Monday, February 6, 2012

Buffalo Run Trail 5K: The First Loser!

Warming up at the 2012 Buffalo Run Trail 5K
Race Review
Buffalo Run Trail 5K
February 5, 2012
Parkville, Missouri

2nd Place Overall
1st Place 40-49 Age Group
Temp: 35 Degrees
Wind: 8 mph NE
Elevation Gain: 302 ft
Time: 23:17
Pace: 7:29/mile

Michael and I ran in our first ever trail race on Sunday at the 6th Annual Buffalo Run Trail 5K at the beautiful Parkville Nature Sanctuary in Parkville, MO.  We had a great time, but it was a lot tougher than I thought it would be - so I definitely have a new respect for those folks who run trails all the time.  I ended up placing 2nd overall, which was awesome - but honestly, it was a VERY small race of only about 225 people, so it's really nothing to beat my chest about.  As I always say - anyone can win a race if the race is small enough - ha!  Plus, as Ricky Bobby says "If you ain't first, you're last!" - so second place is really just the first loser!!!
(kidding of course!)

Medal for 2nd Place Overall
It was a 9am start, so we didn't have to get around too early.  Plus we got a dusting of snow the night before in Kansas City, so the later start allowed things to warm up a little outside and melt what little snow there was. 

Michael and I gathered our race gear, and then it was time for the World Famous Pre-Race Dance Party!!!  To be honest with you, Michael wasn't really feelin' this one - but I reminded her that you just can't stop the beat!   So we took about 158 pictures, but finally got one that worked.

After that, we drove to Parkville, MO - which is about 40 minutes from our home in Lees Summit.  Parkville is a beautiful little "touristy" town North of Kansas City on the banks of the Missouri River with a ton of bed-n-breakfasts and wineries.  But  most importantly, its the hometown of my Alma Mater, Park University (where I graduated Magna Cum Laude ... thank you very much!).  So anytime I can get back to Parkville, I jump at the opportunity.

World Famous Pre-Race Dance Party
It was a little chilly before the race, but not horrible at 35 degrees.  For February in Missouri, we'll definitely take it!  But it was cool enough that I had worn long pants.  While sitting in the car warming up before the race, I unzipped my left pocket on the pants.  But when I went to rezip it, the zipper broke - and for some reason, stupid little things like this stress me out before a race!!!  I cussed at it and tried to fix it, but eventually the entire zipper came off.  Really???  So I got some safety pins and stitched it shut so I wouldn't have to run the race with one flap open.  After than fisasco, I made my way down to the starting line to run a couple of warm up miles before the race.

Michael and I had ran very few trail runs before, let alone a trail race.  Heck, I just bought my first pair of trail shoes last year. And to date, I've probably only ran 10-15 trail in my life.  As I was warming up on the trail, I immediately noticed that the footing was fairly slippery due to the all the rain and snow over the past couple of days.  Also, there were a couple of little bridges over some small creeks, and they were completely frozen or frost covered - making them like running on roller skates.  Plus, the course featured quite a few little winding switch-backs, forcing a change of direction back-and-forth, and never allowing you to build any real speed.

But by far the most difficult aspect of this course was the 200 ft climb over a half mile at mile two.  It was literally like climbing 20 flights of stairs in the middle of a 5K - a straight up momentum stopper.  That was the single most difficult part of the race.  It slowed everyone's finishing times way down.  The kid who won the race in front of me barely finished under 20 minutes, and he later told me his PR is 15 something.  My 5K PR is 18:46, and I was almost 5 minutes off of that pace on Sunday.  This was obviously not the world's toughest 5K - but it really tested everyone.

2012 Buffalo Trail Run 5K Elevation (elevation is the red line)
It's always pretty funny at races when everyone bunches up at the starting line, and then sprints the first quarter mile, before realizing they started way too fast.  This happened at this race too of course.  But unfortunately, it was a little tougher to pass the fast starters on the single track passages - but there were a few places where the trail opened up a little, making passing the panting, over-eager runners a little easier.  After that I quickly settled into a decent pace on the slick footing before heading up the side of the giant hill at mile 2. 

Michael & me at the finish line
The hill was REALLY TOUGH!!!  I know 200 ft in a race is no big deal - but it happened over only a half mile span and just seemed to keep climbing and climbing.  There were literally man-made stair steps that we had to navigate, and several roots and rocks that acted as tripping hazards.  But once at the top, it was mostly down-hill the rest of the way.  However, this ascent at mile two really took its toll. I was already exhausted!

I was following closely behind a 22 year old runner wearing soccer cleats for most of the first half of the race.  He was pretty quick - but the cleats, combined with his high leg kick, were churning up gravel and mud that were peppering my face.  I kept trying to get around him, but just didn't really have a good chance until about mile 2.3.  At that point the course opened up briefly immediately before a steep, very rocky drop-off.  I flew by him as he put on the brakes.  I soon found out why he had slowed down.  The next half mile was over a dried up creek bed of large rocks.  It was VERY slick.  And it was VERY steep.  And my inexperience in running trails had me going waaaaay too fast - but fortunately I never crashed and burned - which would have hurt like a banshee!!!  After the race I talked to the young runner, and also the guy who ended up finishing right behind me at 3rd overall.  They both said, "Man, we thought you were gonna bite it on that decline - it was really steep, and you were flyin' down that thing!"  I laughed and told them that my heart was beating out of my chest - I literally thought I was gonna fall, but never did.  Michael even told me that when she ran it, she worried about me because she knew I wouldn't slow down.  I was pretty lucky I guess!

