Monday, September 18, 2017

North Coast 24 Hour Endurance Race 2017

North Coast 24 Hour Endurance Run (take 3!)

"You're going to run 100 miles in 24 hours?!  Are you insane?"  That was the question that I answered countless times in the last few months.  Yes, I think I am a little crazy but I also really, really wanted that buckle.  Let me back up a little bit.

So, the North Coast 24 Hour Endurance Run or NC24 for short, is the USATF 24 hour championship race held in Cleveland in mid-September.  It's pretty simple, you run around a 0.88 mile bike path as many times as you can in 24 hours.  You have restrooms, food, medical aid and constant company so that was very appealing to me.  My first attempt at this race was in 2013, reaching 62 miles but learning an immeasurable amount along the way (what do you mean you have to eat consistently to avoid getting sick?)  2014 and I reached 78 miles, just short of my 80 mile goal.  Apparently being angry at the thunderstorm the struck in the middle of the night and refusing to run, only stomp through puddles, will not help you reach your mileage goal.  LOL

I took 2 years off from NC24 but still maintained a good base mileage of 1800 per year (good for me, not for everyone).  But the thought of reaching 100 miles in 24 hours never escaped me.  I knew my best chance would be at NC24, I had a solid set of friends that I had made as well as some locals who could crew me.   And I knew the course so knew exactly what to expect.  The day the sign-ups opened, I entered within minutes (earning a free Camelback water bottle for the fast signup effort too, thanks Race Director Brian!)

Training:  Well....I found a few 100 mile training plans and mashed some stuff together.  I work in the school system so I knew my best time for long runs would be during the summer.  But, I'm also a married mom of two so I needed to balance running with family life, which is a struggle. I'm very, very fortunate that Brett and the kids are supportive of my goals.  My long runs consisted of a 50k around a 1 mile loop for Relay for Life in May, numerous 18-20 milers, a DNF at 23 miles at Eagle Creek Trail marathon and a 25.5 mile training run 3 weeks ago.  I did have 167 and 157 miles for July and August.  I was trying to go with the idea that consistent miles per week would help make up for lack of really long runs.  I also started cross training in an intense circuit class 2-3 times a week which made a big difference in my core strength.  And, not to be overlooked, I work a lot of weekends at concession stands, earning money for my daughter's dance account and those shifts can be standing for 12 hours.  So my training wasn't fancy but it was real life.  Mentally I wasn't going to allow myself to not get the 100 miles.  I had some nagging doubts but I would just push them away, knowing that I had to believe in myself, that I was the only one who could run these miles.

Crew: So Brett had been my main crew the previous years but due to his busy schedule at work, he couldn't come.  My parents offered to take his place and I explained crewing for 24 hours was no picnic and they still wanted to be there!  My runner friend, Brad, also expressed interest and I knew he would be a big help being an Army guy and very accomplished runner himself.  Five other runners and another experienced crew memeber that I knew from the Runner's World Forums and had previously met at NC24 were running as well so we would have a great group of people.

Supplies:  So for 24 hours you really need to plan on a variety of weather and temps.  I planned on 6" running shorts from InknBurn to keep the thigh chafing away.  I chose a light colored tank because there is no shade and temps were expected to be in the low 80's.  I also grabbed a tech shirt, arm warmers, a long sleeved shirt, thicker pullover, capris and another shorts/tank outfit.  Yeah, I'm a bit of a running clothes fashionista which is so easy when InknBurn makes such amazing and ultra tested clothes.  I also pack a bag of Bio-Freeze, KT Tape, Leukotape, moleskin, scissors, needles for popping blisters, Tums and ibuprofen.  More pairs of Feetures socks than I could count, compression calf sleeves, 4 pairs of Saucony shoes ( brand new ISO Freedoms) and my Oofos recovery sandles.  Oh and my favorite hoodie in case I needed a warm hug to cry in if I needed it.   I also wrote out a few pages of info for my parents with what I would need and when.

Race: We drove up from Indianapolis on Friday afternoon, arriving in Cleveland in time for dinner.  We found the closest Italian restaurant, carbed up on bread and linguine and went to bed early.  We were up at 7:00, hit a gas station for a case of water and ice and drove to the park, arriving at 9:00.  Team member, Michael, was already there with two large canopies set up so we carried our supplies there and got things set up.    I had all my supplies in plastic tubs to protect from rain and to keep things organzied.  All clothes were labeled and bagged by outfit.  We set up the table and I showed mom the food and explained that I had to eat 100-200 calories an hour and that her main focus would be making sure that happened.  I got my timing band (a velcro band that fits around your ankle, you would think it's awkward but you honestly don't even realize it's there), bib, USATF age group bib and  swag 1/4 zipped pullover (love it!!)

