We can't help but notice these new upstart obstacle course races with their mud pits and hay bales and whathaveyou. That's fine. two can play that game. Here's what we've visualized throwing at you: pole vaulting, hang gliding, weaponized anthrax, tickling past the point of being funny, forcible tattooing, landmines, Scrabble with somebody who takes forever and then plays a three letter word, talking about feelings, poison blowdarts, and listening to people overpronunciate foreign words because they visited some place two years ago. Or maybe we're just going to come at you with the oldest form of athletics: chasing living things through natural spaces.
-from the 5 Peaks pre-race bulletin.
My first entry in the 2012 Race Calendar is in the books! Plan A was to have the whole family come along, but fate intervened and the Lightning Kid ended up in the emergency room at 4AM. While that sounds like enough of a catastrophe to not race, he was in good hands with his mother and the staff, and it ended up only being croup (he's already doing much better), so after I dropped off Shark Boy at his grandmother's place, I was off to the race(s).
It's a shame they couldn't be there, because one of the first things I noticed upon arrival was how family friendly the venue was. Being a park, there was lots of open space for kids (and dogs, on leashes) to run around in without worrying about cars and traffic. They had set up a bouncy castle and there were clowns making balloon animals.
Due to all the extra drama I went through trying to get to the race, I was late getting there. I missed the kids' 1k foot race, but had enough time to get my bib attached and run my race kit back to my car. The race goodies were limited to a small sport bag filled with a ClifShot and ClifBar. That may seem meagre but I'll use everything in that bag, and it keeps my post-race clean-up duties to a minimum. My office is littered with race kit goodies like pamphlets for races that have long come and gone... I can get most of that stuff on the internet.
At the starting line, they organized the racers in waves that would depart whenever the preceding wave had hit the line of the forest (about 150-200m). Both the Sport Course (5km which I was doing) and the Enduro Course (12.7km) I was still getting myself sorted out when the first two waves were being described and organized, so I didn't take them, but I figured I'd rather err on the side of caution and be in a later wave. I heard something along the line of a "26 minute 5k time" and that sounded about right... for a regular 5k on fairly flat roads. Still I was chomping at the bit by that point, and off I went.
The first part of the race across the field and into the forest felt a lot like a road race. A crowd of smiling faces, and you take your time while the traffic is still thick. Then, the Escapment's rocky terrain asserted itself, and you had to stop sight-seeing and concentrate on what rock or root to step on, or not step on, while making sure that your fellow racers didn't have the exact same spot at the exact same time in mind as a place to put their own feet. While that sounds stressful, it was that kind of mental engagement I was looking for in a trail race; headphones are prohibited for safety reasons, and in this case, I could totally see why.
I imagine some people would argue that running should be a chance for them to put their brains on coast for a while and take a break from the demands of work, but unless you're a secret agent or play video games for a living, I'd argue that this kind of mental stimulation is quite refreshing. I found it to be a lot of fun.
If you were willing to risk a look up from the terrain, you were rewarded with some nice views, as the Sport race course seemed to follow a ridge line of the escarpment. Still, I tried not to waste much time since I was hoping to finish the race as fast as I could, even without any concrete estimates on what my time would be.
One of the many lookouts
According to what I heard on race day, what makes this race unique is the rockiness of the trail. Often we were leaping across 3 foot gaps between boulders, or clambering over waist high rocks to get to where we were going. Doing things like box jumps in Burbathlon really helped me get on top of these. Of course, there were also good old fashioned hills to climb.
I need to find a way to capture 'steepness' photographically.
I'd always been mere inches away from a cold the past few weeks, and taking a hydration pack along proved to be a good idea, since I seem to need more than average levels of fluids lately, and I'm always starting short on them. I'm proud of the effort level I kept up, since I had a kind of light burning in my lungs with my heart rate averaging around 83% (see below) and a finish time of under 30 minutes.
Finisher's Victory Face
Post race snacks included chocolate chip cookies, bagels, pita, watermelon and banana. I got a chance to look at and try some Salomon shoes from the demo tent. The Salomon staff were well informed and it looks like my next pair of shoes (to be bought sooner rather than later) will be a pair of Salomon XR Missions