Ryan’s first trail race

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This topic contains 22 replies, has 8 voices, and was last updated by  Adimal 12 years, 2 months ago.

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  • #5626

    jtpaten
    Member

    Not to force your hand, Ryan, but I was wondering if you would share your first WORS race experience. You picked a great race, that being Sunday's Sheboygan Showdown, the last in the series.

    Even though I was still hurtin' from the previous weekend's marathon, I really enjoyed the course, from the “Roots of All Evil” on the singletrack, the “Equalizer” hill climb, the smooth rock along the edge of the quarry …. lots of variety and challenge.

    I hope you're glad you did it. Maybe you'll join the chorus of Anne and I (both winners of our respective age groups and race distances for the series!) to get more people to these unique events next year.

  • #21749

    Ryan
    Keymaster

    It's coming. All in good time. The short story, my ankles and my right foot are paying for it today but I'm glad I did it. I don't know if I'll be traveling around for the series but I could definitely see myself doing at least one or two of these races next year.

  • #21750

    Anne
    Member

    It was a beautiful day for the final race of the season.

    Ryan, nice to meet you & get a chance to talk to you in person. I was wondering if your ankle was barking today, hopefully it's nothing too serious.

    Joel, good job getting out there so soon after Lakefront.

  • #21751

    Ryan
    Keymaster

    Nothing serious. No need to worry about anything like that. If it were serious, I would have already sworn off of screwing up my body again.

  • #21752

    Ryan
    Keymaster

    Wow, what an adventure. I have to thank jtpaten and Anne for offering some insight going into the race. With their advice, I ended up digging out some old (as in I don't think I've even worn them for about 12 years) rubber soled cross-country spikes since they had the best tread of any of my shoes, including training shoes. I hoped they would give me enough traction for the race. I didn't really have a choice, though. If they didn't, nothing would. I also threw a pair of road flats in my bag but pretty much knew I wouldn't be using them. Just doing a workout at the local county park in them earlier this year, I found them to be a little lacking of traction on nothing but wet grass.

    Got to the race site and they had a pretty extravagant setup, much more than I'm used to at relatively small races. They had tents up, all kinds of sponsor ads and a few tables with sponsors handing out free samples. More closely resembling a pretty large running race but it did seem later like the bike part of the event was pretty large so that might fit in. I registered and looked at the course map. My first thought (and still my best description of the course map) was that it looked like a 4 year old took a map and just started scribbling on it. This wasn't a race like cross-country with generally wide, sweeping turns and a lot of straight stretches. This course snaked around all over the place and, with a log jump and rutted sections noted on the course, I knew it wasn't your typical cross-country course at the local golf course. Fortunately for me, I always preferred what I considered “real” cross-country, with challenging hills, changing and difficult terrain, and a little of everything thrown at you. This would definitely qualify. I warmed up on part of the course and realized at that point that parts of the course were going to be difficult to say the least to run fast on. When you're zigzagging around trees and you can't run a straight line for more than about 2-3 steps, you can't really turn it on. At that point, had I been thinking about what all of this meant, I would have adjusted my race strategy. I didn't.

