Sunday, November 7, 2010

Rails to Trails Half Marathon 2010 Report

Sunday, November 7, 2010
Norwalk, WI

On Sunday I ran the Rails to Trails half marathon in Norwalk, WI. Never heard of Norwalk? Yeah, me either. It's this tiny little town in the middle of Wisconsin that the Elroy-Sparta bike trail (A Rail to Trail, obviously) crosses though. This trail is mostly crushed limestone and features three old railroad tunnels. The race took us through the longest tunnel, which was 3/4 of a mile long and the highlight of the race.

I had just raced a half marathon and scored a huge 10 minute PR (2:12:02) last weekend, so may plan for this race was just to go on cruise control and enjoy the scenery. I was also there to support Tigg in his attempt to BQ. Both races followed the same out and back pattern on the trail, but the marathon started a full hour earlier, so we figured that if he was on BQ pace (3:10:59), he would pass me in the last few miles of the race.

We arrived in the tiny town of Norwalk on Sunday morning. I picked up my packet and milled around before the start. It was a very quaint little town with beautiful farms and hills. The weather couldn't have been more perfect -- it was sunny and cool. I stayed in my jacket, pants and mittens until a few minutes before the start when I striped down to shorts and long sleeves.

Pinning on the bib.

Welcome to Norwalk!

Tigg comes flying through the 5K mark of the marathon while Steve cheers him on in the background.

It was pretty chilly while waiting around.

Almost time to start.

And here we go!

I can never remember how races start, since I always line up in the back of the pack. I'm pretty sure there was a 3-2-1-go and we were off. The first section of the race headed East and was a short out and back for a total of 3.1 miles. Then we passed through the finish area again and headed West for the other out and back section. I swear there were no flat sections on this race at all. Since it was run on a rail to trail, there was never any steep elevation changes, but rather long and steady gradual hills. I have come to the realization that I do not like these long and steady hills. They just never ended. We were either going up or going down. The going up seemed to never end.

Finally, we hit "The Tunnel." It was all people were talking about before the race and it certainly lived up to the hype. Forgive me for saying this, but I was reminded of those Chilean miners while running through it. We were handed flashlights from volunteers before entering and they had lanterns and flashing cones set up inside the tunnel, but otherwise it was pitch dark in there. It felt like we were running through a cave. Water was running down the walls and raining down on us from above. I actually got fairly wet from this. The ground was pretty uneven and there was puddles that I tried to avoid, but it was hard to see even with the flashlight. It was definitely the coolest experience I've ever had in a race so far.

Leading up to the tunnel. (Photo stolen from google.)

Inside looking out. (Photo stolen from google.)

The first time through the tunnel was downhill and I ran though it in 8:09 (that's how long my Garmin lost satellite reception for at least.) Then we had maybe a mile until the turn around and then a mile back before we hit the tunnel again. Before hitting the tunnel the second time, my significant other found me at an aid station and I stopped to get a GU, have a short chat and drink some water. I stopped for a little over a minute and it was a welcome break. My legs felt like lead after racing a half just a week ago. After this break, my pace considerably slowed. Going back through the tunnel took me 9:03. I stopped and walked for a bit after the next aid station. I figured Tigg should be passing me shortly if he was on BQ pace because I was going so slowly.

It was a beautiful day on the trail.

Here I come; about to hit an aid station.

Finally, with only maybe 1.5 miles or so left to go, Tigg comes running up from behind me. I know he's not on BQ pace anymore. I speed it up and hang with him for a minute or two at his pace -- turns out he went out too fast and started to slow down after mile 18 or so. I tell him to get going and finish and at least score a big PR, which he did end up doing. I picked up the pace for the last mile or so and finished strong. My pace was all over the place for this race. I was running anywhere from 9:30-12:30mm.
Second worst HM finish in 2:25:38. But no big deal, I was just there to have a good time and I most certainly did! This race was lots of fun and I'd recommend it, especially for new trail runners. It was neither a road race nor a trail race, but a nice in between.

Tigg finishing the marathon.

A good floating finishing picture.

Orange slices are my favorite.

