It was pitch black as I drove out Morris Bridge Rd. at about 6:15 this morning heading to Flatwoods Park northeast of Tampa. This park consists of 16,000 acres and is part of the Lower Hillsborough Wilderness Preserve. I arrived just as a fella with a headlamp on was pushing the gate open. The early arrival afforded me a prime parking spot close to the bathroom, packet pickup area and race start and finish area. I relaxed in my car for awhile drinking water until about 7:15 when I started getting ready to run. I retreated from the mindless chatter of the parking lot to a picnic area behind the bathroom building and did my pre-race stretching to the sound of birds chirping and singing in the trees.
If you click on the link for the Garmin details page you will see that this run really was a ramble. There were very few sections that were straight for very far. I would say that most of the course was single track through the woods with uneven terrain and a lot of holes on the sides of the trail and tree roots on the trail. While on the single track it took constant concentration to be sure of foot placement and avoid tripping on a tree root. My intention was to start in the back of the pack and run very slowly. Inevitably, while standing near the back of the pack, I began to see people that I "should" be in front of. Part of the strategy of trail running is to not get stuck behind slower people because it is hard to pass on single track. So of course, I moved up a little before the start and then a little more during the 1st half mile before the route turned into the woods.
At about 3.5 miles I could tell I was running to fast. I switched my watch to heart rate view and my heart rate was in the mid 140's. Of course, when you have a bunch of people breathing down your neck on single track, it is kind of hard to slow much. On the double track sections, I would slow to try to get my heart rate down a bit and take some fluid. Maybe a mile or so later when I checked my heart rate it was in the mid 150's so I slowed some more and walked a bit when I hit the double track section. A little past 5 and a half miles my legs started feeling heavy so I grabbed my gel flask and took a few shots of the goo. After the 3rd goo shot and before I got the flask back in my waist pack my right foot hit a root and I had an intimate encounter with the trail. A young man helped me to my feet as I protested and then I picked up the gel flask and kept on going. I hit roots 2 or 3 other times but only went down the one time. At some point between 7 and 8 miles I checked my heart rate and it was in the mid 170's so once again I walked for a while to get it under control.
In the past week I finished reading Spontaneous Happiness by Andrew Weil, MD. Near the end of the book, Dr. Weil writes about gratitude and feeling grateful. When the going got tough a bit past 7 miles I started thinking about all the things I have to be grateful for to take any negative self thoughts out of my mind. This strategy worked and before I knew it I could hear faint sounds of music and a loud speaker in the distance. I was getting close to the finish line.:) I kept pushing on and soon I was running along side the paved road that headed back to where we started. Right before I took the final turn into the trees and the finish line I heard the guy with the loud speaker announce "now for the last of our door prizes" but it didn't bother me that I missed the door prizes because I knew what was waiting for me in the cooler in my car.
The chocolate milk after a hard race has become a tradition and here you see me in my newest T-shirt with the ice cold recovery beverage in hand.