Saturday, April 16, 2011

Hyner Mountain Kicked My Butt (and Meira crushed my soul)

The Hyner View Trail Challenge is approximately 16.25 miles of beauty and brutality. Today, mix in 42 degree temps, rain and sustained winds over 20mph to make it an interesting day. This was my first attempt at Hyner, and after pulling a hamstring earlier in the week, I was just hoping to survive. The Meira that I refer to in the title is Meira Minard, an excellent local runner who won the women's overall last year at Hyner. I had been trash talking her recently (our road race times are fairly close) so this race was a showdown (although I knew she would kick my butt).

I spied Meira through a crowd of runners at the starting line and waved congenially, while secretly plotting to take her down. The first 1/4 mile was downhill and I ran gingerly until we got to the flat road, after which I caught up with Meira. We exchanged pleasantries as we passed runners for the next mile and a half until we hit the single track and the climbing began. Now it was on.

I was hoping to at least keep up with her on that first climb, and for the most part succeeded. She did get about 50 yards on me towards the top. The view from the top is amazing. If you haven't been to Hyner View, you should check it out someday. I turned around at the top and just stood there and enjoyed the view for a few seconds, before turning around and starting the almost immediate descent.

I run down mountains scared, especially when it is muddy. People blow by me. I lost site of Meira quickly and just worried about my own footing and not getting run over. Near the bottom of this first descent, the eventual female winner blew by me and I knew Meira was going to have a race of it. I did catch site of Meira as we started to ascend again and yelled "Minard, I'm going to get you" after which she started running again and that was pretty much the last I saw of her.

The next climb highlighted Hyner's foot-soaking features. The trail followed a stream up the mountain and must have crossed from one side to the other 20 times. At the first crossing, the guy in front of me went upstream looking for a log to cross on and I decided to just get me feet wet. Within a couple hundred yards I realized this was the correct decision, as cold as it was, because it was inevitable. Then, I just had to laugh. After awhile, instead of criss-crossing the stream, the designers of the trail decided the heck with it and literally just made the stream the trail. We were just running up the stream, and this was not the only time.

The last ascent was again steep but utilized switchbacks until the trail crossed a gas line cut towards the top of the mountain. I took a switchback across the cut and couldn't find the trail until I looked behind me and straight up the cut. There it was, straight up. I started up and was actually worried about falling off the mountain at this point because it was so steep. Once on top, the trail followed the ridge for a few miles and it was relatively flat. My legs were too trashed by this point to take advantage. To add to the misery, it started raining harder at this point.

Not bad for a Pennsylvania race.
A final cautious descent got me back on the road across the west branch of the Susquehanna. Their was a fierce head wind across the bridge, but then it wasn't long to the finish line.

I finished in 2:55 and I imagine Meira was at least 10 minutes in front of me. I haven't seen the results yet. I have learned my lesson. Don't trash talk Meira about trail races. I might be able to keep close on the roads, but there is no chance of that happening on a course with that kind of elevation change.

All in all, it was a fun run and I'd highly recommend it to anyone who enjoys running in the woods. There are over 1000 runners/hikers for this thing. Hopefully the weather will be better next year, because this year's weather did admittedly add some misery to the morning.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

2011 Garden Spot Village Marathon

This was the third running of the Garden Spot Village Marathon and I have done it every year so far. Because I was born and raised not far from New Holland, the site of the marathon, my current plan is to run it every year. This was my main goal race for the spring this year. It has been two years since I have attempted to run a marathon at a fast pace and I was curious to see what I could do at 45 years of age. Last year was all about running slow for a long time in preparation for my 100 mile attempt. This year I wanted to see if I've still got speed (I do still have a 100 miler on my schedule). I'm happy to say that I've still got it.

My plan was to go out at a 6:40 pace and see what would happen when I hit the hills. Garden Spot is a relatively hilly marathon (definitely tougher than my two sub 3 hour marathons) and I didn't think I would PR, let alone get really close to under 3 hours. My stated goal was 3:10, but I felt that if I hit 3:05 it would be comparable to sub 3 on a flatter course and I would be really happy with that.

After the first mile, I found a running buddy. Richard, a 52 year old from somewhere in Virginia, and I seemed to fall in at about the same pace. I wanted to religiously keep 6:40s with my Garmin but we got to talking and I lost track of pace here and there and had a few slower miles. The hills were not slowing us down, as we made up for the slower pace uphill with a faster pace on the descent. As the miles rolled by, I found my legs to continue to be responsive and our ongoing conversations helped to pass the time.

I passed my brother about halfway through (he was coming towards us on the out-and-back part of the course) and he told us we were in ninth and tenth place. We were still cruising when we got to the biggest hill of the course at around mile 22. We both walked briefly at the steepest portion. Before we got to the hill, I told Richard that he would probably lose me because by this point it was clear that he was a stronger climber than I am. He did start to drift away. My legs were heavy going uphill at this point. When I got to the top of the hill, he probably had 45 seconds on me. Going downhill and then on the flat road for the last 2.5 miles I found my stride again and was putting in a 6:40ish pace, without having to really strain.

There was a gradual rise in the last mile that slowed me down again by about 15 seconds. At this point, I  knew I would be close to 3 hours but figured it would be closer to 3:01. I did not push it. I now wish I would have. When I rounded the last bend with 100 yards to go I saw the time at 2:59:52, laughed out loud, and knew I was just going to miss another sub 3. I finished in 3:00:08.

Richard and I. Richard won the Grand Masters category.
I am not too disappointed in being just over 3 hours, because I have been under before. If I hadn't done it before, I would be more upset. Considering the tougher course, my effort this day was the best I've ever done. On a flatter course, it would have been a PR. I felt the best I've ever felt for the entire race. I never hit the wall, bonked or any other bad thing. The only negative thing is the time I lost on the hills towards the end. I guess I need more hill workouts.

The key to being in shape this early in the year was the purchase of a treadmill this winter. I would not have been able to have done this without that purchase. Yes, I know I am a wimp. I hate the cold and wind and won't put in enough quality workouts outside in the winter. Oh well.

All in all, I am excited that I haven't lost anything in the last two years and believe I can still reach a marathon PR in the next few years. I believe I could go out a little faster. I probably won't get the chance to try a fast one again this year because I have too many other races this spring and the fall is a tough time to train for me.