April 21, 2011

Muddy Sneaker 20k race report

Last Saturday was a day that I will remember for quite some time.  I woke up that morning feeling good and was headed down to the Hi Tor Wildlife Management Area to do my 2nd race of the Muddy Sneaker 20k trail run.  This race is a homegrown oddity that friends of mine dreamed up 11 years ago and it's not for the faint of heart.

It's a prestigious race in the upstate NY area and it one of the very few races that so many people try to enter each year that they were forced to do a lottery system and limit the number of people that can get in.  Ussually on a random night in February, hopefuls crowd the Otter Lodge in Brighton for the lottery.   For 5 long years prior to 2010, I was "blacklisted" from the lottery and would pay my fee every year, send in my registration forms, only to be sent home disappointed year after year.  But I made do, I became extremely adept at running the chaos that is aid stations #1 and #3 year after year and I would regularly watch the carnage that unfolded during the race, secretly hoping that someday I could test my legs against the course and fantastic competitiors.

You see, with this race being as technical and as difficult as it is, it attracts some of the regions best trail runners (and just straight runners in general) Past champions have included; Al Evans, Zach Rivers, Jeff Beck, Scott Bagley and Carl Johnston and the record board is littered with their accomplishments.  So when the lottery night came and went this year (I got in for the 2nd year in a row...I smell a streak!) and none of the "studs" or "big dogs" were on the list, there began rumblings about who might walk away witht he victory.  I honestly didn't think twice about it because in chatting with Mort Nace at the bar, he mentioned that past course record holders could hop in and avoid the lottery, no questions asked. 

Fast forward 2 months and the quick runners on the list were starting to drop like flies.  I was told via text that Jeff wasn't going to be racing this year and it looked like the front runners were myself, Jason Urkfitz, Alan Powers and Jim Oberst.  With another note about a week later that Jim had pulled out of the race, suddenly my mind began to wander. 

I was running with a few buddies along the river on lunch about 3 weeks before the race and it casually came up in conversation that I was a ringer for the win.  I really could have stopped there in my tracks and picked my jaw off the pavement, becuase in no way was I thinking about a W... this was reinforced chatting with a few more folks (and the RD himself) about people coming and favorites, etc. I guess it started to sink in that I might have a chance at the overall spot about 2 weeks before the race.  Talk about letting your nerves stew for a bit.  That was a lot of pressure.  In my mind there was no way I was capable of pulling the win out and having my name be synonomous with the other past champions.  It was starting to eat at me...

Race week came and I was a little jittery to say the least.  I knew I needed a new pair of trail shoes and I stopped by Medved to grab a new light pair and was directed over to the Saucony ProGrid Peregrine's.  A minimalistic trail shoe with treads on the bottom that looked like shark teeth.  With the weather forecast for Saturday being cold, rainy, and muddy, I thought these would be a good choice.  Ironically I was helped by Jeff Beck and chatted with him about the race and reminisced about times at Geneseo where we ran together.  Regardless of equipment and ability, I still wasn't convinced.  It was going to be a tough battle as I know that Jason had gone a 1:30 on that course in years past and I'd also gone about 30 seconds slower than that last year.  I expected it to be a tight race with him (amongst others)
Race day came and the heavens just barfed on the course for the few days leading up to the race making the WMA a soupy and muddy mess. Less than ideal conditions, but I was feeling a little spry so I went with it.  I worked out my hourage for the week and still put in a 19+ hour training week and had even thrown in a little bit of a taper (easy days) leading up to Saturday in an effort to get my legs back under me.  Besides I'd even had a Good Luck cake baked for me the day before from Kim and I ended up eating the entire G the night before the race. :o) 
But we meandered around the start line waiting for Mort to finish up his pre-race logistics and also trying not to freeze.  It was about 35 degrees out and rain was drizzling down and when the wind picked up, it would blow sideways at us.  I am in the bottom right of the above photo wearing arm warmers and some yellow sunglasses that I eventually threw to the wayside.  I chatted briefly with J. Urckfitz at the start and he mentioned that he saw a former XC coach of mine at a track meet for his son that week.  That gave me the motivation to do what I did next. 

The race starts off and goes immediately uphill before entering some single track.  I had run thru about every scenario in my head in the prior week about how I thought the race would go, how I wanted it to go, etc.  None of which actually played out.  The race started and I just kind of took off up the hill.  I was feeling good and I took off.  I didn't necessarily want to "front run" but it just kind of happened and I went with it.  I remember crossing the creek and not wanting to look back because I knew everyone was on my tail.  I made it to aid #1 and saw Rob and felt okay.  (I probably didn't look okay, but I was still going) I remember thinking to myself, "okay, now just settle in" when I hit mile 3.  I crossed by the chicken (and this year a penguin) at aid #2 and threw off my sunglasses as I hit the left turn again and went downhill a bit.  I was afraid to look behind me to see where anyone was and as I hit 6 miles, I honestly didn't think I could maintain that pace for the remainder of the race.
Miles 7-9 were kind of a blur, me taking a gel somewhere there and not wanting to slow down over the terrain.  I was running well and I knew I just needed to hang on.  I popped out of the singletrack at the base of the climb up to aid #3 and I sped along the flats to the climb.  As I ran up the hill I noticed Ian and Rob were frantically setting tape and tables and filling cups for the aid station.  As I drew near, I yelled out, "how far is Jason back?" and Ian replied, "why are you out here running alone?"...

I then stopped and as I drank a glass of water, turned around for the first time that day (turning around shows weakness on the run) and couldn't see anyone as far back as the singletrack.  My heart must've skipped a beat, I was so happy.  Here I was 3/4 of the way into the race and there was no one to be seen behind me. It was truly now my race to lose.  I had to keep telling myself in the woods to be careful and watch my "flow" in order to be as smooth as possible and not trip myself up and bust an ankle or anything.

Hitting the massive descent (you can see that on the elevation profile) I didn't even look at the gorge for fear that I might fall, but I got to the bottom, navigated thru the river and started the long haul back up to the finish.  I was powerwalking for the majority of the steep section (I don't know if ANYONE has ever run up that section) and topped out and knew I was okay.  There was a downed sign around the base of the last climb, but I figured out the correct course and started pushing it up the big hill to the line.  I knew I had it wrapped up, but wanted to keep my emotions in check.  I also wanted to hit the line in under 1:30, but even though my watch said I did, the stupid "auto-pause" feature on it shut off the timer for a bit which caused me to barely go over the 1:30 mark.

I'm still kind of shocked at the victory that day even though the results have been posted HERE.  And since I wore the fancy new Garmin, my garmin file can be found HERE.   Not bad for a ridiculous 20k with over 2k worth of climbing in it!  (I don't know what happened to my HR in the middle of that, I'll call it a garmin glitch)  Thank you to everyone that supported/believed in me and gave me words of encouragement.  It was a great race and the beers were cold (as were we) afterwards.  The next adventure is a relay around Seneca Lake, so I'm looking forward to that after Easter.  Until then friends, train hard, race harder and I'll see you on the roads and trails.  Cheers!

1 comment:

Alexa said...

great job Travis!