I wanted to share a little about my experience last night's River Jam Trail race at the USN Whitewater center. Every Thursday night, the Whitewater Center throws party with live music, food, vendors, an opportunity to watch people shoot the rapids, and oh, yes, there is several options for a trail run.
If every family members isn’t a runner, they can come throw out a blank, enjoy the music while you knock out some miles on some of the most well kept trails in the Charlotte area.
Then, there is the second Tuesday of each month when they do their trail races series: 3 and 6 mile races.
Thursdays are typically my medium long run day during the week. Since Tuesday, I ran mile repeats; I thought a 6 mile tempo run on the trails would be a nice complementary workout.
Running at the the Whitewater Center always a no brainer because it is no more than 10 minutes out 485 from house. I love this part because there is minimal traffic and it is an easy drive.
To get things rolling, I headed out to preview the course. But before starting, I looked at the course map. Having run at the Whitewater Center numerous times, I am fairly well acquainted with the different trails. I knew the course had some fast sections but also included some rougher single track sections.
My warm up went well. I got mixed in with some cyclist who probably made my warm up a little faster than I wanted. The result, I was back in plenty of time to pick up my race bib, drop some stuff at my car, and pick up a couple of more miles before the race started.
We gathered near the trail center and Adam gave us some last minute instructions. 3 milers would be following the Green arrows while the 6 milers would be following the orange arrows. Essentially, the 3 and 6 miler ran the same course for the first 2 ½ miles. At this point, us 6 milers broke away to run the 3 miles or so around of the lake loop.
Like cross country, in trail races position is everything. Everyone goes sprinting out hard trying to be at close to the front as possible. This limits the number of people they have to pass during the single track sections.
Last night race was no exception. Everyone went out hard which is something that I am not great at doing. Once we hit the single track section I focused on setting a good pace as I fell in with several other runners.
As the opportunities presented themselves, I made some passes. To me trail running is a lot like a fartlek workout. There are times where I have to go all out and then there are times where the course is so difficult, it only makes sense to slow down.
This also reminds me that I like running on the trails when it is overcast. On overcast days, there is very little change betweem the light and dark areas of the trails. This makes it easier to see the roots and rocks. On a sunny day, I can easy be blinded for a second while my eyes adjust to the transition. It takes just one arrant second to twist an ankle or take a fall.
Pretty much as these guys moved up, I followed them. After 3 miles, we turned to the lake loop which is one of my favorite trails to run at the Whitewater center.
The three of us stayed together for the 4th mile. Then there were just two of us. I tried to make a move but I couldn’t hold it. He passed my back and over the 5th mile pulled away.
Then, one of the guys that we had passed early caught up to me. I could tell that he was running hard because his breathing was pretty labored.
Just having him behind me pushed me to run a little harder. Soon, we were out of the woods and headed toward the finish. There is about ½ mile to run from the exit of the woods to the finish with one nasty gravel hill to be climb. Then, it is downhill to the finish.
Having got my “but” kicked in this same scenario at the Beach Blast race; I let him pass me coming down the hill. Then, when we hit the hill, I charged up it hard. We topped it side by side. But this time, I had a little more in the tank and charged down the hill to the finish. I finished a few seconds in front of him.
I finished 5th overall in 40:21. This was pretty much in line with my goals. Trail racing has never been my forte. I like the idea of being able to run tomorrow so running the trails with reckless abandon is something that I will probably ever do.
This was my second race at the Whitewater center this year. Both times Adam and his crew have done an outstanding job with the race. Then, throw in the post race entertainment and it makes for an awesome evening.
Sharing one thought at time,
The Cool Down Runner