On a brisk Saturday morning, the final race in the 2007 DINO Series was held at beautiful (and hilly) Fort Harrison State Park on the Northeast side of Indianapolis. The morning temperature was in the mid 30's with a little wind but that did not deter almost 350 people from coming out for the 5K and 15K trail race.
The 15K course was an out-and-back along one of the horse trails in the park. The course was rated 4 out of 5 for hills, but a 2 out of 5 for surface of the trail by race director Brian Holzhausen. I would agree that it was a tough and hilly course, with some fairly steep hills. The surface was pretty good, while the trail was cut wide, it had well grooved single track areas that were easier to run on.
Registration on the chilly morning was held inside a shelter house that was surrounded in plastic to help cut down on some of the arctic breeze that was blowing through the flat, open field where the race would start and finish.
I ran a 1:07:38 (7:17) which is a 15K (9.3 mile) PR. I'm sure I can run them faster on a road course, but at this point all of my 15K's have been DINO's trail races. This was about a 5 minute PR for me, so I was very happy with that. I was also shocked to have been first in my age group and 38th overall. There were a ton of people in the 20-24 age group ahead of me!
Mile by Grueling Mile!
The start was in an open area and went alongside the tree line before cutting through the meadow and hitting the first major hill at about the half mile. The course went up a steep hill (perfect for sledding), ran along the top and then back down. Cutting through a swath of woods, we ran a short bit on the road and re-entered the woods. I came through the first mile at 7:14, which was a little faster than I had expected but it felt like a good pace. The miles were marked on the trail, they were a circle of cleared leaves with orange paint.
There was a lot of up and down, most were fairly short hills and I don't remember there being any other major steep ones at this point. I decided that I would take it easy up the hills on the out portion of the race and see what I had left coming back through the course. It was a very winding trail and I came through mile 2 at 7:01. I still felt really good and was just cruising along with a small group of people.
I recognized some of the other guys and felt comfortable with being around them place and time-wise. There was a water/Gatorade stop around the 2.5 mile mark (strategically placed to serve both the 5K and 15K runners). The course continued to meander through the woods, not really staying flat long enough to get into a strong stride. I came through mile 3 at 7:09.
I was still feeling pretty good and ate one Clif Shot Blok, per my race strategy. At this point our group had kind of spread out and I was trying to stay with a guy who passed me. This part of the course began to have some steeper hills and some stretches of wider trail. We were running along near the park's boundary lines. After a steep descent we came to a creek crossing. It had rained several days during the past few weeks so there was probably 3-4 inches of water in the 6-10 foot wide creek bed. I was able to almost one-step through it, barely getting my left foot wet. The guy I had just passed hit a rock while jumping and kind of twisted his ankle (he was able to work it out and seemed fine later when he passed me!). The 4 mile mark was on the bank of the creek and I came through in 6:45, very surprised to have been under 7 minute pace.
This last .65 of the out segment presented some of the steepest hills of the day. Maybe some of the longest as well. I was just under a mile behind the leaders and they came back at me. The course finally flattened out for the last quarter mile into the turn around point (where they were checking numbers and providing water/Gatorade). Coming back I was able to see all the runners and where different people were behind me. Crossing the creek again I got both feet soaked! I ran the 5th mile in 8:10. Part of me thinks that the 4 and 5 mile marks may have been a little off because of the major time swing but I also know that the 5th mile was tough.
I got back into the groove of running the hills, which became a little trickier now that there was oncoming runners to deal with. The course was definitely wide enough for us to be running beside each other, it was like I mentioned earlier that in sections the course was significantly easier (and had less leaf cover) over a worn single-track area. I continued running with the same group of guys, but we were also getting passed by individual runners occasionally, some of whom seemed to be flying by. I went through mile 6 at 7:18 and was starting to feel it a little bit.
At this point I kept saying to myself that I had less than a 5K to go, it isn't that far. I took another Shot Blok and focused on catching/staying with the runners ahead of me. I was slowly able to pass some runners and began to feel a little cramping. It wasn't too bad and I tried to run through it, but it did affect my stride and pace a little bit. I took some water and tried to fight through. At this point I started saying, this is shorter than Shadyside (2.64 miles), which is a piece of cake. I came through mile 7 at 7:15.
I had enough strength to charge up some of the hills, well at least charging up them faster than some of the others! It probably didn't look too pretty as I continued to fight through the side cramp (it did go away, but I don't remember when!) At one point I ran with a guy for a short while as he tried to pass me, letting him go when I caught the next guy. Somehow I missed the 8 mile marker, but knew that we were getting close to the end (which is the beauty of an out and back course) and started trying to pick up the pace a little. We ran back along the road and then back up the grueling hill that started it all. Running across the top section I started picking up the pace for the final stretch. At the base of the hill (around 1/2 to go) my wonderful wife cheered me on. I knew that Brian shouldn't be too far behind me (we have a friendly rivalry at these races) and listened for her to cheer for him, so I could judge where he was. He seemed a safe distance back but then I began hearing the heavy breathing of someone and got scared. I began stretching it out, knowing this was a long distance to try and kick. I crossed mile 9 at 14:54 which is a 7:27 pace for the 2 miles.
The runner who passed me wasn't Brian, it was Patrick McCartney who I've met several times. He pulled away from me a bit during this straight stretch and then I decided I wanted to try and beat him. We began pushing the pace, ultimately running the last 100 yards or so at or near 100%. This was an all out kick to the finish. I tried switching on the afterburners and was able to pull out the "win." I clocked the last .3 at 1:46 which is approximately 5:54 place, beating Patrick by 2 seconds and Brian by 10.
I am very pleased with my time and overall race. We waited around for the awards and was very surprised to have won my age group. Other Anderson runners did well in their age groups also. We weren't able to stay around for the awards banquet which was being held to honor those in the fall-sub series and overall DINO race series. I received 2nd place in my age group for the fall sub-series and 44th overall in the standings.
Cross-posted at Run Central Indiana.