Monday, August 27, 2012

Leading Ladies Marathon Part 2: The Expo, The Race Report, and the Aftermath

Once again, I am sorry to take so long with the actual race report. I have been trying to get caught up on the work I missed on the fiasco of  a trip home (more on that later).  In Part 1 of this report I covered the very fun and action-packed road trip up to the Leading Ladies Marathon. The weekend still had a lot of fun and action in store (and a few not so fun surprises).

The Expo
Saturday morning we got up and headed over to the Expo. I had signed up for the Writer's Workshop that the race director had arranged in conjunction with the marathon. The race director, Elaine Doll-Dunn, is an author with several books about women's running to her credit. She wants to encourage more women to write about their running. The workshop was a wonderful experience that I will be covering in a future  post. While I attended the workshop my fellow leading ladies enjoyed shopping at the expo.

The expo for this race was a very good one considering the size of the marathon. There were several vendors there, including The Runner's Shop out of Rapid City, that had a variety of running related gear and accessories. I mention The Runner's Shop because they had some wonderful running jewelry, including some with some Black Hills gold, which Leslie and Linda both purchased. Janet had some time also to meet and talk to the speaker for the Expo, Yolanda Holder, aka "The Walking Diva." 

With the workshop completed and expo and packet pick-up checked off our list, we headed out to drive the course. As we turned the corner and began to head up into Spearfish Canyon we were all in awe of the beauty of the course we would be running. As we drove along taking pictures and taking in the sights, I knew that this was going to be an excellent course for me. It was so much like the canyon at Forest Falls that I used to live at the top of in California and reminded me also of the Top of Utah marathon which I had done previously.

About halfway up the course, we turned off onto a dirt road heading to Roughlock Falls that was an out and back part of the course for about a mile and a half. It was a packed dirt road and had the second of the two hills on the course. I could tell Janet was not thrilled about the dirt road portion, but I did not mind too much. I did grumble a bit about the hill, but it actually was not as big a deal as I thought it would be during the race.

The top of the race course (what would be the first four and a half miles of the race) headed up a smaller road that was not part of the main highway. It had some beautiful houses, including the "Thomas Kincaide house" that looked just like something out of one of his paintings.  As we went closer to the start, we were again on a dirt road. After completing the drive, I was confident that I was going to have a great race.

To get an idea of the beauty of the canyon, take a look at this:

We found a restaurant in town to do our pre-race carbo load. After a long dinner (the restaurant had obviously not planned for the prerace crowd), with the requisite mashed potatoes for Leslie and me, we headed back to the campground to turn in early. Buses to the start were scheduled to leave the finish line park at 4:15 am sharp, which meant a 3 am wakeup call.

The Race
Alarms went off at 3 am, and the four of us jumped into action. We were one of the first people at the start and waited as the buses arrived and began boarding. It was a little chilly, probably around 45 degrees, so I was thankful for the arm warmers and trash bag that I had brought for the start. Even as I was shivering in the morning cold, I was thankful for the cooler weather for the start of the race.

Waiting for the buses

We said good-bye to Linda, who was doing the half, and got on the bus for the marathoners. The buses shuttled us up to the race start. There were about 150 of us there at the marathon start. We ventured off the buses only to huddle in the porta-potty lines. Thankfully the buses stayed there so that runners could be inside and warm while we waited for the start.  Finally the time for the start arrived. I connected with a group of Marathon Maniacs at the start for a picture, my first in a Maniac group shot.

The race started, and I was ready to go. I started near the front of the pack because I was feeling pretty confident that I could be at the upper end of my age group and also place well in the master's. The course started with a little over a mile of fairly gradual uphill on the dirt, so I settled in at a nice comfortable pace and got the kinks out in preparation for the long downhill. Daylight was just breaking, the weather was cool, and it was really beautiful out there.

