Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Run for Ray Trail Half-Marathon, 2011.

February 28th, dernier jour du mois. . . . hoooowwweeee!
Line up before HM/10k. the strangeness of the trail runner.


Run for Ray 2011 passed in ideal weather Saturday morning at Brunswick Nature Park with 230 runners kicking across the optioned distances of 3m, 6m and 13m. Folks paced and sprinted the dirt roads beneath the full sun, dogs pushed paws into dirt, and families greeted arriving families.  A map showed two loops across the trail-system with two dirt road out-and-backs for the HM distance, 70% being on raw trails, coiled and switch-backing through woods alongside Town Creek on pine-needled single-track, fast footing interspersed with some rough & technical patches, a varied trail to work through, as well as some quad-bashing incline/decline areas.  Coffee and bananas, a timing mat for B-tagged number bibs, a fine payne's gray shirt with a print of Ray Underhill popping a backside air (complete with rail sliders), and friendly exchanges preceded the line-up horn. Serious runners with pioneer builds and appalachian beards in shirts reading Uwharrie 40 miler and Umstead trail marathon flashed smiles, were jovial and kind, a good field of local trail talent. Directions were given, the countdown, and the galloping beat down the dirt road.  The mad pace of the front runners jammed out as I boosted through the first out-and-back, before the single track, trying to buffer my midpack position, to be unforced in pace.  At the trail head we fell into the pines and followed the serpentine wind through about three miles of woods, crossed the road (by a nice kayak launch) where the trail is kinked and slower, about 1.5 miles and then a short dig to hit another entrance onto a new trail which ran 1.5 miles and then poured out against the second out-and-back.   My early push was punishing my legs, acidic cement in calves and quads and my calories were low, but the woods were wonderful and the volunteers were encouraging.  At one point I was head-singing (to the faint tune of an 80's song) “when the quad detaches from the bone.”  I passed through the first loop, saw ky and the wife, and kept up the effort for the repeated loop.
mid-point with finish chute to right.  My wife:  "you looked a little rougher than i would've expected."

The race was a fast one with a front pack battle driving the winner to a 6m 22s pace, 40 seconds faster than last year.  My time was 1h 43min, a 7m 48s min/mile, which beat last years time by about 30 secs/mile.  My position in the field of 47dropped to19th from last year's 17th. An encouraging improvement, though I could've done better with more patience in the opening sprint.  Ray Underhill decks were the trophies for top three finishers per race, and the organizers mingled and sought feedback for next year's run, throwing ideas for longer distances on these trails soon.  Very exciting prospects, and they get this race tightened down better every year.  My wife drove my wobbly body home and made pastas and coffee and let me move slowly with blisters like a fleshy mudslide on the balls of my forefeet before work at 3h30pm.

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