Sunday, December 11, 2011

Weekend of running

Yesterday we drove up to Camp Dippikill for the "Adventure Race" run that the Albany Running Exchange hosts each December. We were excited that John was able to experience it this time. Last year was great fun and craziness, and this year did not disappoint.

This time 106 runners started out sitting on the dirt road and then taking off our shoes and holding them in the air. When we all had our shoes off, the RD said "Go!" and we raced to put them back on so we could start running. John apparently never unties his shoes anyway, so he just slipped them back on and he was the first to stand up and start running. I was thinking I was doing well with the Salomon slide laces, but I wasn't as fast as John! I followed him around the cabin and joined the initial rush into woods to follow pink ribbons wherever the race organizers decided to take us.

John led the way for a while and eventually the fastest guys caught up and passed him. John said he had a lot of fun with the obstacles - walking on logs over creeks and ponds, using trees to climb rock faces and descend steep drops, and scrambling up and down steep inclines. Most of the race involved off-trail travel through the woods (with a few trails thrown in for recovery), up and down big and small hills, trying to keep track of the pink ribbons.

Based on my experience last year (and being not quite as enamored as John about the obstacle traversing), I followed the more common approach of finding ways around the obstacles while not losing track of the course. There aren't any real rules, as far as I can tell, except to generally follow the pink ribbons until you end up back at the start.

Which mostly involves an hour+ of anaerobic, pell-mell running through the woods, trying to keep from getting whacked in the face by branches (usually from people immediately in front of you, although some were self-inflicted) and trying to keep from going off-track or getting run over by someone right on your tail. Like a free-for-all orienteering event where you don't have to think about the actual navigation part. Not your average running race!

I saw one woman pass me early and she was running fast enough that I didn't think I would catch her (I didn't). I also followed a group of guys on a rare trail section and I think we were all so happy to be on a trail that it took a bit before someone noticed that we were no longer following pink ribbons all of a sudden. No pink, no pink! I yelled at the next guy running toward me after I did an about-face to run back the way we had come. We spotted the ribbons over to the left and rejoined the frenzied masses on the right course.

Apparently a few folks made an even bigger error and did not actually go back to fix it. This somehow involved cutting off a big chunk of the course, because toward the end I passed a woman running relatively slowly. That was weird - I had to check that she had a race number on (she did). It didn't make sense that she had gotten by me on the little detour that had cost only a couple minutes. I guess it was possible. But then there were more slow people, I passed another woman I had not seen before, and a total of 3 women beat me. I have a suspicion that I could have been the 2nd-or-so woman if things had gone correctly (John also told me he passed a ton of people running much slower than him near the end, and that made no sense to him either, especially the women that had never passed him but were now ahead of him - he had started at the front and didn't go off course like it did).

In the end, it was a race for fun, so we didn't fret over it. After all, everyone seemed to be free to make their own decisions about the obstacles, so it's not like you can get hung up on the fairness of the results. It's all good :)

We got in a few bonus miles when our car ran out of gas (which I can't find any way to blame on John, perplexingly) and met a nice fellow runner named David who helped us make the final couple miles to a gas station and then back to the car. Thank you David!!

Today we ran the HMRRC 15k road race around U-Albany and the state office roads. Back to my road running roots! That was fun, especially with sunshine and blue skies, starting slow and easy and gradually speeding up to race to the finish line. I haven't run a 15k in so long I don't even know what my PR is :)

I've spent the rest of the day going over possibilities for winter-spring racing. Looks like another fun mix of running (roads and trails), a winter adventure race, snowshoeing, XC skiing, even a Ski-O event. It's a challenge figuring how to train here in the winter, but at least it usually involves doing different and interesting things. Just gotta stay warm! So far, so good...

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