The day ended even better with food and beer with good friends while watching the Packers absolutely kill the Cowboys!

Minus the 10K I have coming up on Thanksgiving, I am done with racing until next spring. I look forward to running as many trails as possibly before the snow flies. And then still running them as much as the weather allows!

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Haunted Hustle Half Marathon 2010 Report

Saturday, October 30, 2010
Middleton, WI

On Saturday I ran the Haunted Hustle Half Marathon in Middleton, WI, which is a suburb of Madison. I only had to drive 15 minutes to the start, which was super convenient. This was an inaugural event that included a marathon, half marathon and 10K. It was advertised as a "Ghost Tour" and Halloween race. People were encouraged to dress up in costume. I can't say that I'll ever get into the whole costume thing.

A little background: I ran 3 half marathons this summer:

Madison Half Marathon. Finish time 2:30, a personal worst. Hot, hot, hot. The race actually ended up getting canceled and runners pulled from the course due to the extreme heat.

DWD Devil's Lake Trail Half Marathon. Finish time 3:19. -2500 / +2500 elevation loss/gain.

Madison Mini Marathon. Finish time 2:23. Humid. Like running through soup.

Summer left me frustrated and upset. I churned out a decent 5K in the middle of all that, so I knew the speed was there. I just needed to put some pieces together. My plan for this race was to start out slowly and pick it up from there. I knew the first few miles had some hills and the rest was fairly flat. Starting temperature was in the 40s. My goal was to PR (sub-2:20), which was pretty much a given. My next goal was to go sub-2:15.
I started out nice and easy. We were running through some neighborhoods and I was just enjoying the atmosphere. We climbed a few decent sized hills. I bombed the downhills like I was out running the trails. It felt good.

Running through the neighborhood.

The next few miles took us on a crowded bike path, as it was an out and back. Suddenly we were all squished together as half the runners were running toward the turn around and the others were running back. I had to pull back a little here as it was difficult to pass. But I did see Anne at this point in the race and I think I said something super motivating like, "ANNE! Hey! How are you?!" Good going, Mandy.

Once we were out of the congested bike path, we hit an open section and it felt good to get around the slower people. After walking through a water station and sucking down a GU, I pulled out my iPod and cranked up the music a little after mile 6. It gave me a nice boost. I was feeling good at this point, so I figured it was time to pick it up.

Some time during the middle of the race.

Saw Anne again on another out and back and exchanged high fives. This whole race went by quickly for me. Before I knew it, I was at mile 10 and still feeling great. I knew my PR was in the bag, but I wasn't sure by how much because I missed a few of my splits. The last mile or two we were running into the wind. I kept hoping that we would turn a corner and I would have the wind at my back, but it seemed like it was blowing at me from every direction. Finally we're nearing the finish and I could hear the loudspeaker. A little detour on a bike path and I see that we only have to crest a small hill and then it's downhill to the finish line. I sprint past a few people who are ambling along and literally jump for joy over the finish line as I know that I have smashed my goal.


Mile 1 - 10:39
Mile 2 - 10:31
Mile 3 - 10:39
Mile 4 - 10:07
Mile 5 - 10:24
Mile 6 - 10:30
Mile 7 - 10:15
Mile 8 - 10:15
Mile 9 - 10:11
Mile 10 - 9:58
Mile 11 - 9:52
Mile 12 - 10:01
Mile 13 - 9:33

Official finish time 2:12:02. Almost a 10 minute PR!

Actually hopping over the finish line.

Quite possibly one of my funniest finish line pictures.

Finally I got my damn half marathon PR! I'd been waiting too long for this. Judging from my splits, I need to work on my pacing. I also finished with some energy to spare and my legs didn't really even hurt afterward. I have said repeatedly that I am no good at racing and it's true. I probably could have run this faster. My problem is that I don't have the drive or desire to push it as hard as I should to be a good road racer. I love being out there. I love running. I love running fast, but not fast enough that I'm hurting too much. So where does that lead me?

After 5 half marathons and countless shorter races, I have hit a point where I feel the need to do something different. I've absolutely fallen in love with the trails in the past year. I have no desire to run a road marathon, but a trail marathon? Let's just say that I may already have one picked out. In 2011 I plan on running as many trails as possible while prepping for a fall marathon. After 3 years of running, I think it's finally time!

