Jo and I ran in the Dark and Dirty nighttime trail race Saturday night. I'm hesitant to refer to it as a race, but there certainly are some people that show up to "race", while the majority of the runners come to drink beer.
I went to a party and a trail race broke out!
This is one of the many fine, yet challenging events, put on by Pretzel City Sports. These are the trails where I ran my first trail race and the same trails where I ran my first ultra. Running here is like coming home. And that feeling is reinforced by the closeness shared among most of the runners. We really are like a big family...without the fights and other abuse that some families inflict on each other.
After a tough week, I was happy to be among my favorite people.
Jo and I arrived early so we could socialize and partake in a pre-race happy hour. I killed a 6 pack while waiting for the race to start.
Jo and our dear friend Kelly Murdock. Kelly is a top female runner (with a guys name)
Jo and I were also joined by our friend "Flat Bart". Flat Bart is the miniature cardboard likeness of our friend Bart Yasso and he will be accompanying us to the rest of our races this year. They look cute together!
Flat Bart getting frisky with Jo. Real Bart is in the background, clearly jealous of his little friends amorous adventures.
In an attempt to cover his bases, Ron Horn advertised 3 different start times for this race. And we weren't close to any of them by the time we actually got started. If nothing else, Ron is consistent.
Right before the start
Jo settled into the pack closer to the rear and I picked a spot about 10 feet from the front. That felt about right.
We started by running down the driveway to the park, then around a nearby lake on a wide path. This helped thin us out slightly, but as soon as we hit the single track, we were bottlenecked. I expected this and rode it out. I wasn't in a hurry so I settled in.
This course has always been somewhat easier than the other PCS events. I always assumed they did this because we were running in the dark and that in itself provides enough added difficulty. I can only assume that Ron was disappointed by the low casualty rate, so he "enhanced" the course this year by routing us through much more technical terrain.
We quickly hit a number of very steep and rocky ascents. A lot of ambitious front runners immediately faded. I kept a nice easy pace as I ran these hills, passing dozens of runners searching for air. I was sincerely concerned for many of them. But not enough to stop and check on them. There are plenty of people behind me that can handle the body recovery duties.
I was having a blast and was running comfortably when we hit the first aid station. Ron stated this was located at 2.75 miles. Then he revised that and said it was at 2.85 miles. Without exception, every Garmin I saw measured it at 3.4 miles. So Ron was pretty close! For Ron.
I stopped and drank two cups of water and chatted with the aid station crew, many of which are friends. I eventually bid a farewell and headed on my way.
The next section presented more of the same type of trail. A few long fast sections, sprinkled with some serious up and downs, all pretty technical.
I ran this section quickly. Not because I was interested in getting a good time, but more interested in HAVING a good time. There was fun to be had at the Pagoda!
The Pagoda all lit up
I can see the Pagoda glowing in the night sky! One more hill!
I bypassed the traditional water stop and walked right to the beer table and settled in for a prolonged visit. This is a truly welcome and glorious sight!
Beer #5. It tasted just as good as the first one!
The beer stop makes me smile. I love these people!
Jo had been running with our friend Jo Kappus. They took some time to pause and enjoy the beer stop too. These girls are all about the party!
No rush! Have a beer!
After getting my fill of beer, I headed off into the woods for the last mile to the finish.
Evidently, the beer stop added a level of difficulty for a lot of runners, because they were tripping and falling all around me. This last mile has some steep downhill and I was seriously worried that I would be taken out by an avalanche of drunken runners washing down the hill behind me. I ran for my life!
I eventually crossed the finish line, then went in search of a beer.
Jo and Jo crossing the finish line!
Once we got the race out of the way, we were able to really start having fun. The weather was excellent and we all sat outside and shared beers, ate stale hot dogs, and enjoyed each other's company.
Kelly and Gary are great friends and excellent runners. Kelly finished 3rd female overall and 1st in her age group. Kelly is an amazing runner and always finishes near the front. I'm constantly impressed by her abilities.
Fun friends, Kyle and Daria. Kyle finished 18th overall! A very impressive run. Daria was there to support her man.
We continued to enjoy our beer and camaraderie outside under the stars, until somebody called the police. Evidently, loud drunken polka music, laced with deeply offensive language, annoys the neighbors.
Honey Badger don't care! We'll just take the party inside!!!
In my mind, races like this optimize everything I love about trail running. The idea for me is to simply have fun, while pushing your body through some demanding conditions. It's as much about friendship as it is about sport. We had a fantastic time, as we always do at PCS races.
I'll be running the Old Dominion 100 in a couple weeks, so now is the time to rest and get my mind right for that adventure. There's a lot to do between now and then.