Being home this early in January has allowed me the opportunity to get some more running in than I normally would down in Antarctica. This past Saturday was the inaugural "Resolution Challenge" In R.B. Winter State Park (Central PA), about an hour drive from my apartment in State College. The temps for race morning were forecasted to be hovering around 0F and we were warned the course would be snowy and possibly icy.
The race itself had a rather peculiar format, which is what drew me to it in the first place. The course was 1.6 mile loop around the park, half trail, half paved....all snow covered. There were officially two events happening simultaneously on the same course.
One event was essentially a timed 3-hour event. Finish as many loops as possible, before time runs out. The one exception to the traditional format though, was that as long as any time remained, you were allowed to start another loop. In other words, even though there was a 3-hour time limit, you could finish 15 minutes over if you started at loop at 2hrs and 59 minutes.
The 2nd event had a similar format to Laz's Backyard Ultra, but with a twist. Officially it was titled a "Last Man Standing" and it started with everyone having exactly 21 minutes to finish a lap. Then each successive lap, the finishing time was lowered by 1 minute. As long as you made it to the finish before time ran out, you could go out on the next loop. But, if you finished with very little time to spare, you would not have any time to really rest, eat, or use the bathrooms....so you had to manage your time wisely.
Initially, I was very intrigued with the Last Man Standing race, and nearly everyone from my local running club was participating in that event. In the end though, I decided it was more important for me to simply get in a nice tempo'd long run and see how fast I could go with the loops. I opted for the standard 3-hour loop event. Thankfully, so did one other member of my local running group, and we ended up pacing off of each other for the entire 3 hours.
Both races started at 9:00 am and being in the standard-loop race, I jumped out quickly with the lead group. The Last Man Standing racers had 21 minutes for their first lap, and so many of them were just jogging so that they didn't expend too much energy early on. The loop starts with about 0.7-miles of nice trail. It was entirely snow-covered, but all very runable. I did not have any yak-tracks or spikes of any kind on, and never had any trouble with footing or slipping. At the 0.7-mark, the trail dumps out onto a paved 0.7-mile stretch. This bit was definitely runable and where I would usually make up most of my time on each loop. At the very end of the road stretch, there was a small 0.2-mile bit of trail again into the finish-line chute where the official timer was. There was only about 100 feet of climb total per loop so it made for relatively smooth running (with the exception of the poor footing in a few icy spots). The end of the road stretch had a nice downhill that made for some fun and fast running too.
Early on in a loop on the trail.
For the first few loops I just sort of did my own thing, I wasn't entirely sure how many were in front of me, but from what I could tell there were at least 2....one of whom I recognized as Jeff, the other runner from my local running group. I normally can't keep up with Jeff, so I wasn't trying too hard to keep his pace, as I knew it would likely backfire. Additionally, he was running with another fast guy and it looked like the two of them had a nice pace going. So, I just sort of put my head down and tried to enjoy the very quiet and calm morning. Despite there being over 60 runners, it never seemed crowded on the 1.6-mile loop. My particular race was usually out of phase with the Last Man runners, so I generally didn't see them too much. What this meant was I got to really take in a beautiful and crisp January day....and my first race of 2014!
Finishing an early lap
As the loops progressed, I noticed that I was keeping even with Jeff and that the other runner with him had fallen away. I decided with over half of the race in the books, I would try to just keep up with Jeff as long as I could...just to see how long I would last. We ran several loops together, sometimes I'd stop for a drink and he'd get a bit ahead, and other times I'd leave the loop ahead. By the end of the loop though, we were usually running beside each other chatting about something.
Catching back up to Jeff at the finish of an early loop
With 56 minutes remaining in the race, and just setting out on loop 10, I realized that if I could push hard for 4 loops, I might be able to just squeeze in under 3 hours and do a 5th loop. I told Jeff of my intentions and stepped on the gas a little. The loops were tiring and I went from averaging 9 min/miles to closer to 8. In the sloppy snow this was a rather quick pace, even with the paved section. My heart-rate ran near 160 for all four loops, but as we were rounding the corner ready to finish loop 13, we saw that the time was 2hrs and 58 minutes! As we crossed the line, the timer told us we could still do another lap. Jeff and I agreed not only to run it slow...a sort-of victory lap, but, to finish together.
So in 3hrs 13 minutes we crossed the line together after 14 consecutive loops, still smiling and having fun (Although pretty darn exhausted and depleted). Those previous 4 loops definitely kicked my ass, but if felt damn good to push hard and work myself at a fun race like this. We both finished in 1st place and I got my first (co)-victory of 2014, and only my 2nd race win ever! It really was a fun time at this event, and I absolutely would love to do it next year if I'm still around.
Finishing the final loop 14 with Jeff
In the Last Man Standing race, it was a battle. Several men and women made it down to sub 7min/mile pace. In the end, 3 men made it through the 11 minute loop and all failed on the 10 minute loop (which was about 6 min/mile pace). They had run only a couple loops less than Jeff and I had...but ran many of them way faster. Several folks from my local running group placed in that event as well, including the top two women. It truly was an outstanding day and a wonderful event. Nothing but praises from all that attended. The after-race hot soup was pretty darn fantastic too!
Avg pace and avg heart-rate clear shows the last few miles were tough
In the end, my watch clocked 22.8 miles total including a bit of walking around for food after one of the loops.
Here's the link to the Garmin mumbo jumbo: http://connect.garmin.com/activity/424567599
and the link for the detailed split mumbo jumbo: http://connect.garmin.com/splits/424567599
The next day (Sunday), I met Jeff again for another 14 lovely and easy miles on the roads of Rothrock State Forest. It's going to be a fun Winter of running I think...
hike on friends!