Saturday, December 6, 2008

6th Annual Tecumseh Trail Marathon Race Report 12.6.08

Marathon #23 is in the books and my first trail marathon. This was one quite different that any other marathon as was the whole entire experience from the moment I left Ohio. Several months ago, Vince e-mailed me and wanted to know if I was interested in a road trip to southern Indiana for a trail marathon. Before we knew it, we had 6 VR trail runners signed up just before the event sold out...again. We hit the road just after 8am on Friday morning for the 6 hour drive. The event is held within the Yellowwood State Forest in Bloomington, IN. You may recognize Bloomington if you're familiar with Indiana University...ever hear of the Hoosiers? IU was just down the street from the hotel. Our drive took us through Columbus, then west by Dayton and into Indiana...due south of Indianapolis. We commented often as we got near Bloomington how flat the area was...those were words and thoughts we'd soon learn were far from the truth. Tecumseh is advertised as having a 3500 foot gain....not too shabby. We arrived in time to drive to the finish line where we found out we could catch a bus to the start on Saturday morning. This was perfect...nothing better than having your car and a change of clothes at the finish...and the ability to leave ASAP for a hot shower at the hotel. The alternative was to ride a cramped school bus back to the hotel. Before we crashed for the night, we stopped at a local co-op market we passed on the way into town. I'd never been to one but I wish I'd had. Really cool stuff in there from local producers. VR says there is one next to the old theater in downtown Kent...I'll be checking that out. Back at the hotel was packet pickup. After eating my pasta from home and going over last-minute plans for the morning, I could hardly stay awake past 9pm.

Race morning would surely be a challenge in the morning. It didn't start until 10am...a very late start for this 3:30am waking runner. At 3am I was awake...4am...then 5am I couldn't lay there anymore. Up, brewed the espresso at the hotel kitchen stove, ate some Kashi cereal I'd brought from home, then lounging until it was time to leave shortly after 8am. Surprise, 5am when I walked outside to go brew my espresso, it was clear. Now, it was a heavy snowfall. The roads were already bad so it was a slow trek to the starting line where the warm busses waited. We snapped a quick pic (see below) and got on the HOUR long bus ride to the start. 10am passed and luckily, they didn't start the race. About 10min after we arrived, the race started at about 10:20am. First mile: 7min, 17sec.....OOPS! (Note to self: this is a TRAIL race! NOT a road marathon!!!) From that reality checkpoint, I slowed it down and ran my own race. None of us had been here before so no one knew what to expect. Roots? Rocks? Technical? Well, it's very similiar to the Buckeye Trail here in Ohio with tighter switchbacks. Fresh, wet snow combined with a full leaf cover provided very slick and eventually icy trail conditions. Temps at the start were around 18F with wind speeds between 10-20mph, thus dropping the windchill to the single digits. Most of the race it snowed and was heavy at times with wind. Here's my "little" race mess-up: I know gear and I know how to dress in nasty conditions. However, given the protection of the trees, I figured I would dress light and minimal. Being on essentially a Vertical Runner road trip, I figured I'd better wear a VR tech tee. Well, the only long-sleeve tech tee I have (except for another overly snug one!) is a black tech that I bought about 2 years ago. If you know my history, you'd know I was 50lbs heavier back that's an XL tech tee. Within minutes of starting the race, a little lightbulb goes off in my head...kinda went like this: "You moron! Why on earth did you wear this trash-bag fitting tech tee? Don't you know technical gear doesn't work so good when all the frigid air blows freely inside the shirt?" Yea, yea, yea....I know. I was freezing. The sweat, instead of being wicked away like technical gear does, it was collecting on my skin...and freezing. My alternative? "Bun" it up and tuck the "bun" inside my pants. You know how girls balled up their shirt in the 80s? Yea...that. Anytime I saw a photographer, I pulled it well as when I pulled into an aid station. I was doing my best to trap in the heat and dry my skin. The high winds only made it worse. (stupid, stupid!!!!) Exactly at Mile 13, I hit the "Mother Hill." It was EXACTLY from the Mountain Masochist race course. Very steep, wide, gravel surface, and no end in visual site. I get to the top, and in perfect Masochist fashion, it curves and continues its steep upward trend. This ended up being the worst hill all day...thank goodness. The course continued as it had all day....curvy, hilly, technical, slippery. Around the 21-22 mile mark, we entered one of the most gorgeous areas I'd ever seen while running. Pine trees about as high as a 5 or 6 story building. After entering, all the wind stopped and it was so quiet...just perfect. Fresh pine needles on the ground, very little snow, and a much appreciated break from the potentially treacherous trail leading into it. Unfortunately, it only lasted 1/4 to 1/2 mile. Home stretch to the finish! Oh yea, I haven't mentioned the aid stations: they were very well done. Unlike a typical road marathon consisting only of water and sports drink, these were more like ultra-marathon aid stations. Starting at AS 4, typical ultra-fare started such as pretzels, cheese crackers, bananas, M&Ms (one of my personal favorite ultra foods), hot chocolate at one AS, fig newtons, Gatorade, and water. OK, back to the race: the final 5 or so miles were a bit faster. Not totally downhill at all, but a net drop overall. The final mile has a bear of a hill on the gravel road leading to the finish but luckily, due to our drive to the finish the night before, this hill was no surprise at all. I finished in 4hrs, 28min. I'd be quite unhappy with this time on a road course, but with this course, I am very happy. The course actually has an 8 hour cutoff. Official results aren't posted yet but when they are, I'll post the official time and my placing on the upper right of my blog.

