Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Race recap #1 - Flatwoods Four - April 6, 2008

Ok, this is way overdue. I'd been meaning to report on this year's trail races, but this blog began after I actually ran in three events in '08. I've seen little written about them, so I thought I'd make my own small contribution. Here's the most recent event....

The Flatwoods Four Trail Run was held this past April 6 near Tampa. I'm posting this belated race report (I only started this blog since then), as well as those of two other Florida trail races I've run this year (forthcoming), for the benefit of anyone who might want to try one of these events.

This was my second tamparaces.com event of the season, and I was looking forward to seeing what I could do on a shorter course following the earlier Trout Creek 15K. As I was running somewhat out my area, I did not see anyone I recognized before the start of the race.

The start was quite crowded. In fact, it was the most crowded first mile I've run in my life (including high school and college cross country, and various road races)! I placed myself maybe 2/3 of the way back from the starting line, and it took a few seconds to get to the line after the race started. After that it was wall-to-wall runners on the first trail segment, the "shell road". Very difficult to pass anyone. Next we headed into the woods on a very narrow, rough, twisty trail over roots and through palmetto. Kinda dark in there for my shades, but I had decided to wear them to protect myself in the more open middle part of the run. At this point in the woods, runners had to go single file, and things were so bottled up that I actually had to stop and walk three times because of the traffic! One guy behind me complained a couple of times, but I took the slowdown "in stride" as part of the experience. The first mile split was 10:27, which I think is my slowest first mile split in any distance race, ever. Once we got out of the woods, the trial widened and I was able to open things up a bit (relatively speaking) and try to make up some time. The middle two miles, a mix of grass and sand, were wider and sunnier, though I was glad the sun hid behind some clouds part of the time. While the sun was hiding, I removed my cap, and replaced it when it got brighter. The last mile essentially repeated the first mile, minus the crushing crowds. Despite being flat, it was twisty with a little rough footing, and I found myself going into oxygen debt. Back on the shell road I was able to pick it up and put on a closing burst to the finish. I had my typical "Give me air/I think I'm going to throw up" minute or two but that passed, thank goodness.

All in all, an enjoyable day for me.

Race pros and cons, IMHO...
pros: well-marked course, well-organized, excellent post-race food (great job, tamparaces.com!)
cons: parking and bathroom access were less than ideal. Depending on your perspective, a very crowded, overly narrow first mile; as with many trail events, do not even consider comparing times with a typical road race, despite the flat terrain... if you care at all about your time, consider your starting position carefully.

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