I started near the back of the pack for the first running of the "Run of the Mill" hill race. (Photo: copyright, Bill Fairmaner)
It had been a cold morning, below freezing, but the sun was out, and it now felt like it was in the 40s. There was a countdown, and then the 14.7 km (9.1 mile) race began.
127 runners followed the trail into the woods. I was wearing a headband, a lightweight, long-sleeve shirt, thin gloves, shorts, ankle-length wool running socks (I knew my feet would be wet by the end), and my Walsh hill running shoes. I carried a bum bag with a waterproof jacket, nylon running trousers, a small bottle of sports drink, compass, map, whistle, and cookies.
I chatted with my Work Friend as we ran through the woods. The trail was narrow, so we couldn't pass anyone, and the pace slowed as runners became bunched up.
After a half mile the trail opened up a bit, and as it descended I sped up. I could see a friend, M., a little ways ahead, and tried to keep him in view as he passed other runners. In an earlier trail 10K race this year, I'd kept with M. nearly the whole distance.
The race route then began to climb sharply up a hill. It was steep enough to preclude walking. I chatted with M. as we climbed.
Eventually, the inclination eased a bit, and running was possible. I started to run where it was feasible, and walked the steepest sections. The wind grew stronger as we gained elevation.
Near the first summit, the wind was strong. I'd taken my gloves and head-band off in the woods earlier, but now slipped them back on. The ground was muddy in places from recent heavy rains.
As we climbed, bits of ice became evident. I was feeling good, but there was still a fair distance left.
After the first summit, there was a level stretch and then a slight climb to another hill top. The route turned, and headed to a third hill top.
The gradient was moderately steep, but I kept running just to stay warm. Now there were patches of recent snow on the ground, and frozen puddles. In other parts of the trail there was still water, so my feet were now wet.
Eventually, I came to the final hill top, and began the long descent. Parts of it were on a dirt road, and my numb feet felt like they were slapping the ground. Because the gradient was so steep, it was difficult to go all out - I didn't want to slip.
Off the road after a mile or so, the route againg headed back into the woods, and then back to the start. My wife and children were in a clearing before the woods, and I gave my son a high-five as I passed.
I finished in 1:36:14. This put me 52nd place out of the 127 finishers.
I'm easing back into my running since the marathon. In this past week, the third since the Loch Ness marathon, I played basketball on Tuesday, ran Weds (5 miles, hill route), Thurs (3.1 miles on the track), Saturday (5ish road/woods miles, with hills), and this 9 mile race on Sunday.
I haven't started training for Boston yet, but I'd like to run 4-5 times a week to keep up a decent running base.
The nights are definitely drawing in now. The large syacamore tree in our yard still has most of its leave, but it won't for long. Next week the clocks shift, and it will really sink in.