Wednesday, December 8, 2010

The Tecumseh Trail Marathon – Many Firsts

FIRST, I usually don’t write race reports.

It’s true. I’ll put a paragraph in my training log, but I typically haven’t written a full on race recap. It’s probably due more to laziness than any sense of humility on my part, because I’ve been pretty proud of some of my races. So why write a report for this race? I think the reason is mainly because this was an entirely new experience for me. Plus, it is kind of nice to look back and read about past accomplishments. I intend on journaling my races a bit more this year. You’ve been warned.

For the FIRST time in a long time, I was woefully unprepared for a race.

Now, I’m not saying that I am 100% ready for every race. Those that know me know full well that in years past I’ve shown up to lower key races with various degrees of a hangover. But even so, I was usually training properly for those races even if I didn’t take them all that seriously. For this race, my preparedness was out of my control because I've had a tough year with injuries. I was out for about 4 months with some stress fractures and a sports hernia, and it's been a slow return to running for me. I only went over 40 miles per week twice before this marathon attempt. Still, I wanted to feel like I accomplished something this year that would get me motivated to train over the winter. Plus, I saw my wife have a great race at the Farmdale 30 miler and it really made me want to try a trail race. So I looked around, and found information for the Tecumseh Trail Marathon online and registered.

This was my FIRST real trail race (with my apologies to the WFG Xtreme Ten Miler)

Yes, I’ve run the Waterfall Glen Xtreme 10 mile race. And I love that race, and that course. But it’s a well maintained easy trail in comparison to the Tecumseh trail. I also ran about 5 times at Palos. This was a little more similar to Tecumseh in that it has single track trail, but the hills just don’t compare. The Tecumseh Marathon was my first real trail race with single track, multiple stream crossings, extreme hills and sketchy footing due to rocks and roots.

FINALLY! The actual race report:

On Friday, Beth and I ate lunch at Hot Doug’s with Kyle and Dan. Since my training wasn’t optimal, why should my diet be any better? It’s not. I’ve been enjoying lots of craft beer and eating out way more than I should. After our lunch, Beth, Dan and I went to Half Acre and bought tickets for an upcoming beer event. We even got to sample some beer while standing in line. So far, this is a great day. After dropping Dan off at home, Beth and I head straight down to Bloomington, IN. Although we were running a bit late, we made it to the host hotel and picked up my number without incident. We then met up with Kyle and his brother Adam who were both there to volunteer for the race. Dinner for me consisted of a spicy chicken sandwich and a few local beers. Beth and I then drive 20 minutes through some beautiful, hilly country to get to the Brown County Inn where we were staying. The inn was rustic, but we liked it except for the fact that we had some loud neighbors celebrating somebody’s anniversary. To top it off, I had an emergency call for work that I had to deal with. All in all, it was a pretty fitful night of sleep for both of us.

We woke up on Saturday and were greeted with the sound of shoveling. I looked out the window, and it had snowed a good 3 inches overnight. That’s certainly not going to help my race at all. After a quick breakfast, Beth and I head to the finish line where I’m supposed to catch a bus to the start line because the course is point to point. When we arrive, we find out that the buses can’t get up the hills in the snow, so the course is now changed to an out and back. I’m also stuck in the bathroom line, and am just finishing taking off my warm up pants when the race starts. In this picture, you can see me off to the right, with Beth helping me and giving me some gels to carry with me.

For the first mile, I had to run alongside the road and work my way through the crowd. I caught up to the 2nd pack at about the half mile point. The lead pack was only about 4 or 5 guys, and they were already about 15 seconds ahead. I decided to sit in the middle of the 2nd pack and just try to run easy. After about 1.5 miles, we entered the forest on a single track trail. I was enjoying the scenery and listening to a couple of guys who were comparing Iron Man times. (Both were around 10 hour or 10:30 guys that have done Kona). Single track is definitely something I need to get used to. There really isn't an opportunity to pass on a single track trail, so you're kind of forced to run as fast as the guy ahead of you so you're not slowing anybody else down. After about 4 miles, we hit a pretty big hill. And then another. And another. Although the pace wasn't fast, I was definitely out of breath and struggling on both the steeper uphills and downhills. Again, living in Chicago, there just really isn't a way to prepare for these types of hills. I should mention that the footing was a bit dodgy for the first half of the race. There were about 4 inches of snow on the ground, and we were the first group of people to run through it. We couldn't readily see all of the rocks, roots and other hazards and I was slipping around quite a bit. We also had to cross a number of creek beds, although most were dry.

At one of our aid stations, about 9 miles in, some of the guys in the pack actually stopped for about 10 or 15 seconds to grab a drink. I initially thought this was going to be more like an ultra race, where people stopped for a few minutes at aid stations. Even stopping for a brief time was nice though, and we re-entered the single track in a slightly different order with a new lead runner in our pack. He set a quicker pace, and things starting getting more difficult for me. We also hit a few really big hills that we attempted to jog up, but really were just moving at a walking pace. One of these hills even had ropes to help you along because it was so steep.

I get to the half-way point and I’m in pretty bad shape. I’m breathing hard and I’m starting to slow down. At about 14 miles, I open up the Clif Shot package that Beth gave me at the start line and eat one. I knew then I was in trouble because it tasted WAY too good. I actually ate the entire package right there. When I got to the next aid station, I ate some Fig Newtons and finally started feeling better. I really need to work on my nutrition! At about 18 miles, I caught up with a few guys and actually was leading them through the single track. I ran quite a ways with Jeremy V. which helped immensely. We talked a lot, and I found out he won the Lakefront 50K that I helped pace Matt in just 5 weeks before.

The last 2-3 miles were tough. I was changing leads with one guy in an Indiana jersey up until we left the trail and hit the road. That was mile 25. Indiana jersey guy made a move and went ahead of me. However, much to my surprise, there were 2 more guys about a quarter mile ahead that looked like they were hurting. At this point, I kept repeating to myself to put one foot in front of the other no matter the pace. I was able to catch the 2 guys, although Indiana jersey didn’t come back and wound up beating me. The last quarter mile went through the parking lot, where I had to run between 2 closely parked cars. I thought I was going to hit one for sure. Finally, I saw Beth who told me I was almost done. I think I said “thank god” which drew a couple of cheap laughs from the other spectators. When I crossed the line, I was informed that I won my age group (big deal) and finished 10th overall (not bad!).

Beth helped me change clothes, and then I devoured some homemade vegetable soup, a sandwich, some cookies, hot chocolate and other goodies. I was exhausted, but happy with my performance all things considered. And I rallied enough to go out for dinner and beers at the local brewery where we met another runner and talked to him and his dad for a long time.

All in all, this was a great experience for me. I love running outside on trails. And the atmosphere of this event was awesome. I met a lot of new friends, finished respectably, and most importantly I didn’t get hurt in the process! Now I really need to find a true Ultra race in 2011. I’m thinking a 50 miler.

1 comment:

  1. Yea, Rob!! Nice report :) Tecumseh is a nice race, once. I ran it last year and can't begin to imagine the mayhem of that trail with an out-n-back course, yikes! I'm glad it went well in your first real go on a trail, woohoo!