Raven Rock is one of my favorite parks within an hour driving or so of home. Along with Uhwarrie Sate Park, it has some of the best trails and scenery around! I always try to go to the once-a-year orienteering event that Backwoods Orienteering Club puts on there, and last year at the Bushwhack 24 hour adventure race, there was a long orienteering section as well. So when I heard about the Raven Rock Rumble 5 and 10 mile race, I had to sign up!
I had checked with the PBO running group to see if anyone else was racing, in order to car pool, but no one else was. Then the day before the race I got an email from my friend Randy saying he was going, and would I like to car pool. I didn’t even know Randy was a runner, but this is his 3rd year running the 5 miler! We had a good drive down, getting there at 8:30 right when the posted packet pick up cut-off was. We had about a 3/4 mile jog to the registration tent, where there was still a line of 15-20 people in front of us, so we were good.
The 5 miler started 5 minutes before the 10 miler, and about 100 meters ahead, so I wished Randy well, and walked to my start line.
Shoe choice was really a tough decision. I am using a metatarsal pad right now, which sits just behind the ball of the foot, which in theory spreads the load better. This is an attempt to alleviate that weird popping thing I’ve had in my left ball of foot since Half-scar back in June. I’ve only had the pads about 10 days, so I’m still figuring out which shoes they work in and which they don’t. The meta-pad feels great in my new Kinvara’s, but I definitely didn’t want to wear that shoe on the trails. It is definitely a shoe more suited to roads. So on Friday afternoon, the day before the run, I tried the metatarsal pad in my Inov8 F-lite 195’s, Saloman XA Comps and the Go-lite Sun Dragons I had so much success with last year (but which are, unfortunately falling apart). Both of those are a lot more shoe than I’ve been wearing recently. At first, I did not like the feel in the 195’s, but after going back and forth between all the shoes, finally felt like that would be the best choice. I opted to not use a pad in the right shoe. The 195’s really have almost zero cushioning, so you can feel the pad, and on the right foot, it was uncomfortable, but on the left, it felt pretty good. I opted not to use the luggy inov-8 x-talon 190, as it has been relatively dry and I didn’t think I would need that kind of grip.
The race started at 9:05 a.m., and my plan, as in most trail runs, was to go out pretty hard in order to not get stuck in a log-jam of runners once the course hits the single track. So, I started up front and was with the top 15 runners about 250 meters in, just before we hit the trails. I heard two ladies talking about 5:45 being a little too fast. 🙂 I am pretty sure it was more like 6:15 – 6:30, but I wasn’t about to look at my watch at that point! The course was a fairly gradual down hill for the 1st couple miles, and while there was a little jockeying for position, the strategy of going hard was good because I was certainly in the top 15 – 20 at that point.
Around mile two I looked at my watch to see I was still going a bit fast — 7:35 pace. But then again, it had been mostly down hill. That pace would slowly creep up over the next 8 miles, but there was also a lot of climbing to come! Around mile 2.5 I settled into a more comfortable pace and a few people passed me, but I had my eyes on them and thought I’d bring many of them back in. Especially the 14 year old! (I didn’t know how hold he was at the time, but looked on the results later! 🙂 ) He still did awesome, finishing just 3 minutes behind me. Wow!
Around mile 3.5 we went down an out-and-back section that was all down hill, including a long section of stairs where it was pretty steep. The front runners were coming back up, and almost all of them were walking. As soon as you turn around at the bottom, you start the long climb… I switched to power hiking and passed a couple walkers and a couple of folks that were attempting to run.
Around mile 4.5, we passed the finish line, and headed out onto the 5 mile course. It was a long half mile down, where many of the 5 milers were struggling up. I decided this would be good information to remember – I wanted to save a little in the tank going into the last mile! It was on this section were I started picking off a couple of the folks who had passed me earlier, but by now there was a big spread between most runners. I ended up running mile 7-9 with a grey haired gentleman, and I reminded him about the hill at the finish. He passed me on one steep little climb, and I let him go, thinking I would catch him on the BIG climb. We finally got to there, and I ran some sections and power hiked others. He just kept plodding along, and I could never close the gap, though at least we passed two more racers who were walking. At the top, I thought my power hiking strategy would give me a bit more energy and I could over take the guy, but he sped up and actually gained a little. The results show he was 50 years old — so kudos to him! I hope I am running that well in 10 years. 🙂
Update: Someone caught a picture of me at the finish so I’ll add it here:
Randy and I both had to get home very quickly, so as soon as I was done we walked over, grabbed some water and a banana, and headed back to the cars. I felt remarkably good the rest of the day, and on Sunday only had a little soreness in the calves. The foot popping was barely noticeable and not really any better or worse than it has been — but I have not run 10 hard miles in a while so that is a good sign. I actually saw my PT on Monday and he poked and prodded my left foot, and the area where the popping occurs was not sore at all, but the head, or just below the head, really, was a bit more sore than it has been. In the past when he poked and prodded, that area was not that sore. So the theory right now is that soreness is inflaming the tendon, and the tendon is what I feel popping when I walk over hard surfaces — it comes out of the grove and gets between the bone and the ground. It still isn’t slowing me down, and doesn’t really hurt per se, but I am monitoring it closely, and hopefully the meta-pad will help it out.
As far as the 195, they performed really well. The course covers various types of trail, much of it single track, with rocks and roots covered by leaves. The few times I hit a rock or root head on, the 195 provided ample protection. I will say that by the end of the 10 miles, my feet were getting tired, though, so this may be close to my limit in this shoe right now. In two weeks I have a 14 mile trail race, so I’ll have to make a decision. I am pretty sure I will go with the 195 again, unless it is as muddy as last year, in which case I’ll go with the 190.
Here’s a GPS map from my Garmin showing the course… The out and back to the river was from mile 3.5 to 5 or so, which includes a long decent down “stairs” and then, as soon as you turn around, the long ascent back up.
Here’s an elevation vs. speed graph, which really shows the two brutal hills — the 1st from mile 4 – 5 and the 2nd the last 1/2 mile of the race. In reality, the last tenth or two tenths was flat to the finish, so I’m not sure why the Garmin doesn’t show it that way. The course actually went down the same hill nea
I did not wear the heart rate monitor, so no stats there…
The results were posted late Saturday and showed me 23rd out of 110 with an average pace of 8:34. On those trails, and those hills, I’m pretty happy with that pace!