I ran the 8th edition of the Black Squirrel Half Marathon on Saturday. To
minimize crowding, runners went in waves. Ruth dropped me off at the Lory State
Park office 10 minutes before my wave's 7:00 a.m. departure time. I jogged for
seven minutes to reach the starting line, pulled up my Buff, found some empty
space between the other runners, and tightened my shoes. With only a sixth of
last year's crowd, the mood was quiet. Nick Clark had to raise his voice only
a little to brief us on the course. He gave a shout-out to the crews on the
Cameron Peak Fire, counted down from 10, and we were off.
Conditions yesterday were excellent. Sunny skies, clean air, and 43 °F at
sunrise. The course's lower elevation trails can be muddy after wet weather,
but had drained and were firm and only a little tacky. On the mountain we saw
one patch of snow and several puddles. My new Nike Terra Kigers are more suited
to dry conditions, but I had no traction problems.
I went more slowly on the climb than I last year. Strava says I covered the
Quad Rock climb #4 segment (3.5 miles, 1128 ft D+) in 43 minutes and 27
seconds, a minute more than on 2020-09-07. I had started near the front of my
wave and passed one other runner on the climb. I shaved 20 seconds off my best
time on the descent and arrived at Arthur's Rock trailhead only 34 seconds off
last year's pace.
The last 4.5 miles of the race have always challenged me. Saturday I suffered
from hip and hamstring tightness. Despite needing to stop twice to stretch,
I finished the final segment one minute and 32 seconds faster than last year.
My official time for the race: 2:18:07. A new personal best by 32 seconds.
My form slumped in the seven weeks between the Never Summer 100k and Black
Squirrel. It's been hot and smoky and I've had a sinus infection brought on by
irritation from inhaling soot. I found it hard to run even 20 miles a week and
harder to do any intense workouts. Would I have liked to have taken a better
time? Yes. To be honest, despite my intention to develop into a gracefully aging
person, I'm a little disappointed. Still, I did the best with what I had on
race day and that's the most important and durable measure. I had fun and
appreciated the chance to be outdoors breathing fresh air and feeling alive.
Thank you, Nick, Brad, and all you generous volunteers.