No timing chips, no starting mats, just a couple of bright orange cones, a few words of wisdom from Bad Ben, the race director, and ready, set, go! I realized about 10 steps into this that I was a little TOO conservative in my starting place. I tried passing a few people but it was difficult with rock crossings. I managed to get beyond a mother and her two daughters before entering the bridle trails.
I was just starting the first hill when I heard it - the sound of whining. If you've ever run with the Nerds, you know that whining will result in being buried in a shallow, unmarked grave next to the trail. I couldn't believe it. I looked at my watch -3:08 minutes into the race and one of the girls was already complaining! I thought, this is going to be a long 6 miles if this keeps up. At 4:15 I heard the mother offer to walk. At 6:20 they started walking and 7 minutes into the race, I never heard from them again. At least it was over quickly. I didn't notice any shallow graves on the way back, but then again, they're unmarked.
I met Barefoot Rick, easily distinguished by his lack of footwear. The highlight of my run - I had just passed Rick going through some rocks and got to the first of the muddy areas. To my right, I see a guy go down and hear Rick shout with child-like joy "Yeah!! Shoe-sucking mud!" as he ran right through the middle, passing me in my vain attempt at solid footing. Barefoot Rick and I leap-frogged for much of the race until the end, when I passed him going down a rocky slope. I can't believe how fast he is barefoot.
I was able to pass a few people on the first half of the course. Passing is much more difficult on single track trails than any road race. You actually have to plan and think about it.
The trail wound through the "Triangle" and I think I was better off in the dark, because then at least I wasn't tempted to try to figure out where I was or what direction I was headed in. Passing was out of the question and I was glad to follow someone anyway. When I think of trail running, the Triangle is exactly what I think of. Although, you have to wonder if the trail creator was in some kind of chemically altered state when that trail was designed. That's an entirely different conversation.
Out of the triangle and on the way back, I made up a lot of ground and passed a ton of people. I met a few of the Mud Babes and talked with a few other groups. I was practically skipping on the down hills. I'm sure someone was waiting for me to do a face plant, but I was having way too much fun to slow down. I figured if I did fall, I deserved it. Having trail shoes is a definite advantage.
I finished strong and felt I could have gone harder - there were just too many unknowns. I had a near-perfect Friday evening - trail race, followed by a hot shower, cold beer, and ice on the knees. If only I didn't have any blisters, it would have been perfect.
Turns out, I finished 4th out of the ladies (out of 31). Damn, so close to placing. I think next time I'll start closer to the front and really give those Mud Babes a run for their money. :) John joked that I should give up this triathlon stuff and get into the trail running circuit. While giving up triathlons is out of the question, I think I am going to try to find a trail marathon next year and see where that takes me. I'm trying to PR in the KC 1/2 marathon this fall, but after that I may be done with road races.
Except for triathlons, of course.