Sunday, January 15, 2017

Winter Night Trail Half Marathon

So after running the Eagle Creek Trail Marathon in August and doing well and feeling even better about how I did, I decided that I needed to run the Winter Night Trail Marathon.  I enjoy running the trails at this park, it's just a few miles from my house, the race company was really organized and fun and heck, I've never run trail at night!  What could go wrong?  Even better, if you ran the winter race in January and the summer race in June, you got an additional medal for being a bad a$$.  And I do love my bling.  So, sign up I did.

Races all fall went well, I was healthy.  I finished my annual goal of 1800 miles without injury.  So I went into the race pretty confident.  Then, Mother Nature reared her ugly head.  I learned long ago not to stress about the weather because it was the one thing that you could not control in a race.  We had a very cold few weeks at the beginning of the year but the week leading up to this race was mild but rainy.  Lots of rain.  Nearly every day.  Then the freezing rain and ice storm predictions started.  I'm not a terrific trail runner, I enjoy running them but I'm not good at it, I'm not confident on them.  So running trails with freezing rain was not sounding appealing.  Thankfully the rain stayed away (that day at least) and the temps stayed right about 30*.

Race starts at 6:00pm with the sun setting at 5:43.  I picked up my race bib and very cool looking thermal shirt and then decided to just hang out in my car.  I didn't have friends or family running this race so I just spent the next hour texting friends and checking FB.  I stressed about what to wear.  I had InkNBurn capris with high Smartwool socks.  I knew these would keep my feet warm and dry as well as my lower calf.  Shoes were Saucony, not trail shoes as I'm a tester and needed to wear the test shoes for all my runs.  I had a long sleeved shirt with a tank underneath it but decided that wasn't warm enough, especially if it got windy so I changed to a InkNBurn Pullover ( a thicker long sleeved shirt with thumbholes) and a neck gator.  5:50 arrived and I got lined up with the other racers.

The race was sold out but wasn't large, maybe 300.  They keep it small to keep the trails from being too crowded.  There was a full marathon, a half and a quarter.  Each loop was 6.55 miles on groomed trails with stairs, bridges, creeks, roots, stumps and logs, basically everything you want in a good trail run.  Race starts on time with the full marathoners going first (they had to be starting their last lap by 10:15 or something like that).  Next, they released us in waves, again to keep the congestion down.
I was in the 3rd wave and took off feeling good.  I made my way to the outside, passing as many people as I could in the wide, parking lot area before we got to the trail head.  Within the first 100 yards of the trail, we hit mud.  Thick, squishy mud.  Ok, I wasn't really expecting that but what the heck, here we go.  The next few miles goes by pretty easy.  It was getting really dark but we were all making our way on the trail like a line of cars.  It was really cool to look over and see a line of headlamps far in the distance.  I felt like I was running very confidently, passing people easily  and getting into a good groove.  You did have to pay careful attention though, the roots and rocks popped up everywhere.  I run these trails a lot, enough to have the course pretty memorized but everything looked different in the dark.   No time to check my Garmin for miles or pace, I needed to keep my eyes three feet in front of me.  Soon we are at the flat, man-made dam that goes out into the reservoir.  I told the people around me that it was flat and crushed gravel and for the most part it was.  But there were also tons of puddles.  So much so that I got tired of going around them and just started splashing through the middle.  It was cool to look out and see so many headlamps, bobbing along.  We exit this part and hit a paved maintenance road so I pick up the pace, passing as many people as I can.  I'm feeling really strong at this point and figured I'd do what I could while I could.

Now, like I mentioned, I'm not a traditional trail runner.  I do 90% of my training on paved trails and roads.  It's just been in the past 6 months, since doing well at the EC Full Marathon and doing really well at the Turkey Trifecta that I gained confidence.  I realized that I could run my own race, I didn't have to fall into whoever is in front of me's pace.  That I could charge up hills, that I'm actually really strong on running up hills, that I can recover quickly on straightaways and that I had every right to pass as anyone else (I still say please and hello most times).

The trail continues on and the runners are getting more spread out.  But I can still always see someone in front of me.  About mile 4.5, we hit the thickest, slipperiest, shoe-sucking mud that I've ever seen.  This area normally is a grass maintenance road but with snow and several inches of rain and several 100 runners pounding on it, it became an mud bog that was just not runable.   I tried to find solid ground on the edges but it was all mud.  So, I just had to walk and push through.  This lasted about 50 yards until the trail turned back into more firm ground.  Repeat this same situation at least one more time.  The the mud hills started.  Complete mud so slippery that I had to walk up and then slid down them.  I did fall twice but just into thick mud so I wasn't hurt at all.  We crossed a forded a few small creeks and crossed other bridges.  My Garmin hit mile 6 so I knew I was closing in on the half way point/finish line. I could hear the music as I approached the line and I switched off my headlamp as recommended for a good race picture.

