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December 02 2012 / Emily

Race Report: Run at the Rock

I mentioned earlier in the week that I made a late decision to skip the convenient Mistletoe Half Marathon to head out to Burlington for the Run at the Rock trail races.  Burlington isn’t too far away, about an hour east, and Steve from Steve’s House of Running had offered to drive our little carpool, which makes it easy for me!

After an unhealthy choice of cookies for dinner the night before the race (cookie party!  recipe post soon), I was up around 5:45 for the standard oatmeal and tea before meeting at Steve’s a couple minutes after 6:30.  I had packed a bag of assorted clothes for before/during/after options and threw a banana in at the last minute.  Fast forward an hour-ish and we’re at Cedarock Park (alternately spelled Cedarrock and Cedar Rock park in various places online) and were able to park quite close to the start and finish lines, and the post-race tent.  Packet pickup was right there and I walked up and immediately had a pang of regret over opting out of the shirt to save $20.  They had women’s specific pretty purple shirts.  Looked nice.

Steve and I noted that it was colder than the forecast had suggested as recently as, oh, 6:30am, and we were both mulling over our clothing options a little.  I had capris but was trying to choose between short or long sleeves.  I’d brought gloves for some reason but no earband.  My hands get smoking hot for pretty much anything above freezing, and it was high-30s so those were unnecessary.  Lots of other folks were bundled up walking to and from their cars as Steve and I sat in his warm car, waiting for the race start.  Was getting hungry and ate my banana.  I finally decided that since it was a double loop course, I could bring long sleeves and ditch as needed.  Pinned the race bib to my pants and we headed to the start a few minutes before 9:00.  Oh – and bonus – real heated restrooms with sinks and soap and paper towels.

I bought new shoes to prepare for this trail race and the others I will be training for, particularly Umstead.  Went to REI on Friday and picked up the Brooks Cascadia 8.  I won’t pretend it’s wise to wear brand new shoes for a 14 mile race, but they’ve all got to be new at some point, right?  I also wore my age group award socks from the Raven Rock Rumble.

Shiny new shoes!

Shiny new shoes!

As I said, it was a two loop course.  There are 7 and 14 mile race options so it was a bit of a crowd at the beginning.  One of the more crowded trail races I’ve been a part of.  Final results (link: 7 mile, 14 mile) show 200 7 miler and 100 14 milers.

The race began with a short stretch down paved road, then through a gravel parking lot into an open grass field.  A pretty good wide expanse for runners to spread out a little, but it still slowed to a standstill when we entered the singletrack.  The first few miles remained kind of congested, but it was probably for the better to take it easy.  This was to be my second-longest singletrack race (I ran a 15 mile trail race in January) so I didn’t want to go out too fast.  Steve and I ran together throughout this first 7 mile loop.  Lots of ups and downs, lots of rocks and roots hiding under the leaves on the trails, a couple creek crossings and a few muddy spots.  Pretty typical but also tough technical course.  There were also some flatter smoother areas that still had some root surprises hiding.  Like killer squirrels… early in the race, a runner behind us let out a blood curdling scream and there was a bunch of rustling.  My brain was like “omg bear” but then she was like “I almost stepped on squirrel!!!”  Wow the overreaction for that was extreme but comical.  Saw a fellow runner bite it pretty hard a bit later, but she was okay (of course we checked!).  Around mile 3-4, I pulled off my long sleeve and tied it around my waist where it moved around and annoyed me for the rest of the loop.

it looks like I have a tail or something

it looks like I have a tail or something

Around mile 5.5 we got to a water stop at the base of a bridge that we’d circle back to in about a mile.  This bridge scared the living daylights out of me.  There had been a few other bridges and wooden platforms but none that wiggled and shook like this did!  There was two-way runner traffic on the bridge so with 4-5 bodies on it, it was wobbling like mad.  I definitely let out a “oh my GOD!” or perhaps something harsher.  It wasn’t over some huge body of water or anything, but a swinging bridge that isn’t supposed to be swinging just isn’t cool.  Anyway.  I suppose it was stable enough.  Looped around, really it just seemed like aimless weaving through trees, and soon it was time to cross the bridge again (joy).  Before the race they told us it was about 0.5 mile to the finish line from here, and asked the 14 milers to run through the finish line.  There was a pretty significant hill in that last stretch.  It was kind of hard to run through the finish where others were stopped, but we just cruised through and started the whole thing again.

