For a few days last week I had contemplated running the Maine Marathon this weekend, but a few helpful Trail Monsters made me see the error in this way of thinking. I wanted to get another long run in this weekend and the marathon seemed like a convenient option but I realized that racing a road marathon wouldn't really help with my 50 mile trail race training as much as a long trail run. Since it had been a few weeks since I'd run at Bradbury I decided to make another attempt at the Ultra Xtreme Bradbury Badass by running all three courses of the Bradbury Mountain Trail Running Series races back to back.
Unlike the last time I did this run I didn't expect to have any company for the whole time and given the weather forecast for steady rain all day I wasn't sure who would show up at all. Mindy, Valerie and James decided to brave the weather, which wasn't bad at all when we arrived at the park at 8am and we headed out together soon after on the Scuffle course. It turned out that I hadn't picked up all the course markings from the Bruiser a few weeks ago so as we ran along we found a few flags and arrows along the way to pick up and carry with us. I realized that this picking up was slowing us down a bit so about halfway through the Scuffle James and I picked up the pace a little bit and pulled away from Valerie and Mindy. Running with hands full may have been to blame for slowing us down or it may have been something else (lack of motivation?) but we finished the 6 mile Scuffle course in 1:04, 2 minutes slower than when I had run this with Chuck and Jeremy back in June.
Not that it really mattered but I did hope to run these 27 miles today a little faster than before so after a quick drink stop James and I headed out on the Breaker course and I made a conscious effort to run up all the hills and really let loose on the downs. I wasn't sure if I could manage to run all the way up the summit trail, the hardest climb on the course but I set off with the intention of running as far as I could and would let myself walk if I had to. To my own surprise I managed to "run" the whole way, although at times I'm sure it wasn't any faster than a walking pace and I was just wasting energy.
I can't remember exactly when it started raining, but once it started it didn't stop and at times it was coming down pretty hard, but it was a pleasant temperature and it's always fun to splash though the mud.
Near the end of the first lap of the course, at the bottom of the Switchback Trail, someone has rerouted the trail and extended it slightly. Not that there was anything wrong with where the trail went before IMO, perfectly dry...
Anyway, the second lap of the breaker was much the same as the first, perhaps a little wetter. James was good company but he was running out of time and decided he would have to stop his run at the end of the Breaker. This of course introduced the idea in my head that I might also stop here, go home and get dried off and warmed up. This thought kept creeping back into my mind, like when we were running up the Summit Trail for the second time, but gracious downhills of the last few miles of this course helped to remind me how much fun it is to run at Bradbury and I was determined to finish this run whatever it took. We finished the Breaker in 1:30, 6 minutes faster than the last time.
I said goodbye to James and took a few minutes to refill the bladder in my hydration pack for the long 12 miles of the Bruiser. After standing in the rain I started to feel a bit chilled so I changed my soaking short sleeved shirt for a dry long sleeved shirt and set off alone into the woods.
It wasn't long before I started to feel the effects of pushing the pace on the hills of the Breaker and I started to care much less about beating my time from before and just focused on enjoying the beautiful colors of fall, and enjoying the mud. The miles ticked by and I was reminded of the Bruiser when Bob and Tom were right on my tail for the entire race. I worked hard not to let them pass and that feeling motivated me to keep going when I started feeling tired.
I found a few more orange flags out on the course that I missed from race day and picked them up as I went along. Kind of a pain in the ass, or more literally a pain in the abs. Like doing stomach crunches at the end of a long run. There was an arrow sign out there too, and the last thing I wanted to do was to carry extra crap in my last few miles but it had to be picked up and I felt bad that I had taken me so long to get back out there to do it. There was no way I was going to carry this stuff through the O-Trail so when I got to the entrance I ran ahead to the exit of the trail and dropped everything there, then back up to the entrance for the funnest part of the run.
The rain from today was really encouraging the trees to drop their leaves and the O-Trail was quickly becoming obscured. Even though I know this trail well it's a bitch to follow when it's covered in leaves and there were a few moments when I was convinced I had gone off trail and gotten back on going the wrong direction, but I kept passing familiar landmarks in the right sequence so I knew I was doing okay. Shortly after passing the red bracket fungus indicating 1 mile to go I had the notion of picking up the pace for the final mile, but was quickly reminded that the combination of tired-sloppy-feet and wet, leaf-covered trails leads to close encounters between face and ground. I tripped and I started to fall. I thought I could pull myself out of it, then thought I'd probably give myself a hernia trying so I just let myself flop down in the dirt. Luckily I landed in one of those rare spots on the O-Trail where there aren't any rocks or roots. Except for the one I tripped over. It was actually quite comfortable.
I got up and got back into that 11:30 O-Trail pace, no sprint for me, until I popped out onto the Knight Woods Trail. Of course I had to pick up that pile of flags and signs to carry with me for the final 1/4 mile so my sprint finish was probably lucky to have been under a 10 minute pace. Much to my surprise though I finished the Bruiser in 2:14, which was 5 minutes faster than the previous time. Despite a slow start I ended up completing this run with a new personal best of 4 hours and 48 minutes.
I'll take this over a road marathon any day.
total time: 4:48:18
distance: 27.2 miles
weather: mid 50's, rain of varying intensities
conditions: wet trails, many puddles, plenty of mud
gear: Inov-8 Mudroc 280, Wright Socks, shorts, t-shirt then long sleeve shirt, hat, Nathan HPL #020