There was a water station there so I grabbed a cup of water, my first in the race and started back onto the trail.   And it was barren.  There was no on in front of me, which was really odd after having people in view the entire race to the point. I got a little unnerved, hoping that I could follow the route markers.  I can hear some men behind me as they got closer.  One joked about letting me take the lead and I joked saying that I had a better sense of direction.  I ended up passing, being passed and pretty much running with this group of 3 guys for the next 4 miles.  I would pass on the uphills and stay ahead on the flats but they would blow past me on the downhills and more technical areas.  They said they had weight and gravity working for them.  It was nice to have other people there, especially ones who were friendly.  About mile 4, the lead one, Malcolm, of the group and I were passing others pretty easily, separating ourselves.  I was leading but Malcolm must have been getting tired of my pace as he sped up and I didn't see him again.  I did catch up with another group of runners and they commented that I was running much stronger then they were and I joked that I was only running the half and they said they were too but I was better!  Well we hit the muddy bog area and I slowed down as my shoes were literally being sucked from my feet.  Repeat for the next muddy area and the muddy hills were just terrible now.  I was by myself and kept pushing hard. I was really hoping that with the smaller field that I would have a chance to earn a AG award.  Every time I could see a headlamp in front of me, it energized me to push hard to catch up and pass them.  I hear my Garmin go off at 12 miles and I know I'm nearing the end.  I see another headlamp in front of me and I know I had to push hard to catch her (it was a purple blinking light so I figured it was a female).  I passed her with less than a half mile to go and I know I can't slow down because she would stay on my tail.  The adrenaline is pumping and I'm flying through the trails.  I hear the finish line music and soon I'm scrambling down the last trail and hit the parking lot at a full sprint.  Which was weird because I
could hear the crowd but no one could see me running my hardest to the finish because it was so dark!  But I crossed the finish line with my hands in the air at 2:24:12.  The guys that I had run the last loop with where at the finish line looking for me and gave me plenty of high fives.
I checked the results and saw that I finished 65 out of 184, 4th in my age group.  The 3rd place winner had a time 3 minutes faster than me and I know that I could not have made up 3 minutes, I had really run my hardest so I didn't feel too bad about missing out on a AG award, Ok maybe I did but I knew I did my best.  I collected the huge spinner medal, some snacks and a hot chocolate.  I hung around the finish area for a few minutes but I was getting cold fast so I decided to head home.
My sweet daughter ran a hot bath and helped me peel off my muddy shoes and clothes.  And then I registered for the Summer Night Trail Half Marathon cause I'm going again!!!

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The Fire and Ice Series medal, awards for those who finish both the Winter and Summer races.

The Summer Night Trail Half Marathon medal

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Turkey Leg Trifecta

Turkey Leg Trifecta Race Report

So I had won a coupon for a race with after winning my AG in a July 4th race this past summer.  I checked out their website and decided to give the Turkey Leg Trifecta a chance.  The website said it was a 3 part trail race, (a 4k, 5k and 6k each an hour apart), on the west-side of Eagle Creek Park, a large park in Indianapolis.  The west-side of the park though, is considered a Nature Preserve so there are no bridges over the creeks, steps down or up the ravines and it was all single track with very little room to pass.  I’ve run 2 fulls and 1 half marathon plus a few shorter races on these trails and have loved it so I knew I had to sign up. 
Saturday, November 26th, Race Day. 
So, the first race started at 10:00.  We left our house about 8:45 and at the last second, my 13 yo daughter, Kylie, suggested that we bring our dog, Guinness.  Guinness isn’t the best in a crowd, she gets really nervous around men and had never run a race before.  But, she runs at least 2 miles a day with me, 5 or 6 days a week so I figured I’d take her on the first race and go from there.   We arrived at the park at 9:00 and I got my race packet.  There wasn’t a map to look over but I felt really confident, after all, I’ve run 5 races over here (we won’t talk about the time I ran the trails by myself and got miserably lost!!)  The atmosphere seemed really relaxed as you’ll have at trail runs.  My kids were happy even in the cool weather (40*) because there was a Pokestop right there. Plus, I could park just yards from the start/finish so they stayed in the car to stay warm between races. 

