last weekend a little over a week ago I ran the Old School Trail Run in Fairmount Park. As I mentioned in my last post (way back when), I’m running a fair amount of miles these days but nothing fast, so I went into this knowing two things with great certainty:
1) My current overall fitness dictates a relatively slow time. There would be no racing for age group position.
2) Lots of miles on the road do not translate to trail fitness. See point one.
Those points being what they are, I was actually quite excited for the race. I really like running trails, and don’t do it nearly as often as I should. Additionally I tend to forget how amazing the Forbidden Drive section of Fairmount Park really is. Seriously – this is something like 3 miles from center city Philadelphia:
And that’s on a cold and rainy Autumn day!
Anyway, I was up bright and early on a beautiful morning for a race and made my way down to the park. The starting area was full of all sorts of people from very fit looking young men in track singlets to a few older folks in 100 mile trail race shirts and all types in between (for the record I simultaneously try to identify with both groups and fail miserably). I jogged an easy couple of miles to warm up, checked my blood sugar (148 – fine for 5 miles) then waited at the start trying my best to look supremely confident. After a few words from the race director we were off!
The first half mile was on the wide, hard-packed trail shown above, and though I wasn’t wearing my Garmin I was probably at around a 7:30/mile pace or so taking it somewhat easy before hitting the more difficult stuff. Just past the half mile point we veered off to the right on to a series of uphill, rock strewn horse trails. I maintained a decent jog up that first trail and actually felt pretty good as it leveled off, only to panic a little as I realized that the trail had just given us a bit of a “rope-a-dope” and “leveling off” in this context meant “a brief flat bit before continuing up twice as far as you’ve come so far”. I swear I could hear the trees chuckling. Against my better judgement I continued to attack the climb, and by the time we hit the actual top I was in quite a bit of oxygen debt. Fortunately the next mile or so was on single track trough some rolling meadows and I slowly regained some semblance of composure before we started heading down. Speaking of heading down, I had just gone through a tricky bit when I heard a rather unpleasant “thud” followed quickly by an equally unpleasant exclamation of pain. A young lady took a bit of a header after tripping on a root and smacked her knee. I stopped and did what I could (feeling quite proud of my Wilderness First Aid certification), and it looked like she just knocked it. Once she was back on her feet (albeit with a pronounced limp) I was off again.
The rest of the course was rinse and repeat: power hike up rock and boulder strewn paths, run on some rolling section, then bomb down the treacherous downhills. Some things that I learned are:
- I really do enjoy the trails and I’m making myself a promise to run them more
- While lots of road miles don’t make you trail fit, they do make you generally fit, and I felt stronger at the end than the start.
- I’m actually fairly good at the downhill bits and passed many people over those sections.
- Pushing hard on trails is very different from the road with regards to my diabetes. I took in no carbs and finished the race at 226 – a spike of nearly 80 points without reducing my basal rate.
So in the end I came in just shy of 53 minutes, good enough for almost exactly middle of my age group. The two minutes or so I spent stopping to help the fallen damsel in distress would only have gained me one or two spots in that group, so I can’t complain.