Yesterday I ran the Chestnut Ridge 4-mile Trail Race for the second time and did pretty well, placing sixth overall and second in my age group.
Chestnut Ridge was the first trail race I ran in North Carolina last year and was it ever a shock to my system. Having been used to flat road races in Houston, my mind was blown by how much different trail running – and especially hilly trail running – was. I finished 10th overall and third in my age group – but at a pace much slower than I was accustomed to running a race of that distance (actually 4.3 miles). On flat roads I might have expected to complete the race in ~28 minutes but I finished in 33:50 instead – big difference! It was evident then that all my pacing and PRs were out the window and I would have to set new expectations.
Having been in NC for more than a year now, I am finally starting to run some races for a second time. This gives me a chance to set course PRs, attempting to improve on last year’s performances. It also means that I’m not walking into races blind and I can take a more intelligent approach to race strategy.
This race is mostly single track trails through the woods and around the lake of Chestnut Ridge Camp and Retreat Center in Efland, NC. The trails aren’t very technical and they really aren’t very hilly either – at least not by NC standards! This year’s race was sunny and cold (+3 C or upper-30s F)- great racing weather!
I went out pretty fast to ensure that I didn’t have to do too much passing once we hit the single track trails. As I saw my heart rate creeping up, though, I was able to reign it in a bit so as not to burn out. For most of the race there was someone 50-100 meters ahead of me and and I could hear someone(s) 25-50 meters behind me as well. I tried not to be concerned with them and just ran my own race.
With less than 1 km to go, we emerged from the forest and two cross country boys passed me. They tried to pull away but I hung with them and eventually all three of us overtook the man who had been ahead of me for most of the race. As we neared the finish, I kicked it up a gear or two and surged pass the boys to beat them by a couple of seconds and finish in 32:21.
Setting a new course PR by 89 seconds is pretty good on such a short race. I attribute the better performance to better pacing, more experience running trails, and a higher running fitness level than I had a year ago. Also additional motivation was provided by some of my friends from the Godiva Track Club. They were running the longer distance race but one of them even ran with me for some time.
This was a fun, small race with pretty scenery and a nice route. It served as a good warmup for Thursday’s Gallop & Gorge 8k, the final event of the Tour de Carrboro series, where I’m hoping to set another course PR before hitting the offseason!