EX2 Adventures hosts a fantastic fall trail race series each fall - the Backyard Burn, with trail races across northern Virginia - 5 mile and 10 mile options. I've managed to sign up early enough for the Wakefield race to get a spot each year for the past few years. It's one of my favorite races on the circuit - less than a 20 minute drive from home, fun trails, and I always see alot of friends out there. Plus - this year they have added POST RACE BURRITOS to the menu. Win!
I don't think it would've been possible to have a more gorgeous fall morning for a race. Clear blue skies, crisp cool air that warmed up to shorts-and-tshirt-for-a-race as soon as the sun rose high enough. The type of day that you want to bottle up so you can remind yourself of perfection during both the steamy hot summer months or the cold dark winter ones. I was going to race in arm warmers but decided on just tshirt and shorts because it was just warm enough not to need them. The race course was just a tad longer this year than previous ones due to construction - 5.65 miles instead of 5.5. It started on pavement for about the first quarter mile before funneling into the trails, providing an adequate amount of time for the racers to string out and not be on top of each other. I felt like this race was bigger than in years past, at least the female field was in the 5 miler - the ladies packet pickup for the 5 miler was so big it was split into two lines. There were over 60 women in the 30-39 AG alone. I love how popular these races have gotten - and FAST!
So the race starts and I go off near the front. I've been doing a terrible job at negative splitting races lately and Sunday's was no exception. There was one girl in front of me as we neared the end of the paved section and I passed her as we were going up a hill, but that lasted a hot 30 seconds before she passed me back, and then another girl passed me and then another. I was also running an unsustainable pace and check myself before I wrecked myself (I had that phrase running through my head the ENTIRE race, ha!). The three girls ahead of me pulled away and were just far enough ahead that it would take an act of God to get me close enough to overtake any of them without blowing up. So I resigned myself to just running at a pace that felt hard but sustainable. I guess it's kind of hard to figure out exactly what that pace is - and it's dynamic because several times during the race I felt like I was going to fall apart, only to feel worlds better about 30 seconds later and pick up the pace just a bit and the cycle continued. RIP to my pretty pink shoes - I finally ran through a creek with them (no choice!) during mile 2. I will say this - those drainage holes at the bottom of the K-Swiss shoes definitely work - no squishiness! We headed into some single track and I could see the 3rd place girl ahead of me by less than 50yds and she stayed that distance from me for pretty much the remainder of the race, except for the very end when she got even further away. I was lucky that I didn't get bogged down by anyone during the single track, everyone was running at a good clip and I kept my pace up by trying not to let the guys in front of me get too far ahead. We had a few climbs, but this was a mostly flat and fast course that wasn't too technical overall. It was pretty neat how the course snaked its way through the woods and, because many of the leaves were down, you could see people running all over the place - some ahead of you, some behind. Somewhere around Mile 3 I felt like I found my right pace and a second wind. I passed a couple people and would make it my goal to continue my pace so I wouldn't get passed back. I had no idea where the 5th place girl was but I ran like she was right behind me. Once I hit the One-Mile-To-Go mark, I really had to do some self pep talk, especially as I hoofed my way up the final hill. Once I made it up that, I knew I was home free, with a downhill and a flat section to the finish being all that was left. I saw some great Team Zrs cheering at the final left turn to the finish line field and I was so, so happy to cross the line (and so, so happy I had NOT signed up for the 10 miler and two loops of that stuff).
I ended up 4th overall female and 2nd in the 30-39 age group with a 43:20 and brought home another pint glass (Mr. Sweetie just shook his head). I spent post-race talking Pies with Bob and catching up with Kelly Green, who is one of the nicest girls out there. I'm not signed up for any more Backyard Burns, so it was extra nice I ran into some of my favorite people and had awesome weather at this race!