I eat a bagel with PB and a banana at 11:30.  I put a strip of Leukotape on my forefoot under my big toe which is where I'm prone to blisters (I'm a heavy forefoot striker).  I apply a silicon wipe around my sports bra area to reduce chafing as well.  Then, time to line up for the start!  131 runners and walkers from every age group lined up at the start line, they play the National Anthem and we start at exactly 12 noon.   I'm so excited!!  And it was so hot!!!  UGH!!!  I asked for a ice water soaked towel during my second lap, knowing that I had to keep my core temp down to stay running in the first 6 hours.  Here is my race strategy, put together by Brett:

12-6pm:  30 miles running most miles with 1 lap walk breaks every 5 laps
6pm-Midnight: repeat above to reach 60 miles by midnight
Midnight -6am: 22 miles, increase walk laps but continue running
6am-noon: 18 miles, all walking

Having an easy to remember and easy to break down strategy was key for me.  I could break it down into smaller hour goals and see my progress, mentally checking off each set of miles.  We had learned in the past that the mental game was just as tough as the physical side so I had to stay clear and focused.

First 6 hours:  It's hot.  Really hot.  But I'm switching my ice water towel out each lap, my parents were on it, having the fresh one ready as soon as I came up to the tent.  I started off with the run 5 laps, walk a lap idea that Brett came up with.  My first walk lap seemed very long and I fell into step with Fredrick Davis III, a world-class ultra runner.  I mentioned that I was trying this new plan of walking a lap when my normal training is running a mile, walking a minute.  He suggested that I stick with what I'm used to as long as I can. I thought that made sense so I decided to change things a little.  They had the course marked every 10th of a mile with small signs.  So I decided to run from the end of "tent city" (about 0.2 from the start line) to 0.6, walk to 0.7, run through the finish and start my walk break at 0.1 which was right at the start of tent city.   I was able to stay with this plan for along, long time.   I hit 25 miles at 3 hours and stopped for the first time at the tent.  My dad changed my socks and checked for blisters. I noticed a small one forming and put some tape on it.  I asked Brad to torture me with The Stick so he rubbed my quads which felt great but then he had me stand for the IT bands and I had to hold on to my dad, calling out in pain, as Brad quickly and efficiently worked out the muscles. Then I was off again.  I was doing great with food and hydration, using Cliff Bars, Stroople Waffles and crackers, drinking plenty of Nuun water in my handheld.  I was urinating every hour so I knew I was on track to stay healthy in the heat.  6:00 pm rolls around and I'm at 31 miles on the dot!

Second 6 hours:  Ok so the sun is setting.  But someone opened the humidity door and there was no shutting it.  It was so, so humid.  I don't have any idea dew point or heat index but I do know that everyone was miserable.  The medical tent, which was right at the start of tent city, was gaining patients, one a teammate who was experiencing severe dehydration.  I stayed focused though and kept up with the running plan I set up earlier. Sock and shoe change at mile 45, 2 ibuprofen, another torturous round of The Stick with Brad, this time my cries of pain were much louder as I clung on to my dad (sidenote, I'm so glad Brad was there as my parents would never have been able to rub hard enough for fear of hurting me but I knew Brad would do whatever was necessary to keep me going) .  I also changed my shirt and wiped down with some baby wipes.  Amazing how putting on a clean shirt and wiping the grim and sweat off can mentally help you.  It was about this time that I switched from Nuun to Tailwind which was caffeinated.  This was not good for me as I felt nausea within minutes of drinking some. I don't know if it was the sudden hit of caffeine, the change in sugar content or what but my stomach felt terrible.  I drank some ginger ale from the aide station (my first stop as I was using all my own stuff until now, with the exception of  pizza at 4:00.)  This did nothing for my belly.   I started to panic.  I wasn't even half way yet!   I noticed a team mate walking after seeing him earlier in the medical tent so I asked if he was ok.  He mentioned stomach issues and that the med tent used acupressure to relieve it. So I decided on a quick stop there. I explained to the worker what was going on, informed him that I was urinating so he wouldn't worry about dehydration.  He pressed on two pressure points and gave me some ginger candy.  This did help some.   I continued to walk to settle my stomach down.  To my delight, I walked by the USATF 24 hour head doctor and experienced ultra marathoner himself (229 total!!), Dr. Lovy.  I quickly fell instep with him and told him what was going on. He told me to go back to medical and ask for a ginger pill, which is 8x's stronger than the candy. He said I would be back to normal within 15 minutes!  Ok, that sounds good to me!  Well, he was right, I took that pill and was running again within 10 minutes. It was like a miracle.  Truly helped save my race.  Brett texted and told my dad to head to Chipolte to get me a chicken and rice burrito for me.  I also asked for a venti iced coffee with a double shot of espresso.  I didn't eat it as the thought made my stomach turn but I knew it was good to have on tap for later.   I was at 52.9 miles at midnight, off what I needed to be but I was feeling great with legs that still felt amazing.

