So now on to the boring stuff. Saturday morning I dragged my awesome crew (Patsy) out of bed to accompany me to the Estrella Mountain Regional Park in Goodyear, Arizona. I was running the 31k version of the Coldwater Rumble trail races.
My plan going into the race was to stay toward the back of the lead pack, or even the chase pack and then maybe open it up later in the race if I had any gas left. As soon as the race started I think I forgot that not-so-aggressive approach and opted for one a bit more courageous. I started out in the back of the lead group of seven as the race slowly climbed up a pea-gravel fire road. The pace was a bit faster than I wanted (6:50-7:00/mile) but I was encouraged by how easily the first couple of miles went by. After about 2 miles the lead pack broke up and 2 guys began to pull away. I stayed in the back of the chase pack of three and we slowly began to catch back up to the leaders.
Entering the first aid station, I was in 3rd place so I wasted little time. The awesome aid station workers were meeting runners as we came in and my water bottle was filled before I could down a shot of coke and some gummy worms. I left the aid station in fourth and quickly caught back up to the gentleman in third. We ran together for a couple of miles but he began to labor some and I soon found myself in no-man's land. By this time I could see the leaders and caught up to them on the flat section in the back of the course. The trail widened out to a sandy jeep road and the leader and I ran and chatted together for about two miles. Soon we were joined by the third place runner (eventual winner) and they began chatting. I was feeling really strong at this point and this may be where I made my only mistake of the race. I let the good feelings get the better of me and found myself in first with about a 30 second lead on the next guys.
I was still leading when we approached the second aid station. By the time the chase group got into the aid station I was about to take off. Unfortunately they both opted to forgo any aid and kept plugging away. I quickly fell in line behind them and started grinding through the last couple of miles. It is here that the course starts going through a series of up-downs. Unfortunately for me, I have had very little hill running in my training plan as of late and started to really struggle. The leaders eventually dropped me as my run slowed to a power hike up most of the inclines. I had been running the down hills relatively well all day so I made sure to keep moving up the hills and try to make up time on the down hills.
As I crested the second-to-last climb, I rounded a corner to find the 2nd place runner lying flat on his back catching a quick nap. After making sure he wasn't in serious distress, I continued on. After checking on the "downed" runner, I noticed two others from my race that had made up some serious ground and were gaining on me quickly. Luckily, there wasn't much race left and their presence forced me to power through to the end holiding on to a second place finish.
This race went far better than I ever imagined. as I mentioned, I had only anticipated to run hard to see how my fitness was standing. I had no intention of going out as competitively as I did but was encouraged to do as well as I did. This race revealed that my consistency over the past few months has paid off and that with a little more hill work I may have a good chance of doing this well again. Below is yet another gruesome picture of toe carnage. I'll put more pictures up when I can find them. Until then...Jog on Mates!