Sunday, April 27, 2008

Free State Trail Marathon 4/26/2008 Clinton State Park

I woke up at 4:30 am on Saturday April 26th, just a half an hour before the alarm was to go off, amazingly I had slept like a log. I had expected to be a ball of jitters the night before my first marathon, instead I slept soundly and didn't even get up for my customary middle of the night pee! Thank you Sleepy-Time tea! I got up, let out the dog and made myself a big fruit smoothie with blackberries, blueberries, strawberries & pineapple about that time the rest of the house started stirring, my mom, my dad (who was running also), their dog & my husband. I had packed my bag and laid out my clothes the night before, but I was still having some last minute indecision jitters about what to wear and which pack I was going to use. My dad suggested going as lightweight as possible since there was plenty of aid stations, but I really like how comfortable my Nathan pack is, so even though it would be heavier I decided to go with it.. I also decided to stick with a skirt and shirt that I had worn on long runs, so I knew they wouldn't rub anywhere bad. My North Face shoes & favorite girly skull dirty girl gaiters rounded things out, I was ready to run!

For my first marathon I had decided to skip the traditional big city road marathon with thousands of runners & spectators for a local, lo-key, but amazing, fun trail marathon that was also concurrently hosting a 40 miler and 100K. This was a Bad Ben/Trail Nerds event which means great organization, great aid stations, dead on course markings, a fun challenging course, laid back atmosphere and most importantly a great time. From packet pick up on Friday at Sunflower Outdoor (what an fabulous store!) to the party like atmosphere at the finish, it was an all around perfect choice.

Amazingly, even with 4 people to get out the door, we left at 6:15 on the nose, I was a little concerned we would run into some early morning Nascar traffic, but we sailed right past the Speedway with no slow-downs in sight. We made it to Clinton State Park in time to watch the 40m & 100K racers start, they started an hour before us to make sure the course was good and muddy! It was a chilly morning so we kept warm in the car for about a half an hour until I had to start my "go to the bathroom every 5 minutes 'cause I'm so nervous" routine. On my out of the porta potty the 2nd time, I heard someone say "Strawberry Hill Runner?", it was Trail Zombie, (check out his blog, it's heartfelt& funny) and his posse of friends, who were running the marathon and then jumping in the car to drive to Oklahoma and running a marathon there! It really helped calm my nerves to just stand around and chat.. I almost forgot what I was doing!

Before too long it was time for some pre-race instructions from Ben, one last kiss from the husband, hug from the mom and we were off. We were doing a 3 mile loop that would bring us back through the start/finish area before heading on single track into the woods. I started out near the back and Dad was on my butt yelling at me to slow down and not get too eager. I settled into a nice slow jog and chatted with people around me.. I ended up running with a really nice guy named Jason from Tennessee, who, with his friends, rides motorcycles around the country to races. What fun! There was 2 stream crossings in the first 3 miles.. the first one was little and could easily be crossed on rocks and a few leaps, but the second was was much deeper and there was no way around it! Since my feet were already wet from the dew and I knew how muddy the main trail was going be, I jumped in with a hoot & a holler. Behind me I heard some curses and screams.. I may have splashed some people.
After we passed through the start/finish area again we headed onto a section of trail that I hadn't run before, and man was it gorgeous! At one point when we came upon an amazing view of Clinton Lake, 3 of us just stopped for a moment and went Whoa! I was feeling great and had a perfect rhythm going so I didn't worry about how slow or fast I was going, I figured as long as it was comfortable I was good. I was mostly running by myself at this point.. picking people off one by one. Before the start of the race I has been having a conversation with my friend Sophia about some new chub-rub lube she had discovered that came in a small tube, perfect for her pockets, well as I ran down a hill I spied what I thought was a piece of trash but turned out to be the very same lube Sophia has shown me. I picked it up figuring it was hers.
As I got onto the "red" trail portion which runs right along the shore of Clinton Lake and is absolutely breath-taking and looks like nothing in Kansas, I heard a cell phone ring and, as is typical, it was Sophia yakkin' away. She's been harassed about talking on her phone on the trails before. I yelled at her and then caught up and she was telling me how she lost her lube and was having serious chafing problems... I was more than happy to whip out her lost lube and save her day. Incidentally she was running the marathon after having just run the Boston marathon on Monday... she rocks! The red trail portion is very rocky and usually I end up walking a bunch of it, but today I was feeling very mountain goatish and was able to keep moving very quickly through it. Shortly after that I came up on the first manned aid station and spent a minute taking off my long sleeve shirt, and grabbing a few orange wedges to see me on my way. The "blue" section of trail was pretty muddy (it always is!) so it was a bit more difficult to settle into a good rhythm and I was concentrating pretty hard to not fall but I was still picking the occasional runner off.
The whole race for me was spent in awe of how gorgeous nature is and just how lucky I was to be able to spend a whole morning running through the sun dappled trees, splashing through cool stream crossings and chatting to some of the nicest people on earth.
You break out of the trees at one bit and run along the road and this is where my mom, husband and my friend Twitt were hanging out taking pictures and cheering people on. They picked a great spot because the runners pass that spot both inbound and outbound so I got the chance to see them twice. It gave me such a lift to hear their cheers and see their faces and since I didn't know Twitt was going to be there it was a great surprise. They also thought they would be funny and warn me of the big mud puddle coming up! I felt like I was running on sunshine for quite awhile after seeing them. I wasn't sure exactly where I was at mileage wise because I had forgotten to start my garmin until a few minutes into the race and I knew that it always measured short when I ran the trails anyway.
I came up on the 2nd manned aid station still feeling great, grabbed some watermelon chunks (which happen to be my favorite fruit) got my water refilled, wetted my bandanna and headed on my way. I wanted to spend as little time as possible stopped, as long as I was still feeling good, I wanted to be moving forward. I passed my cheering section again about a mile from the aid station and my mom handed me a banana, at that point my garmin was saying it was 16.5 miles. Since this was my first marathon I was unsure just how to pace myself for the last 10 miles, I didn't want to blow up and have to drag myself in. I slowed down a bit and just tried to keep drinking lots. When my garmin said 20 miles I popped in my iPod since no one was around me, and my right knee was beginning to hurt quite a bit ( I had fallen on it pretty bad a month or so ago). At 21 miles, I had 3 people right in front of me, an English couple I had been playing leap frog with for many, many miles and another woman. Thinking I still had 5 miles to go, I didn't attempt to catch them and I started to do some run/walk patterns since I was starting to tire out. A mile and 1/2 later I round a corner and holy crap there's the finish line!!
Much to my surprise my friends Troy, Venus & their son came out to watch me finish too.. so I felt like a total rock star with my big cheering section as I ran for my medal. Bad Ben gave me a hug and my medal. Official time was 4:43:25, good enough for 30th place overall and 8th female overall!!
I went over to dispense some sweaty, salty, stinky love to my wonderful friends and family. I put up with my personal paparazzi snapping tons of pictures and then my mom told me that my dad was only like 20 minutes behind me so I decided to go back out and run in with him. So I handed off my medal and ran back down the trail.
As I headed back down the trail it was great to be able to tell people they were almost done.. just around the corner.. everyone got a big smile and picked up the pace. I found my dad about a mile and a half back, just as he got a big 'ole leg cramp, so we walked it off and chatted and ran in. I enjoyed being able to finish the last bit with him.