T-shirt and medal from the race.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

The Art of Getting Lost: Rock Cut Hobo Trail 25K Report

Saturday, September 18, 2010
Rockford, IL

I ran the Rock Cut Hobo 25K trail run on Saturday morning. It was held in Rock Cut State Park in Rockford, IL. Pictures below are snagged from google - I did not carry my camera for this run.

This race was a planned distance PR for me. The longest I had run before was around 14 miles (from a previous trail HM that had a small detour.) Little did I know, that this run would turn into a HUGE distance PR for me.

I drove down to Rockford on Saturday morning and found the park. Picked up my bib number and "Hobo socks." You didn't get to collect your shirt until you crossed the finish line.

This was a small race -- maybe around 100 people. No chip timing and the starting line was just a couple of cones. I stayed toward the back of the pack and we were off. I kept my pace nice and easy. Having never ran this far before, I wanted to start off slow and just keep a nice steady pace through out.

I settled in for the first 2 miles with a couple of other runners. We started out for maybe a half mile on the road and then merged onto the trail. At first it was fairly non-technical singletrack. The runners in front of me started walking too early for my tastes, so I left them. Now I was running alone, which I found quite enjoyable. I was just clipping along, enjoying the trail. After a bit, I came to a T intersection. It was unmarked. Uh oh. Then I saw a post in the ground with an arrow. I thought it indicated for me to go right, so I did. I glanced back frequently to see if any other runners were in my line of sight. None. I shrugged it off and kept going.

This was a flat crushed gravel path, which made for easy running. I passed a few wild turkeys. The trail eventually came to a road. No signs. I crossed the road and picked up a new path, still with no signs. I finally had the sense to realize that I was lost and started back tracking. I came to an intersection and stopped to try and use the rudimentary map on my Garmin to see which way I should go. I thought I had it right and resumed running. Still no signs and no other runners.

After running for a while and not seeing any people or signs, I slowly started filling with dread. I was lost. Like, really lost. I'd never been to these trails before and the best way to describe them are a spiderweb. I came to another unmarked 4 way intersection and threw up my hands in frustration. Again, I tried to use the (mostly worthless) map on Garmin to figure out which way to go. Then it started to rain. And lighting. And thunder. Great. I'm lost in the middle of the woods in Illinois and it's pouring.

Finally, finally, I see signs for the run again. I'm relieved and hope that I didn't get too far off track. So I'm running along and I start to think to myself, "Hmmm, this looks familiar. Haven't I passed this meadow before?" Yes, I am indeed back on the race course, but I'm somehow back at the beginning! I'm contemplating throwing in the towel at this point as I'm frustrated and angry that I got so lost. But I feel good at this point, so I just keep moving. Regarding mileage, I have no idea where on the course I am. I pass a picnic table with a water cooler. Was that an unmanned aid station, or has everyone already left that aid station? I just keep running and am SO THANKFUL to have my handheld with me. Lesson learned -- I'm never running a trail race without it.

My mileage is starting to creep up and I haven't seen ANYONE in well over an hour. At least it's stopped raining. 7, 8, 9 miles go by. Finally I am running along the trail and I see a marker for the race that says mile 5 -- I look down at my Garmin and see that I have run 10 MILES already. F$@$*$%!!  Are you kidding me? I got 5 miles off course?! Then it hits me. If I decide to finish this, I will have to run over 20 miles. I figure, what the hell? I'm out here, I've already run 10, and I want my finisher's shirt. If I have to walk the last 5 miles, so be it. Let's do this.

The rest of the trail is magically well marked, so I'm not worried about getting lost again. I just concentrate on moving forward and hopefully catching up to someone, anyone, and not finish DFL. I pass the "5 mile" aid station and it's deserted -- even the volunteers have left at this point. At least there's still water. Top off my handheld and keep going. Run into a couple of mountain bikers and I'm just happy to see other people. I'm enjoying the trail again -- it's singletrack and beautiful. Totally runnable, even though there are some slick muddy spots and sand. There are some steep hills, but nothing awful by any means. This is Illinois after all.

