Thursday, July 31, 2014
my fifth escarpment trail run is in the books! despite the new wave starts, it was practically a repeat of my 2013 escarpment trail run (including the rainy start) - except it came in a solid 15 minutes slower this time around. but i've gotten ahead of myself.
when i got my wave assignment - #17 set to go off at 10:20 - i was more than a little worried. not only was it just before the last wave itself, but i wouldn't even start until the race had been underway for an hour and 20 minutes. milling around for all that time wasn't going to be fun.
in the week leading up to the race there hadn't been any weather forecasts calling for rain - much less thunderstorms. so it was an eye opener to hear a forecast for heavy rain and thunderstorms the night before the race. as it turned out, it was pouring when i arrived at the trailhead - most of the runners waiting for their waves to start were waiting in cars or under any available shelter to stay dry. but by 10 the rain stopped and the sky cleared up.
interestingly, the foul weather may have contributed to a lot of no-shows (as evidenced by the stack of unclaimed bibs). most of the 15 person waves were being filled with runners from later waves (to start a full complement in each wave). so instead of 10:20, my wave went off 15 minutes earlier than scheduled (at 10:05) - and was, in fact the last wave start because it was filled out by the remaining runners from the 18th wave.
once underway the start time became irrelevant. my only objective was to run from aid station to aid station. my only objective was to finish in under 6 hours and re-qualify for the 2015 edition. but i did think a 5:30 finish was doable if the terrain conditions weren't too bad as a result of the rain. as it was i started off soaked to the bone from the pre-race rain. that would eventually come back to haunt me 4 hours into the race, as chafing became a problem :(
i made it up to windham peak in 57 minutes. the 3.1 mile uphill climb to the 3525 foot peak was only a minute off my 2013 time. but things got dicier on the slippery descent down to burnt knob. all the rain, plus the stream of runners, had made the trail into one long mudslide. i was 7 minutes behind my 2013 time getting down that slope! and by the time i reached the base of blackhead in 2:23, i was 11 minutes behind my 2013 pace. at this point a 5:30 finish was starting to seem out of reach.
i got my head back into it with a 30 minute climb up to blackhead - a minute faster than the climb took last year - and 9 minutes behind my overall time at that stage. but i lost another couple of minutes getting down to dutcher's notch (47 versus 45 minutes) and 3 more climbing up to stoppel point (47 versus 43). at stopple point i was a solid 14 minutes behind my 2013 performance.
but, as the race gods sometimes tease - i picked up a solid 5 minutes on the run to the last aid station at north point (25 minutes versus 30). at 4:53 i had a solid 37 minutes to cover the remaining 2 miles to the finish. even so, that wasn't enough of a cushion because it took 44 minutes to cover that rocky, incredibly technical stretch in 2013. another factor that dimmed my prospects for a fast close was the chafing had finally become intolerable. for the last hour it had become increasingly uncomfortable - i was so wet at that point that sweat continually dripped from the brim of my hat!
so instead of keeping pace with my 2013 effort, i wound up walking the last mile and spent 51 minutes covering the last stretch. i not only gave back the 5 minutes i picked up on the way to stoppel, but tossed in another 2 minutes! i crossed the finish in 5:45:11 - and wasn't the least disappointed that it took an "extra" 15 minutes to get there. in fact, i was already looking forward to lining up for number six next year!
here are my race photos.