By the time we crested the uphill and started the long downhill that would be the rest of the race, I was feeling good. I checked my watch and made sure that I did not let the fairly steep downhill boost my pace too much. My goal pace for the race was 8:30, and I had already decided not to allow my pace to be more than 10-15 seconds over that, no matter how good I felt on the early downhill. It was hard to hold back, but I managed to keep it steady, mostly by concentrating on the beautiful scenery.

Spectators were sparse on the course, but I had the good fortune of running in the same general proximity of a young woman whose parents had a vacation home by the country club where we had started. She seemed to have an entourage of spectators following her along the course who were also willing to cheer for the old lady in the trash bag running behind her. All in all, the early miles passed quickly, and before I knew it we were past mile 5 and on the main part of the canyon.

On the upper part of the canyon, I began to get a little uncomfortable, not from the pace, but from the little bladder tickle I had developed since the start. I knew there were porta-potties on the course, but I had never used one in a race before. As I was approaching an aid station I noted the porta-potty. I checked my watch and noticed I had a few seconds to spare. Just at that moment someone came out, so I knew it was empty. I removed my garbage bag jacket to hand to the aid station workers and looked down to check my pace. As I toggled between screens to see my current pace per mile, disaster struck: the pin popped out of my Garmin and left the watch hanging by the remaining pin.

Trying not to panic, I pulled the watch off my wrist and stuck it in my top (not wanting to take the chance that it might fall into the porta-pot, which would have been my luck).  I did as quick a stop as I could and got back out on the road. I pulled the watch out for a few minutes to get my pace per mile back where I wanted it, and then decided that the watch was definitely going to have to ride in my top for the remainder of the race. I tucked it in carefully to keep the velcro from rubbing and tried to forget about it and not be stressed.

The stop at the porta-potty did wonders for my attitude. I hadn't realized how much energy was being drained by worrying about the full bladder. I flew through the next section, made the left turn, and started out toward the falls. I started to count the women coming toward me but got disillusioned by how fresh and  perky they seemed to be. I concentrated on going up the hill and keeping my effort even. It wasn't until I got to the turnaround that I realized why they looked so fresh. The hill was much steeper than I had realized going up. Soon I was one of those smiling women bounding down the hill looking fresh as a daisy to the ones that were still going up.

After turning back onto the main canyon road, I passed the half marathon start. I pulled out my watch and saw that I was holding an 8:32 average pace, which I thought was good considering the dirt and the hills in the first half. I was feeling pretty confident at that point that I would be able to negative split the race. Except for a little grumbling from my tensor fasciae latae, which Dr. Tom said was being overworked because of my lazy glutes, I was still feeling great.

Now that we were in the main part of the canyon and it was later in the day it was starting to warm up a little. I found a group of cheering spectators on the side of the road and gave one lucky winner my homemade arm warmers as a souvenir. Through this part of the race and to the end, I had settled into a spot where there was only one woman in sight ahead of me and nobody passed me. That was okay with me because I really do enjoy running alone. I was very in tune to the spirit of the canyon and even spent some time thinking about an old friend and colleague, Ben Thomerson, who had passed away in a motorcycle accident in a similar canyon many years ago. Ben would have loved Spearfish Canyon, and memories of his enthusiasm for life helped carried me through this part of the race. Thanks, Ben!

About this time I started paying more attention to the aid stations. They were two miles apart, which was fine for me. I began taking the gel that I had brought with me in my new Soft Flask, which I will be reviewing in a future blog post. I also threw in an electrolyte tab, just for good measure. It was not that hot, but I knew it wouldn't hurt. I was still feeling good and cruising along occasionally checking my watch to make sure I was on pace. I was still hanging solid at about 8:29s at that point.

Around mile 22, I started to have a problem. I felt those little electric tickles in my calves that always precede full blown calf cramps. First it was my right leg, but soon my left leg was playing the game too. The only answer at that point was too ease back on my push off.  Any attempt to push off harder could push me over the edge into actual cramping that would keep me from running. The rest of the race was a struggle with the calves. Otherwise I felt fine, or at least as fine as one can feel after nearly 26 miles of downhill running, but I was constantly on guard with the calves. At the aid stations I took an extra few seconds to stretch them out.

