Hi, my name is Brian.  OK, that’s not really my name, but that’s the name I raced under yesterday.  I know bib swapping is a huge issue for marathons where people get faster runners to use their bibs so they can get qualifying times for certain marque races (i.e. Boston Marathon), but that’s not what happened.  I’m sure Brian could have found someone faster than me to run in his place if that’s what he wanted.  It’s just that Brian was on call and couldn’t race that day.  Heck, I don’t even know the guy.  It was a friend of a friend (of a friend, I think).

The race offered team registrations and the people we ran with ended up having 2 extra registrations so my wife and I gladly accepted their offer to join them.  This ended up being the financial steal of a lifetime.  It was $50 for a team of 4 runners.  So for $12.50, I got a timed race on a well marked course with a t-shirt and free Victory beer afterwards.  I’m a deep value guy (wait till I post about my shoes) and there are a couple ultras I’ve done that ended up being $1 per mile, but those didn’t come with shirts or beers.  $2.50 is about as cheap as you’ll ever find.

Paradise Farms is a helluva place for a race

The race was held at Paradise Farms in Downingtown, PA and proceeds from the race benefitted the East Bradford Trail system.  It was a pretty last minute decision to run this race so it wasn’t something I had been training for.  I typically do a five mile run each Tuesday and Thursday so this fit nicely into my schedule especially considering that I’m not running long this weekend.  This allowed me to go max effort knowing I had plenty of recovery time already planned.  Kate and I had ran a 5K there 4 years ago so I knew this was going to be a beast of a course.

It felt much worse than it looks!
This graphic really doesn’t do the course justice.  It felt much worse than it looks!

The course layout was a little over 2 mile loop followed by about a 1.5 mile out and back section.  The latter was nice as you could cheer runners on ahead and behind you.  Trail races typically get spread out after the first mile and this type of format allows the race to be more social than it would otherwise be.  There were 2 water stops along the way with one that you hit twice.  I normally wouldn’t bother with water on a five mile run, but I grabbed a little cup and chugged a thimble full each time I went by.  Thankfully the temperatures were in the low-70s so the weather was never an issue though there had been threats of thunderstorms.

The race organizers had little pace signs set up at the start/finish based on the pace you expected to run.  I lined up at the 8 minute sign, which was towards the front of the pack, but not at the very front.  While I wasn’t sure if I necessarily belonged at the 8 minute sign, I knew I had no business anywhere near the 6 minute sign.  Not too long after we lined up, the gun literally went off, and we were on our way.

I’m about 200 yards down the first little hill when my watch starts screaming and making angry noises at me.  Drat!  I had forgotten to turn off my HR alarm.  I had changed my data fields around a bit (added lap pace), but didn’t turn off my training alarm.  Normally this isn’t too difficult a task, but it’s not the easiest thing to do jostling around in between a dozen other runners at a sub-7 minute pace.  I managed to get it turned off right before we hit the Hill.  When you look at the elevation chart above it doesn’t look too bad, but this thing was brutal.  I managed to run the entire hill (and passed a couple people in the process), but it took a lot out of me.  I glanced down at my watch towards the top of the steepest section and my HR was 187.  187?!?!  I didn’t even know I could get my heart rate that high.  I thought about cutting back the effort a bit, but my ego was running things at this point and I didn’t want to get passed.  Once the incline got a bit more manageable, I was able to start recovering.

At the 1 mile marker, the course started heading back down.  The one nice thing about races that start and end at the same place is you know that for every foot you climb, you eventually get to run down that same amount.  Unfortunately, I was so gassed from going out too hard (stop me if you’ve heard this one before) that I wasn’t really able to take advantage of this section.  I was running at a decent clip and averaged a mid-7 minute pace for this mile, but really should have been closer to a 7 minute pace since it was almost all downhill.

 Mile Pace Net Elevation (feet)
1 8:41 186
2 7:37 -129
3 8:38 93
4 8:22 -21
5 7:09 -135

Mile 3 was almost as slow as mile 1 because I decided I needed to start walking the steeper hills if I was going to last until the end of the race.  I probably walked for a good 2-3 minutes during this section.  Now it was a very fast walk, but it was still a walk.  I thought it would help me out in the later portions of the race and I think this was the smartest thing I did all day.  I should have done this for a minute or so during the first climb, but was too consumed by looking good in front of the other runners.  Like walking before the half mile marker would mean I’m not a very good runner or shouldn’t have been that far towards the front or yadda yadda yadda.  It’s not often that I let what others may or may not be thinking about me impact my actions, but I did to my detriment yesterday.  I guess it may have cost me 30 seconds or so in my finishing time.

I got to the end of the out-and-back portion of the course and I started feeling stronger and stronger.  I passed a couple runners in this section as we ran around some fields.  My first thought was that it took me 3.5 miles to finally warm-up.  Then I realized the more likely explanation is that it took me 1.5 miles to recover from that first major hill.  Well, if I run this race in the future, I’ll know.  I pushed hard and the last mile was my quickest of the race.  It didn’t hurt that it had the largest drop in net elevation of them all.

I went into the race targeting 40 minutes and I ended up finishing in 39:22.  I couldn’t have been happier than I was coming up the last hill and seeing a 38 on the clock.  The course had about 130 feet of gross elevation gain per mile, which is quite a bit.  I thought I might end up being closer to 42-44 minutes.  That still would have been a good time.  I ran 41:41 during the Hoods in the Woods 5k at Paradise Farms four years ago and the thought of running about 2 miles more in the same time seems kinda crazy.  I know I’ve gotten better as a runner over the last couple years, but I always focus on my improvements in the endurance aspects of running rather than speed.  I very rarely run fast so I’m a little surprised to see that I’m not too shabby in that regard (finished 36th of 199).  Maybe I’ll start mixing in a few more shorter trail races as I go along.  It’s something the rest of my family can join me in and I find I really enjoy it.

Do you ever find yourself doing the same thing over and over and over again (i.e. going out too fast)? 

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