Some nice trail

At 12 miles (7 miles), I finally come across a pair of racers -- two older ladies who are walking the course. "I could hug you!" I tell them, and relay my story. They tell me that I'm back on course and give me some encouragement. As I am taking off, one of them yells something about good bonus miles. I love trail runners.

I'm starting to get hungry. I took a GU at my mile 6, but have only one other GU with me. Should I take it now and hope that there's something at the 10 mile (my 15 mile) AS for me, or play it safe and save it in case there's not? I decide to play it safe and save my GU till later. I hit 14 miles on my Garmin. Every step after this is a distance PR for me. I've crossed one stream, which felt really good on my feet while I was in the water, but now my shoes are squishing around. I'm pretty sure there's another stream crossing coming up somewhere. And there it is! This one has rocks you can step on in order not to get your shoes wet, but I slip and my feet get soaked again anyway.

Stream crossing.

I make to the 10 mile (15 miles) AS and it's deserted. No people and the water cooler is empty. My handheld is getting low, so that worries me. Then I see the stairs. Oh, goody.

Lots of stairs.

Looking down the climb.

I slowly climb the stairs (why waste energy on this?) and suck down my GU. I have only a few swallows of water left my in handheld after I down water with the GU, so I'm really hoping that the next AS isn't out.

I hit 15.5 miles and my body is tired. I'm supposed to be done by now. This was a low point for me. I have 5 miles left and I have no choice but to get through them -- I need to get back to the car somehow. I'm run/walking and need to keep telling myself to run. I think about Jason running 55 miles and tell myself to suck it up and remember his mantra of, "relentless forward motion." So I just keep moving, running as best as I can.

Somewhere around mile 16 or 17, a runner appears. I see the back of her and I'm so excited to see another person. I come running up from behind her and exclaim, "I am so happy to see you!" Turns out that she started the race 30 minutes late. She's been all alone the whole time and is ecstatic to see me as well. She tells me, "You're my angel!" No way, girlfriend. You're MY angel! She turns out to be an experienced ultra runner and a talker at that. Works out perfectly, as I am a good listener. We decide to run the downhills and flats and walk the uphills. I wouldn't say that time is flying by now, but it's certainly moving faster than when I was by myself. We chat about running, races, family, etc. She recommends a few 50Ks to me and tells me about all that ultras that she's done. She is running the "Triple Crown" at this race (10K Friday night, 25K Saturday and 50K Sunday.) Hardcore.

We pass another AS and this one has water. Hallelujah! My Garmin reads 18 miles at this point. My new friend offers me one of her electrolyte capsules, but I decline. I've already run this far on 2 GUs and limited water, what's another couple of miles? We get to a confusing intersection and two women are just standing there looking lost. They ask us if we know which way to go. We finally figure out that one way is where we've already ran, another way is a loop that we have yet to do, and the third way is to the finish line. They've already run the loop, so they take off for the finish and we start the last loop on the trail. The two women tell us it's maybe a mile or so, but it feels so much longer. The only good thing about the loop is that we PASS SOMEONE. Yes, someone else is still out there this late and we give her words of encouragement as go by.

We emerge out of the loop and head toward the finish. First, however, we have to pass through this nasty drainage tube. It's filled with water and absolutely not runnable. You actually have to pick your way quite slowly through it, otherwise you'll trip and fall. Definitely one of the strangest things I've done in a race. Feet get soaking wet yet again.

Picture something like this filled with water.

Finally we're out of the tube. We hike up a hill and I see the finish in the distance. We pick up the pace for the last little bit and bring it in. I've never been happier to stop running. My legs are aching, my left arch is in pain, and I've run 5 miles more than necessary. The finish is deserted. A few people manage to clap as we cross the line. The RD is still there as well as a few volunteers and runners, but otherwise it's a ghost town. I collect my shirt and exchange a few parting words with my new friend. She helped me more than she knows. I don't know what I would have done without her -- those last miles would have been unbearably lonely.

