Saturday, July 4, 2009

Race Report: The Pickle Run

The Pickle Run was set at Linvilla Orchard in Media, PA. The course negotiates the perimeter of the apple and peach groves before delving deep into the wooded but well-groomed trails. The course definitely makes this race a trail one as opposed to a cross country race because of the incessant turns (many sharp), numerous creek crossings, felled tree trunk traverses, and steep hills. Despite the many obstacles, this race was one of the best marked trail races I've ever run. Usually during a trail race a runner happens upon multiple moments of confusion (which way do I go?), but that never happened on the Pickle course. Good job race staff.
The day, however, didn't start off auspiciously. Wanting to run the course as a warmup before the race, I arrived early. When I asked two teenagers who were setting up the chute which way the course goes, all they could tell me was "up that hill." I ran for about two miles off course before hooking back up with the little orange flags. Good thing it was only the warmup.
8:30 race time approached and with his bullhorn the race director made the requisite pickle jokes. I had a feeling that the race wasn't going to be too competitive when he had to implore people to come to the front of the starting line. The director blew his whistle and off we went.
Now would be a good time to mention that the Pickle Run is a prediction race, meaning that there are no mile markers on the course and all participants must compete sans watch. I'm not used to this, but for the next half hour I felt like one of those zen runners who run based solely on feel. It wasn't that bad. By the way, a prediction run bases its awards on who runs closest to his predicted time. Place doesn't matter.
We started the race with a loop around the Linvilla farmhouse and orchard. I was feeling pretty good. From the get go, no one was near me. I kept pushing the pace on the orchard perimeter knowing that it would undoubtedly slacken once I got into the woods. Turning one corner on the outer edge of the grove, I ran right into a family of woodchucks. We surprised/scared each other. Two of them immediately bolted for cover. The third immediately bolted too, but he recognized his cowardice and acutely pivoted to bare his fangs at me. He hissed and growled and lurched. I jumped and avoided his teeth. I quickened my pace and didn't look back. Around the next corner, I announced my arrival with a "hip-hip." Didn't want any woodchucks or moles or any other such vermin chewing on my ankle. Those teeth looked sharp.
After a steep but short uphill it was into the woods. The pace immediately slowed due to the twists, turns, and bridge crossings. Despite that one uphill, I couldn't help thinking that most of the race up to this point seemed downhill. That would change.
The second half of the course had only a few straightaways in which you could open up your stride. There were several acute turns and several steep hills. The hills weren't overly long, just steep. I almost took a wrong turn after a creek crossing but that was mainly due to my momentum taking me in the opposite direction more than anything else. I crawled up the last couple of hills before heading to the finishing line. I knew I was going slow up those babies, but I had no idea how slow - no watch. I doublebacked toward the finish line and that was enjoyable as runners crossed paths with one another. We shouted words of encouragement back and forth.
The race ended with a smooth downhill. I was first to cross the line, but I really came in 15th. 15th because I predicted my time to be 29:18 and it was 31:52. Ouch. That's slow. Every "workout" I did this week was faster than 6:23 pace as was the last 8 miles of the 15 I did a week ago. Double ouch. It's funny because as I warmed up on the trails, I kept adjusting my predicted time. 28:20...28:50...29:20...Guess I should've run more of the course. I was way off. I'm not too upset about it because I didn't really know what to expect and I don't know who accurate the 5 mile course is (the shorter race is advertised as 3-ish). Plus, the trails were tough.
Post-race, I stretched for a few minutes, then set off to run the course again as a cool down and to log some more miles. When I returned, the awards ceremony was wrapping up, so I'm not sure if I won anything. I wasn't exactly comfortable asking a 6 foot tall man dressed in a 4th of July pickle costume if I missed out on something. As prizes were awarded to closest predictors, it's doubtful that I won anything. I was 15th closest in my prediction.
This race certainly has its followers. Many runners seemed entrenched in pickle culture and lore. Race officials even hide pickles out on the course for people to find as they're running. You find a pickle; you win a prize. That's cool. Overall everyone had a chance of winning this race because all you had to do was be the most accurate predictor of your time.
It was a beautiful day and a lot of fun. This was my first race since March 1. It was good to be out there competing again. My legs felt strong and healthy.
In short:
5 mile time: 31:52 (it was trail!)
pace: 6:23
place: 1st/15th (to cross line/in predicting)
warmup: 4 miles
cooldown: 5 miles
14 total miles
You may want to check out the below link for complete results and details.
I was sad that I forgot my camera b/c there were many good photo opportunities out there on the course.


mrn said...

to say that i am a lover of pickles is a gross understatement. i am very envious of your race experience today and can only hope that you at least walked away with a jar of tasty treats for your trouble.

JoKin said...

the pickle run sounds like a great time minus the woodchucks. did you at least find out how much wood a woodchuck could chuck? sorry, too easy.

nice race. a step in the right direction.

Jen said...

you'll have to run the frozen pickle

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