Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Allerton Park Trail Run 2011

I love Allerton Park in Monticello!  I feel extremely blessed to have this amazing natural area in my own hometown.  Allerton was one of the first places that Katie took me when we moved back to Illinois.  She knew that the wooded trails and river pathways would be a good break from the monotony of Illinois farmland and serve as a reminder of my time in the mountains of North Carolina.

I was fortunate to work at the park for more than 3 years.  And while employed there I learned of an awesome race over the trails of the 1500 acre natural woodlands, the Allerton Park Trail Run.  I had participated in the run a number of times,but only in the capacity of helping to set up for the event as an employee of the park.  But this year I was finally able to participate in the race as a runner!

The race consists of a 5.7 mile run through the wooded paths.  There are a tremendous amount of obstacles such as natural springs forded by fallen logs, tree roots, concrete culverts, and random walnuts that all serve as trip hazards along the run.  The organizers do a great job of identifying as many of these obstacles as possible, but nevertheless I was still very nervous about the opportunity for injury.
There are approximately 500 runners every year and in the open areas of the park, one can run pretty freely.  However, as you enter into the trail areas the race becomes very bottle-necked and you really have to pay attention to the pace of the runners around you, as well as look out for fallen participants.
The family came out to cheer me on.  We all love Allerton very much and Amara still loves to refer to the park as "your old work".  You can also see that everyone had to bundle up as the temps at start time were in the upper 30's.

I really took my time in the first part of the run, partially to avoid the possibility of injury and partially because of the congestion of runners on the early trails.  I finished my first mile in exactly 10 minutes.  I was well below my normal pace and was not even breathing with difficulty.  As the path flattened out along the river bed and the congestion began to clear up, I picked up my pace significantly as my confidence increased.

There were still a couple of times that I was not so sure-footed.  You would be amazed at how close you can get to breaking an ankle when you step on a fallen walnut the wrong way.  I also got lazy a couple of times with my form and stumbled dramatically; I never went all the way down to the ground, but I was really close!

When I reached the Death of the Last Centaur sculpture, I knew it was time to pick up the pace.  The slow start had afforded me plenty of energy to finish strong.  I did forget that there were a couple of significant hills to finish the race, and as I neared the finish line I was feeling pretty gassed.  Just then I heard another runner start his final kick and I gave a quick glance over my shoulder to size up the competition.  Just that little glance gave me the motivation to avoid being passed.  The other runner kept up with me for a couple of strides, and then I heard him say "I am not gonna do it," and I knew I had him beat.

"You can't catch me!"
I finished the race in 47:51.  As this was my first trail run, I guess I get to count this as a PR, whatever that means.  I had inadvertently signed up as a Clydesdale (fat guy) participant and I finished 5th out of 39 in that division.  Overall the race was a lot of fun.  I will definitely participate in it again, and I would like to run on these trails more for entertainment, especially if the trails are dry, leaf and walnut free, and maybe a few less tree roots.  You know, more like pavement!

P.S. I ran my first 200yd dash in 32.09 seconds and did 4 pull-ups in a row!  But the winter weather is fast approaching.  I had better hurry up if I want to get to 30 sec and 5 pull-ups!

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