So I didn't finish DFL, but pretty close. Official results are not out yet, but I'm pretty sure that I was 5th to last.
Unofficial Garmin time = 4:20:38 for 20.5 miles. (A dismal time for a 25K trail race, but oh well.)

Finishers shirt and Hobo socks.

Elevation profile. Fairly tame for the trails, but there were some decent hills.

I never would have done a 20 mile run on my own. I was content with not exceeding much past 15 miles unless I had committed to running a marathon. Being forced to do 20 miles really put things in perspective for me. I don't know why I was so worried about exceeding the half marathon distance, but honestly there wasn't that big of a difference. You just keep moving your legs. I'm a little more sore than usual, but it's nothing terrible. Going slowly and being on the trail probably helped. A 20 mile road run may have knocked me out more.

Perhaps I will look for a trail marathon or 50K next year, especially if I can find someone to run it with me. (Any volunteers?) Running with someone at the end was more helpful than I realized. If I had kept running with my new friend, I know that I could have knocked out 6 more miles -- it wouldn't have been easy and I would have needed more fuel, but I could have done it. (Albeit slowly.)

Despite being lost and getting frustrated at times, I had a great time. I'd love to come back next year and redeem myself.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Madison Mini Marathon 2010 Report

Saturday, August 21, 2010
Madison, WI

Last Saturday I ran my favorite half marathon - The Madison Mini Marathon.

I ran this last year as my first half and it was an awesome race, so I was excited to run it again. I can't say enough good things about this race - it's well organized, the tech shirt is great, course is beautiful with some various hills, and of course there's beer at the finish line like most Wisconsin races.

Friday night I picked up Saint Tigg and we headed to Noodles to meet Steve (ssmith1187), Tim (timmers), and Anne (murphnjaime). Anne was running a little late and I had a bet going that she wasn't going to show up. She'd never met us before and after a few questionable e-mails from the boys, I was worried that she was scared off. Thankfully Anne is fearless and did make it to dinner! Anne, you are far braver than I to meet up with a bunch of crazy people talking about shaving.

My cookies got passed around and there were few left at the end of dinner. Since no one has given a decent cookie report yet, I will say that they were quite tasty.

Tigg, Tim, and Steve.

Mandy, Tigg, Tim, Steve, Anne

Flashing gang symbols. Where did I go wrong with these children?

Race morning I met up with Steve, Timmers, and Madcow75. Madcow and I have run a few races together now, but this was the first time we got to meet in person. Bucky Badger was wandering around and we attempted to get a picture with him for Timmers (he's a HUGE Badgers fan), but the woman who took the picture somehow screwed it up, so sadly we have no evidence of Tim with Bucky. We split up after this - Tim and I went to find bathrooms and Steve went to his fancy preferred start corral.

I lined up in between the 2:10 and 2:20 pace corrals and waited for the race to begin. The sky was cloudy, but it was ridiculously humid. The air felt like soup. The dew point was above 70. Honestly, I didn't have a goal for this race at all. I figured I would run the first few miles and see how I was feeling. I do want to run a 2:15 HM this fall, but I wasn't planning on doing so during this race seeing that it is in the middle of August.

The race started right on time, but it took me a few minutes to get to the start. I crossed the mat, started my Garmin and we were off.

Mile 1 - 10:29  Running slightly uphill and toward the capitol. The capitol looked ominous is the distance and you couldn't even make out the top because it was covered in fog. Pass the farmer's market.

Mile 2 - 10:42  Down State Street and onto a bike path for a brief time. I notice drops on the ground and wonder if it has started to sprinkle. Nope, that's just the drops of sweat from the thousands of people ahead of me. Ewww. I'm sweating heavily at this point too. The humidity just won't let anything evaporate off you.

Mile 3 - 10:54   Heading towards the zoo.

Mile 4 - 10:42  Going though Vilas Park and the zoo. Pretty uneventful.

Mile 5 - 10:39  Just chugging along waiting for the hills to start.

Mile 6 - 11:10  And here come the hills through the Arboretum. I see many side trails off the road and want to go hang out on the trail instead of running this race!

Mile 7 - 11:12  More hills. Take a GU.

Mile 8 - 10:54  We're out of the Arb and it feels good. More crowd support.

