Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Joe English Twilight challenge Freestyle farm ½ marathon

I was looking for the elusive win to continue my streak (1979-2014) and this second year trail race looked like a possibility but more importantly looked like an interesting race.  They offered a six-hour run, a marathon, a marathon relay, and a half-marathon all contested over a 2.6 mile loop through the woods.  The unusual part would be the start time which was 5pm for the 6-hour, and 6pm for the marathon & half-marathon.  That meant that everyone would be running at least some of the race in the dark.  I’ve done a few night road races, track races, orienteering races, and even snowshoe races but never a trail race.

I arrived an hour before the start and went out for a warm-up loop to check out the course.  There was a nice mix of dirt path (mostly dirt road width) and some grass, nothing rough no roots or rocks.  They clearly marked the course with flagging and glow sticks and had each kilometer marked as well.  There was a good fast ½ mile at the start then about a mile of steady climb before a very tough downhill (maximum of 20% grade) with a tough but very short bump after that.  At that point there was another steady ½ mile of climbing followed by a gentle descent back to the start/finish.  The start/finish was located INSIDE of the barn at Freestyle farm, which was unique (and would be hopping during the race).  They had tables set up for water and lap counters for each of the events.

I switched into racing flats, since the surface was dry and footing was good I passed on trail shoes and went with road flats.  Conditions were just about ideal with clear skies for the full moon and temps in the low 60s.  There were a couple of guys who looked fast, one was wearing a singlet that looked like something an English Fellrunner might wear.  I asked him about the singlet and he turned out to be from Edinburgh Scotland visiting the USA.  Pretty cool! At the start I zipped out the barn door and went into the lead with footsteps right behind me.  The first downhill ½ mile felt comfortable, but was surprisingly fast at 2:56.  I was thinking I’d run close to 7 minute pace based on the distance and the course.  The Scottish fellow (Christopher Busby) and Ryan Collins went by me at the first kilometer mark and I felt that pushing too hard this early on the first uphill wouldn’t be prudent.  I relaxed and settled into a pace I hoped I could maintain.

I trailed the leaders by 15 seconds as we made our way back through the barn after the first lap.  It was a lot faster than I expected (16:50 = 6:28 pace) but I felt pretty good.  I like running loops it makes it much easier to breakdown the distance and manage my effort.  I concentrated on keeping the guys in sight on the second lap but more important was getting through feeling good, there would be time later to up the pace (if that was possible).  They were 30 seconds ahead at the end of lap two which I covered in 16:52 (6:29 pace).  Busby struggled a bit on lap three and I began to close on him.  I didn’t want to push too hard as we were only 5+ miles in, but natural tendencies are to attack and I closed the gap.  About halfway through lap three I caught him, but now I could not see the leader.  Collins had about 45 seconds on me as I finished the 3rd lap in 16:57 (6:31 pace).

It was getting dark during the third lap as it was now about 7pm and I grabbed a drink and my headlamp as I rolled through the barn with two laps to go.  It was still light enough to see in the open fields but it was quite dark in the woods.  The glow sticks were glowing and the “signal fires” were lit.  The fires were pretty cool, they had four of them scattered around the course and each one had people hanging out cheering and enjoying themselves.  This was my lap to attack and I thought I did but I slowed a bit running a 17:10 (6:36) pace. Now it was full dark and every light I saw up ahead made me think “that’s the leader” but every light wasn’t the leader.  I struggled over the final lap slowing to a 17:40 (6:45 pace) and never got any closer to the winner.  His last two laps were not much faster than mine.  Collins took the win in 1:24:15, I crossed the line in 1:25:20 and Busby was next in 1:26:55. 

I was pretty happy with the race, I gave all I had and ran a 50+ PR (I hadn’t raced a half-marathon at age 50).  I still need a win and the clock is ticking.

Pl Name                                    City, ST              Age       Time                 Age group
1 Ryan Collins                                         30         1:24:15             30-39
2 Dave Dunham              Bradford, MA      51         1:25:20             50-59
3 Christopher Busby        Edinburgh          33         1:26:55             30-39
4 Dave Herd                   Lee, NH             33         1:40:08             30-39
5 Bill Nawn                     Bedford, NH       50         1:40:39             50-59

35 finisher (5 in the 50-59)
Post-race with the

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