Words cannot express how much I was not looking forward to this race.
Other than the Firecracker 4 (still a mixed bag) almost nothing had been going right for me in regards to running since I had won the Quarry Crusher. Everything felt tough, highlighted by the Hotter N Hell run in Alabama.
It didn’t help that on the 4th, my Dad and I walked the course at Pike Lake to see what was in store. The rumors were it was the toughest course in the Trail Assail Series; and walking the course it seemed like it was. But we’ll get into the course description later.
The plan was to run the 10k super conservatively, and really just use it as the middle of the planned 10 miles that day. Basically, I was going to use the plan I used for the Quarry Crusher. Be super conservative on the hills, fly on the downhill, and run comfortably hard on the flats.
The Start/Finish was down by the lake, and as we started the race a pack of runners jumped out to the front as we headed into the woods. I was able to let them go easily, thinking I wasn’t racing and I knew the hills that awaited.
As the course winds through the woods, we crossed the main road in the park and we began our ascent up to the watch tower. In all, the course gains almost 300ft straight through the first 1.75 miles.
I was in sixth as we crossed the road, but quickly moved up to fourth as we got on the switch backs. On the hills, I was essentially running a course determined fartlek. Recovery on the hills, pick it up on the rest.
Remember that watch tower? Yes, we did have to go up the 55ft tower. Slow going to be sure, as we were trapped behind a lot of Half Marathoners. I had planned the tower to be a bit of a rest anyway, so this worked out.
As we descended back down the switchbacks, I passed a runner in the 10k who I had passed at about a mile. He didn’t go up the tower, which put him back in front of a few of us. I quickly blew past him, made a comment about him not doing the tower, and left him behind.
We turned onto the “outside” loop of the park, which we hadn’t explored during the walkthrough. Turns out, this section was mostly flat, if not a little downhill. I had left the other 10k runners close to me behind, and wasn’t close enough to top 3. So most of this section was passing Half Marathoners.
At about Mile 4, we rejoined the 5k course, and it was flush with runners. Passing the 5k runners was a good way to keep my mind occupied and not think about the race. We had two steep hills back in this section which I again took slow, let the 5k runners pass me on the uphill, then pass them right back on the downs.
Before we made the turn back to the beach, we had to hop on an out and back on a flat gravel road to get the rest of the 10k distance. The only good part about this, like any out and back, was that it lets you see where the runners ahead, or behind, you are.
Knowing the three guys in front of me, I knew I wasn’t running them down in the last mile; confirmed by the out and back. I did see, after the turn, that the runner in 5th in the 10k was a little close for comfort.
I knew it was mostly flat/downhill to the finish, so the last 3/4 mile was probably the only part of the race where I actually pushed, laying down a sub 7 on the trails to the finish.
Fourth place (2nd Age Group) was quite the surprise. Running the Pike Lake course faster than Lapham was a surprise.
Basically, it was a really good day.