Mile 9 - 11:20  Get a huge side stitch out of the blue. Where did that come from and why? I pressed on my side for a while and hoped it would go away. Eventually it did.

Mile 10 - 11:11  Heading onto the UW-Madison campus.

Mile 11 - 11:31  No idea why this mile was so slow. Waved to a few people that I knew as we were approaching the turn around point.

Mile 12 - 10:40  I notice that they've yellow flagged the race. Ugh. HUMID!

Mile 13 - 10:17  Time to pick up the pace and finish this thing.

Last .1 - 8:14 pace The end of this race is great. You basically come screaming down a decently sized hill.

Official time 2:23:24

Not my best half by any means, but certainly not my worst. I have been feeling very 'meh' about my running lately. Hoping to get my mojo back once cooler weather hits.

I chugged some chocolate milk and ate a banana in the finishing chute. I hadn't seen Timmy during the race at all, so I waited for him to finish. Steve and Madcow found me and we all waited for Timmy together. He rolled in a little later telling us that he bonked hardcore around mile 8. It was just not a good day for running. We all looked like we had gone swimming in our running clothes at the end.

I had to sit down for a while after the race because I started feeling light headed. Does this happen to anyone else? It's happened to me a few times now recently and it's quite unpleasant. I don't know if it's just the heat getting to me or what.

It was absolutely fantastic to get to meet Timmy, Anne and Madcow and of course fun to hang out with Steve and Tigg again. We certainly have a good time when we're together! I hear that I missed an awesome dinner later that night filled with falafel and Steve trying to ruin people's weddings. (You're going to have to ask him about that one.)

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Full Moon Run 5K 2010 Report

Thursday, July 29, 2010
Madison, WI

Last night I ran the Full Moon 5K here in Madison, WI.

I hadn't run a 5K in over a year, so I figured it was time to reassess my speed. I don't like 5Ks that much, but this one sounded like fun, since it was run in the dark during the full moon. Previous 5K PR was 29:17. I wasn't positive if I could beat that, but I was sure going to try.

Race started at 9:00 pm. I met up with the Runner's World gang -- SSmith1187 (Steve), Saint Tigg, and Mrs. Saint Tigg -- around 8:00. We picked up our bags, timing chips, etc. The t-shirt was a nice tech shirt, but it was dayglow yellow. Probably to go along with the running at night theme. Oh well. Tigg was nice enough to give me the coffee cup from his bag because I didn't get one. It'll get put to good use!

We walked to the start and warmed up a bit. I was sweating from my jogging around and the air wasn't as cool as we'd hoped it would be. I suppose cool weather at the end of July is too much to ask for.

We lined up and I told Mrs. Tigg to stay with me for the first mile or two, since this was her first 5K (but not first race) and she was unsure about her pace.

3, 2, 1 and we're off. Mile 1 goes by and I'm feeling pretty good. Holding a steady pace and Mrs. Tigg is near me. My Garmin lines up with their mile markers almost perfectly. A guy is calling out times. So far so good. Somewhere in mile 2 I lose Mrs. Tigg behind me. I end up in step with a couple who is pulling me along. We're running around Monona Bay and it's pancake flat. As we make our way around the bay and toward a busy intersection, I see a whole pack of runners jogging in place and waiting for a stoplight. Are you freaking kidding me? Seriously?!  I put on the breaks and wait with the group at the stoplight for probably 15 seconds. Finally we're able to go.

We cross over the busy intersection and are now on a bike path till the finish. I'm running behind a really big guy and he's a loud runner - noisy breathing, heavy feet, etc. I can't handle it and I drop him. Mile 3 starts. Isn't it amazing the things you think about in the last mile of a 5K? My mind was all over the place, but the general thought was, "JUST HOLD THIS DAMN PACE." We're getting closer and I know my suffering is going to be over soon. As I'm getting closer, I start looking for Tigg and Steve, who were going to come find me and Mrs. Tigg and run us back in. I finally see them and yell out. Steve came to my rescue and ran with me while Tigg went to go find Mrs. Tigg. I'm really hurting at this point, but it helps to have Steve there. This race is completely flat, minus the uphill finish. We start to climb at about 2.8 miles. Ugh. That was rough. Make it up the hill and I know it's just .1 to go. Muster up a kick and try to catch up to a girl, but she hears me coming and I can't quite overtake her. Finish and try not keel over.