Midnight to 6am:  Legs are good.  Laps are finishing.  Brad joins me for a walk lap about 2:00 and he tells me that my timing is good, my form is excellent and that I was really in line to reach 100 but that I couldn't slack off.  We crossed the lap mat at 2:00 and saw the large timing clock flicker off and the TV with your total milage and laps flicker off as well!  I freaked out, thinking my last lap didn't count but Brad assured me that he heard the loud beep of my timing piece.  The timing guy assured us that they have a battery back up for the computer and timing mat so I relaxed and headed out for another walk lap.  As I cross the timing mat the next time, I see my name but my miles/laps were down by one.  Now I'm going on 14+ hours of running but I did remember that I crossed the mat when it flickered at 60 miles because I was so eager to see that number.  I asked the timer guy and he said that the computer had me at 63.9 miles, 71 laps and to disregard the 63 miles, 70 laps that was showing on the TV.  He said this was happening for plenty of runners and they were working to fix it.  I felt much better about this.  I did check with him after nearly every lap for the next hour or two until I saw the numbers sync up.  I know I annoyed him but when you're out there for 16 hours, you can't remember what lap you're on!!  I did apologize for being annoying later.   Stopped at 70 miles for a sock change, some bites of the burrito and Stick rub down which was more excruciating then I could imagine.  Dad also sprayed some Max-Freeze on my quads and sent me away.  I depended on bland food now for fuel: bananas, salted potatoes, potato chips.  Each time I ate, I told my mom so she could keep track. Coke became my friend as well, the sugar and caffeine are lifesavers.   Around 4am or so, I walked up to one of the last tents, one covered in Texas flags and saw a runner, Kevin, that I had spend a few laps talking to earlier.  I hadn't seen him since it had gotten dark so it was nice to find a friendly face at my own pace.  We set out to walking and we were really moving!  We were going at 13 min lap paces, enough to really be working.  He was also reaching for 100 miles and was about 7 laps ahead of me.  We walked and talked and listened for hours.  This also saved my race, having a friendly person to keep me moving during the very lonely, very taxing hours.  In the past I had always gone to sleep for a few hours but I knew I couldn't do that this year.  I don't remember exact lap times or miles but I do remember realizing that Kevin was going to hit his goal with no problem but that I needed to get moving a little faster to hit mine.  I think I was at about 78 or 80 miles at 6am, off pace with little time to waste and sunrise (and heat) on it's way.

6am-noon:  Sun rose and the camp woke up.  The lonely path was getting busier, mainly with walkers but still some strong runners.  I started running again myself, I don't remember when but I knew that I had to get moving.  My goal was to reach 9:00 with only 10 miles left.  I went back to running 2 laps and walking 2 laps.  I would get so nervous to start running again, worried about the pain that I would feel.  But I couldn't let my goal slip away and every additional walk break was pushing my buckle further away.  Nearly everyone I passed commented on how good my form was still looking, how great it was that I was still running, that I was going to reach 100 miles.  There was so much encouragement from runners, crew members and volunteers alike.   The running community is terrific but the ultra running community is unbelievable.  The last 3 hours blend together. The laps go by but the miles don't seem to go up.  I'm getting nervous as I see the clock go below 3 hours and I still have 12 miles to go. Run. Walk.  Potty.  Repeat.  Keep head down, don't talk, stay focused.  Dad stops me and sprays sunblock on my shoulders.  Run. Walk.  Run again.  Dad grabs me again and sprays more Max-Freeze on my quads.  Mom tells me to eat and I walk away without a word, too zoned to reply.  I feel a squishy-ness in the toe box of my right foot at 90 miles but know if I take my shoe off to check that I'll never get it back on.  I also know not to tell my crew so I keep my mouth shut and push on, knowing that my sock could be filling with blood or puss or a mixture of both.  I cross the lap mat and see 1:11:00, just over 70 minutes to go and I have 4 laps to go.  I feel ok about this until my math challenged mind thinks that there are only 3 sets of 15 minutes in an hour instead of 4 (yes, I'm an instructional assistant in a 5th grade math class but I'm going on no sleep now!!!!)  I still think it's ok until Brad informs me that he timed my last lap at 15 minutes.  I start to really panic as I'm thinking I only have 3 sets of 15 minute laps and somehow now needed to pull out an 11 minute one too!!  Brad must have seen the panic in my eyes because he hopped up and joined me for a few minutes, explaining the math and reassuring me that I was fine but I couldn't slack off.  Ok, no more potty breaks, no more food, straight running for as long as possible.  I actually ran the next lap with only 0.1 walk break.  The next lap was two short walk breaks.  I crossed the lap mat with 97.7 miles to go with 45ish minutes left. Ok, I can walk 2 laps in that time so I'm pretty safe.  I pass my crew tent and everyone is cheering my on, my parents  had made signs for the last 10 laps. I can feel everyone's support and it means so much to me.  My mom tears up but I tell her "No, hold it for when it's official!"  I decide that I've run too much to walk the last lap so I start running again and it felt amazing.  I cross the timing mat for the 113th time, which was 99.7 miles, knowing that I just have to walk through tent city and a little bit more to the 0.3 mile marker.  I'm all smiles as I walk up to the

