April 29, 2010

Muddy Sneaker 20km race report

After 5 years of rejection, they finally let me into the Muddy Sneaker 20km trail race in Naples, NY. Every year it’s a weighted lottery style system that is based upon how many times you’ve done the race and if you show up to the lottery night and if you send in your registration. For the last five years, I’ve entered with hopes high to get in and run this gem of a race, but each year, I inevitably hang my head in shame as I am severely unlucky when it comes to getting into lottery style races. So, each year I go down to help out the guys with setting up, tearing down the race in addition to running aid stations #1 and #3. It’s been my job for the last few years and I’ve done well at it.

Well this year, I was finally allowed entry (after an elaborate prank at the lottery night…) and was allowed to get a bib# and have my Muddy Sneaker debut. I’ve gone down to run the course with friends before and know the areas around aid #1 and #3 REALLY well, but never have I taken this entire course at full speed. I was about to find out that this course definitely eats you up and spits you out if you do not respect it.
I decided to run this race in my old high school uniform to honor a former cross country teammate and friend Nate Dunbar who tragically drown in Hemlock Lake a few weeks ago. I taped a small piece of cloth tape and inscribed the initials "N.D." on one of the straps of my singlet to have him run once more with me. I always looked up to Nate as a great guy and I hope he knew that because he was taken too soon from us. I dedicated this race to him even before I started. I knew it was going to be a good day.

Race morning came with a bang and I traveled down to Hi Tor WMA with several friends and carpooled and shared laughs on the way there. I luckily remembered to bring a cooler of beers for post race as there is always time to enjoy a few after a hard days work. We checked in, I FINALLY was given a bib number and I just had a huge smile on my face. It was going to be a good day. Unfortunately at check in we found out that a few good solid competitors hadn’t picked up their race bags yet and were going to be absent. Among those were unfortunately Carl Johnston and Jim Oberst. I was looking forward to racing those guys along with Al Evans and their names are often synonymous with good competition. To make matters worse, I saw Jason Urckfitz tending to a sore quad before the race and he advised that was due to a lengthy bike tour the previous weekend from DC to PA. Well, I donned the high school singlet, strapped on the trail shoes and warmed up a bit. My HR was a little high (most likely due to excitement) and we hit the starting line. Gun goes off and I take off like a shot. Apparently, I had forgotten completely about the course as I was leading on the dirt road and into the single track. Alan Evans was very close behind as we trotted into the tight turns in the woods. I only got off course once and quickly resumed and didn’t lose any space to Alan. We were bouncing off trees, and over streams and darting here and there thru the woods. It was a blistering pace and I was feeling it. Alan and I had separated ourselves from the rest and by the time we hit aid station 1, he had passed me up the giant hill and was pulling away. We exchanged a few friendly words about how it was a great day to be out there running and I tried to mask my labored breathing. Alan sounded like he was taking a stroll down the street, no sense of strain at all. Amazing. Aid#1 is about 2-3 miles into the race and that’s where Al broke me. I let him got a little bit and that was a big mistake. I never really saw him again. I got my breathing under control and started to fall into a good rhythm. I was passing by mile 4 and noticed that I was having a lot of sloshing in my stomach, not too good. This kept up from about mile 4 until at least #9 and was not too pleasant. I felt like I needed to pit stop in the middle of the woods and honestly for a minute thought briefly about how to execute such a maneuver mid-race. I trotted on and kept going. I hit Aid#2 at about ½ way thru the race and got some words of encouragement from friends saying, “Alan is only 200m in front of you, go get him!” to which I replied, “…and he’s gonna stay there, it’s Al Evans!” meaning that he is one tough cookie and there was slim to no chance of me catching him. Not feeling the way I was.
Next as I approached mile #9 after going up a HUGE uphill and entering single track again, I was starting to settle out with the stomach issues and felt actually okay. It was too late though to make a move as the most technical part of the course was still ahead. There is a LARGE and very steep downhill section that comes and to the right there is an expansive rock quarry, which I tried to sneak a peek at during the race and immediately caught my toe on a tree root and took a tumble. I somersaulted and kept on going, but landed on my left hip and there was dirt (now mud, due to my sweat) all over my back and arms. I looked ridiculous. I successfully navigated the intense downhill and had to use my quads as brakes to slow gravitational forces. The normal turn around at the bottom was no longer and Fetch took us across a stream and back up the wall of an uphill. This was the only section of the course that requires walking, you have to literally power walk up this section until it flattens out some, but you are still going up in elevation. Its nuts. I got to the top and finally started at it again and hit the flat “fire road” that marks the 1.5 mile climb to the finish…all up hill. After ten long minutes of uphill running, I finally hit the line in 1:30:41 and there was only 1 other runner that bested me that day. Al Evans. He deserved it though as he was a solid 2-3 minutes ahead of me. Muddy Sneaker is an awesome race and it kicks your butt for a few days afterwards. I was glad I ran for Nate and had a good result as well doing so. I stayed to help the guys load up the trailer and tear down the site and we had a few brews as well. Good times and good friends there. Now the next thing on the list is the Medved Madness 15 miler this Sunday. Should be a good one too! It’s trail running time to prep up for the Buffalo Half Marathon at the end of the month. See you folks on the trails. Take advantage of the good weather friends, cheers!


Anonymous said...

I was passed by Alan Evans maybe 600m from the finish line of last Fall's Jensen Stables. He had gone off course several times, which explains why I was in front of him.

As he flew passed, going uphill, he cheerfully said something like "Hi fellas!". I assume he was breathing, at least a little, but you couldn't hear it. I think he may be hiding a second set of lungs somewhere.

Anonymous said...

Love the singlet. I ran for Churchville the first year they bought those uni's. Brings back alot of memories everytime I see one. That was a nice touch to where in honor of your friend and teammate.


Anonymous said...

Anonymous #1....you sure that was Al Evans at Jensen Stables in 2009? I don't see him in the results..


Tim said...

I don't remember if Al ran Jensen last year. But results are especially screwed up from last year so you can't assume anything. People missing, times and places are way off many times. It's a great race but it seems they mess up results and awards every year pretty badly.

Anyways, onto the Sneaker. I didn't mislead you about the finish at this race, did I? I meant to ask you about the letters before the race but now I know. And apparently that's half the battle. Speaking of which, what's the other half? I feel G.I. Joe never completed my childhood education and I have felt a hole in my life ever since. And no amount of physical items has filled it. I had hoped the newest movie would bring me closure but I was wrong. Only the realization that I thought CGI was awesome until I actually got an HD TV and realized how cheesy it really looks. Bring back movies that aren't 50% CGI. It doesn't have to require the action to look like Captain Kirk versus Gorn the lizard monster.
Anwyays, back to the Sneaker. Good job man, I was worried when you went out at 5k pace. Way to kick my butt by 10 minutes. Good job for your first try in 6 years. Just be glad I was kind to your race number. Others weren't so lucky. Now if I could only figure out how to beat you.