Finally, I turned off the main road and headed down the little paved trail through the campground and over the wooden bridge to the finish. I heard Linda yelling my name, but all I could think about was getting across the finish line. I crossed in 3:44:42, just under my goal of 3:45 for the race. The volunteers removed my chip and handed me a beautiful long stemmed red rose, a cool towel for my face, and my medal. As Linda came to meet me the expected (but still always surprising in its intensity) wave of post marathon pain hit. And man was this one a doozy!

Linda was excited and happy because her brother and sister-in-law had surprised her by coming to see her race. I wanted  to share her excitement but at that particular moment the sound waves of her voice in my ear were causing a level of sensory overload that I could not handle on top of the other pain. I went to go stand by the car but was in so much pain I could not decide whether I needed to stand, sit, lie in the grass, or explode. I opted for bending over with hands on my knees trying to get some type of handle on the pain. Apparently I cannot run down canyons with reckless abandon and not face the consequences any more. At that particular moment, I didn't care though. I had met my goal, with the BQ (Boston Qualifier) time and that was all I really cared about.
Linda and family!

After a few minutes the pain went down to a level where I felt I could walk around a bit. Linda's brother, who is a firefighter, kept eyeing me suspiciously. I think he thought I was about to collapse or something, which I probably was. I headed over to the awards table to see if I could get a look at the results. When I finally got a look, I could not believe that I had finished 17th. About that time, they started to read the awards, and I was absolutely shocked to find I had been the first Grand Master.  The shock continued as they handed out the award -- a beautiful sterling silver ring with a runner running down  the canyon engraved on it!! It is the most awesome award I have ever received at a race! 

Award, from The Runner's Shop in Rapid City, SD
After I got over the shock and spent a few minutes showing off my award to Linda and her family, we headed over to wait for Leslie and Janet to finish. It was really inspiring to watch all the women coming over the bridge to the finish. Soon Leslie came striding along in her "I mean business" stride. Although she had bemoaned her lack of fitness and training, she came across the line with a new marathon PR.

My legs were tightening up, so I decided to walk out to run Janet in (or as close to a run as I could muster). I walked out to the aid station and spent a while talking to an ultrarunner who was manning the aid station there. He about talked me into coming out for one of the excellent ultras they have in the area. You know how weak I am when someone suggests a new race -- no willpower whatsoever, even when I am still in pain from the last one. Soon Janet came around the corner, and we headed toward the finish. She had enjoyed the race but had struggled a bit in her mind about the experience, but she was happy to be finishing.

The Aftermath
With the race behind us, there was nothing to do except think about the post-race party. The original plan was to go back and shower and then head to Wyoming (about 10 miles away) for a buffalo burger. Unfortunately on the way back to the campground, I ran over a bolt in the road and it punctured a tire. I took the ladies back to the campground and headed off to Walmart to get the tire fixed. I did take about a minute to change out of my race gear, but a shower was going to have to wait. It was Sunday afternoon, and I needed to get it done so we could leave in the morning.

Getting the tire fixed was quick and non-eventful.  I headed back to the Spearfish KOA . When I got there the girls had decided that we would eat at the restaurant at the KOA. That proved to be a wonderful experience. The restaurant is about four tables on the back deck of the main building. It has incredibly comfortable chairs, and the food is fantastic, not at all what you would expect from a KOA. There was everything from buffalo burgers, to salmon wraps, to pulled pork, and spinach salad on the menu. Our dinners even came with a choice of desserts that included tiramisu and cheesecake. It was a great post marathon meal. The campground staff is incredibly friendly and helpful (Hi, Marcia!). I will definitely stay there on future trips to the area.

