Yesterday, I trekked over to Kennett Square, PA (apparently mushrooms are big here) to the The Land Conservancy of Southern Chester County's Stateline Woods 9K. This race is number two in the Trail Creek Outfitters series, which meant if I wanted to be in it, I had run it.
Thankfully, unlike the last trail race, this was on a Saturday so I didn't have the 'mileage dilemma'.
Both the weather and course, we much different that Sunday's Iron Hill Challenge race. It was a lot sunnier and warmer. And the course, longer with more hills and open field running. That last part is what I did not like as the field running exposed us to sun in warmth and removed a lot of technical running. Plus, the surface was mowed grass that was more like straw. In other words, slow surface.
This race brought out a lot more people than last week. (It also had a 5K yesterday.) Within that additional numbers, there were a couple of people at the start line that really looked like they were ready to give me a go. And that was really true. Once the race started, I had someone right on my heels. I wasn't burning it up too much considering I knew there was a number of rolling hills but also needing to see who was going to be in it. I was running at a good clip when at the 2nd creek crossing, one of the race organizers was on a bike that got in my way. This hurt mentally as I was off my rhythm but I maintained the lead through the bit of technical. However, once we got out of this small wooded patch, we hit a paved section going up that saw me passed by two people. For a moment, I let the creek incident get to me saying, well this is it, I lost because of that. That lasted for a second as I just kept running and picked off the guy in second. And I slowly kept closing the gap on the leader. It wasn't until we crossed into Delaware that I managed to catch him. I passed him just in time to head up the largest hill on the course with a 15% grade (if not more). Unlucky for me, I had company. I got passed going up the hill and nearly cracked again but I was not going to kill myself on the hill if it was going to cost me the race. Instead, it cost me a $50 gift card placed at the top. But at the crest, I took back the lead and put in some distance. I spent a share on the hill but not as much as the person who grabbed the gift card. My thoughts turned to, "I have to keep this going. I need to recovery faster than him while putting in this distance" as I passed the 3 mile mark. From that point on, it was attrition to hold my lead.
Crossing back into PA, I was holding maybe a 10-15 second lead. Or that is what it seemed to be. But I had another misstep. In making a turn, I lost some footing. I recovered as fast as I could and proceeded to run up the next to last hill on the course. Making it up this meant, making it back into the woods for more technical section. I knew that is where I could help myself the most. But it also meant, running into people still doing the 5K. Passing people on technical single-track stinks. Yet, it had to be done. Despite me calling out which side I was passing on, it was tough but doing enough to help me fire through the last 3/4 mile of the course and open up more of a lead as the times I glanced back I saw increased distance. This was great! Especially considering, the file 1/3 mile is an uphill climb on the nasty slow grass. But I kept chugging. When I hit the final straight into the finish, I was so happy as this was one of the hardest races I have run and won. There was competition on my heels throughout and the course did not play into having a sound rhythm.
Really happy with my effort yesterday. For my next act, I will hit the roads and hope to do well. Between now and then, I plan on getting one or two track sessions in for some speedwork. But for today, it was all about mileage. A tad over 20 miles this morning is fantastic. In a couple of weeks, I have to push the long run to 3 hours. It is funny to think, a run of that length will be the longest time I have run since my 2005 NJ Marathon (my only time over 3:00...never run one with a sinus infection. Just don't do it.). Accomplishing that will be tremendous for my ultra in a couple of months. Because once, I hit that run....I can reduce some mileage on in.