Monday, April 22, 2013

Medoc Spring Races 2013



A 41 year old women passes a 74 year old man during the race

[All photos by Shannon Johnstone. The rest of Shannon's photos are here]

Shannon and I have each run over 150 races, but this was one of our favorites.

The Medoc Spring Races is modeled after the legendary Dipsea trail race in CA. Like the Godiva Geezer Pleezer, Dipsea evens the playing field with runners getting a head start based on age and gender.
The quirky Dipsea is wildly popular and almost impossible to get into, with people actually having to bribe their way it. The Medoc race has the potential to match that popularity.

I feel fortunate to have run the inaugural race, as future Medoc events may fill up fast. The first race did attract some of the best running talent from the area, and even lured the speedy Alex Varner back from CA to run. 

Alex Varner has had the fastest Dipsea time four years in a row,
and was awarded the #1 seed at Medoc. Surely he would win...

The race organizers put a tremendous amount of time and energy into make this race great, and it showed. Here are some of the details:
  • Seeded numbers based on predicted time
  • Personalized bibs with your name
  • Great tech t-shirt
  • Finishers pint-glass
  • Custom hats for the top 50 finishers with your place on the back
  • Tons of awards donated by sponsors, which top finishers get to choose from.

Godiva's own 72 year old Louise Guardino started off the race with a 28 minute head start.
Louise won the Geezer Pleezer this year.
Start
The start for this race is complicated because of the head starts, but it was very well organized, and it went off without a hitch.

There were corrals from AA to Z.  72-year old Louise Guardino started the race off in coral AA at 9:02am.
Corrals were then dispatched a minute apart until the young guys in corral Z finally went at 9:30am.

54 year old Ashley Bass ran a 17:33 5K in December. That's a 5:39 pace.
He got an 8 minute head start here. Could Alex and David possibly catch him?
Group W
I was in Group W. (" ...group W's where they put you if you may not be moral enough to join the army after committing your special crime..." sorry. I am old)

There was about 8 men in their low 40's and one 16 year old kid. The kid took off to lead us into the trail and I did my best to keep up.

David Roche was the 2012 National Trail 10K champion, and holds the course record
in almost every trail race in the triangle area. Who could beat him?
Passing
Within a half mile we caught some of the runners who had started ahead of us.
I had been worried that passing would be difficult with so many people running different paces on a single track trail. But it turned out to be no problem at all. In fact, it seemed easier than most trail races, since everyone was spread out to start. 

Everyone I saw was very courteous and stayed to the right to allow passing. And I made sure to step out of the way when I heard the fast guys coming. Within a mile Jason Page blew by and said hi, and was out sight before I could reply.

I managed to hold off David Roche and Alex Varner until mile 2, who were running neck and neck at that point. 

39 Year old Lorraine Young is somewhat new to the local running scene, and less known.
But she just set a course record in the Umstead Trail Marathon.
She took off and never looked back.
Course
The trail was a dream to run on. 
Mostly roots and soft leaves made it speedy, but with enough small hills and twists and turns to keep it fun.

I managed to catch Shannon at mile 3, because she was stopping to take photos. 
Around mile 4, I was about to pass a 12 year old girl. "Great job", I said, as I was whacked in the face by a branch that she ran under. 

This is an ad for the Merrell Pace Gloves, with up and coming trail runner Sherri Lynch.
[Attn: Merrell, you can send the money to me and I'll pay the model and the photographer.]
The Mountain
Driving in, I had laughed at the "Mountian" in "Medoc Mountain State Park" because it seemed so flat. But around mile 5, I regretted that when I had to run up it. I was reduced to a power walk half way up, and I was passed by a few more guys shortly after.

The race even included a bit of stairs for a taste of Dipsea
Finish
Next was a short, steep descent punctuated by pointy rocks that made me wish I was wearing something more substantial than trail gloves. Then it was a sprint across a field, to the arch, where I finished in 13th place.

It turned out the most impressive runners of the day were 39 Year old Lorraine Young, finishing first and 54 year old Ashley Bass coming in second. Despite running 5:30 miles Alex Varner and David Roche had to settle for 3rd and 4th.

Our loot from the race.
Awards
Since the playing field was leveled by the head-starts, there were no age groups.
The top 50 were were awarded hats, and a choice of prize.

Ashley Bass came away with a sword, and David Roche a $300 toilet.

I chose a Lance Armstrong endorsed honey stinger prize package, hoping the energy chews might be extra special performance enhancers.
74 year-old Jerry Surh

Worthy of Recognition.
While I love the handicapped start format, it is still not perfect. The age graded head starts are based on world record times, not on averages. So it really ins't a gauge of real world performance.

Let me put it this way.
42 year-old men running 7 min miles (like me) are a dime a dozen. My performance is not worth a Lance Amstrong endorsed energy chew, let alone the 13th best of the day.

74 year-old Jerry Surh and 72 year old Louise Guardino both finished outside the top 50.
But I would rate their performance FAR more impressive than mine.
When I am that age, the most exercise I'll be getting is pushing buttons on my motorized wheel chair.

Running a tough single track trail trace in your 70's, regardless of the pace, is anything but average.
It's nothing short of awe-inspiring.

Next Year
Keep on eye on the race calendar for next year.
This is one trail race you don't want to miss!
For more details check out the website:  Medoc Sping Races

And their facebook page for photos and more.

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