10:00 and the first race, a 4k, is ready to start.  We are told by the Race Director that the trail would be marked with white flags on our right.  Simple enough.  I wear a leash around my waist for running with my dog.  I like to have my hands free and she has more freedom that way as well.  Guinness is nervous as we lined up in the crowd.  She did not like the start, she got confused when the crowd started running forward but she figured it out quickly.  We ran down the parking area and through some fields.  Guinness was loving it.  She was full out sprinting as I was working hard to keep up with her!  We stayed off to the side so it was easier to maneuver.  After about a mile, we entered the trails.  And they were trails that I hadn’t been on, which I was so surprised about.  Single track, covered completely in fallen leaves.  Guinness was sure-footed and leading me along.  We were in a line of people, up and down the hills, over the roots and around the trees.  There were a few times that she went one way and the course went the other but for the most part, she did very well.  Things did get tricky at a steep ravine.  The runners came to a stop as people were going one by one down the ravine, over the little creek and back up an equally steep slope.  I knew it wouldn’t be safe to keep Guinness on the leash so as we got closer, I undid her leash and encouraged her to find a way down.  She was pretty surefooted and got across without much difficultly.  I told her to stay as I climbed down and up myself.  But as I looked up as I was climbing hand over hand up the slope, she was gone!  I got really nervous and started calling her name, over and over again as I ran on the trail.  Soon I glimpsed her, running along the trail, with other runners.  As I called her name and whistled, I could see her pause and wait to see me and then start running with the next runner.  Another runner managed to slow Guinness down and soon I caught up to her and got her back on the leash. 
We continue on the trail and soon cross a grassy area that I know is near the finish area.  My Garmin was showing just short of 2 miles so I knew we had a little more to go so I followed the runners in front of me into the woods again on another trail.  I’m not right behind anyone but I’m within 20 feet of them.  I notice that the flags that I’m seeing are orange and old looking and on the left instead of the right.  But I’m following a group so I’m not lost, right?  Yeah, about .4 miles into the trail, I see a big backup of about 15 runners just stopped.  I thought it was another ravine slowing people down.  Then I hear one runner yelling to the group that we’re lost, that it wasn’t the right trail.  The group decides to cut through the woods to try and find the right trail.  That lasts about 100 yards and a few of us decide to go back to the trail and double back to where we entered the woods.  The rest of the group decides to continue on the trail.  I’m the last in the group and Guinness and I are pushing along.  She’s getting a tired and drops behind me as I continue on.  Soon we were out of the woods and I see white flags marking a trail that was off the right of the trail I had been on.  Sigh.  There were volunteers here now and I asked where I should go, my Garmin was showing 2.6 miles so I knew I had reached 4k.  They told me to just run to the finish line so I do that.  Kylie and Matthew were there, cheering Guinness and I on as we crossed together!  2.8 miles, 35:29.  Kylie said the first runner finished in 14 minutes, then another about 16:00 and 18:00.  But then none for a long time so the volunteers headed out on bikes to find where people had gotten lost at.  About 10 minutes later, I saw members of the group that went the other way on the trail finish up so I was very happy that I had just turned around on the trail.  I grabbed some Gatorade and got a cup of water for Guinness.  I told Kylie that Guinness would not be coming with me for the next races, it was just too scary to have to her running without the leash. 
11:00 was the start of the 5k.   I paid much better attention to the RD when he explained that we would be looking for the “dirty orange flags on our right.”  The man next to me, who was the one who noticed that we were lost, yelled “I’ve already run those trails!” and everyone laughed.  We start running and I kept my eyes open for those dirty orange flags!  I was running at a good pace but once I was on the trails, I had to run at the person in front’s pace, which I didn’t mind at first.  But after some time, I was getting anxious to move faster.  The trails we were on were more familiar, although run backwards from what I was used to.   I would get around people when the course gave me room.  Then out of frustration, I decided that I had as much right to ask someone to move aside as anyone else did. So, I did that and was soon passing numerous people and running hard.  There were several ravines to climb down and up that slowed me down.  But soon, I was in sight of the finish line and Kylie, with Guinness, yelled for me to sprint (she’s getting back at me after I yelled at her all XC season!)  I finished in 32:56 and my Garmin read 2.84.  I didn’t know how I could have missed a turn and others said their Garmins where short as well so I felt ok about it.  On a whim, I went to the results table and was surprised to see that I was 1st in my AG for the 5k.  I asked if there was an award but they are only given to the winners for all 3 races.  I explained that I had gotten lost in the 4k and they didn’t have those results but that many had gotten lost so I might still be ok.    
The last race started at 12:20, a little late because they wanted to give all the finishers from the 5k a chance to finish.  I decided that I needed to start closer to the front in order to avoid getting caught behind slower runners.  So I made my way towards the front and ran hard from the very beginning.  We were following red flags this time and it was a true out and back.  The start was good and I was feeling very comfortable.  The trail was the same start of the marathon that I had run in August and I knew it wasn’t difficult, no huge hills or ravines to climb.  So I kept the pace fast, passing as I needed to but for the most part, the runners in front of me were my pace.  As I was running, I was thinking that maybe they figured the awards by cumulative time so the faster I could finish this race, the better chance I had of erasing the deficit I had in the 4k.  The trails again were all covered with leaves but I didn’t have problems with the roots or rocks.   Soon the front runners had reached the turn around and were passing me on their way back.  I kept an eye out for women and counted only 4 before I hit the turn around.  I know I can pick up the pace so I keep pushing hard.  There were about .8 miles of paved road or trail so I try to pass and speed up here.  I only walked up one hill and that was only for about 10 feet.  I pass one female on a steep hill and I keep pushing to get distance between us.  Soon, I was on the grassy road that led to the finish area.  I really kick to the finish and actually yelled to Kylie as I passed the car, I was way ahead of pace so she wasn’t ready for me!  I had to loop around a few trees before finishing so she got to the finish to cheer me on.  I hit my stop button on my Garmin and was stunned to see 34:38, yes, that’s right, both my 5k and 6k were faster then my 4k!  And my 6k was only 1:18 slower than my 5k.  The course was easier but I was also really running my hardest, a 10 on effort, no letting up.  I finished 22/217 overall, 4/132 women and 1/50 for my AG. 
The final results are interesting.  My cumulative time was 1:43:05, which put me at 23rd overall and 5th female.  Looks like they award the top 3 finishers for male and female only so I won’t get a AG award.  But that’s ok, I know that if I hadn’t gotten lost, I would have taken probably 9 minutes off my time, which would have put me in the top 12 finishers. 