The bad luck that started with the punctured tire stayed with us. We left bright and early the next morning excited to take a scenic trip through the Badlands on the way home. Unfortunately that was not to be. Poor Katie, my little Nissan Cube, who had been acting funny for the last few days, finally decided to quit working. After spending the entire day cooling our heels in Rapid City at the Nissan dealer, we found out that she needed a new transmission. 
Out of Katie; Into the rental car

We ended up with a rental car for the rest of the trip home. We pulled out of Rapid City about 9 pm, tired and discouraged. By the time we finally arrived home on Tuesday evening about 10 pm, we were all ready for our adventure to be over.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Leading Ladies Marathon Road Trip Part 1: Of Jolly Green Giants and Dead Presidents

Sorry to be absent so long from the blog, but I was truly having an adventure. If you have never taken a running road trip with fellow runners, it is something that you must put on your bucket list. I have long been a fan of road trips in general. It may have something to do with my mom moving me by car from Pennsylvania to California at a very young age. Whatever the reason, I will use any excuse to work one in, and they never, ever disappoint.

We started off from Lansing last Thursday morning full of anticipation. As I mentioned in the previous post, four of us (Janet, Leslie, Linda, and myself) were going from Lansing, Michigan to Spearfish, South Dakota for the Leading Ladies Marathon. We had opted to go in my Nissan Cube (hereafter referred to as Katie), which had the virtues of being good on gas and equipped with a working air conditioner. Unfortunately it was short on space, so each of us was limited to one Playmakers duffel bag, one sleeping bag, and one pillow (with a custom pillow case made especially for each one of us by Linda). Even so, closing the back door was a process involving much smooshing, and there was no way that I was going to be using my rear view mirror for anything except checking my make-up.

In anticipation of the event, Linda had dyed some very pretty pink stripes into her hair, I had purchased tiaras for the group, and Leslie had gotten us bling befitting leading ladies. I also had purchased some window paint so that we would sure to be noticed if we were spotted by other leading ladies on the way up. After a few pictures we were on the road for day one, Lansing to Albert Lea, MN.

From left to right: Linda, Me, Janet, and Leslie 
The first day was relatively uneventful. We missed our chance to visit Iowa's largest frying pan, due more to slow reflexes on my part than anything else. We pulled in to the Albert Lea KOA, and Janet had her first experience of camping, as we "roughed it" in our little Kamping Kabin.
Janet outside our cozy Kamping Kabin in Albert Lea

Day two dawned and again we were ready to hit the road. Spirits were high as we pulled off for our first gas stop in Blue Earth, MN.  Being a little bored by this time, we were easily amused by the Sinclair gas station with the little green dinosaurs. Apparently these dinosaurs are extinct in Michigan, and my Michigan passengers were excited to get to see one in its native habitat. Little did we know, that little green dinosaurs were not the only thing waiting for us in Blue Earth.

We went inside the store to pay for gas and do the obligatory pit stop. It turned out to have a small antique shop off the side of the gas station. Since I love old junk, Linda and I went over to take a look at what they had. Besides a really cool Miss Beasely doll and a Boston vinyl album, they had a really pretty blue bead necklace, probably from the 1950s, that Linda bought for me. (She is awesome!!). She struck up a conversation with the cashier and soon came back to the car with a huge grin on her face. "Drive to the end of the street," she said. "Don't ask why. Just trust me that this will be good!

I drove a ways down the little road to the end of the street, and we all squealed in delight as we saw him at the same time. Blue Earth, MN is the home of the Jolly Green Giant. Yes, the Green Giant of canned corn and  peas fame. There he stood, in the park, waiting to greet visitors to Blue Earth.

That is when we learned a little known fact about the Green Giant: he is a runner!! We know this because he was still wearing his race shirt from the Relay for Life that he had done the previous weekend. Apparently, though, we had caught him on his way to the showers because he was not wearing his running shorts, just the little leaves that he wears for everyday.

