The Catamount meadows where we ran during a lightning storm at the end of the race!
This past Sunday, Scott and I ran the Bramble Scramble Trail Race at the Catamount Outdoor Family Center in Williston, Vermont. This is a super fun local race with first class trails! We both had a fantastic time! I can’t recommend this race enough! So please mark it on your calendars for next year! It’s that good! It’s well organized and the course is both enjoyable and challenging! The race course is approximately 15K and you have the choice of doing it once or twice. Scott did the 15K option and I ran it twice for the 30K. (To see the mapped out course, click here! Each loop is 9.5 miles) This turned out to be awesome training for my first 50K trail race in September.
Views of Camel’s hump from the highest point of the race. We took a few photos today!
Last Thursday evening I ran the race course (marked with red arrows) to see what was in store for me. It was quite warm and I was still tired from the previous big weekend of training. Plus I had to incorporate some hill repeats into my workout that night which made things tough out there on the trails. So I found the course to be quite difficult. I didn’t know there were so many steep little hills out in those woods! Luckily race day would prove to be much better for me! I ended up loving the course!
The race started at 10am and we got there a little before 9am. It was a bit overcast and still feeling cool but a little humid. We picked up our race packets and found some very nice technical running shirts by Salomon. Mine will be great for winter running! Slowly the sun started coming out and it was feeling warmer, but nothing like the previous hot races this summer! I was having difficulty deciding on wearing my Nathan hydration pack or just carrying a water bottle. There were water/aid stations but I do like having my own special sports drink especially on a longer run. I decided to wear my pack even though it was a little heavy. Luckily my pack is super comfy! Since I’ll definitely be wearing it for the VT 50K trail race, I figured I might as well get used to racing with it!
The plan of attack and advice I received from Jack, Serena and a couple other people was to basically be conservative on the first few miles before all the hills and steep climbs. And I did just that! I felt good in the beginning and wanted to take off like I normally do on the 5K weekly trail races. Instead I was well behaved and listened to all the advice and held back! Perhaps I ran a bit too slow in the beginning! I was hoping to run with Liz and Serena for the 30K race, but they were doing one loop due to their race schedules. So I let them go since I knew their pace would be fast for the one lap race. When I got to the hills I took them nice and steady and kept my heart rate under control. I slowly caught a handful of people on the first round of hills. I was pleasantly surprised at how good I was feeling, but I didn’t want to push it too much and have a terrible time on the second lap. Looking back, I should have pushed a bit harder. I was certainly capable! I just had no idea I would be feeling great on the second lap! The funny thing was I was strong on the climbs but slow and probably too careful on the descents which were sometimes steep! I caught a couple of guys on the climbs and then they would run past me on the descents. We would repeat this pattern a few times. Clearly this is an area for some much needed improvement! It’s just a matter of experience and getting out there as much as I can on the hard tricky technical down hills.
After a long fun decent with a few hills to the road, I caught up to a nice guy named Tom as we entered the meadows (the last few miles of the first loop). Tom and I would run together on and off for almost the rest of the race. Once I caught up to him in the grassy fields, I did my first energy gel and took some electrolytes as it was humid and a little warm. I ran with Tom for a while and then he took off a bit once we hit the woods. This part of the course across the road was technically easier but the grassy portions felt slow and sometimes hard with the gradual up hills. I caught up to Tom as we were about to cross back over to the other side and finish loop #1.
I was very happy to have completed one loop so I decided to run the next loop faster as I was feeling great! Once I was back in the woods I noticed I had dropped Tom and was running alone. There were only 35 people who finished the 30K and it seemed we were spread out a bit (most people did the 15K option). Luckily Tom did catch back up to me and it was nice to have his company. We chatted just a bit here and there. I started to think that I had run the first loop much too easy and conservative as I was feeling like I had an abundance of energy for the second lap. So I picked it up and took a turn to set the pace. I also did another energy gel on a flat open section before the hills. We both noticed it was getting darker and I could almost smell the rain coming. I mentioned to Tom that I was going to pick it up a bit more just to get over the hills before the storms rolled into town!