So, to recap, I’ll be back next year.  And Kylie wants to run it as well.  It’s well organized, the medal is the size of a dinner plate and it’s inexpensive for 3 races.  I would highly recommend!

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Indy Women's Half Marathon

"It can't possibly rain again, this year, can it?"  This is the thought that I'm having as I watch the weather report the day before the Indy Women's Half Marathon.  Last year, the 5th anniversary of this women's only race, thunderstorms rolled in and canceled the race only 25 minutes into the race.  I figured the odds of that happening again weren't very high, right?  Well, tell that to Mother Nature.

Race starts at 7:30 AM so Kylie, Matthew and I head downtown and arrive at the starting area, Monumental Circle by 7:00.  My in laws were waiting for us, they were keeping an eye on Matthew while Kylie and I were running (Brett was out of town).  It's too dark to see any clouds but the air felt thick and I knew we'd be getting wet.  Kylie was confident in her ability to run the 5k fast as she's in the middle of her first cross country season and has been really fast with that.  I talked to her about what to look and listen for if she saw lighting (flags and police officers) and told her to keep with a group of women and get to the finish line.  I was a little nervous for her but she wasn't a bit worried.  She actually was interviewed by a local new station at the start line.  We were ready to run and feeling good in our InkNBurn clothes, she was borrowing my classic Flutter tech shirt and I was wearing Monarch tech with the new Bee skirt, following the Indy Women's Half butterfly theme.  

So the race starts on time and Kylie's off like a rocket.  I lose sight of her so fast!  That's ok, I'm looking forward to a fun time myself, it's good for her to have her own experience.  I do catch a glimpse of her as she turns a corner and she's hanging with the front group of women.  Nice.

