Monday, April 29, 2013

Mom Vs. Trail: Backside Trail Marathon Race Report

My sixth marathon and first trail marathon was quite eventful.   It was like a trip to Crazytown from the start. 

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!


Sunday, April 14, 2013

Murray Half Marathon Race Report: A Pretty Good Day

Short version
The race was good and a little disappointing at the same time. 2:10:36, my 5th fastest of 16 half marathons.

Long version
In October, I ran a half in 2:05, and I was hoping to AT LEAST get sub 2:10 in the Murray Half Marathon on April 13.  

Training-  I've been running fairly consistently since the end of January, though not following a training plan. I've been winging it as I came back from the ankle sprain in November and honestly enjoying this low-key approach to running.  My mileage had been fairly low (15-20 miles per week) until the last 3 weeks, when I jumped to 25+ miles per week.  

Why the jump?  Because I was so disgusted with the way I blew up at the LBL trail 23K, I signed up for a consolation trail marathon at the end of this month with only four weeks to train.  (Call me crazy.  If nothing else, it lit a fire under my training!)   I don't know if I'm trying to punish my body for the terrible race or just looking for some trail redemption.  To compensate,  two weeks ago I jumped from a longest run/hike of 14 miles to 17 miles.  It went well, and I ran fast (for me).  Too fast.  The next week, fatigue lingered in my legs.  Then last weekend, I did double long runs--a two-hour trail run on Friday and then a three-hour road/trail run on Saturday.   I hit a wall in that 2nd one at mile 11 and had to walk the last 2 or 3 miles.  Ouch.  One week prior to this half marathon, the double left me with tired legs on top of tired legs.   I haven't felt fresh legs in weeks.  I think I've forgotten what they feel like.   I ran only six miles this week and taught my one HIIT class in hopes of a bit of recovery before race day. 

The race- For ONCE in my life, I actually ran smart.  I didn't go out too fast, and I ran consistently.  I listened to my body and let it dictate the pace, not what I thought I was supposed to run.  I was *hoping* about 9:40 or 9:45 would feel right, or even 9:20 for a nice surprise. 

Not today.  I warmed up for one gentle mile, and it was time to start.  I reigned in adrenaline and ran at a moderatly uncomfortable pace for that first mile-- 9:55 pace.  Then the next two were 9:53 and 9:51.  I always know by mile four how the day is going to go.  By mile 4, I could tell that around 9:55 was the pace my body wanted to run for the day.  So I ran that.   In fact,  my miles were all between 9:50 and 10:03 for the first 12 miles of the race.   My legs just felt too heavy and fatigued to go any faster. There was no fresh.   At times, it was a bit of a struggle to keep up a 9:55ish pace.

The middle miles are always the toughest for me, and today my miles 8, 9, and 10 were the slowest at 10:01, 10:02, and 10:03.  I was sad to see I was getting slower.  After mile 10, I knew there was just 5K left.  I decided I had a little fight left in me and pushed to get back under 10-minute miles.  I was relieved to see 9:56 and 9:52 for miles 11 and 12.  I knew I was almost done, so I pushed to 9:38 for mile 13 (yay for small victories!), and about a 9:18 pace for the UPHILL finish of .17 (by my watch).    I missed my sub-2:10 goal by 37 seconds but finished strong.   It's hard to call that a bad day.

One goal for the day that I did meet was to run all 13.1 miles without stopping.  I never walked once, not even at water stops,  and didn't go to the restroom. I think it was only the 4th time I've run 13.1 nonstop.  I often have walked hills or through water stops or while searching for a good song on my mp3.   

In this race, my legs didn't do what I hoped they would do,  However, I didn't push hard to the point of hurting for two reasons---

A. I've forgotten how to do that and
B. I have a full trail marathon in only two weeks that I have undertrained for.   I didn't want to add much to the lingering fatigue. 

Course/race review-The course was my favorite kind of course---the perfect mix of hills and flats.  None of the hills were utterly ridiculous, and I've run more than a few of those lately.   I told myself, "I'm a mountain goat" as I ran up the hills.   After trail running, regular-sized road hills don't seem as daunting. It's a fairly challenging course (more than Tom King or the Music City Half in Nashville, which are flat, flat, flat), but I'm less sore and less bored with a little variety. It's not nearly as hard as the Country Music Half or Go Commando in Clarksville.   I enjoyed the mix of country roads with city streets.  The crowd support in this small-town half marathon was surprisingly wonderful as well.  Just don't stay at the Quality Inn.  You've been warned.   Overall, I highly recommend the Murray Half Marathon in Murray, KY.   I may be back next year to break 2:10.... or 2:05! 

Next up-   taper (thank God!!!!!) for the Backside Trail Marathon