marker with my hands in the air.  Two fellow runners, one, who just reached her first 100 mile finish as well, were right behind me so we walked and chatted until I saw my whole crew waiting and cheering at the finish line.  I knew I need to run to finish to I took off running, crossing the finish line with my hands in the air, tears in my eyes and the biggest smile on my face and 14 minutes still on the clock!! But my race wasn't finished.  I was going to the end so I took the wooden block with my bib number on it and kept walking. My crew joined me as we walked through tent city and other crew's congratulated me.  I passed my tent and Dad continued on with me.  We walked and talked.  I passed the Texas tent and Kevin was sitting in a chair, recovering.  We hugged and I thanked him repeatedly for walking with me during those very dark miles.  Dad got teary and thanked him for being there for me as well.  We round the last turn and I hear the race director announce that there is one minute left.  I look down the path and see the 0.7 marker not too far away.  So I start running and just pass the 0.7 marker when the air horn sounds.  I drop my wood block and hug my dad.  I did it.  101.2 miles completed in 24 hours.

Post race:  FOOD!  Pancakes, sausage and OJ.  Clean clothes and a wash cloth to clean up with.  A beautiful medal and an AMAZING BELT BUCKLE!!  New and old friends to swap stories and congratulations with.  The awards ceremony was special.   The winner, Harvey Lewis, finished with 142 miles. The 1st place female, Tara Langdon finished with 131 miles.  The race director, Brian, started awarding the top 10 overall female finishers without listing miles to keep us in suspense. I hadn't checked any of the stats, I was just too focused on my 100 miles.  So I was stunned to hear "7th overall female, Mary Nabb."  I jumped up as quickly as you could imagine someone can move after 100 miles to get my additional medal.  Then they started with the Age Group awards and I was flabbergasted to hear "3rd place in Females 40-44, Mary Nabb."  I was so shocked that I even asked Brian if he was sure and he told me he was positive.  First place in my AG finished 119 and 2nd was 107.  But 4th place was 100.9 so that extra lap to drop my block at the end got me 3rd place.  And, I even won a raffle prize, jeez it was my lucky day!!!  And I was told by Brian that I had the best hair in the race (I had the back shaved with a random design, figuring lots of people would see the back of my head this weekend, got tons of comments!)  

Recovery:  I'm tired.  My lower body is swollen.  I laid in the back seat for part of the 6 hour drive home.  I did take a Epson Salt bath that evening, I'm sure that helped my legs.  My poor feet.  I have a huge blister where I put the tape, it's the biggest blister I've ever had.  Multiple blisters other places, I think 10 in total.  I stupidly didn't use anything on my feet to prevent this. Oh and I forgot to trim my toenails before the race so I'm guessing I'll lose 3 of them. My legs were sore on Monday but today (Tuesday) are doing ok.  My left knee feels sore but not in an injury way.  I think if the blisters would heal quickly, I could run a recovery run on Wednesday.

Final thoughts:  Sorry this is a book but so much happens in those 24 long but short hours.  I can't thank my parents enough for all their help.  They offered to join me without having any idea what they were getting into and I honestly was nervous if they could keep up with the physicality of crewing.  But they did an AH-MAZING job helping me, the others in my group and every other runner who needed a kind word or sugar boost from some Swedish Fish.  Brad was instrumental as well, I know my legs were working for over 60+ miles without pain because of him.  His support for me and the other runners in our group can not be overstated.  Next fancy craft beer is on me, Brad.  So many others....Kevin, Don, Fast Eddie, Dr. Lovy, Fredrick, Lorilei, Naomi, George, Michael, Diane, Susan, Chris, Dave, all played a part in this dream coming true.  Thank you to Brian and USATF for putting on a world-class event. Thank you.

But biggest thanks go to my husband Brett for his unfailing love and support.  Knowing that you were tracking me and offering help and support to Dad was very encouraging as I did really miss having you there.  I'll get the house clean after the blisters heal.

And to Kylie and Matthew for understanding that sometimes, Mom just needs to run.
Pictures by Doug Mathews Photography

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!