A New To Me Trail Race | Thom B Trail Runs | New York
If you have read my blog before this may sounds like a broken records, but I really love running. What do I love about running? Well, just that, the running. The fact that running can really be just about anything. I love the variety that is available through running. Variety in distances, in surfaces, types of events, scenery, comradery and everything in between.
I am rarely satisfied with repeating the same things over and over. This is true in life in general and especially in running. While I have a few events that I have run pretty regularly since I discovered those events, I would always prefer to take on something new.
I love the act of discovery. It is what fuels my life. My creative life and my running life. Show me a new route or new trail and you can convince me to do just about anything for the simple newness of it.
So when it comes to races I choose to run during any given year I try to include at least a few new things every year. This year will likely include more newness than many years. This year I am running the Finger Lakes Running Club Trail Circuit
This is the second official race of the trail circuit after an early kick off with a snow shoe race trail season in my area is ready to kick into full swing.
Thom B Trail Runs
This race is a race I have never run before. The course is on trails I am not very familiar with in a state forest I have only set foot in a handful of times. Most recently the snow shoe race this year took place in this same state forest. Not particularly relevant to this event. And I ran here on a 6 mile course for a virtual event that is part of the FLRC Challenge. That course does share at least some overlap with the Thom B event, including the same finish line.
During my last visit to this trail system I fell twice, so I was hoping to not replicate that performance. Spoiler alert, I did not succeed in that endeavor. During this race I fell two more times. So if you are keeping score at home. I have gone for 2 trail runs on these trails and I have fallen 4 times. Hammond Hill State Forest 4 / Kyle 0.
The Thom B Trail Runs is an interesting event. The event comprises 3 different races of 3 different distances. The event accomplishes this through having a loop course system. The loop course is approximately 8.5 miles long. The race distances are run 1 loop for a distance of 8.5 miles, run 2 loops for a total distance of 17 miles, or run the full 3 loop course plus a baby loop to complete a trail marathon of 26 miles. This is my first year running the event and I was looking forward to taking on the 1 loop 8.5 mile option, with an eye towards running the longer distances in the future.
I really had no idea what to expect from this course. I wanted to try to put in a hard effort for me, but I really didn’t know how to think about pacing myself. Pacing is a lot different in a trail race than a road race as trails are often much less flat than any traditional road race. And considering I had minimal experience with these trails and I did no research into what the course was like or what the elevation profile was, I was essentially flying blind when it comes to knowing where to be conservative because I would need to be climbing vs where I could try to hammer down some nice downhill sections.
But that is the fun of doing new things. The not knowing and learning on the fly. Gaining knowledge through experience. I was excited to see how I could respond and adapt on the fly to put in the best performance I could.
There were two looming issues as race day approached. The weather forecast was for it to be around 70 degrees by race start time at 8 AM and reaching the 80 degree range by noon. If all things go according to plan I should at least be done before temps reached 80. But that being said I do not generally fare well in the heat and every degree above 70 is a slight decrease in my performance. The other issue was that I had developed some soreness in my left Achilles tendon. I had been resting and treating it conservatively leading up to the race and on race day it felt pretty good. This issue seems to be some tendonitis. So now that the race is over I will take a bit more time to rest.
Running the course
And then we were off. And it was really a sendoff. Straight down hill on a hard packed dirt road. Honestly not my favorite start for a trail race. The shoes I like best for trails, and thus were wearing today do not feel good on hard surfaces like a really hard dirt road. Then add to that discomfort the fact that it’s a downhill where ideally I would want to be putting on the gas which often increases the impact for me. Less than ideal to say the least. Give me a downhill like that on a nice dirt path and I am in heaven, but hard road, no thanks.
Immediately after this steep but turns out short road decent is a much longer road climb. About 300 ft. of road climb and what turned out to be the longest climb of the race, but seeing it at the beginning made me wonder how much more climbing would be yet to come. As I started up the road climb this is where it became clear that my Achilles issue was not as well healed (ha ha ha. Achilles tendon. Well Healed. Get it. Lol.) as I would have liked. Having to flex my foot as I proceeded up the hill definitely began to generate more pain than I would have liked.
I was slow running up the hill, but with the heat and not knowing how much more climbing to expect on the rest of the course I switched over to power hiking mode at what turned out to be about the half way mark on the climb.
After the road climb
After that first big climb the course, I wouldn’t say flattens out, but it stabilizes. Most of the next 6 miles or so are a series of climbs and descents. Nothing huge, but definitely noticeable climbs with equally noticeable descending to follow.
I was really feeling like I was struggling for much of the first half of the race. Between the pain in my Achilles, the humidity, and the climbing (most of which seemed to be in the first four miles) I just felt an overall sense of not being in a good flow. Like my effort level was not translating into performance.
After around the midway point there is a nice steep downhill section to run on. Then that transitions into a relatively flat section of trails. I think this section of relatively flat trails allowed my body to level out. I began to feel much better on this second half. The pain in my Achilles eased up to some degree. I wasn’t feeling quite as oppressed by the heat and humidity. Finally I was able to get into more of a flow.
Around the midpoint of the race quite a few runners were able to catch up to me and pass me. But after the midpoint of the race I began to feel stronger. My climbing felt easier and my downhill running felt faster and freer. I eventually caught and passed many of the runners that had passed me at the midpoint of the race.
The last 2 miles of this race were a lot of downhill running an I absolutely loved it. This might be my favorite finishing segment of any trail race I have run to date. Downhill running is my favorite part of trail running. Especially downhills that are not insanely technical or steep. Downhill sections that are runnable for your average runner are what I live for out on the trails. And this last two miles delivered on it.
I was apparently not the only person who enjoyed this section. A few of the runners that I had been leap frogging back and for with did as well. One runner that I was making gains on and thought I would eventually pass left me in his dust on these downhills. I could only watch in admiration of his long wide open strides as he gained distance and pulled away. Then another runner who I had been running near for a while and I knew was not too far behind caught me and passed. I tried to keep pace with them as best I could. Then eventually I began to hear another runners footsteps. They got louder and louder. This runner was gaining on my fast. I started to run harder. I tried to get going as fast as I could. The runner behind me kept closing the gap. They eventually passed me with about a half mile to go. She was flying. She passed me and they other guy who had recently passed me without much effort at all.
The only way this could have gone better in the last few miles would have been if my Achilles wasn’t sore. I really could have tried to run as hard as I could then and pushed myself. As it was I still PR’d this Strava segment. Granted it was only my third attempt.
I hate to sound like I am making excuses but it would have been nice to be able to give it 100% without pain or fear of further injury. I have no idea if I could have stayed ahead of the other runners or caught anyone else, but it would have been nice to have been 100%. Who knows, if I had been 100% I may have burned myself out early and had nothing left in the tank for this strong finishing push.
I had so much fun on this course. This was a very runnable course, which is exactly what I like. Not too much climbing, not too technical of descents. I am hoping that the other courses on the FLRC trail series that I haven’t run are similarly runnable. I am looking forward to discovering all the new to me races this year.