Sometime early September I was looking for events that would complete my 2016 race calendar that was NOT a triathlon. I had already lined up the 2nd annual Family Duathlon and the family 5K charity run at Old Bust Head Brewing CO., but the one thing that was missing was my annual fall trip to visit my sister and her husband in Missouri for an adventure race.
There were two possible races in Missouri; The Berryman Adventure (now hosted by Rolla Multisports club) and Castlewood (hosted again by Alpine Shop)… but for one reason or another it would not happen this year. This lead me down the path to find something outdoors in Virginia. Fortunately for me Facebook advertisements and Speed Sherpa enabling teammates were more than willing to help feed my addiction which led me to EX2 Adventures Rendezvous Run and Ride (Fall) race. This race is actually two races in one! In the morning there was a 10K trail run, then the afternoon consisted of a two loop course that totaled over 18 miles located at Schaeffer Farms Trail System in Germantown, MD.
There were actually two trail runs scheduled for that morning; a 10k (which is what I chose) or 13.1 mile half marathon.
The half marathon started at 9 AM while the 10K runners started at 10:15 AM, so naturally I was there at 8 AM. I don’t know why I must be at the race event so early, but my nerves simply cannot handle being rushed in the morning as I cannot stand the feeling of being late… and I know I will forget something important (like my bike, or running shoes… or clothes). On the positive side this allows me to hang out around “transition” to soak in the racer positive vibes at the event, and I must say EX2 people are awesome! So laid back and more than happy to BS about nothing while we wait for the start of each event.
This was my first attempt at a trail race so I would be lying to myself if I didn’t admit I was nervous. I have run on trails around my house or near the office, but those were warm-ups or workouts… not a race. I’m glad I was able to do the run first as it allowed me to slowly take in the new trail before trying to race downhill crossing vicious tree root systems, ferocious rocks, and streams on a bike. I had a blast! Any time you envision a trail run requiring you to expertly navigate around the forest fighting against anything that mother nature may throw at you, Schaeffer Farms provided.
I ended up doing very well considering I had only ran twice throughout October, and both of those runs were 4 miles each. I technically came in fifth place among the 58 racers. However, I was not eligible for any awards as I was competing in the ride and run category versus single sport 10K runners. This is where I also found out that the ride and run contestants were TRUE endurance athletes as we were six of the top 10.
Once the run was over I had less than three hours to get food in my system, rehydrate, and relax before the mountain bike trail ride. The previous weekend I went out for a practice ride on my new Scott Scale 930, and I instantly was concerned on how NOT FAR you go on a MTB compared to riding on the road for the same amount of elapsed time. So now I’m headed for a race where I’m thinking I’ll be climbing hills thrashing every joint in my body for almost three hours and mix if fear and adrenaline are blending together.
My race plan was simple, go strong (but not hard) on the first loop then step it up on the second loop because “that’s where you make the money”. Naturally I tossed that out the window as soon as the race director sounded the horn to begin the ride as I was so pumped up to get things going. I started off well just behind the lead pack feeling really good. Since I had already surveyed 6 of the 9 miles of the loop during the run portion that morning I was slightly more confident vs. hitting the trails blindly. Just as I was going up the first hill my calf cramped like I have not experienced before. The rest of the ride continued one tragic setback after another which included:
- calf cramp in the other leg (after a crash)
- a double quad spasms that was so painful that I couldn’t walk (after another crash)
- a crash that ripped my spare tire kit off my bike
- and more crashes after crashes
I didn’t like racing that trail… I LOVED IT. It kicked my ass so hard, but now I just want to ride again to see if I can do it better.
With the good run but a horrible ride, I placed 7th out of the nine competitors. I can’t complain with my placement considering the number of crashes that I endured (I counted six just on the second loop), but I didn’t place well on my first triathlon either. We’ll see what this lead to for the 2017 season.