    At the start of the race, I saw jtpaten and we exchanged a few words. He admired my ancient and not very beefy shoes and we wished each other well. As the race started, I got out well and got myself right into the lead. There were a couple of people behind me hanging with me but, with my road racer's mindset, I didn't want to try to win it in the first half mile so I decided to just stay in front. I heard a cheer (something including “hillrunner”) from who I deduced to be Adimal very near the start line. We ran down a park road for a bit, then turned into a campground and looped around there before crossing a parking lot, then heading into the real trail running. The real beginning of my first trail race. I made sure I had the lead going into that section. Through a series of twists and turns and up and down a couple of hills, I felt like we were down to two but the guy behind me was persistent and I was having difficulty finding places to turn on the pace. If I could find a place to surge, it was about a 10 yard surge and I'd have to slow down for more turns. By I'm guessing about a mile, I felt my right sock slip down over my heel. Well, that's not good but it's not like I'm going to stop. Eventually, we came up to a creek crossing. About a 2 foot vertical drop into the creek, then a muddy ascent out the other side. I tried to size up a gentle way to drop into the creek but couldn't come up with any, so I just launched myself. I landed on my right foot directly on a flat stone on the bottom of the creek bed and I could feel the impact shoot through my foot and into my ankle that was already weakening from all the twists and turns. I gingerly climbed the muddy ascent, at one point using a tree to help pull myself up as I felt like I was slipping right back down into the creek bed. After we got up that initial incline, I was still sizing up my foot as we came to a slight opening in the trail. That persistent guy behind me took advantage of my hesitance with my foot and blew by me. I wanted to respond but hesitated with the foot. Eventually, we got into an easier section to race with fewer turns and I started pursuit once I knew my foot was fine. I felt like I was closing in some but still could only occasionally see him. At some point during this stretch, I also felt my left sock slip down my heel. This course was knocking my socks off – literally! I got to the bottom of a hill and heard Adimal call out from the top that I was about 15 second back. OK, that's not much. I can make that up in the second half, which looks to have more opportunity to open it up and maintain a faster pace. By the time I looped around and got to the top, no more than a minute and probably much less later, Adimal tells me I'm 30 seconds back. That's impossible. I may not have attacked the hill that hard but he couldn't have gotten 15 seconds on me just going up the hill. I later found out the 15 seconds was an approximation and the 30 seconds was measured. After hearing that I was 30 seconds back, it only took about a second to decide that I was in solid shape for top two, so I might as well roll the dice. I bolted whenever the opportunity presented itself and, not too much later, was informed that I was 20 seconds back, already gaining 10 seconds back. Maybe I can make a race out of this. I kept trying to pour it on whenever I had a chance but the chances became less frequent than I hoped for as we entered the park on the other side of the road. First, I encountered a bike that was previewing the course and had a chain derail. While they did get out of the way, I wasn't sure they would as I was approaching and I slowed down. Then, we left the river and hit some more turns that slowed me down and I was still holding back on the uphills and not able to let it all go on difficult to navigate downhills. Then, came the equalizer. I swear, as I was running up to this thing, it didn't look like a hill. It looked like a wall. Straight up. I got up that thing in pretty good condition and hit more opportunity to open it up. I didn't take advantage of it as I should have but I did open up the stride a bit. It was then more of the same until near the finish. One problem I encountered is I didn't know how far I still had to go until I was heading back to the other side of the road. Then, it was too late. I gave it what I had but I didn't have a chance of making up enough ground. As I came up over the final ridge and could see the finish line, I saw the clock right around 36 minutes flat. I have to believe this was a little short of 10k. I finished with an official time of 36:08, somewhere probably around 10 seconds behind first. If I ran that time on a legit 10k on that course, I have to get myself to a track. I could be running some seriously fast 10k times without all the obstacles of a trail race.

    As I was passing through the finish chute, someone approached me and said I must be Ryan. I said yes and figured she was Anne. We said a few words and I headed out of the chute. I had more opportunity to talk with Anne, jtpaten, and Adimal as well as an old friend introduced through Coach Conway who I didn't even recognize at first it's been so long since I have seen him. It was great talking with everyone after the race and at the awards ceremony (where I got a medal for second overall and a case of bottled water, a 1 year subscription to Trail Runner magazine, and a pedometer in a drawing).

    Given how I feel today (both feet – mostly the right from the landing in the creek – are sore, I noticed a bruise just behind the arch of my right foot yesterday evening, both ankles are sore, and both hips are sore) this probably sounds insane but I'd actually love to do at least a couple of these events next year. These events are pretty fun, they are very much a new challenge in a sport where there aren't a lot of new challenges out there after about 16.5 years of running, and I have a lot to learn about how to run these races. I think I could be pretty good at this thing if I learn how to run a trail race properly, not to mention get a good pair of shoes for the discipline. I also think running a few of these could help me on the roads, re-teaching me surging strategies and helping me get in some good fartlek and strength workouts.

    What I learned about trail racing from this experience:
    – It's much more difficult than trail running due to the added factor of trying to run fast through challenging terrain.
    – I have to take advantage of every opportunity to open up the stride and hammer a fast pace, no matter where it comes. There were several points, especially at the start, where I should have just hammered the pace, knowing there would be other portions of the course where I would get a break while navigating terrain that you can't run fast over. This kind of race has to be run more like a fartlek than a tempo run.
    – Contrary to my road race/cross-country strategy, I have to charge the uphills and relax on the downhills. The downhills are too severe, rutty, and have too many turns to let it go like a road or cross-country race. On the flip side, the uphills would seem to present an opportunity to push the pace and try to break or gain on the competition without going at such a fast pace that you can't handle all the hairpin turns and ruts in the trail.
    – If I'm going to do more of these, I have to do some research on shoes and get a good pair of shoes that can handle trail races. A pair of shoes I haven't worn for 12 years just isn't going to cut it. I haven't decided whether I can get away with a new pair of cross-country flats or I'll have to break down and get a pair of trail shoes but I'll probably have some kind of new pair of shoes at my next trail event.
    – Serial trail racers are nuts! How else could you explain people willingly subjecting themselves to that kind of event after having run one before and knowing what it consists of?
    – I'm nuts! Well, everyone already knows this but there is now a new piece of evidence: I want to do this kind of thing again.
    – I might just have to become a serial trail racer. I'm beginning to think that, like a hard drug, these things are addictive. Do it once and you can't resist coming back for more (unless you're sane but, if you were sane, you may have the sense to not try it the first time).