Green Giant sporting his
 Relay for Life race shirt
We climbed the stairs for the photo op that he had planned for. While we waited for the gift shop guy to figure out the camera, we had time to answer that question that is on everyone's mind when they see the Green Giant on  their vegetable can: What does he wear under that green leaf skirt? Well, the answer is nothing!! Thankfully he shares the same anatomical features as the ever-popular Ken doll, so all scandals were avoided.

Here is where it gets better. As we were getting ready to leave, a guy comes up. He introduces himself as Norm Hall, the news director for the local radio station, KBEW. Apparently they do interviews with tourists who are passing through town. He interviewed us for a spot on his radio show. He was generous enough to send us a copy. I put it together with some pictures from days one and two of the trip:

You would think that was enough excitement for the day, but things were just beginning. The billboards every quarter mile on the highway advertising the Corn Palace caught our attention. It was billed as a "must see," so we hopped off the freeway to check it out. I have to tell, you that it was a bit of a letdown as far as I was concerned, but that may just have been in comparison to the Green Giant encounter.

With the Corn Palace thoroughly investigated and photographed, we headed on across the prairie. Soon fields of corn and soybeans, gave way to fields of sunflowers, and then eventually just prairie grass. Leslie, ever the snake-hater, managed to figure out that there are snakes in South Dakota, a prairie rattler, and sure enough, when we stopped at a rest stop, we found that we were risking life and limb. We jumped back in the car and headed across the badlands to our next stop: Mt. Rushmore.

Mt. Rushmore was truly an awesome sight. I had wanted to see Mt. Rushmore since I first heard about it when I was about 10 years old.  I am a big Founding Fathers fan, and Jefferson is my second  favorite Founding Father. (The fact that I had not only a "favorite founding father" but a second favorite tells you a bit about what a dork I was as a child.)  It was absolutely as amazing to see in person as I thought it would be. Trail runner that I am, I spent half the time trying to determine if there were any trails I could find on the side of the mountain to get closer, but I am sure that there are multiple restrictions on just that type of thing...
Okay, so this is a picture of me.
If you want to see Mt. Rushmore up close, buy a postcard.

As day two of our trip concluded, we did a sunset drive down the back road from Mt. Rushmore to Spearfish, through Deadwood, that looked like a really interesting place to stop but which will have to wait for next year's race. It is truly beautiful country and it whetted our appetite for what was to come.

We pulled into the Spearfish KOA satisfied that our running road trip was everything we had hoped it would be to that point.

Check back in a day or so for Leading Ladies Road Trip Part 2 soon to follow!

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Road vs.Trail Marathon: It's a Mental Thing

Leading Ladies Logo

I am smack in the middle of my taper for a road marathon I am doing a week from Sunday, August 19th.  It is called Leading Ladies and is an all women's  marathon in Spearfish, S.D. If you have been following the blog, you may be saying, "So what's the big deal? Isn't this like marathon number five or something for you this year?" The answer is yes it is, but there is a big difference here. This is a road marathon.

To say that a road marathon and a trail marathon are alike because they are both running 26.2 is like saying that an ostrich and a hummingbird are alike because they are both birds.  The mentality and approach is completely different.

A road run is all about time. It is about goal times and pace per mile and hitting splits. This 
is especially true because the purpose of running this marathon for me is to get a BQ time (a qualifying time for the Boston Marathon).  This type of run requires focus, concentration, and continuous internal monitoring.  I often run my road marathons on courses in beautiful locations, such as the canyon I will be running down in South Dakota next weekend, or the similar canyons I have run down in Utah or in the desert of Arizona. However, unless I drive the course the day before, I won't notice much of it.  My focus has to be on the race itself and my splits. If I start thinking "Oh look, that is really pretty," the next thing I know, I have slowed down and slipped off the pace that must be maintained for that BQ time.  In addition, road running carries with it the chance of  "failure."  To not get the BQ time will be a "failure," because there is a clearly defined goal that must be met.