This time there were few other runners around, so I was able to take parts a good bit faster than before.  It is amazing how much of it seemed unfamiliar, since the first time through I had just been watching the people right in front of me.  However, in addition to some parts coming faster, I also seemed to find more stretches worthy of walk/hiking instead of running.  Guess I was tiring.  I had also rolled my left ankle pretty solidly in the first lap and had some other smaller ankle rolls throughout, so I started getting gunshy of pushing through uncertain terrain as I was just imagining the inevitable fall.  My mind was sure I was going to break my arm badly as I tried to catch myself.  Fortunately I never fell down!  But that darn imagination really comes along for the run.

Ran with a pair of older guys for a while through the back half of the loop, and one of the guys took a pretty nasty spill a minute or so after I had passed him (not my fault though!!) and I went back to see if he was okay.  The ears are always alert out there, listening for everything, so it’s hard to miss hearing someone nearby fall down.  He was okay too, thank goodness!  The rest was uneventful, just a couple more wobbly ankles and the shaky bridge.  Not a ton of other runners still out there, so for a while my imagination told me that I was lost forever.  I think this is becoming standard for me.  It’s those darn leaves that make the trail a little hard to find.

Back across the shaky bridge for the 4th and final time, and then up the hill to the finish.  I swear the hill was shorter the first time, how did they do that?  Passed a couple runners on the hill, including a guy wearing sandals who I’d seen stopped twice on the course with “a blow out” where the straps of his little running sandals had broken.  He seemed to like them though.

thumbs up for the finish line

thumbs up for the finish line

Pushed through the finish and was super pleased to have a slight negative split for the loops!  Steve had pushed ahead for the second loop and finished about 4 minutes ahead of me.  We headed to the food tent and enjoyed cold water and hot soup.  Got to say that foam cup of potato soup was the best thing ever at that moment.  I had noticed I was hungry at like mile 3 and didn’t have a clif shot or anything, so I was all kinds of ready for food.  Also had some chocolate chip cookies and got super jazzed for a cup of hot cocoa but sadly they were out of water.  Probably the only thing I can criticize, so not bad though!

Also got to meet up with some of the other NC running bloggers, including meeting Iris from Manic Runday (formerly Stet That Run), which was fun.  Some time passed and Steve and I were getting ready to peace out when I saw I should probably stick around for the age group awards.  Walked away with third place female 20-29.  Pretty neat award too.

All in all, happy with the race.  Kept the pace (just!!) under 10:00 again, got a prize, had good company, and tested out some new kicks.  My feet were pretty unhappy with me by the end of the race.  The DeFeet Raven Rock Rumble socks are a bit thinner than my normal socks, and the Cascadias are a little less narrow than my familiar Ravennas, so my feet had a little more movement and I got some hot spots that didn’t quite make it to blisters on the balls of my feet.  And my toenails as always are in rough shape.  My lesson is I need to get some taller, thicker socks for the trails.  I like the taller socks to keep that trail debris out!

Nice award!

Nice award!

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4 Comments

Leave a Comment
  1. hinsone / Dec 3 2012 6:57 AM

    Congrats on the AG award, sounds like you had a great race! I did enjoy the vineyard stomp, so I will maybe venture into trail running at some point, but not that long of a distance of course to start. Nice job!

  2. Mary / Dec 3 2012 9:43 AM

    Congrats on your race!

  3. Steve / Dec 3 2012 12:01 PM

    great race recap and running on Saturday. i definitely thought bear when that girl screamed after almost stepping on the squirrel. Love the random stuff going down on the trails. good practice for the new shoes, gotta keep breaking them in, at least that’s my plan with mine

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