We took a few photos of the course on Tuesday before the 5K weekly race
Tom and I ran together up the first couple hills on the second lap and then he got away from me on the down hills. And then for a while I kept him in sight. He was just a few seconds ahead of me. We caught another guy who was having trouble on the hills. He was walking up most of them but then he would run down them fast. So the three of us were pretty close together for the hard hilly section. I was happy that on the last long decent I was able to keep them within sight and hearing distance. Then the thunder started rolling in and a storm was fast approaching! I did a few loud “Woohoos” running down the trail after a few loud thunder claps. The guys thought that was funny. I was happy we made it over the hills before the storm came! There are some very tricky, rocky and steep spots that would have been treacherous in the rain!
Once we got back down to the road it started to pour! Scott was at the water station (above) on the road which was next to the trail leading into the meadows. He took a few photos but I was off like a bat out of hell. I told Tom that it was time to get on our 5K and run fast! And I ran very quickly and hard though the meadows with loud claps of thunder and lightning all around me and much too close for comfort! This was scary but I had come this far and was not about to drop out with a few miles to the finish! That probably wasn’t the smartest decision but I did make it safely to the end. After a couple minutes into the meadows, I realized I had dropped Tom. I was a disappointed because I really didn’t want to be alone out there. But I had to keep going as fast as I could! This part of the course dips into the woods 3 times. I kept thinking it was safer in the woods during a lightning storm.
The rain came down so hard and fast that it made one rocky section in the woods (part of the pink course) very treacherous and tricky. There were several pools of water that made me walk around them. This slowed me down quite a bit but luckily I was able to pick it back up once I was in the open fields. Much to my surprise and relief, Serena was waiting for me and paced me back to the other side at about a half mile to go. This was very much appreciated. Scott told her I’m not crazy about thunder and lightning and that I was probably scared out of my wits out there! The funny thing was that Serena was barefoot and had already run her race (and won!!). Yet she was running so fast I had trouble keeping up! It was a very fast finish for me which was great as I needed some extra motivation. Thanks Serena! That was fun! Best wishes on a great race next weekend!
Chasing Serena for a good finish! Notice her bare feet!
I finished up with a time of 2 hours, 45 minutes and 56 seconds. I was the first women out of 10 of us who finished. And I was 10th overall out of 35 finishers for the 30K. I learned that some people dropped out when the storm blew through and I don’t blame them. It was very dangerous to be running in an open meadow with so much lightning! Todd had a lightning bolt strike about 100 yards from him as he was running through the open fields! Very scary!
Areas of improvement for next year: Pacing myself better! Not running too easy or too hard on the first lap! It’s a tricky balance! I ran a bit too conservative my first lap. I also need to work on becoming faster and more competent on the hard technical terrain! I need to work on becoming more efficient with the descents too. This will all come with time spent on the trails. It’s all about experience! Jack said I should try and run the Bramble Scramble course more for my training. And I agree! It has everything! I’ll be back on these trails soon!
One of the many hills! It’s steeper than it looks!
Scott had a good race too! He did very well and ran a smart 15K race. The hills were a little tough for him, but I don’t think anyone found them to be easy! He ran for a while with Heather who is a very strong trail runner. Overall he finished 4th in his age group. Great job Scott! You are getting faster every day!!
Overall it was a great experience doing the 30K Bramble Scramble. I had a blast and learned so much that day! I’m happy that I felt so good and strong on Sunday especially after feeling tired during the week. I really enjoy the people who do these trail races! Most racers on Sunday also do the Catamount weekly 5K trail series on Tuesday nights. So it was fun to see friends and so many familiar faces. And there was a very nice party and cook-out afterward. Being the first place women in my age group, I won a Solomon gift certificate for a new pair of trail shoes! How cool is that! Again, much thanks to the Catamount Outdoor Family Center for making this great race happen! It was a fantastic day!
Congrats to everyone who did the 15K and 30K! You all rock! See you on the trails!
I love this old truck that was used as a water station!