A trail run is about responding to the experience and working with the course. When running a trail marathon, time and pace are incidental in some ways. The terrain determines the pace per mile more than any self-imposed idea of what the pace "should" be. Of course, most trail runners have an idea of their overall goal pace, but there is no pressure to maintain even splits as one is hiking steep slopes, slogging through mud, or picking one's way through toe-snagging roots. Focus is required in many cases in a trail run, especially if the footing is technical, but it is an external focus, and there is often time also just to appreciate the beauty of the experience itself.  I will often take time in a trail run to appreciate the view. That is not to say that I am not competitive in a trail race or that I don't care about my time.  It is just that trail races are more often framed in terms of a "good race" or a "bad race," rather than in terms of success or failure.

Thus, given those two paradigms, perhaps you can see why I am having a case of pre-race jitters. I mean tapering is always bad enough, but the added pressure of a road marathon is something that I have not experienced for a while. Plus, I have not had a successful road marathon since 2005.  I attempted one last year but had a DNF because of a knee problem at 19 miles.  Granted, when I quit, I was on pace for a solid BQ time, but the road to Boston Marathon Heaven is paved with the hopes of runners who say "I was on BQ pace until mile..." 

Thankfully, what I hope will save me for this marathon (and keep me from becoming a complete mental wreck) is the trip itself.  What I didn't mention before is that I am not in this venture alone! I am taking three of my favorite "leading ladies" on this adventure with me: Leslie (my trusty partner in ridiculousness), Janet  (you might remember her from the Martian Marathon post ), and a new friend, Linda, who has already endeared herself to me by making me this most awesome pillow case for our racing/camping adventure. Mine is covered with runners! 

The Leading Ladies: Leslie, Linda, Janet, and me
Besides the marathon itself, I am attending a writing workshop the day before the race (the race director, Elaine Doll-Nunn, is a writer), and we are planning a side trip to Mt. Rushmore on the way up. Plus this will be Janet's first time "camping," and even though we are "camping" in camping cabins, that is sure to be an adventure as well.  The trip is 1150 miles, each way,  so  there will be many opportunities for ridiculousness.  We leave on Thursday.  I hope you will follow along...

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Race Report: The Legend 10 Mile Trail Run

This was supposed to be the race report for The Legend Half Marathon. That is what I entered, and that is what I intended to run, right up to mile 7.5 – but wait. I am getting ahead of myself. 

Let me tell you a little about the race. The Legend is the final race of Running Fit's Serious Series, which includes the Trail Marathon and the Flirt with Dirt 10k, which I had already run. The Legend is my “home race” in the series, being only about twenty-five miles from where I live. There are 5 mile, 10 mile, and half marathon options. The race is held at Sleepy Hollow State Park in Laingsburg, MI.

Even though it is so close, I had never been out to Sleepy Hollow State Park. I did not to know what to expect from the course. I decided to volunteer at packet pick-up on the Friday night before the races to scope things out. I had a great time working the volunteer shift with the really great Running Fit crew. It also gave me a chance to see that much of the trail would be on grass, as well as some nice packed dirt and single track.

I did not know it, but my problems with the race started when I got home Friday night. My volunteer shift was 5-8, so I had skipped dinner. When I got home, I didn't feel like a big dinner at that time of night, so I ate a bowl of brussel sprouts and a pita bread – not really a great pre-race meal. My first clue that things might not be right was when I woke up at 2:30 am starving. I briefly thought about getting up and eating a bowl of cereal or something, but decided I only had a few more hours to sleep anyway and went back to sleep.

I woke up Saturday morning and everything was going great, except I was still hungry. I was thinking about how hungry I would be by the time I finished the half marathon and wondered whether I would have the energy for the race. I broke a cardinal pre-race meal for me and ate a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. I knew better, from previous bad experiences, but I was hungry and all the articles say eat...

I got there on race morning ready to go. It was hot and humid, as we all knew it would be. Several of my friends were also running a road race that morning, and we were all aware that the dew point was in the “expect pace to suffer greatly” range. I had my hydration pack on with Power Ade ice cubes in it that I had made the night before and plenty of electrolyte caps in my pocket. I felt ready.

