Goose creek trail races review

  I'm getting into the heart of marathon training now, and just like I mentioned in a previous blog entry, it's one of the most demanding things I've ever done. Between that and time spent in school and working and it's kinda hard to get it all in. And sometimes when youre just walking in the door at 9:00 at night and your choice is between a cold Sam Adams and a scheduled 14 mile run....well let's just say the carb loading wins out. With the omni present threat of having to grow out a mustache looming over my head I haven't missed too many though. And after this weekend, I just gained some extra motivation. But we'll get to that. 

And then that happened

   Goose creek is located in a North Carolina state park which is filled with back woods trails, wooden walkways and on race day lots and lots of hunters. (Personally I find that the deafening sound of a nearby shotgun blast makes me run faster.) The race crew and the local park rangers had gone through the day before and had cleaned off trail paths making the course tremendously easy to see and navigate. The race itself had two options to choose from, a 7k option and a 10 mile option, often referred to as "The man's race." Knowing exactly where my competition would head to, I wisely registered for the 7k. 
  The morning of the race I picked up a running friend and we headed up to Washington, NC, where the park is located. On the drive she and I talked about everything from Lance Armstrong's doping controversy to the Olympics. I remarked how I couldn't understand how some teams from different countries had thrown some of their initial matches just for a better shot at the podium later in the games. As I judgmentally shook my head she looked at me and said: "Uhhh, we're sandbagging and running the 7k just so we can get prizes." to which, with the wisdom of the ages, I countered with: "Oh....ummm, well when you put it like that..." she also introduced me to a new term; race stalking. Apparently this is when you check the times and pace of other runners to make sure that they're either:
Definitely "race" stalking
  1. Not better than you                                   
  2. That you are closing the gap and will be able to take them soon

   We arrived at the park site where we bumped into a few friends, one of whom was volunteering and proceeded to chastise us when she found out our plans to run the 7k, to which both of us shrugged and fully admitted that we were running it in hopes of placing. Also, I like shiny things, and the smaller race was my best shot at medaling.  While doing the usual race meet and greet of the great people that show up to these events I was approached by a woman who asked me about the race bag I had on my back. A running faux pa which I have become familiar with is that, if you didn't run the race, you don't wear the gear from said race. (It's kinda like showing up to a concert wearing a t-shirt of the band you're there to see.) That morning however it was extremely cold and I just grabbed a bag to shove our extra layers in before the race, figuring that no one would show from a race in the other side of the state. "Did you run that race?" she asked motioning to the cardinal logo that adorned the bag. "No," I told her "I had a race conflict that day and had signed up for two, so I went with the better one." Trying to return her politeness I asked her if she had run the race. She smiled at me and responded that she hadn't run the race either, but that was mainly because she was the race director. With my usual grace, tact and rhino-like reflexes I stumbled through a "ahhhh, Uhhh yeah! Ummm well, I'm doing your thanksgiving race up there in five days....I guess I'll see you then!" ...We'll see how that goes. 

Ignore those birds on his back--he totally has the fastest 
reflexes in the animal kingdom.

   After a  few minutes the ten milers had lined up and taken off the initial gravel of the road crunching under their shoes. My friend and I looked around at the remaining children and elderly that were staving off the cold and staying inside for just a few more minutes before the 7k started.  We gave each other a knowing smile and while we walked down to the start line discussed which pose we would strike as we crossed the finish line. She favored the Tebow, while I was more a fan of the "superman with the American flag in the background" shot.   And then, like karma had been out way too late drinking and woke up with a nasty hangover, (plus she couldn't get anyone to dance with her) I saw them. Two guys who I recognized from previous races who ran 17 minute 5ks, and a guy wearing a jacket from this year's Boston marathon. Watching their faster-than-I-could-ever-hope-to-run warmup pace, I realized I might have over estimated how easy this was going to be. For my friend there was also a plucky running store sponsored high school girl standing at the line up. 

Ugghhhh, they registered for the 7k? Ok, hang on, I got this.

   A quick look and a word from the race director--oh god, it's another Forrester race. What was I thinking?-- we were off. The initial mile wasn't too bad, I tried to keep myself in check and keep Boston and the girl (she turned out to be very, very fast) in my eye line while making sure that I didn't blow my lungs out. The race started out on a paved road that if, I hadn't felt like that the fat from last night's cheeseburger was trying to punch a hole in my heart, would have been picturesque with the fall leaves coming down in our path right beside the water. We rounded a parking lot after a mile, the pack thinning out when we hit the twisting trails. 

   I have discovered that I love trail races, and was looking forward to this portion. Unfortunately I wasn't always sure of where I was going, but every time I passed a ten miler I felt pleased that either a bunch of us were lost, or I was going the right direction. I knew at some point that the path for the ten milers and the 7k-ers would diverge, but I couldn't remember where or at what mile point that would be. As I passed a ten miler I sucked in some air and asked her if a guy in a yellow shirt (Boston) had come through. She told me I was about 10 seconds behind him. I managed to croak out a thank you and then my thoughts were dominated by Exactly how long is a 7k? I tried to ask this to every volunteer I ran by, and they laughed as if I was making the world's funniest joke. (I don't think they knew I wasn't being facetious, I really wanted to know when I could stop this god awful torture.) 

   We waded through more trails when we came to a wooden board walk of sorts that takes you over the more swamp like portion of the course. This is the section that I have dubbed the "Forrester element." if you've ever run any of his races, you know two things about them:

  1. they're tons of fun and have some of the best people you'll ever meet both running and volunteering at the race. 
  2. The race will have some brutal, usually a surprise, element to them. 

The white house was not impressed with my performance
   This time it was the early morning slime (or possibly greased and buttered) sections of the board walk. Approximately every third step my shoe would go flying from beneath me and I had to choose whether it was better to risk face planting on the board walk / landing in the water, or slowing down. I chose the latter. The self protection move resulted in two more runners passing me and my friend catching up to me. A quick glance over my shoulder revealed a speed demon in pink closing the gap and when I turned back I heard her battle cry of "What are you doing?!? Waiting on me??"  I retorted by grunting out the words "Stupid bridge," as we blessedly hit solid trail again. 
   I shouted back to her to pick up the pace with me and she yelled that she had second in the bag, there was no reason for her to push, until I fatefully yelled the words "Comeon! Race me!" she obliged. We sprinted out the last 50 yards and crossed the finish line with her chip registering just before mine, and giving her a one second win. She exclaimed that this was "the best day ever!" and I went to talk to the race director about his faulty timing equipment. 

Jenny accepts her 2nd female overall glass
   We stuck a round for the awards as she took 2nd overall female and I took first in my age group. This is the first time I've ever placed at a Forrester or RMEC event, and I was thrilled to finally get a piece of hardware to take home. I'm spent my time this morning pushing myself on a long run to make sure that it won't be my last. 

    As for my loss to my friend, I begrudgingly acknowledge that Jenny finished ahead of me. But the truth is, it may just be the motivation I've been needing for the short term. My Facebook wall is currently filled with as many cheers from women and taunts from her, as my phone is with texts from friends about how I "got chicked."  With a ten mile race against her (Dash for Cash) and a shot at redemption in two weeks, I've never been more determined to win. Turns out, we'll both be racing together in several races next year as well. Looks like avoiding a mustache isn't going to be my only motivation for a while. 

So far everything I've had to drink out of it
 tastes like excellence 


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