibility of winning more chocolate, and possibly even a cool shirt at the end of the series. Personally, I'm just happy to be running trails with my son. Of course, I want the shirt too.

I love my running swag.

Handicapping Myself
Running with a 7 year old is strange. Kids are bursty runners. A half mile at 8 minute pace is followed by a short walk. Repeat this for 5 miles and you have a juvenile fartlek.

I hate fartleks, and I especially hate walking. So, I had this brilliant idea to do a long run in Umstead the day before the Couch Mountain Run, to sort of soften myself up a bit. I thought that maybe I would "enjoy" the short walk breaks if I were completely beaten down. Well, 16 miles of single track and bridal trail in Umstead certainly did the trick. Umstead's gift of seven blisters for my feet weren't nearly as bad as the pain in my glutes. Who would have thought that my arse was so involved in my trail running...

Since I couldn't get my feet into my Altra Instincts (OUCH!), I decided to wear my Vivobarefoot Neos - a nice roomy home for my new family of blisters. However, Neos are not trail shoes - no padding, no rock plate, no grip. On the steep, rocky, rooty, leaf covered hills of the Couch Mountain Run, I think I would have fared just as well with a couple of paper plates strapped to my feet. Live and learn (or don't, as is the case for me).

Campfires, Cross Country, and Cookouts
I've only been to two races, including this one, which featured a fire at race headquarters. At the Umstead Marathon, there was a cozy fireplace in the camp lodge next to the start/finish line. At Couch Mountain, there was a fire pit next to the start/finish area where many of the racers huddled for warmth. Personally, I think all Winter races should feature a fire of some sort. And free beer. And donuts. And transportation home for broken down runners. If I ever organize a race, it will have all of these necessities.

Lining up for the race start, I wondered whether my battered glutes could keep me upright, and whether or not I could keep up with Ryan. Of course, I told my son that I was going to destroy him in the last mile of the race. Ryan doesn't actually need this sort of motivation since I don't normally "let" him win anything when competing against me. He's pretty hungry for a win against Dad. But, it's fun to get him all pumped up, and I think it helps him in the latter parts of these long (for a seven year old) runs.

Godiva had a great turn out for an ankle busting run on the trails of Duke Forest, especially on such a chilly December morning. It's good to be surrounded by other trail running lunatics. There is comfort in the madness of crowds.
The horn sounded and we took off. I continue to be amazed at the speed and skill of some of the Godiva trail runners. Within minutes the field was spread along the road far ahead of me. It's almost like some of the Godivans actually know what they are doing. I may have to look into this whole practice and training thing. As long as it doesn't impact my beer drinking.

The fasties are already over the hill and out of sight.

The shoe portion of my handicapping scheme was working brilliantly. Neos, gravel, and photography on the run are a perfect combination to allow orthopedic surgeons to comfortably maintain their second homes - in the Caribbean. But no co-pays this time, Doc! I think the balls of my feet are only bruised. Hopefully...

In the first mile Ryan informed me that he was going to "let my feet fly down the hills". I told him that was fine and that I would catch up with him on the up hill sections. True to form, Ryan flew down every hill.

But, I would reel him in whenever the trail tipped upwards. This worked great. I could run my own pace (slowly, painfully) and keep an eye on him at the same time, just in case.

After going up and then down Couch Mountain, we wound our way onto a couple of secondary paved roads for a mile or two. I had no idea where I was and was really surprised when I saw that we had actually left Durham County altogether.

No one told me to bring
my passport!

After a mile or so on paved road, we ran across lunch.

I tried to talk Ryan into carrying it back for the cookout, but for some strange reason he just said "Ewwwww!!!!".

Eventually, we made it back for the last mile of trail running before the finish.

When I told Ryan I thought we only had about a mile left to run, he took off like a rabbit, calling out "I'll beat you, Dad!"

I kept him in sight for about 2 minutes before the second phase of my self imposed handicapping kicked in - in the form of cramps. I hate cramps almost as much as I hate walking, but I simply had to walk for a minute. Ryan stretched out his lead, and by the time I recovered enough to run again, I could barely see him.

I tried to close down the gap, but my legs simply refused any pace faster than about a 13 minute mile. By the time we got back to the power line near the start/finish, I knew I couldn't reel him in. But I'll give it to him - for a seven year old, the kid has a great kick.

As I plodded across the finish line, Ryan was already chatting it up with several of the other Godivans. Thanks to everyone who talked to him and encouraged him, before, during, and after the race! I think that will really make a difference in building his long term interest in cross country and trail running.

More Cheeseburgers, Please
After the race, we had a burger cook out, with free beer! I think all races should end with cheeseburgers and beer. Or at least all good races...