I have been a little nervous about my first trail marathon. I don't run on trails and I haven't run a trail race since 9th grade XC. So how was it?...
~ It had prickery vines and tore my legs, arms, and anything else exposed, up!
~ It had a stair case of stone steps
~ There were point where you couldn't walk-let alone run- because of the terrain
~ It gave me poison ivy!
... It was AWESOME!!! (and not just because I won)
The only thing I knew about the race was that it was very difficult and there were areas on the course that were going to have very narrow paths. Turns out there was more to it than that...
I arrived in Baraboo with just enough time to get my rental TRUCK-- that's right my rental car was a pickup! (only in Wisconsin)- then make it to the check in. It was at the check-in that I realized just how different trail runners were! The check-in was on the property of a local resort, but not exactly what I thought. They had built tents with Christmas lights in an open lot.
When I arrived there were already a couple dozen camping tents set up as well. It looks fun-- lots of runners all together. Next time, I'll have to think over this whole 'Camping' option. I'm not really much of a camper but, how hard could it be??? Maybe I'll get Kyle to help me-- he's from East Bumble, Ohio- he has t know how to camp.
I made my check in and got my numbers for the race. I also got the BEST race T I've ever seen! It's a nike T but it has a girl cut to it. Great color and super comfortable!!! While at checkin a woman asked if she could trade T-shirts with me (I had come so late there were only mediums left and she had a small). While I waited I overheard her talking to the race director-"The head goat". Apparently she ran the ultra last year (50 miles) a WEEK after she had completed a full ironman. She was upset because ran the 50-miler an hour slower than usual and had been disappointed. Wow! (I saw her finish the ultra and I'm pretty sure she won)
Made it to my hotel to find a small group of runners congregated and ... PREGAMING the marathon! Pshhh... these trail/ultra runners are definitely a different breed. Greg was there too, but he was not pregaming (us 2 road runners hadn't bought the trail runners game plan quite yet).
We started with a 2 mile climb on a single track trail. Apparently that means a line of runners making a climb- if one person slowed or walked, so did everyone else! I learned quickly that to be a trail runner you couldn't be so polite. One of the faster guys got stuck behind the line and I heard "on your left, on you left"... I pushed to the right a little and let him pass then followed closely on his heels!
Then there were areas on what they call a "deer trail" -- aka there is NO trail. And TADA... I have poison ivy!!! And finally, during one of the most brutal uphill climbs there was an area of about 200m of loose rocks you had to try and climb over... THIS is when I realized that "running on trails" and "trail runs" were QUITE different. A few of the trail runners laughed when I said that and told me they could tell I was a road runner the way I flew past them... Hmm, I think I was being mocked!
Getting Lost and Making Time...
It seems that getting lost is inevitable on these trail runs, and nobody seems to have a problem with it! Around Mile 22 I was proud of myself because I had followed the right flags the whole way and didn't get lost! Then it happened... I had been following the White/Blue flags (marathon/ultra) and suddenly I realized there were only blue flags... the white's (marathons) must have split off a ways back. So I turned and ran a MILE back to where the split was and finished up the course... having added TWO extra miles! We'll go ahead and call this my first ultra!
Although my garmin died early on, I could tell my time was anything but great! All I could think was "If I can't run on this terrain my time is going to suck!!!" Then I realized... everyone else's will too!!! Whenever I would get discouraged because a hill was far too steep to run, I would look around and see that it was the same for everybody else! That made me feel much better. I had a chance to run with a couple of the 50 milers (their course merged with ours for a little while) and one of the guys said all his ultra friends (even the REALLY good ones) walk the extreme uphills! Otherwise you'll lose your legs and won't be able to finish the course.
We started the race with one group of ultra runners- the 50K'ers! That's aboutttt... 30 miles? Just a little longer than us. So I had no idea where I stood with placement in gender or age... especially since I went off the course for a while!
As I finished I went to check in and I asked how many women had finished the full marathon. The lady at the table looked at her papers and goes... "YOU!" Woohoo! I won my first trail marathon! My prizes? Lots of cool stuff. I got an AWESOME sports bag with the race logo. A towel and a cool little mug! I ALSO got VERY pretty flowers from Kyle when I got home, but I think he's going to kill me for even writing this so I don't think I'll push it and post a picture... :)
The finish had a place to wash up-- a funky lake with a little surprise man coming out. It was a very pretty lake, but slimy! I don't like water I can't see through!
As I was hesitantly washing up I heard someone across the lake screaming "Move your @$$ Greg!" I thought... "that can't be the same Greg I know, could it?" I threw my sandals back on and ran to the finish... it was! He finished in GREAT time and made all his goals for the day!
In the end it was definitely a great experience! I learned that Wisconsin is actually a REALLY pretty area! I also learned that I cannot wait to do another trail marathon... maybe even an ultra??? Uh-oh! I was right... I knew I would get hooked on something new!!! The trails were great... all of my joints felt fantastic at the end of the race and the next day. My muscles felt worked out, but not nearly as bad as road races. this could be a great way to get a few marathons in without killing my body! One of my new ultra friends told me that once you start trails you won't go back! I still want to make Boston so I'll stay with my road running, but I'll definitely be mixing in a few trail races here and there!
Finally, I learned that it does NOT help to be short on these trail races. When running behind guys they tend to let vines they are running through fling back at people behind them. This often meant when the vines were at their arms, they would fling back into MY head!! Grrr. Well I was cut all over my legs, shoulders and a little on my face, but it was so worth it!
The Crazy Lady loves trail runs and thinks that these "battle scars" are cool... thus she is crazy lady!
Next Day Race Prep!... Already?!?!?!
Yep! Because we all know the pride of race day is nice, but it's nothing compared to the pride of the MANY days it took to get there! I have the NH/ME B2B races coming up in October and I need to start getting ready. So the day after my battle with the vines in WI, I ran a 12 mile loop on one of the hardest part of Cincinnati's Flying Pig course! If you haven't run this race yet you SHOULD! Boston's Heartbreak hill has NOTHING on our Eden Park hill. It's longer and steeper than BOS! Halfway through the loop I realized I had 1 meal between the marathon and my run and suddenly my body decided it was STARVING!!! I felt like passing out the whole 6 miles back, but I made it! But, I suppose that's the point of training the long mileage after a race. I have to learn what to do and what not to do for NH/ME...
1) LOTS of gatorade the night after NH to try and help recovery
2) Eat LOTS after NH AND During ME
3) Bring my muscle roller and try to do it as much as possible after NH
... Much more to come I'm sure!