I was filled with dread and fear all week preceding the race. On Saturday morning as I was packing, I was not in an excited mood, I was very much solemn. I knew I was unprepared and was in for a difficult race, I just didn't know HOW difficult it would actually turn out to be. My longest trail run had been 11.6 miles plus about 3 on the road. My longest road run had been 17 miles. Both were about 3 hours long. I figured I could just hike after I exceeded my training point.
My friend Donna and I drove to Louisville. The first challenge was finding packet pick up. We drove around and around, fighting heavy Saturday-night mall traffic. It was as if we couldn't get anywhere. We finally got our packets. We had dinner at Logan's near by and were off to find the hotel.
The Quality Inn had ok reviews, but when we got there, it was immediately evident that this was a really rough part of town. There were people on the street corner in front of the hotel, and they were not waiting for a bus. One guy just paced up and down the sidewalk. There was a wrecked car parked out front. We kept hearing sirens in the 10 minutes we spent there. The back parking lot adjoined the parking lot of an empty, abandoned, broken down hotel. Most of the rooms were outside entrance. There were rooms padlocked, rooms standing wide open. We finally found ours in the corner behind the stairwell. That was disconcerting. It just felt like a really dangerous location for our room. We put the key in, and the door handle was loose and flimsy. We walked in and only one lamp worked. I had a sick feeling. We had already checked in and my credit card had been charged. We had no other reservation on a busy night in Louisville. But we knew we could not stay here. It was the kind of place where people cook meth.
Thank goodness, the clerk let us check right back out and refunded my credit card. I started searching for another hotel, and we found refuge at the Southern Baptist Seminary's historic Legacy Hotel. Here is a pic of the abandoned hotel adjoining ours and the seminary hotel for comparison:
Finally, about 9:00 p.m., we got settled into our room. It rained all night long, unfortunately. We were up at 5:30 a.m., quickly got ready, and checked back out. Here we are at the start: (I am on the left.)
I went with my Run Under the Stars 10-hour endurance event shirt and Land Between the Lakes trail race hat, which were both great conversation starters. My biggest issue was shoes---my Brooks Cascadias tend to hurt my feet after about 8 miles. I had purchased another pair of trail shoes--Merrell Mix Master Glide, but hadn't gotten to try them out on any runs. I decided to stick with the Cascadias on the wet trails. I packed the Merrells and some road shoes in my drop bag so I'd have an option to change into if needed after the first 13.1 mile loop.
The race started with about 100 people. Only 34 people finished the full marathon. Most people chose to only do one loop of the course. (Smart people!)
The first 5 miles were not bad at all. It had stopped raining, and the mud was still pretty hard packed. Around mile 6, however, we had a DOWNPOUR. Suddenly, there was standing water on the already saturated trails. I had never trained in these conditions! I had difficulty getting my footing on the trail. Walking/hiking was tough, running was nearly impossible!
In the race I learned there are four types of mud: nice hard-packed mud; deep, sucking mud that tries to steal your shoes; caking mud that comes along for the ride; and slippery, slimy mud that is like trying to SKATE across a sheet of ice.
At times, I would be trying to just walk, and my left foot (trail was slanted to the left) would just slide down the embankment with every step. On a few muddy, slippery climbs, I used trees to hoist myself up a hill. One time, no tree was available. I tried and tried to walk up this hill, but kept sliding back to the bottom. So I CRAWLED. Once in mile 15, the mud sucked the shoe right off of my foot.
For the first 11 miles, all of this seemed like a fun adventure. Then around 11 miles, we came to an area where if you slipped to the left, you'd fall about 10 feet into a fast-moving river. That was the first time I felt fear for my safety. After 11 miles, the trail conditions detiorated considerably. By 13, I wasn't really having a lot of fun. I could have dropped to the half distance, but I was determined. At 13.1, I stopped at the aid station with my drop bag. The AWESOME volunteers got me a chair, filled my water bottles, and helped me change shoes and socks. They really took care of me. I was exhausted and not thinking clearly. They even switched my chip to my new shoes. These were all trail runners themselves. This race had the BEST RACE VOLUNTEERS I've ever experienced. At every aid station, they chatted with me about my race shirt and hat and were just amazingly helpful and encouraging.
Let me just say--- EXHAUSTED at 13.1 is not a good way to start the second half of a marathon. At that point, I was over three hours--- every step was a step beyond my training and my current fitness.
I had a second wind around 15, but it was short lived. I think it was because I finally turned on my music at mile 14. I was alone for the whole second13.1, so I was singing at the top of my lungs: "I am Ti-tan-i-uuummm!" and "Don't stop be-liev-iiiiiiing!" It was both a bit scary, but nice to be alone over 3 hours on an unfamiliar trail.
My body held up fairly well. Left hip flexor stopped cooperating in the second half. Both feet and ankles were in great pain from 21 on. But my knees and hammies and quads all felt great! My endurance struggled though. Around mile 16, I told an aid station volunteer, "The running has left the building." I planned to hike the rest. But, I found new energy for a while around mile 20 and then again in miles 23-26.
I am not an inexperienced trail runner, but I sure felt like one in the Backside Trail Marathon. My legs tired from struggling with the hills and the mud by mile 10. The trail was marked fairly well, but I ran alone for the majority of 26 miles. About every 10 minutes, I'd realize I hadn't seen a trail marking in a while. Then I'd panic briefly until I came upon one. Once, I backtracked to the last pink marking to make sure I hadn't veered off course. I was so paranoid about getting lost. Then in mile 25, I ACTUALLY GOT LOST. The pink tape had blown away, and I missed a left turn. Luckily, I had the forethought to put the race director's cell number in my phone. I called him, and he jumped in his car and found me on the road (there were short sections on the road), and got me back on the trail. I had gone about .3 or .4 out of the way. I ended the race with 26.96!
BY FAR THE TOUGHEST THING I'VE EVER DONE!!