Lunch- easy 3 miles with 4 strides to shake out my legs. They felt better than I thought they would, but not great. Still going to give the 5k race a go tonight. I do feel generally much better today- still have my cold, but 2 nights in a row of 7.5 to 8 hrs of sleep did wonders.
PM- Moonshiner Madness night trail race 5k again. It's a wonderful trail race after dark on the trails of my beloved Paris Mtn. I won the race last year by over a minute in 18:45 and was hoping for similar results this year. Saw lots of friends at the start, including Aaron and Lynn, plus the Nighs. The race starts off with .25 mile downhill on road before .5 mile on trail. Last year, I had a 30 second lead by the one mile mark, but this year I actually had competition with 2 or 3 guys within 10 seconds. After the .75 mile mark, there is a steady road climb of .75 miles and I absolutely killed myself trying to pull away- I definitely did not go too slow but instead found myself running hard and already suffering terribly. At the 1.5 mile mark, we finally hit the uphill and singletrack trail for the rest of the race. I estimated I had a 10-15 second lead but felt the technical downhill singletrack is my strongest part of the race. Sure enough, the headlamps behind me faded, leaving me alone to enjoy dodging the rapidly-appearing rocks, roots, and branches. I was able to ease my effort to 95% rather than all out, which greatly lessens risk of injury on a night run. I wanted to race by feel so didn't even wear a watch but was happy with my finishing time of 17:58. I didn't remember my time from last year so am very pleased to have beaten it by so much. Plus, sub-18 seems very fast to me for a race run primarily on technical singletrack in the dark, given I only ran a 17:30 on the road during a day workout this week. Cullen Mann finished in 2nd place in 18:34 (lots of volunteers on the course thought I was him and cheered me on to his name) and Mike Coggins finished 3rd in 19:01. Lynn won for the women, as she has all 6 years the race has been held.
I really enjoy hanging out at this race afterwards. They have lots of snacks, and it's cool how the finishing area seems to magically fill up with 300 runners- more and more just appear out of the dark. The nighttime air gives it a feeling that is different than other races- kind of special. Plus Half Moon Outfitter gives great raffle swag and prizes (I won a $50 state park pass and a Suunto Quest watch- anybody want to buy the watch??? Or I might keep it, as I always need good gear) and cool disco balls for the winners.
Overall a fun, well organized, unique race. If you've never done one, try a night 5k trail race- definitely adds spice to your running life. Now it's time for me to officially taper for The North Face Georgia 50 miler next week.