I notice a lady wearing a InkNBurn tie die Run or Die tank so I make my way over to her to say introduce myself.  I run up next to her and say hi and she says "Hi Mary!"  Well, it's my FB friend Jeanette, who I met for the first time totally randomly at a race last Thanksgiving.  She's running a good pace so we fall in step with each other.  First few miles go by quickly and easily.  About mile 2, we're at the part of the course where the 5k runners are coming at us from their turn around, heading to the finish line.  I see the lead lady and mention to J that it would be really cool to see Kylie but that I doubt I would as we were just a 100 yards from our turn away from downtown.  Then suddenly, I see a glimpse of a white shirt come around a corner, onto the straightway towards us.  It's Kylie and she's rolling just effortlessly!  I pull my phone out and grab a quick picture of her while yelling "You're in 3rd place overall, keep going!!!"  I catch back up to J and am just so excited, thinking that Kylie is only about 1/2 a mile from a possible podium finish!  I did consider turning around to see her but I knew that I couldn't see her finish and what could I do? Nothing. So I kept running. She did text me a few minutes later to say that she finished in 4th place, winning her AG and HUGE PR of 22:26!!!  I was so, so proud of her.
Anyways, so J and I continue on with the half.  Right as we hit mile 5, the sky opens and the rain comes.  Not a nice, "oh this is refreshing" rain, a hard "this hurts my face" kind of rain.  Like, I'm completely soaked in seconds rain.  But, no thunder or lighting.  So, we continue.  We're running well, keeping a good pace.  Here are the splits for the first half:
Mile 1: 8:29
Mile 2: 8:33
Mile 3: 8:49
Mile 4: 8:57
Mile 5: 9:02
Mile 6: 8:59

J and I are just having a blast, talking very easily about our lives, races, clothes, races, more clothes, mutual interests, our kids, the rain, pretty much just everything.  The rain doesn't let up, the road is completely flooded in parts.  At first we would try to find a way around the mini lakes but then we gave up, thinking we couldn't possibly get more wet.  Sweat is mixing with rain and running into my eyes, stinging them terribly.  Nothing to be done about it though.  We reach the turn around point, just at the very top of a hill that I've climbed several times in the Monumental Marathon.  I know the road coming up isn't very well maintained so the puddles/lakes continue to grow.  I noticed another runner taking a gel and realize that we're at mile 7 and neither of us have eaten anything.  I asked J if she had any gels and she did.  I take mine and within minutes, feel some energy return to my legs.  J seemed to be tiring so I say goodbye and go off on my own.  Well, that lasted about 1/2 a mile.  The energy was short lived and I grabbed a Gatorade and a quick walk break at the next aid station.  I hear J yell my name and I waited a second for her to catch up.  She had taken her gel as well and was feeling refreshed so we decided to stay together as it really was much nicer to run with a friend.
Mile 7: 8:49
Mile 8: 8:42
Mile 9: 8:34 (Nice!)
Mile 10: 8:56 (didn't last!)

We turn finally south so we can see downtown, where the finish line is.  The rain stops and things start to heat up, feeling pretty steamy.  Neither of us are talking much, I think we both just want to finish.  I'm not wearing a Garmin as I let Kylie wear it so J is keeping me posted on times.  She mentions that she's close to a PR but I don't have it in me to keep up with her.  I stop for water and a walk break at mile 12 as she continues on, looking strong.  I start running again and push hard to catch her.  I'm only maybe 10 feet from her when my stomach decided it didn't want to keep pushing and I paused, thinking I was going to get sick.  A few runners ask if I'm ok and I am.  I know that I get sick at and before finish lines a lot if I sprint too early.  So I take some breaths and continue on, a little slower.  I see J still in front of me but she's running strong and I'm not, LOL!  But I do run my best to cross the finish line and was shocked to hear Kylie screaming "Run, mom, run harder!"  I had thought she would have gone home with her grandparents, especially with the rain!  But she stayed with my mother in law, waiting to see me finish.
Mile 11: 8:42
Mile 12: 8:37
Mile 13: 9:08 (darn stomach)

I cross the finish line with a smile, receive my butterfly medal from a uniformed soldier along with a pretty rose.  J and I find each other and meet up with Kylie and my MIL.  Kylie was upset that they didn't have awards for the AG winners which I didn't understand, I thought was weird.  After questioning several people, J noticed someone that she knew who looked in charge.  That very nice lady found the box with the AG awards and gave Kylie hers, which turned her frustration into happiness.  We enjoy some beverages and conversation for a while before saying goodbye.

So this is the 6th time I've run this race, 3rd with the current owners (Carmel Road Runners).  It is different than it used to be in some ways but there are also many improvements.  I wish the medals were are nice as they were a few years ago, especially now that bigger, fancier medals are popular.  But really, that's my only complaint.  The race director keeps things very organized and does a lot for the running community in the Indianapolis area.  So, I'll be back for year 7!!!