"If you can't be well trained, you should at least be well rested
." -Joe Clapper, Virginia Happy Trails Running Club
After taking about 8 weeks off to deal with hip and tendon issues, and after a summer of mostly sporadic training, I went into the Rosaryville Veteran's Day 50K feeling like I'd be grateful just to finish the distance. I'd signed up early in the summer in order to run with Arimathea, another Runango member, who was coming east from her home state of California to bag an ultra finish in a new state (she's trying to run a marathon or ultra in each of the 50 states).
As race day rolled around, my hip and achilles tendon were clearly doing better, but I still hadn't done a 50K distance since August and was feeling unsure about my fitness level. But there was nothing to be done in the final week except heed the wise Joe Clapper and get as much rest as possible, hoping it would do some good.
Rosaryville 50K takes place at Rosaryville Park in Upper Marlboro, Maryland, which really ought to be renamed "Lower Bumfuck", because it feels like it is in suburban/rural nowhere. But the park itself is 1,000 acres of pastures and forests full of beech trees and poplars, with miles and miles of smooth, excellent trail wending throughout. Arimathea and I met up in the chilly dawn for packet pickup, and met up with another Runango member, Anonymous Guest, as well as VHTRC members Gary Knipling and Johanna Lockner.
About 100 runners showed up, and the race started promptly at 8 a.m. with a fantastic live a capella rendering of our national anthem. Arimathea and I were scandalized to see how few runners observed proper etiquette by removing their caps, but before we could work up a righteous head of steam, the race was on and we were loping over deep meadow grass and then about a half-mile of pavement onto the trail system, where we would run three 10-mile loops and then a little extra at the beginning and end.
What can I say about the trails? To begin with, I now believe that if a good runner leads a virtuous life, she will go to the Rosaryville trail system when she dies. Well-pounded dirt trail, smooth as custard, easy on the joints, rolling over little uphills and downhills, and absolutely gorgeous in the slanting fall sunlight glimpsed through the yellow beech leaves. Aaah. My battered mountain-weary soles were delighted by the change of pace. A.G. and Arimathea were running different paces, so I caught up to Gary and Johanna, and we stayed together for the rest of the race.
My goal for the day was just to go cover as much mileage as possible and maybe finish without dying. I felt seriously undertrained going in and uncertain how my newly rehabbed hip and achilles tendon would perform, so I was ready to drop out and DNF if things got ugly.
But surprisingly, they never did. Gary and Joanna set a steady loping pace, and the camaraderie and the smooth, rolling trail kept pulling along. (If you've ever run with Gary, you know the conversation never flags. He is great company.) Gary was running the race easy in prep for Stone Mill 50-miler next weekend, and Johanna was shooting for a sub-6 hour finish, and between the two of them, the pace was just perfect for me. Easy and a little slower than I would have gone on my own, which probably helped me get through the race in good shape.
We finished the first 10-ish mile loop in 1:48, then the second in 1:48, and the third and final loop in...well, more than that. We started walking the uphills a bit. I'd give you more details, but they were mostly about how lovely the trail was, how friendly the aid station volunteers were, and how courteous the other users of the trail system were to us runners. The bicyclists couldn't have been kinder or more encouraging, and we worked hard to stay out of their way and be kind back. The whole notion of "share the trail" appeared to be working beautifully.
My one beef for the day was that the aid stations were spaced 5 miles apart, and as the day warmed up from below freezing to mid-50s, I started getting pretty thirsty between aid stations. I could have carried my Nathan hydration pack, but I was really, really enjoying running without it. So I tanked up with liquids at each station and just decided to get a little thirsty.
By the third loop, it was pretty apparent that Gary, Johanna and I were going to finish well under 6 hours, which would be PRs for both Joanna and me. Not bad for being so undertrained! We hit the final mile and hustled to the finish line, which the three of us crossed together at 5:48 hours. Not bad! It was a 40-minute PR for Joanna and a 32-minute PR for me, and Gary, Joanna and I each earned 1st place awards for our age group! Gary was first in the master's group, I was first for women 40-49, and Johanna aced the 30-39 age group.
Anonymous Guest crossed the finish line about 12 minutes later and earned 3rd place in her age group (!) and her very first 50K finish. Arimathea crossed the line about 18 minutes after the official cutoff, with some bumps and bruises and maybe some torn cartilage in her ribs from a nasty fall over a tree root, but the R.D. gave her an official finisher's time, so she can add Maryland as another state in her quest to run marathons in all 50 states. HERE is a link to some PHOTOS
: That's my son and new puppy, Buzz, in the first photo, then a FE shot of forumites Bunny and her husband, Arimathea and Anonymous Guest and I eating dinner in a Bethesda restaurant the night before the race, then photos of race day. Arimathea is in the bright yellow shirt, Anonymous Guest is in the peach jacket and cap, Gary is...well, most of you probably know Gary. I'm wearing the pink shirt in some photos, and the black shirt with pink piping in others.
Overall, it was a fun day. Running three loops of the same course was not something I'd ordinarily choose to do, but with good company and great weather and fun trails, it made for a good experience.