The race started well. I lined up at the front of the second wave. I went out a little fast, but I did not want to get trapped in a line in the areas where passing was difficult. When I saw my first mile split I dialed it back some, but was still probably too fast. I was having trouble settling in for my target pace. I pulled it back a bit more for mile three. Still too fast. Finally at mile four, I hit my target pace, which was 9:10. I relaxed and settled down. Mile 5 went pretty well.

Then a little after mile 6, I hit the wall. Yes, the wall, like in the marathon wall. It was exactly the same feeling. As I was contemplating what to do, I had not brought any gels (although I did have some M&Ms in my pack), things got worse. I started to feel a little nauseous – then a lot nauseous. I was seriously regretting the PB&J when suddenly I knew it was coming up. I hate to throw up and don't do it often, but the few times I have thrown up in a race, it has been a relief and I always have felt better after. I was hoping for that here, but it was not to be.

As I started back up the trail, I swallowed an electrolyte cap and attempted to rehydrate. I was worried about dehydration more than anything else at this point. I was also feeling pretty awful. I started to walk – a lot. It didn't help that there were some hills popping up. They would have been nothing major if I was feeling good, but in the state I was in, they felt like Mt. Everest. As I was going along at this point, feeling horrible, getting passed by lots of people, and trying to do at least some running mixed with the walking, the second wave of nausea hit and again I lost what was in my stomach, which at that point was just blue Power Ade and the electrolyte cap. That really worried me. I started wondering how much longer I could go in the heat without being able to keep down fluids or electrolytes.

It was at that point that I wished I had spent more time studying the trail map. I knew the 10 mile had to split from the half marathon at some point, and I was really hoping that they would let me switch down because I had serious doubts about whether I could finish another 6 miles. I had missed the series mug last year because I ruptured my spleen before this race. I did not want a DNF for the series. After what seemed like an eternity, I came to the split for the 10 mile and half. I asked the volunteer if I could switch down, and she said she thought it would be okay. I thankfully headed for the finish.

I don't know if my system was finally getting itself back together or if I was just like a horse heading to the barn, but I did start to feel better in the last mile and even passed a few people. Still, I was super happy to see the finish.

Anna and Me after The Legend
As I crossed the finish line, I heard my name and saw my running friend Anna and her husband Jake waiting by the finish and cheering. She had run the 5 mile and had a good race. I was so happy to see her there and also happy that her experience had been a good one. After I crossed the finish, my fellow volunteers from the night before (the kids of one of the Running Fit staff) were there to greet me and handed me my really awesome Serious Series mug, medal, and pin, as well as an ice cold bottle of water, which was much appreciated.

Unlike many previous races, this was not one where I made a beeline for the food tables post-race. After talking to Anna and Jake for a while, I headed over to take a look at the results. Amazingly, I had managed to win my age group in the 10 mile, despite the total breakdown, which I guess proves the saying “it is better to be lucky than good.”  

This best part of the day for me was post race. By a stroke of luck, a group of my road racing friends were running the Mint City race in a neighboring town, so we were all able to meet and share our race stories at a little diner called the Wheel Inn, which is a fixture in that community apparently. There is nothing runners love more than food, coffee, and rehashing races, so it was a pretty good end to what was an otherwise horrible morning. 

I am hoping to get a chance to run The Legend again next year. It is a well run race, and I think I would have really enjoyed the course if I would have been feeling better. I looked forward to heading out there to explore the course in the future. 

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Thursday, August 2, 2012

Guest Race Report: Warrior Dash 2012

Guest Author, Kathy Battle,
Post Dash

Okay, before you get the wrong idea, let me make it perfectly clear. I did not do the Warrior Dash. It's not that I am afraid of getting muddy -- on the contrary, I love mud -- it is the whole climbing walls and jumping through fire thing that made me chicken out. Thankfully, some of my running friends are braver than I am, and last weekend they headed off to the Warrior Dash Michigan. One of those brave souls, Kathy Battle, has agreed to share her story with us so that we can get a taste of the experience. Another dasher, Tina Coyer, has agreed to share some additional photos to help you picture the mayhem Kathy is describing. Are my running friends great or what!!  After reading her report, it makes me feel like I am really missing out. Hmmm, maybe I will pencil this one in for next year...