  • #21753

    kevrunner
    Member

    Ryan,

    Thanks for the very entertaining report.  The more I read, the more I was pulling for you to win, with this being your first crack at a trail race, you have to be very proud of yourself.  Way to go!!!

    Kevin
     

  • #21758

    sueruns
    Member

    I don't think I could run a short distance trail race.  I've done a few halves that went off-road and the recovery from those are tough enough and there at truly different speeds.  I'd probably break my neck at faster speeds, klutzy people should remain on the roads I think.  It does sound like fun, though.  I just know my limitations.

  • #21759

    Anne
    Member

    I enjoyed your report Ryan. They should take pictures of all the first timers as they come across the finish line to see if they have the same look of disbelief on their face. “What did I just do & why?” It's a different racing environment mentally & physically & I think that's what brings us back. If you love running there's a part of you that strives for new challenges, to test yourself in a different way-trail racing provides an everchanging set of obstacles to overcome.

    You mentioned the burnout factor, the very reason I decided to show up at my first trail race. You do get in a rut at times & then you run an event like this & it opens your eyes to a whole new aspect of running. Like a breath of fresh air-a very loud panting breath, but still a breath. It carries over into your everyday runs & recharges your appreciation/passion for the sport.

    I'm really glad you decided to give it a go. 

    You think we're nuts, it's those bike riders who are nuts! Geez.

  • #21760

    Ryan
    Keymaster

    Sue, I fit the definition of klutzy runner but I managed to survive. The races are a lot of fun. Definitely some hazards out there and you definitely have to watch your step (I don't know how the people in those pictures jtpaten linked to could run with their heads up, I had to plan every step I took) but it is possible.

    I think the biggest learning curve for a road runner would be the changes in pace necessary to compete well. I'm used to surging tactics on the road and track but those changes in pace are fairly incremental. You really have to slow down to a jog at some points just to handle the course, which means a nearly all-out sprint wouldn't be uncalled for at other points.

    Anne, I don't know if I had that look on my face when I was crossing the finish line but I think I did at a few points out on the course. I'm right with you, though, on the burnout thing. This year has been an ever building funk for me. It started with the marathon burnout, then by late summer and especially after Al's run became a general road race burnout. However, after running this race, I'm actually feeling some excitement about the possibility of doing this series and developing the skills of a trail racer. I don't know yet if that's where next year will take me but the thought of doing it next year does give me some excitement and a goal to shoot for that might help me carry some good base training through the winter.

    I'm also glad I decided to give it a go and glad that you and jtpaten talked me into giving it a go.

    BTW: Pics of me are on pages 1, 4, 9, 10, and 13 at the link jtpaten offered. Pics of him are consistently very close behind those of me.

  • #21761

    Ryan
    Keymaster

    I guess the race wasn't as close as I thought. I would have to run a much better race to close the 41.8 second gap listed in the results.

  • #21762

    sueruns
    Member

    I was just going to ask if that was Jason.  I recognized the jersey, but he looks a little trimmed down.  I figured you out with the Stout shirt (my bro's an alumni), is Joel the other dude in blue? pretty sure it's Archie in red.

  • #21763

    Ryan
    Keymaster

    I take it you know Jason. I had no idea who the guy was, just that he dropped me like a bad habit when he decided to go. That is Archie (man, everyone must know that guy) in red, I hope Joel doesn't mind my spilling the beans but he's also wearing red.

  • #21764

    sueruns
    Member

    I take it you know Jason. I had no idea who the guy was, just that he dropped me like a bad habit when he decided to go. That is Archie (man, everyone must know that guy) in red, I hope Joel doesn't mind my spilling the beans but he's also wearing red.

    the one that keeps giving the thumbs up!!!  😀

  • #21754

    Ryan
    Keymaster

    Kevin, I'm glad you liked the report. I'm proud of how I did as a rookie to the discipline but, of course as a competitor, I'm disappointed that I didn't do as well as I feel I could have. Live and learn, though. That's one reason I want to do more trail races right now. I want to correct those rookie mistakes I made in this one and see how well I can do if I run one the right way.

  • #21765

    cameron
    Member

    Archie & I ran together at Marian College “back in the day”

    Sat next to on the bus to Hopkington in 2002. Complete surprise to be on the same bus.

    Great guy.

  • #21755

    jtpaten
    Member

    Well, call me a serial trail runner and a nut, Ryan, but now you understand why. I'm happy to hear our tribe's recruitment efforts worked and you're now under the influence of the trail Kool-Aid you drank so deeply. Just make sure that before the next race, especially if its a muddy one, you have higher cut socks!

