Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Running with Confidence - Bull Run Run Race Report

Bull Run Run is an awesome event - put on by the Virginia Happy Trails Running Club, it is a great way to kick off an ultra season.  I've only had the opportunity to run BRR twice, since it typically conflicts with Boston Marathon.  This year, the calendar aligned again!

Over the years, I've put so much pressure on myself to run well.  I develop pacing charts, I research the course map and terrain, I focus my efforts on the task at hand.  I allow my OCD nature and my internal competitiveness (with myself) to dictate race plans and approach. 

(Gary Knipling with RDs Alisa Springman and Jim Daniels, who organized an awesome event!)
 
This year, due to other stressors in my life and not enough time to worry about it, I entered the race without a pre-determined race plan, without a pace chart, without any knowledge other than what I'd gained in my last two Bull Run Run runs.  I guess that stress at work, the time commitment of race directing two major races, and understanding that I have a few larger/more important races to stress about, I just approached Bull Run Run as an easy relaxed race.  Whatever happens will happen. 

My goal for the day?  Feel as strong and as solid at mile 49 as you did at mile 2.  What does that mean on race day?  No idea...

 Race morning dawned to a dreary day.  It was 35 degrees and spitting rain - I felt like I was in New England.  The race took off fast and furious, and I relaxed as I settled into my rhythm.  I couldn't tell who was ahead of me, but saw Kathleen Cusick within my sight, and let her run her own race rather than trying to track her down.  I ran with confidence that if I relaxed and stuck to my plan that I would have a good day.

(Early miles, as the hail is falling)

About an hour into the race, the rain turned to snow...I just had to laugh at this weather.  The wet trails, combined with several hundred runners on them, turned much of the trail to Crisco-slick mud.  I spent many strides almost running in place as my feet slid out from under me.  By the first turn-around, I saw 3 or 4 women ahead of me (including Kathleen)...and reminded myself to relax and do my thing.  My inner competitive animal wanted to hunt some ladies down, and I had to quiet that instinct.

(Joe, who I shared miles with later on, running through the snow/rain/hail)

Another hour later, and the snow had turned to hail.  Hail was littering the ground, almost giving the trail a dusted look.  I had caught Kathleen but was running just ahead of her.  I was relaxed and enjoying the day, trying to figure out the odds that the weather would be this crazy.

As I passed through the start/finish area for the first time, I immediately saw Robin (who had paced me at Massanutten a few years ago) and she told me that the 2 women ahead of me had dropped out, I was now in 1st place.  I did a triple take, not believing that this could happen.  I mean, I know the weather isn't ideal but I train in these conditions all the time! 

(Running with confidence)

The next hour was likely the most miserable of the race, as rain was coming down now and the wind kicked up a bit.  The miles were a blur, I simply passed the time trying to keep my hands from going numb. 

I caught up to a runner, Danny, and we passed the miles gabbing about life in the construction industry, past race adventures, life.  At some point, the wind died down and the rain stopped.  Just after the white loop, I nearly ran head-long into Brian on his return trip.  It was great to see that he was doing well, but was nervous that I saw him so early in the race - perhaps I wasn't moving well after all. 

(Sharing some miles with Danny)

As we hit the Do-Loop, and I did my best to surge past around the loop and start my return trip.  The sun was starting to come out, and I was amazed that the day packed just about every weather condition!

The return miles seemed to fly by and I felt strong.  I was amazed that my legs were so strong and I felt as steady as I did in the early miles.  I caught up to a runner, Joe, and we bonded over both knowing Leigh Schmidt (and wondered why he wasn't here).  With a few miles to go, Joe started to encourage me to run strong and kept pacing out the stride for me. 

(Cruising into the finish)
 
I crossed the finish line in 8:25, which was a solid time, given the rain and the slippery muddy conditions.  But, not quite the time I was hoping for.  I was surprised to somehow have finished first female despite my time.  More, I was pleased to have stuck to my pre-race plan and run with confidence.  I didn't worry about the splits or placing, I just ran strong and smart and cruised through the entire race.

(Final women's podium)