I’d been looking forward to the Bridle Trails Winter Running Festival since registration had opened for it, figuring a late afternoon run in the mud and rain would be a good way to start the season. Then came the storms – snow, ice and wind. Then came the flu. For two weeks I’d been either ‘running’ on crusty snow and ice or lying flat on my back in bed sleeping most of the day. Plus my knee hurt. On Thursday I wasn’t sure I was even going to make it to the event to do registration let alone tackle the 10-mile run I’d signed up for. On Friday I felt well enough to get out and go fishing so I figured I’d at least make it for registration, I’d decide on the running before the event started.
Saturday arrived and the weather was actually good, it was fairly warm and while overcast at least dry. I arrived a bit early for reg duty and helped set course for the first mile or so before heading back to the registration area where I assisted with the 5 & 10-mile groups. The course from what I saw was in pretty good shape, a bit of mud but given what we’d gone through the parks department and volunteers had done a great job clearing the trails. I took a short-cut trail back to the registration area and it was littered with branches and pine boughs so I knew there had to have been a ton of work getting the course ready for the event. I pretty much decided to run when I showed up, figuring I’d start with the 10-mile group and cut it at 5 if I felt too bad.
The race got off to a bit of a late start but soon enough we were running and it felt pretty good. The first hill had me a bit winded and I was wondering how far I’d make it but I realized that I was cranking in the speed department and that probably had something to do with it. The first lap blazed by in 42 minutes, probably the fastest time I’ve run that loop in. No stop for aid, I just chomped a gel and took a few swigs from my bottle and continued onto the second lap. I walked a bit on the first hill on the second lap and about half way through was thinking that maybe I should have brought my headlamp. The last two to three miles became a race against the dimming light, knowing that the short stretch of single track at the end would be hard to negotiate if it got too dark before I got there. It wasn’t too bad when I finally did get there though I slowed a bit to watch my footing. Coming out and onto the final stretch where there were less obstacles and more light was great and I crossed the finish at 1:28:29.
This turned out to be my fastest 10-mile course time in the last year of trail running, especially given the course was 10.4 miles and not 10 miles. At 8:28/mile it was my fastest pace at any trail event thus far. Maybe being well rested from not running much and sleeping a lot paid off or maybe it was just fear of running the last stretch in the dark that got me going. Regardless, it was a good way to start the season and it was good to see running friends again.