Me with my Second Place Medal!!!
Running that half mile descent so fast had really created separation between me and the other runners - I couldn't even see them after a while - but unfortunately, I couldn't see the only guy in front of me either.  So I slowed a little and caught my breath.  I coasted most of the remaining distance to the finish and ended up in second place overall!  It was my highest finish ever - and even though my overall time was pretty slow, I was extremely happy with the result in my first trail race.  The winner was much younger than me, so I was also fortunate enough to win my age group of 40-49.

After the race I caught up with the guy that finished 3rd - he was really cool.  He was still joking with me about the rocky downhill where I threw caution to the wind.  He also told me he was a 2:58 marathoner, and typically finished around 7:00/mile pace in most marathons.  So naturally I picked his brain for some pointers on how to get faster in marathons.  He was really complimentary of me, which was very nice, but I was glad to learn what I could from him.  I picked up some really great tips.

The organizers had a small awards ceremony and I got a medal for my second place finish.  The first place runner got a statue of a boot with a spur - which was really cool - but I was happy that I'd ran well in a winter race.  Plus, it felt good to measure myself against some experienced trail runners - and at the end of the day, I was just glad I walked away without injury or cracking my head open on a rock!  It was a blast, and I will definitely be doing more trail running in the future.
... be great today!


  1. First - Well done. Envy over the medal. Sweeeet.

    Second - I love running the trails. Most (~90%) of my runs are on the trails. Makes for a visually good day.

    Lastly - You must share the secret for blastin gdown the hills. I am still way too cautious.

    Well done and looks like a good time.

  2. i always love your race recaps!!!
    congrats on your placing and for not busting on those rocks!

  3. Congrats on your first trail race and your 2nd place win!

    That is great!

  4. That's some serious elevation.

    I will have to remember the cleats thing if I ever do a trail race....haha

  5. Whoa, you had a sub-7:30 pace on a trail??!! You are my hero!

  6. Ah yes, the trail is a whole different, muddy should see the laundry I have to do during Cross Country season in my house.

    Congrats on a great race on a hard course!

    As my boys say: "if you didn't almost die, it wasn't a good XC course ;-)"

  7. Wow great work and congrats on the 2nd place finish! That sounds like an incredibly tough course and you did great.

    I haven't done much trail running but I know it is much more difficult than the road.

  8. Hey it's all about who shows up that day-congrats ;)

  9. Congratulations!! Love trail running, totally different that the roads, really makes for a nice change sometimes! Love the medal, that is really cool!!

  10. Congratulations on your place! And this was a good review of the course. I ran the 8K and was subjected to "the hill" twice. I wound up placing 34th out of the 139 runners who participated in the 8K. It was my first trail run, and I was surprised by how much slower my pace was. I will definitely do the 8K again next year.

  11. THE FIRST LOSER! That is what students think. I am always telling them there is not only one winner and then a whole bunch of losers. WE are all winners! We are out there doing it! But congrats on being the first non winner!

  12. Congratulations, Jim! I think that's awesome.

    I love trail races--I'd do them all the time if it weren't for the fact that I don't need to be slowed down even for a fun reason right now.

    Hope Michael had fun, too.

  13. Congratulations on your second place. It's just as well you pinned your pocket up or it would have acted like one of those braking parachutes and slowed you right down.

    Who wears cleats in a race? That's just nuts!

  14. well look at that..the king of the trail!!!!

    congrats!!! nice medal..this looks like a difficult course.

  15. King of the castle you are! If I ever go to Vegas I'm taking you with me. I'm not sure if it's skill or luck but you seem to have a bit of both :)

    Well done! Winner Winner Chicken Dinner.

  16. As usual... AWESOME! You don't give yourself near enough credit.

  17. Congrats on a 2nd place finish. That's still impressive, even with only 225 runners or so.

    Better than getting 2nd place was beating a sub 3 hour marathoner.

  18. Haha, where I come from 225 runners is a decent-sized race! Congrats on the finish. I would love to do a trail race one of these days.

  19. Just like Julie said, you don't give yourself enough credit! Sounds like a legit trail race! 2nd place overall is awesome!

    Wish I could have seen you bombing down that decline, sounds like you were really flying!

    And I'm surprised they allowed the guy with the soccer cleats to run the race, generally that is not allowed in trail races because it destroys the trail too much.

    In the past before I started doing more road races, I did runs almost exclusively on trails. I'm going to get back to that when I am healthy, because I think trail running is great (small changes in direction, hills, etc).

  20. Congrats on the trail race, and welcome to trail running. The roads will seem easy now. I tell my road runners to don't expect to maintain the same pace on the trials for long distances.

  21. Your race recaps are great! :) And I love the dance party pictures!

    Congrats on a great race!


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