    You're right, there is much to learn about trail running tactics — and that trail specific running shoes have their use afterall — but the beauty of such courses is that they are all so tough and unique. Even if you had run the Sheboygan course before, remembering where it twisted, turned, climbed and dropped would have been near impossible and difficult to apply strategy. Your correct to conclude that you need to surge or play it safe as you go. Work on banking turns, hopscotching the rocky and rooty inclines and stutter stepping the steepest fall lines and you'll have the technical skills to get that guy next time. 

    Regardless, you took home a lot of booty, Ryan. Not bad for not winning outright, eh?

  • #21756

    jtpaten
    Member

    Photographic proof of Sunday's trail race:
    http://xtrphoto.com/gallery/main.php?g2_itemId=445897

    (For some reason, the race is mislabeled. I assure you, these were taken at the Sheboygan Showdown.)

  • #21757

    Ryan
    Keymaster

    Yes, I will have different socks and shoes. I have always to an extent understood the trail shoes, I just questioned their widespread use and still do. Maybe I wasn't clear enough about where my questioning of trail shoes comes into place before. Kind of like off-road vehicles that never see anything more rugged than the pothole in the local suburban street. Sure, there's a need for trail shoes but they aren't necessary for cruising around paved roads and well maintained trails at the local county park.

    I understand that every race would have its own variables and I definitely know I wouldn't be able to remember a race from one year to the next. I already can't recall precisely where certain things were Sunday. However, I think I could improve a lot simply by knowing the basics like take full advantage of every opportunity you have to push the pace and improving my skills at handling the twists and turns and rugged terrain. The former is something that I could fix next time out, the latter could take a few races or more (and maybe some trips to the Ice Age trail or other areas of Kettle Moraine) to work on.

    I definitely had some nice things to take home from it. It would have been nice to see the awards for placing well amount to more than the awards for hanging around and having your name called in a drawing but that's another discussion for another time and I'm not going to complain. I also understand that the awards for placing well are more significant at the other races in the series.

    You know, this throws a serious crimp in my plans for next year. I was giving serious consideration to focusing on shorter races in the spring, then going after a fall marathon. However, experiencing this race presents a new challenge and, to be honest, I'm a bit burned out on the same old road racing scene. It's very tempting to take a semi-break from the road scene (outside of the key events like Al's Run) and take up this new challenge. It could be a way to reinvigorate my excitement for running and competition by facing a new challenge that's more than just a slight variation of what I've been doing for years.

  • #21766

    jtpaten
    Member

    Yeah, that's me, Mr. Thumbs Up.

    After the race, I shared with Archie my sob story about missing a BQ by 65 seconds and he expressed sympathy. Then told me he'll be running his THIRTEENTH Boston next spring. He's 34 years old! Two years younger than me! But to make me feel better, he admitted he's slowed down some. He only runs 2:50 marathons these days.

    Sigh.

    Archie's a helluva trail runner. Won the WORS Series two straight years now.

  • #21767

    sueruns
    Member

    Yeah, that's me, Mr. Thumbs Up.

    After the race, I shared with Archie my sob story about missing a BQ by 65 seconds and he expressed sympathy. Then told me he'll be running his THIRTEENTH Boston next spring. He's 34 years old! Two years younger than me! But to make me feel better, he admitted he's slowed down some. He only runs 2:50 marathons these days.

    Sigh.

    Archie's a helluva trail runner. Won the WORS Series two straight years now.

    I can make you feel better.  I was 34 before I ran my first marathon.  You'll get there and it will be worth the wait.  If it were easy, it wouldn't mean a thing.

  • #21768

    Anne
    Member

    “THUMBS UP”

    A parent at the x-country meets would scream that as runners from her son's team went by. Over & over again at every meet.

    It became our saying before my daughter would race & what they would holler at me when I'd run by during one of mine.

    Couldn't help but think about that when I saw your picture.

  • #21769

    GTF
    Member

    Then told me he'll be running his THIRTEENTH Boston next spring. He's 34 years old! Two years younger than me! But to make me feel better, he admitted he's slowed down some. He only runs 2:50 marathons these days.

    Archie's a helluva trail runner.

    Archie is apparently a helluva runner, period, and he did not get that way by accident or dumb luck.

  • #21770

    Adimal
    Member

    😉 Yes we bikers could be considered nuts!  I'm hoping for next years series they put more time between the start of the trail runs and the citizen bike race (for those of us who are new to the mtn bike sport).  So if one decides to run and bike they'll have some time to catch there breath.
    I wanted to do more of both the runs and bikes but with the Lakefront training, priorities were shifted.

    It was great to get out last Sunday on the bike, while jtpaten opted for the run, I'd needed the excitement of the bike (not that the trail run is exciting, I just needed the speed) especially after the Lakefront debacle.

    So when jtpaten asked me after the race what I thought of the roots from hell section and I responded with a “the whole race was roots” and it seemed perfectly normal, my nuttiness was confirmed! ;D

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