Thursday, August 30, 2012

Qdoba DINO Series 15k Trail Race

I'd signed up for the DINO Series race about a month ago, when I knew that I was going to be up at my folks house in my transition to the new place out west.  I figured it would be something fun to do while I spent time sitting around without much else to do except run.  I like the vibe of smaller, local races, and this was no exception. 

The DINO series (which stands for "Do INdiana Off-road; had no idea until I actually got to the race),  is a series that takes place all over the state of Indiana.  It offers races in trail running, mountain biking, adventure racing, and off-road triathlons.  That's kind of the whole premise of the event, everything is off-pavement as much as possible, which makes it perfect for people like me!

I signed up for the 15k trail race, in Southwestway Park just outside of Indianapolis.  For being a fairly large urban area, the City of Indianapolis has done a great job keeping parks set aside around the city that still allow for an outdoor experience.  I look forward to exploring several other of the parks around the city in the coming weeks. 

The race itself was pretty low-key.  It seems as though everything was very relaxed, still being very well organized.  That's what I like about fairly small events; the only expectation held by the runners is to get out and have a good time.  That's exactly what we did.

Going into the race I knew that I wasn't going to be performing at my best potential, but, that wasn't exactly the point of this race anyway.  After just a few days earlier completing my Mt. LeConte Ascent, my legs were pretty beat up.  I was still pretty sore, especially my quads, so I knew the climbing and descending in this course were going take their toll.  But, I figured "who cares?", because I just wanted to get out and use it as more of a group training run that comes with a t-shirt.

We showed up early to the race, since I didn't really know what to expect.  There was no early packet pickup (by packet, I mean bib and shirt), so I wanted to be there right when they opened up shop in case it took long.  Well, it didn't.  I got there at 7:30 am, about 1 1/2 hrs before the race started, to find that there were only a few other runners there.  Getting my bib/shirt took all of about 5 minutes.  So then we hung out, took the kid to the playground, and got in a warm-up jog with plenty of time to spare.

When the 15k runners (myself included) were called to the line (there was also a 5k starting about 10 minutes after my race), I was ready to get moving.  I hung out in the spot I usually do, around mid-pack at the starting line.  There were a few people up front who just looked like they were itching to "race," so I let them do their own thing.  My method tends to be more hang back, run my own race, and then try and go "rabbit hunting" at the end.

We took off from the starting line, and I instantly knew we were going too fast.  I wasn't too worried though, even though we were moving at faster than a 6:30/mile pace.  The first .25 miles or so were on a gravel road before we ducked into the woods.  Once we turned off the road onto single track in the woods, the pace dropped down to around a 9:30 pace for the mid-pack, and bottle necked up tight. 

The course in the first part was pretty slow.  Not so much because of any climbs or anything, it wasn't even technical.  It was pretty flat single-track.  But, it had TONS of tight switchbacks around the ravine leading down to the river.  There were very few sections of the course that allowed for fast running.

There were a few stretches when it widened up to gravel horse trail and you could pass easily if you chose to.  I, chose not to.  My legs were hurting, especially my quads on the flats/descents, so I was perfectly content at my 9:15-9:30/mile pace.

There is one "major" (for Indiana) climb on the course, that you hit twice on the 15k course.  Mann hill is the toughest climb, and it's about 150' over 4/10 of a mile.  Not too bad, but, the trail in that portion is a rutted, washed out, root-covered section.  Most people were "running" the hill best they could, but I found that I could power-hike it faster than most were running, so that's what I did.  Any of the climbs on the course seemed to be where I made up some time, but most people were pulling away from me on the downhills, because my quads were just not very compliant.

All told, it was a good time and a great way to spend a Saturday morning.  I've been out to that park twice since the race, and there are many trails back in that area with lots of steep climbs, albeit short ones.  My legs are definitely getting a workout lately, and I'm glad for the change away from the flat running of eastern North Carolina.  Could I have run it faster on fresher legs?  I absolutely could have.  I think at my current fitness level, with adequate rest, I could have run it in 1:10:00 - 1:12:00, which would have put me top 25.  On a really good day, I could have been even higher.  But I didn't really care, I was there to have fun, and I did.  Besides, it's still a 15k PR, and one that should be fairly easy to improve upon!

The DINO series of races is definitely something I would participate in whenever I come back to visit the family.  Great race management, with a great local feel.

Technical Data

Total Distance: 15k-ish (9.21 miles by my Garmin)
Chip Time:  1:22:32.8
Placing:  64/114 overall
               9/11 30-34 age group
Total Ascent:  1547'
Total Descent:  1541'

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