“Could you please take this into the potty with you when it’s your turn?” I turn and look at the guy in the car talking to me while I’m in line for the porta-let, with wide eyes. He’s handing me 2 packages of toilet paper and smiling at my expression. Ok, I think I’m gonna like this race, at least the organization of it!
I was running my first ever trail race this morning, the Eagle Creek Trail Marathon and Half Marathon in Indianapolis. I was doing the half. I felt very nervous going into the race as I’ve never done anything like this before. I trained at least once a week on trails, actually on these trails as this is my “home” park” but never went beyond 9 miles. The race was sold out at 500 runners, nearly ½ were there for the half.
I got up at 5am to dress, eat breakfast, drink coffee and take care of some bathroom business. I was on the road by 6 and at the starting area by 6:20. I get parked and started heading up to packet pickup. It’s still dark so I just follow the crowd and music. I’m walking along and pass a lady who suddenly asks “Are you Mary? From Runners World?” Turns out, an impromptu FE was brought on by Heidi, who recognized me from pictures and my headband. It was so great to have someone to chat with while we waited for the start! We were both nervous as it was our first trail race but we talked about Bob! And his amazing feat last week (he ran a 100.8 mile ultramarathon) and took comfort in the fact that we only had to run 13.1 miles.
The announcer explained details about the course and had the full marathoners line up. We started about 25 minutes late, not good when we were looking at some high 80’s temps. Anyways, we take off and run on a field for the first ¼ mile. We had been told that we would bottleneck onto a single track trail and to expect to not be able to pass for about a mile after that. That’s exactly what happened (I lost Heidi at this point). Once I got onto the trail, it was very technical. Everyone was walking in a single filed line up the hills and down some very steep parts as well. About 1.2 miles in, it started to thin out and I was able to do a little passing. There were many logs across the trail that everyone was jumping or climbing over. Some were so high that I just ducked under them (passed a guy by doing this, it pays to be short sometimes). The next 2 miles were still single track but a little wider so you could pass in the brush along the trail. People were good about stepping aside as well. I was carrying my own handheld so I passed up the first two Aid Stations which allowed me to get past some other people as well.
The route went on a causeway, across the reservoir about mile 3.5. This was under construction but the road itself was fine and the cars were very considerate of the runners as well. After the causeway, we were on a bike path that brought us into the East side of the park, the more popular area where I do all my trail running. I know my DH and kids would be along this route so I was happy to see them about mile 4.5. The kids had their “Run mom Run signs” and cow bells. I got several compliments about my cheer squad!
I fell into a zone as I ran on this part, I knew every turn, every stump, every log. These trails were wide and groomed so I passed many, many runners. I ran up most hills and had fun running down them. I took a Gu at this point, I didn’t feel like I needed it but wanted to get it into my system. My kids and DH were at mile 6 and I paused to take a picture with them. Mile 6.5 was the halfway point and AS. I stopped and refilled my water bottle and ate some trail mix. This portion was on a gravel road which I ran, again, passing numerous people. Next up was a tricky part that entailed a gravel dam but the gravel was very large rocks, hard to run on because it really works your ankles. I was strong along this area because I run this dam at least once a week. Not all runners were happy at this point! I did have one guy, after I said good morning as I passed him say “There is always one of you, a blond who is just so happy to be out here. It’s refreshing to see!” Thanks, sir!
Dad was there with his camera! Mile 4.5
My cheerleaders were there again at mile 6.
This dog ran the entire full marathon, 26.2 miles, with her owner.
Coming up to the 6 mile mark.I walked up the next hill, knowing it was steep and caught my breath for a few seconds. My Garmin wasn’t matching any of the mile markers, which stopped at 6 miles anyways so I was trying not to look at it. But when I passed the 5 mile sign, and my Garmin read 9.6, I was a little dishearted, knowing that I had 5 more miles to go. But a race isn’t over when your Garmin says 13.1, it’s over when you cross the finish line. So I kept pushing on. Saw my kids and DH in this area and I refilled my water at the AS. Soon I was out of this part of the park and back on the causeway.
Mile 9, just before the aid station and seeing the kids again.There were a lot of people walking on this stretch but I made myself run the whole way. I knew if I wanted to make up any time, I couldn’t walk on the flat road. The thought of placing in my AG entered my head at this point. I tried not to think about it but I won’t lie, it did help me to keep passing all the rabbits. One such rabbit was a man who caught a glimpse of me coming up from behind as he turned off the causeway, onto the trail. His look was not a nice one. There was an AS here so I grabbed a gel and set this guy in my sights as my next rabbit. I pass a few others and stumbled for a second on a root. We were back in the very technical area so I walked up a few hills (there were so many roots it seemed like a staircase). About mile 11, I see my chance on a hill and pass the rabbit. He muttered “passed by a f*&%ing skirt” under his breath, which just pushed me that much harder to get some distance on him.
I pass the 5k turn around area and my Garmin is reading 12.5. I’m still feeling pretty good but was unsure when to start to push hard for my finish. A full marathoner passed me on his second lap and said “You’re looking good, 1.5 miles left.” Ugh, seriously?? We had a old, paved trail section here, again lots of walkers so I just kept going and passing. The AG placement enters my mind again. Can’t stop, keep pushing. I hear someone come up behind me and stay right on my heels so I ask him if he wanted to pass. He says no, he’ll stay behind me. Ok, I don’t mind. I pass a few more people, had to sit on a log to get my feet over it at one point, ducked under another. Suddenly, there was a ravine so steep that I actually say “No way, are you kidding me??!” as I come up to it. I slid/walked/stumbled down and pull myself up using the roots and trees. There were two ravines like this, in the last ½ mile. Not pleasant. But after the last one, I see some daylight and yell to the guy tailing me “I see daylight, we must be getting close!” and he says “for you, I’m running the full. But you’re really helping pace me in.” I tell him that I’ll keep the pace and told him to stay on me. I pass another runner and my tail doesn’t come along. Soon, I see the break in the trees. I come around and see my DH and kids there, cheering me on. My DD7 jumped out and ran the last 10th with me. As I’m kicking to the finish, I see a lady on my side who was also sprinting. My competitive spirit came out and I thought “no way are you passing me at the end” and I kicked so hard across the finish!
Love my wood medal.Whew, I was done! I felt sick for a few seconds as I cooled down. I got my very cool medal, made out of a log from the park. Checked the official results and I finished 2:23.01, 81st overall and 5th in my AG. I waited for the awards and for Heidi to finish. I was just 2 minutes from 4th place. I don’t know how I could have made up those two minutes unless I started closer to the front so I wasn’t behind such a big group at the bottle neck. Oh and maybe if I didn’t need to water the bushes at mile 2.5 too!
The guy who swore about my skirt when I passed him tracked me down afterwards. He said he didn’t realize he said it what he was thinking out loud. I just told him that I gotta look good for my races. He didn’t apologize, just apologized that I heard what he said! LOL
So, all in all, a very good race. I had a blast. I knew the hills would be rough so I concentrated on hill work a lot this summer. I think that and running in all this heat/humidity really paid off for me as I felt very strong the entire way. It was great to see Heidi finish and get a picture with her. I’ll be back for more trail races!!