Whew. My last race report to be caught up. The past four weekends have been race weekends. Granted, even though some of them smaller than others, it doesn’t make them less important.
I hadn’t planned on racing the ASC Greenway Trail Marathon race because I hadn’t been training for a trail marathon, nor did it work into my schedule with doing back-to-back triathlons the two weekends before. A good friend of mine, Jason Lineberger, was already planning on running the race.
Jason and I go a few years back. We’ve ran together, rode together, and managed races together. I’ve been behind the scenes helping to manage races that he’s participated in and he was behind the scenes managing the first triathlon I raced. Over the past year or so, due to numerous circumstances in both of our lives, Jason and I had lost touch. Recently, we had gotten in touch with each other and had also had a run together at the Greenway. He had been telling me a lot about his new friends he had made over the past year or so, including Franco Wakhisi, who had been training him.
On the Tuesday before the race, I contacted Jason to see if he was still planning on racing and if he would be doing the full marathon or the three-man relay. I was kind of hoping that he would be doing the three-man relay with Franco, but was still looking for a third. Long story short, Jason was planning on doing the full marathon but mentioned that Franco, along with Ryan Barber (another friend) would probably be interested in running a relay. I thought about it all week and finally let him know on Thursday that I was in.
The plan was that Franco, with his superior running skills, would run the longest leg of the relay, Ryan would run the middle leg (shortest) and I would bring up the rear. We had never run together and the first time we would meet would be race morning. We hadn’t even settled on a team name.
We received an email that there would be last minute changes to the course. The first leg would be 11.6 miles, the second leg at 5 miles and the last leg would be 10 miles. Friday produced quite a bit of rain with even more Friday night. It would be a muddy race. Just like I like them!!
On race morning, it was sprinkling on and off when I met up with the gang. We made our pleasantries while standing in line for registration. We went back and forth about a name and finally decided on "Potato Socks". This name is a joke that goes way back to how I first met Jason. We decided (in a round about way) that since Jason brought the three of us together, that it would be appropriate.
It was still sprinkling as the race director gave his pre-race briefing. He made a few quick jokes about getting lost and mentioned that the course was well marked and that it shouldn’t be a problem.
The sun was just beginning to come up as everyone was off and running.
The course would take the full marathon runners back through the start/finish/staging area several times. This made the race very spectator friendly and also allowed for the relay teams to pass the virtual baton. The first leg of the relay had to make one run through the staging area as part of their leg. We caught a picture of Franco and Jason coming through, both looking very strong.
There was a bit of confusion with the first leg (11.6 miles) of the race. At one point, the racers came to the same intersection twice. At some point, a pack of runners that Franco was in became misdirected, bringing them back towards the staging area and over a mile off course. The rain had restarted when Franco (and a bunch of other runners) showed back up at the staging area. After getting directions from the folks at the staging area, Franco was off to make up for the misdirection.
Ryan and I were frustrated, knowing that we, as a team, we would all three have to make up for the course confusion. Furthermore, we also were concerned that if Franco was misdirected, that there were chances that we would be as well. It was almost de-motivating. However, I just kept reassuring Ryan that we were there to run a race and regardless of what happens, we were dressed, awake early on a Saturday and were going to enjoy the mud.
We were flabbergasted when Franco was the FIRST PERSON BACK. Ryan quickly got into place to get tagged and Franco came flying into the staging area.
Jason came through the staging area in third place out of all the full marathoners. He looked strong as he grabbed a water and kept on trucking. Alba and I talked with Franco as we waited for Ryan to return on from his 5 mile leg. Franco confirmed that he had to run as very hard to catch up and pass the entire pack. Since his misdirection, he had quite a bit of makeup to run. Other relay racers also confirmed that he FLEW past them.
On Ryan’s leg, the second place relay team passed us and gained about a 30 second lead on us. As we saw Ryan approaching, Alba gave me some encouraging words and I quickly got ready to get tagged.
The trail was as muddy as I had suspected given the look of the other racers. I had ground to make up, but was fairly confident that I could make up the lead that the other team had on us. I felt great and knew that the XTERRA experience would work in my favor. I passed several full marathoners before diving into the lolli-pop portion of my leg. I took a right at an intersection and started running along the fence line of a peach tree field. It was then that I caught sight of the relay runner I was attempting to catch.
As we dove back into the trails, I kept sighting him through the switch-backs of the trail. He would go out of sight among the trees and then I would catch a glimpse. This went back and forth for several miles. Each time I caught sight of him, I seemed to be gaining on him. At the rate that I was gaining, I’d have no problem catching him before the end.
All of a sudden, I didn’t see him anymore. I had become concerned that I had gone off course, but I kept seeing the orange marking tape at each turn. Since I knew I was on course, thoughts of him pulling away from me began to fill my head. It was beginning to bug me and I assured myself that this was not the case. I quickened my pace in an effort to "catch up". With each open spot in the trail or area where I could see through the trees, I began to wonder if he went off course. "Surely I should have caught him by now," I thought as I quickened my pace even more.
All of a sudden, he appeared out of nowhere behind me. "Did I take a wrong turn?" he stated. "I guess so." I replied. He stayed right on my tail until we came out in the open at a water stop. He poured on the gas and passed me right before the water stop. His friends were at the stop cheering him on. He yelled something to them and pointed to me with his thumb, over his shoulder. As he leaped over a broken down gate at the trail head, I also leaped over it to stay right on his tail.
Up to this point, I was trying to run a smart run by avoiding too much over-the-ankle mud holes. This was in an effort to keep debris out of my shoes and to keep them light. However, he was plowing right though them without second thoughts and with great speed. As I stayed right with him, I was beginning to get a bit concerned that I would not be able to keep up such a pace, especially with the added mud and water being constantly added to my shoes. About the time they would get drained and clear, we’d stomp right through another mud hole. However, I kept right with him thinking that he was just using a quick burst to try and put a gap between us. Also, I didn’t want to suffer the mental hit by letting him go, nor him the satisfaction.
Within a few minutes, he began to slow his pace. I wasn’t sure if his surge was burning out or if this was part of his strategy to conserve something for the end. I went through many strategies/contingencies in my head within several minutes. I finally decided that I would make my move at a swinging bridge that we would cross. The bridge was right before a short, steep uphill section of single track that empties onto a gravel road. The gravel road continues uphill to the staging area.
When we came to the swinging bridge, we both crossed at the same time. Of course, the two of us made the bridge quite unstable. I high-stepped it across the bridge and past him at the end of the the other side. I surged up the hill and settled into a strong pace up the gravel road. Having ran and ridden the same road many times, I tried my best to pour on what I had left in my tank with hopes of finishing without anything left. The plan went off without a hitch.
Our team finished in First Place (at 3:51:55) among the relay racers and just behind the 1st place full marathoner. Our buddy Jason finished 2nd place overall among the full marathoners.
It was a great race! I met two new friends and had a great time.
Unless otherwise specified, all photos by Alba Barton. All Rights Reserved.