On my bib, I had everyone on the VR Road Trip sign it with the number marathon this was for them.
I think that makes 10 marathons/ultra-marathons in 2008. (that is, if you count 55 miles of Burning River!) 4 of those were marathons, one 50 miler, one 100K, and four 50Ks. Funny...after running 7 road marathons in 2007, I told myself I'd do LESS in 2008. I guess that didn't happen, huh?!

Now for smart recovery. Not much else scheduled until the Winter Buckeye Trail 50K in mid-January. If you are free the last Saturday of the year, join us on the 2nd Annual WaterFalls 30K...leaving from Lock 29 at 7:30am. Entirely run on trails, we will visit the Blue Hen, Buttermilk, and Brandywine Falls. Plan on a fun, social, and picture-taking trail run. I came up with this run last year as a great way to close out the year on the trails with friends...I hope you can join us!

Happy Trails, everyone!


Clara said...

I haven't read your report yet but I wanted to hurry and say great job! 4:28 is awesome! I finished 5:06. I was looking for you and even asked a guy that looked like you if his name was Nick, ha!

The course last year was much easier because there wasn't any ice.

Hope you had fun!

Sensationally Red said...

Enjoyed your report. Is that Greg D? Tell him he's looking HOT! All those marathons under your belt and there is still always something to learn...don't wear your fat shirt on COLD days. I would have loved being a fly on the wall (tree) and watched you running by with your shirt all balled up! Good visual. LOL! Great job.

Kim said...

What a great race report! Congrats! I wished I had signed up for this one!

Oh yeah, URINEO is this Saturday in Mill Creek if you want to tune up for a few miles!

Nick Billock said...

Clara: I was looking for you at packet pickup on Friday night but didn't see you and on race morning, that was just a mess with the late start and trying to huddle around and stay warm. Great job to you! To think...people were still finishing nearly 3 hours after you!

Kim: I'd make your way out to Indiana to do this someday. You'll swear you're running an ultra. For next weekend, it's a Navy weekend for me so no running. :-( Have fun!

Clara said...

Yeah...since I don't live far away from the race I drove in Saturday morning. This time I learned that I definitely need to eat a bigger breakfast in the morning with a 10am start- I was hungry!

I can't believe your first mile was 7 minutes- that's just ridiculous! how did you not fall a million times? Was I the only one without chains?

Ragfield said...

Great job on the run! I very much enjoyed reading your race report, as I shared many of your sentiments. It looks like we were probably right together for that first fast mile.

Anonymous said...

Great time in what was definitely the toughest conditions of the Tecumseh's 6 years. (I should know, I've been trail sweep for all 6 years.) Sorry you didn't like the shirts this year, but please pass your comments on to the race director, they really do want to hear feedback on what everyone likes and doesn't. Hope you'll come back next year, and maybe we can deliver a faster course (more like last year's conditions).

Nick Billock said...

Thanks for commenting, Adam. I sure do hope I didn't directly insult you by my comment about the sweatshirts. If so, please accept my deepest apologies.
I also want to thank you for supporting this great race. We've been talking alot about volunteering here in NE Ohio. It is absolutely impossible to have these events without people like you...especially in a logistical feat such as a point-to-point trail event. Thank you and as I say, HAPPY TRAILS!