It’s midnight. Kenzie is screaming, the cat has knocked my glasses behind the nightstand and I’m groping around in the dark for the baby monitor I just threw across the room. This is not the tranquil pre-race slumber I’d hoped for.
I didn’t want to jinx myself, but after my initial bitchfest, Kenzie’s sleep routine took a turn for the fantastic: 12 hours a night without waking and long naps during the day. It would be my luck that she’d decide to quit that shit the night before my race.
Turns out, she had lost her pacifier under a blanket and the freak-out was brief. By the time I stumbled in there, she’d found it. I always have trouble deciding whether I should go “rescue” her or just let her work it out on her own, and this was one of those nights that I should have left her alone. As soon as she saw me, she flipped out all over again for dramatic effect. After that, it took a while for her to go back to sleep. The whole episode didn’t last more than an hour, but it was an important hour of sleep I missed. (Oops, did I say I? I’m almost certain I meant we.) My alarm sounded at 5:15, and I woke up angry and hating myself for entering a race 60 miles away.
It began and ended at the Tippecanoe Battlefield Museum just north of Lafayette. I’ve driven up I-65 a hundred times, but never in the dark and never in a rainstorm. I was nervous about getting lost, getting parked, and getting to the packet pickup in time for the 7:30 deadline, so I allowed myself 90 minutes for a drive that ended up taking just over an hour.
As soon as I was parked and bibbed, all the anger and anxiety melted away and I just sat in my car and sipped coffee and played all my favorite (loud, angry) songs. I finally got out around 7:45 to listen to the pre-race announcements, watch the marathoners take off and warm up.
A young girl sang the national anthem and I had this pensive, weepy moment where I stared up at the trees and thought about all of the people that had run–and fallen–on the battlefield before me. (I blame the lack of sleep for making me feel things.)
Then it was time to go.
The course was mostly a single-track trail along the Burnett Creek and Wabash River, an out-and-back for the half- and quarter-marathoners (the full marathoners did it twice).
There was a LOT of mud and sand. The first three miles were miserable, and I tried not to think about going back through it at the end. This was my first time racing without a pace watch, and I’m so glad I didn’t know how slow I was running. In some spots I was able to run on the edge of the trail, which gave me some more traction, but I mostly slid and flailed my arms around and went goddamnit-fuck and ooh shit!
We crossed the creek with the help of some large flat stones, and I almost went into the water. Finally, we left the mud behind and only had to contend with brief pockets of sand before reaching a paved road, which took us about a mile up to the turn-around point at 6.55.
For a while I followed this really nice girl in toe shoes and we probably passed a dozen or so people between miles 4 and 6. I was running hard to make up the time I’d spent slogging through the mud, and I realized I hadn’t fueled nearly enough in the first half. My legs felt tired and I was a little hungry. I think I only took one gel in the first half, but I took three during the last, plus some salted potatoes and drink mix at the aid stations. As soon as I got some more calories in me, I felt a lot better.
Around mile 7 a husband and wife team tucked in behind me. Hearing their footfalls urged me on for a while, but they burned past me at the last aid station and I never caught up. (I stopped to drink some flat Coca-Cola and it was totally fucking worth it. Best thing I’ve ever tasted in my life.)
The mud had dried significantly since the start of the race, but there were still some ugly spots. I was tired, but I felt confident I could still run hard to the finish. I didn’t train in mud or sand, but all the training I did do came through for me and I finished feeling not strong, but perfectly spent.
I ended up placing second in my age group with a time of 2:11:34, and the wife who passed me at that last aid station came in first. (FUCK.)
After the race, another chick wearing Kinvaras approached me and we commiserated about the mud. They were obviously not the best choice for wet, for mud OR for sand, but they were fine for the majority of the trail and I prefer them to heavier and less flexible trail shoes. (I understand Kinvara makes a trail shoe now, so I might try one on for shits and giggles.)
I didn’t finish in the time I wanted, but having a time goal for this race was absurd. I ran as hard as I fucking could and I had the time of my life. Training, nutrition and luck all came together for me and I finished feeling satisfied that I raced to my full potential. It’s a good feeling.
The course was beautiful. In spite of the mud, it was very well maintained. We had a beautiful view of the river for a portion, and when I wasn’t just trying to stay upright in the mud, I made sure to look around and enjoy the scenery. It even SMELLED wonderful out there.
Last (for anyone still reading!), I can’t say enough good things about the race organization. They were incredibly well-organized, and had fantastic aid stations and staff along the the way. And the course was well-marked, so there was no risk whatsoever of getting lost. Oh, and those photos up there? Not stolen! You can download high resolution photos for FREE from the website. So if anyone around here is interested in trail racing (or road racing, or cycling, or tris; they do a lot of other shit too), Planet Adventure puts on one hell of a good one.*
*They didn’t give me anything to write that, I just really like them!