Tuesday, March 19, 2013

2013 San-Lee Trail Half Marathon

Several thousand runners packed into the corrals
We had signed up for this race without knowing anything about it.
But a trail half is my favorite kind of race, and we will unfortunately be missing Owls Roost Rumble this year, so why not?

But after we had registered, I saw the course map:

Second Thoughts
Holy crap.
Looks like hyper active toddler went to town with a box of crayons.
Looks like someone barfed up a bowl of spaghetti and bag of skittles.

The entire human nervous system isn't that complicated.

With my track record, I was sure I would miss a turn and become lost in there for days.
I tried to talk Shannon out of it the morning of the race, but she was persistent.

Great Course
It turned out I was very wrong.
It was actually a fabulous course, located in San-Lee Park in Sanford. The race was put on by local bike shop Storm Endurance Sports, and they did an amazing job marking the course with the tape, signs and arrows all along the entire 13.1 miles.

I am usually not a fan of excessive mountain bike switchbacks, but this was a fun roller coaster of trail that had a lot of character and variety. Lots of twists and turns, some fast smooth descents, some rocky sections, some big boulders, and some thigh high, quad busting moguls.

At the word "GO", the 30 or so runners took off surprisingly fast, leaving me in the dust as my crotchety old legs protested the sudden movement.

It was a short jaunt around a building and across a bridge and the lead pack funneled into the single track trail. It was a little bit chaotic there so I surged ahead and settled in behind the guy in the lead, who was wearing a cycling jersey and headphones.

The Umstead Marathon was only two weeks before, and I had done a 5K and Godiva Hard Climb hill last weekend, so this race was clearly over-doing it.
So I had planned for it to be just a relaxed "easy" run... oh, who am I kidding.

I was in second place, and was able to hang with headphone guy for the first few miles. The pace felt about my limit for a half marathon, so I decided to just follow him and see what happened.
Following someone on a trail feels somewhat easier, as you don't have to waste brain power navigating the twists and turns on your own.

Photo by Howard Rhyne

Behind me in third place lurked a guy I dubbed "Ultra Runner Dude". He ran shirtless, carried two handhelds, and wore New Balance Minimus Trail Zeros. He was straight from the cover of Ultra Running magazine and I knew he would be trouble.

Awesome volunteers.
It was getting hot, so I also stripped down to shirtless douche-bag mode. At the first aid station around mile 4, I stopped to drink and dump water on my head, falling to third place.

As I caught back up to them around mile 5, Ultra Dude finally made his move and zipped by Headphone guy. I followed, putting the two SDBs in the lead.

Photo by Howard Rhyne

Ultra Dude laid the hammer down. We went from half marathon pace to a track workout pace, bombing down some switchbacks. I let out a "Whooop!" and he let out a "Yee Haw!".

It was an all-out effort, but I was able to hang with him for a bit, until we hit a really nasty technical section. The trail was nothing but a quarter mile long line of bowling ball sized rocks.
I pride myself at my trail running ability, and I think it makes up for what I lack in actual speed.
But this guy absolutely schooled me on those rocks. He just floated over them without slowing down at all.
As I tip-toed carefully through them he ran out of sight.

Photo by Shannon

Pit Stop
Suddenly, the trail became much harder with no one to follow. Once I cleared the rocks, I just made a mad dash to try to catch up to him. I laughed at how dumb it was to push that hard with 6 miles still to go, but I have never even been close to the front in a half marathon before. I had to go for it.

I managed to catch him, and at the next aid station he stopped to fill up a bottle.
"Give him a cup of water first", he asked the volunteer, pointing to me. It was a very gracious and honorable gesture on his part.
A real sportsman would have returned the favor and waited for him to fill up his bottle. But a real sportsman would have no chance of winning.
So I just gulped the water and took off as fast as I could.

Shannon runs and shoots again
Holy Crap
I was terrified. I was in the lead of a trail half marathon! With the likes of David Roche and Duncan Hoge around, I will probably never get that chance again.

So I ran scared. I saw Ultra Dude on every switchback, just seconds behind me. I was absolutely exhausted, so I made up for it by being reckless. The course became a race track, with wide high banked curves I zoomed around and steep descents I crashed down, pummeling my trail glove clad feet to hamburger. But still, there he was.

I managed to stumble through the last mile and cross the finish just 40 seconds ahead of him, in 1:36:56.

Hand crafted pot-of-gold for St. Patrick's Day
Shannon came in shortly after, winning the women's race with less effort while taking photos.
We were awarded hand crafted pots filled with chocolate gold coins, in recognition of St. Patrick's Day.

Real Winners
But Shannon and I must forfeit or wins to Heather Scheffler and Kelly Bulter.
On the way to crossing the finish line, they went down the slide.
That's a whole lot of WIN.

Many thanks to Storm Endurance Sports for putting on a great trail race.
We will be back! But next time, I am going down the slide.

Photos by Shannon

Photos from Howard Rhyne

Really awesome Video

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