Warrior Dash 2012
by Kathy Battle

Tina and Friends
Last year was my first time to participate in the Warrior Dash Michigan race. My team was so excited after finishing that we all agreed to sign up again for the next race, only at an earlier time to avoid the then 90 degree plus heat.

On July 28, 2012 at 4:50am my alarm went off.  I’m second thinking this decision! After all, who in their right mind gives up some much needed sleep to get tossed around, kicked and splashed with mud? Well, about 25,000 other people was the answer to that question!

Kathy with Fellow Dashers

As our 8 am start time neared, my team of six and I lined up --  not too close to the start but a respectful 1/3 of the way back to allow those wilder and crazier warriors to get a fast start. While standing in line we were pumped up by a staff member. We did the wave a few times, raised hands for first timers and those from far distances. Yes, people actually travel to do these events all over the country! With the burst of two flames of fire over head we took off.

To begin: a one mile run.  As a runner, I was feeling really good, leaving most of my team behind and about 3/4 of the other 600 people in the first wave as well.  Obstacle one: a wall hurdle and a crawl under barbed wire, times three I believe.  Another short run and then obstacle two: a floating dock system was tied out in a “not so lovely” swamp area.

Ugh! In I go, trying not to think of what might be in that water. Soon I had to swim. It was deep! I was pushed under by a woman trying to use me as leverage to push her up.  Startled but unscathed, it was my turn.  I struggled trying to grab anything to help pull me up; a nice muscled man (my favorite part) grabbed my hand and pulled me up. Onward, I jumped off the end of the obstacle into water over my head and swam to shore. Small climb up the muddy bank, and I had completed that one! Whew!

There are 13 obstacles on the course, but I’m already feeling fatigued. I tell myself to keep running; it is just short sprints now between obstacles. Faster warriors are beginning to pass me now.  Next up, a wood frame with cargo netting over. It was a breeze. Some people rolled over it, others tried to walk on it, and I just crawled; it seemed effective.


Next was a climb over a wall while water dumped all over me. I appreciated the wash off at this point!  Little did I know the mud hill was next! Up we went, over a large mound of dirt, then down in a large pit and back up, back down and back up… that I was wet, the dirt was sticking real well. This made the next challenge of jumping on cars and stepping on tires a bit more challenging. This is the point where I was very grateful for the early start that morning, knowing that the following warriors would be facing some slippery conditions once all the previous muddy runners made their way through.

Tina and Mike conquering cars and tires

The next 4 obstacles were completed, and I could hear the band at the staging area -- music to my ears, quite literally, since I knew I was nearing the end. At this point I was feeling pretty good; I had the customary dirt covering showing I had fought hard. I took the time to converse with another person while crawling in mud under barbed wire, somehow not even noticing the muck under me. Rejoicing for being shorter, I race through with little fear of becoming one with the wire.

During the next run I began counting previous obstacles, cursing myself for not knowing the exact number. Oh well….I’m a warrior….keep running! 

Still not convinced it is
 a good idea to jump through this!

Then I see it! The rope wall near the end. The crowd is gathered around, and I feel a surge of energy as I leap on the rope and work my way up and over. Jumping off I run towards the two lines of fire ahead, thinking “please don’t trip in the fire,” and over I went. A small hop into the final mud pit, ducking under the barbed wire, only this time I am caught, snagged on my shirt. I work myself free and decide to get in the mud a little lower to avoid further snags. I cross the finish line!! A PR!! Nearly 17 minutes faster than last year!

Again in our excitement, our team wants to get signed up already for next year! Okay! I’m in!  364 days to recover.