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.
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|