Today was the Country Mile at Ganondagan, a 5-ish mile trail race at a historical site operated by the Seneca Indian Nation. It was a pretty enough day; I only took one picture, before the race started, to show the scenery:
Before the race, there were registration favors of hand crafted hat pins (didn't take one) and decorative rocks. I took a rock, and thought about Charlie Brown trick-or-treating in a bad ghost costume and repeatedly saying, "I got a rock."
Went out for a warmup, and was reminded that I haven't been practicing on technical trails. I fell once, one of those bounce right up and keep running falls; but at my age, I can't count on falling to be like that. I resolved to run safely.
When it was time to line up for the race, no one obvious was lining up next to me. Where are all the good, young trail runners? They didn't show up. Bang. Off we go, and I'm chasing a small pack of people I recognize and know I can run with. Better make the most of the early part that's like an easy cross country course on grass; I know Bill is a better technical runner than I am.
When I pass the first course marshall, I am in the overall lead. That has to be a mistake. Get onto the steepish downhill, and I hear footsteps. I say, "There ought to be a good runner around here somewhere." Mark (a guy who might finish ahead of me or behind me in a road race) passes me and says, "I'll let you know if I see him." Then Bill passes me. I try to keep up as best I can, but get passed twice more on technical downhills.
Cross the creek, get passed again. Cross the road, and we start going up. Pass one guy where it's easy. Work to find spots to pass the next two. Pass Bill. Pass Mark. Get to the top, and don't see a marker. Look behind, don't see any runners. I guess wrong. I later learn that Bill yelled at me to turn around, but I didn't hear him in real time.
Get concerned when the next intersection isn't marked. Guess again, find a dead end. Turn around, go back the way I came, find runners turning correctly where I turned wrong. Prem, was that turn marked? Yes, it was. I just missed it.
At that point, I figure I'm out of the age group running because I've given Bill too much of a lead. I end up taking several more wrong turns. Most of them added distance, but a major one chopped a bunch of the course out. So I end up at 5.4 miles, on a course that (best guess from other Strava results) should be 5.1 to 5.2 miles, having not run a significant portion of the actual course and having run some significant distance off course.
I finish, and ask Bill how long the real course was. He says, "Nobody knows." Wrong turns were common.
At age 49, Mark finished 1st overall. Bill was 3rd or 4th. I assume I was 2nd in my age group, though the results aren't online yet. If I end up getting a DQ, that would be fair for my performance; but a whole lot of other people would also get DQ'd. One online comment was that next year, there should be an award for following the course correctly.
Consensus between Mark and Bill was that if I had been able to read the markings correctly, I would have been the overall winner. I'm not so sure that would be a lock; but I would have been competing for the overall win. Oh, well. I got a good workout, over 8 miles of trail including the warmup, and I didn't injure myself. I'll count that as a win.
And somehow, it seems appropriate that I got a rock.