The Runner's Reward

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Pittsburgh Wild Half Trail Race Recap

 Race Morning

I woke up around 6 AM with some errands to run before the race so I had a glass of water, a glass of orange juice, a banana, and took an oatmeal jar in the car with me along with some bulletproof coffee. By 8 I was back at my house and heading out the door for the 10 minute drive to Boyce Park.  What an incredible convenience to have a race so close to home!  By 8:15 I had my race packet in hand and time to relax for a few minutes.

At 8:30 I started warming up. I did some prisoner squats and light stretches and then headed to the trail for 0.5 mile warmup. A quick bathroom stop and I was ready to go.

Race Time

Eastern Boyce 

The Half Marathon race started promptly at 9:00 AM. The first 2-3 miles I found it hard to get into my groove due to the congestion. It was very tight running, single file on single track trail. Someone a few people back had music on very loud. They had earbuds, but I could hear every word, every note clear as day. Yes, this annoyed me to no end. I found an opportunity in a slightly wider section of trail and passed a few people pulling away from the noise pollution. Around 2.5 miles in we hit a section of gravel road for a short stretch allowing me to get into my groove and for the field to space out a bit.  I chatted with a few guys about running trails. They were new to it. As people flew by us on the open stretch I said that we would be seeing many of them again before the finish line. This proved to be true.

By mile 5 I had started taking short walking breaks on the hills to conserve energy for the even larger climbs still ahead. My pacing plan was to come in a little faster than planned 50k pace. For 50k of trails walking breaks are mandatory (for me). Rounding up from the Log Cabin back towards the 5k/10k trail split there were a few muddy stretches, some of which stretched across the entire width of the trail.  One thing about trail running: expect to get dirty, wet, and muddy. Popping back onto the road the 10k runners headed for the finish line. The rest of us punishment-loving folks crossed over to the western half of the park and the second half of the race.

 Western Boyce

The first half mile was relatively flat and I used this to keep a easy steady pace which allowed me to gain on a few people that were starting to slow up. It also provided some recovery for the challenges I knew lay ahead. 

Soon we cut into the forest. This small section is one of my favorites. Open forest with winding, rolling trail under a canopy of tall oaks. The short, steep downhills are my attack spots for a trail race and again and again I gained and passed on these and the subsequent up hills that sheer momentum carried me halfway up and walking the rest of the way up.  

The next stretch makes it's way through the forest around the RC airfield and leads to the climbing trail to the top of the ski slopes. It was a mostly un notable section of the course for me. I was feeling a bit tired, but strong and prepared for the next leg.

The climb to the top of the slope is a steady up grade of varying pitch. I walked up the steepest stretches and slowly shuffled up the rest. Along the way I spoke to a few people I encountered. There is one steep section up a gravel road and then you are out into the open fields at the top of the slopes. I followed and was surprised to see that ahead was a run straight down one of the slopes. I lengthened my stride and let gravity carry me downwards concentrating on keeping form and good landings. From the bottom the course went right back up on crisscrossing trails eventually summiting Indian Hill, the highest point in Allegheny County.  From here it was all downhill and flats until arriving at the ski lodge. A minimal hill climb came to the last aid station at the edge of the RC airplane field.  The last two miles were rolling hills. I came out on across from the parking lot. The final stretch went through the lot and down the chute at the soccer field.

I finished in 2:28:27,  25/67 Men's category ,and 16th in Age group with an average pace of around 11:30. I am more than pleased.  The only complaint I have about the race is the age groups. It is not so much a complaint as confusion. The age groups were: 0-14,15-39,40-59, and 60-100.  The weirdest age groupings I have ever seen. 

Since the race I have heard many people saying this was the toughest half marathon, 5k, 10k they have done. Also, many have said it was also the most rewarding.   Running trail is a whole different game than road running.  It boosts strength in the lower legs; calfs, ankles, achilles. And for me, it is a boost for the soul. Sunday trail runs are my personal form of religion in a sense.  It fosters a feeling of appreciation of my body's capabilities and the natural world and brings me a deep sense of peace and enjoyment.  I feel grateful for the opportunity to run this race. It truly was a rewarding experience.

Come Run the Trails

I hope some of you will go out and try some trail running. I am at one of the parks in the city almost every Sunday and soon will be going out many Saturday's too. I am always happy to have a running buddy/buddies.  No pace too "slow" just get out and go, go, go!

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