I wish I would have known how much longer I had to go... Next year it would be great to see a sign that said "3 miles to the Start/Finish" Since there are multiple races being run it's not practical to have mileage markers all over the course but just one near the end would have been so great! My ending garmin mileage was only 22.6 miles.. I could have finished a lot faster.
I kept waiting for "the wall", never found it.. yeah there was a point when my legs got a bit tired, but (please no one hurt me) it didn't really seem that hard. I guess I should have run faster then, but learning how to pace myself properly and knowing where I am on the course would help with that. I definitely have a lot to learn.
Trail runners are wonderful people, everyone was so encouraging and helpful and downright happy! I love it!! I don't know if I could have done it without the wonderful knowledge and encouragement I got from Bad Ben and all the fabulous Trail Nerds I ran with over the weeks. Thanks a million and a half!
I also have wonderful friends who are willing to drive an hour+ and pay 4.50 to watch me run.. that's true friendship!!
I am pleased with how I did eating and drinking wise... 3 orange wedges, 2 watermelon slices, about 10 medjool dates, and a banana did me great. I drank tons of water and took an S-cap once an hour.
Next day I felt great too, I had to ice my knee a couple of times but other than that not a bit of soreness. Trails are so much more forgiving then roads.

My husband is a wonderful guy who has been uber-supportive and keeps getting up at stupid hours of the morning to watch me run into the woods and then he sits around and waits to watch me run out of the woods, and doesn't complain!


m.toast said...

Big congrats on your first marathon! Pink punky pigtails reprazent!

David Ray said...

Yeah, rocking the piggytails.

Good writeup on a great run. Well done.

Cool that you finished with your dad.

T Z said...

You absolutely ROCK! Super impressive job, and in your first marathon. 50 milers will be no problem for you. Come think of it, I bet you have one lined up already!


Kim said...

Welcome to the club, marathoner! And it sounded like a great trail run, extra double bonus karma there!!

Great race report, and that was so cool of you to go back in and finish with your dad! You rock!

Gregg Lynn said...

Congratulations on your first! Great report--it was a beautiful day Saturday!


Michelle J said...

Hi, i am envious, thrilled and amazed at your marathon experience! Wonderful writing about it too, i felt like i was right there with you!!! :O)

Topher said...

Very nice report and CONGRATULATIONS! I agree that Bad Ben puts on a great event. I ran the Pilgrim Pacer last November and thought it was outstanding. I haven't done a trail run yet (I can barely convince my wife to let me buy the shoes I already buy, let alone trail runners).

Strawberry Hill Runner said...

Thanks everybody for your kind words!! I think the pigtails were the secret to getting me through the race, that and knowing my Dad would catch up and run me over if I stopped moving!

and topher you don't HAVE to have trail shoes to run trails.. just start out in an older pair of road shoes that you don't mind getting a bit muddy and you'll be golden!

Anonymous said...

You rock.. Hey I was on the phone begging for Debbie to meet me at 16 with lube!! ha.... you saved me saved me saved me... I would have been a raw tomato if I'd run 8 more miles without the lube. Love ya .... so proud of you.

Falling in Mud Mud babe