After the Morris Mauler 5k, I became curious about what I can get away with running with my knee. Marathons and longer may not be possible any more, but I’m curious to see where my upper limit is for trail races. I signed up for the Friend to Friend Summer Solstice 5 mile race.
One of the cool things about this race, is that it’s a fund raiser. One hundred percent of the proceeds go to pay for mammograms for women who can’t afford them. And since a doctor has to order a mammogram, they pay for the doctor visit too.
It had been a while since I ran an evening race, and I had some concerns about whether I’d eaten enough. Friday evening, I arrived at the start a bit later than I usually like, and collected my number. When I asked other racers about the course, I got conflicting answers: easy, difficult, technical, hilly. The common thread was an out-and-back section on an old rail bed. As we lined up for the 6:30 PM start, it was still hot and quite humid.
These days, I don’t have a feel for the competition at a trail race. This would be only my third race in the last 18 months. Other than the Davidson brothers from my local paint store, I didn’t know anyone at the start line.
When the gun off, the front of the pack went out really fast. The top 10 or so pulled away, and I had to work hard to stick with the next group. After looping around the edge of the picnic area, we crossed a road, ran a ways up the rail trail which is a major feature of the park, and turned on to rolling, turny single track. In the first mile, I picked off a few people before we turned on to the rail bed.
If there was ever a reason to do pace workouts, the flat rail bed section was it. And I haven’t done running pace workouts in years One mile out, a water station at the turnaround, and then a mile back. I couldn’t see the turnaround point, and after a half mile, with no one to run with, my pace flagged. After the turnaround, it seemed like half the field went by.
Finally, we turned back on to singletrack. A long stair step climb led towards a cell tower. I pushed the pace, gaining ground on two runners who had passed me on the rail bed. Just below the top of the climb, I went by them.
But I didn’t have enough uphill to really open a gap on them. Fifty meters later, we turned back downhill. To this point, the bad knee was doing fine, but other body parts weren’t. Instead of flying downhill, my hamstring tendon started barking at me and kept my stride short. When we came out of the woods into a meadow, first one and then the other passed me. Another half mile of flat, a hairpin turn around the outhouse to the finish, and that was it.
In the end, I had a good result: first in my age group and 28th overall. For feeling like crap and hurting for much of the race, it was an unexpected surprise. And while I prefer races with more up and down, the course is the same for everyone, you take it for what it is and give it your best.
All in all, the Friend 2 Friend Summer Solstice was a fun event with a nice post-race feed. Friend 2 Friend have other races throughout the year. Check out their website, you might find the right distance for you.