Garmin time 28:26. Gun time 28:41. That's about a 45 second PR.



I'm pretty happy with it considering my running has felt sub-par lately. Hopefully this will give me some confidence going into my fall races. After the race, we all went to get a beer. It was a fun night and I'm so glad to have met so many awesome people from the forums. There may have been an issue with some homemade cookies forgotten at my house, so I'm hoping Tigg and Steve forgive me eventually.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

DWD - Devil's Lake Half Marathon 2010 Report

Saturday, July 10, 2010
Baraboo, WI

On Saturday, I ran Dances with Dirt - Devil's Lake Trail Half Marathon. This race also had a marathon, 50K, 50 miler, and 100K relay. I was running the wimpy option.

While I have been running trails for as long as I have been running, this was my first trail race and wow, did I pick a good one! I knew I was getting myself into some serious trail. This would be significantly more difficult than the trails I normally run. I've been hiking at Devil's Lake since I was a kid, so I was familiar with the area. It's a beautiful place.

For those of you from Runner's World who were talking about running the race but didn't, you missed out on an amazing time! By far one of the best races I've done to date. Despite a strangely fitting shirt (which I was able to exchange for a different size later) and a bib with no holes on top, this was well run and well organized race.

I didn't have any goals for this race other than to finish, have a good time and take pictures. I have to say that I accomplished that.

Me and my friends who also ran the race. (And finished way before me.)

Starting line.

People milling around before the race.

The half marathon was the last race to start in the morning at 7:30. I arrived around 6:45am and parking was a breeze (we parked in a big field.) Made use of the portapottys and milled around until it was time to start. Lined up at the back of the pack and we were off.

Jogged with the mass of people for about 2 minutes before we came to a stop. Over 300 people all needed to jam onto a singletrack trail, so there was some waiting involved. Garmin tells me I had to wait about 2 minutes and 40 seconds for people to filter through and get going again. After about a half a mile, we were on the Ice Age Trail and climbing. We went up. And up. And up. The first two miles are entirely uphill. I power walked the entire hill and was dripping with sweat after just a few minutes. Amanda and Jason both told me it was "okay to walk the hills" during a trail race. I had to laugh, because I have no idea how anyone would be able to run this.

Elevation at start = 869 ft
Elevation 2 miles in = 1,529 ft

Once we made it to the top of a section called Parfrey's Glen, we kept going up and down. Eventually back down a lot. I settled into running with 3 other women who were going at the same pace. It was nice to have the conversation and the miles ticked. (If any of you are reading this, THANK YOU! It was great to run with you.) Before I knew it, we were at the first aid station. I was wearing my Camelbak, so I was drinking as I ran, but I grabbed some Gatorade and headed back into the woods.

These rocks were not the best surface to run on.

But there was cool rocks to look at!

I lost my three running partners here, but was enjoying the scenery. I walked any uphills and ran the flats and downhills. Took a GU at some point. I pulled out my camera around mile 6 and started taking pictures, because I knew we'd get some really scenic views soon. The reward of the climb was worth it! Soon I arrived at the aid station on the cliff. You actually had to climb a bit to get there. It had amazing views. Don't look down! I ate a fig newton and drank some water.

The view once we were up top.

Getting to the aid station.

Aid station on a cliff!

More views.

Leaving the aid station.

After the second aid station, a group of us took a short detour - also known as getting lost. As we were running along, someone called out, "Has anyone seen any orange flags recently?" (The HM course was following orange flags.) No one had, so we turned around and eventually found the right way again.

You can just see Devil's Lake in the background.

Possibly going the wrong way. Pink ribbons do not equal orange ribbons.

Back on track.

I was running along quite nicely at this point in the race and was possibly beginning to hallucinate because I started thinking about running the marathon here next year. Thankfully, those thoughts were short lived. My body started getting tired about 8-9 miles in. We were slowly going back uphill. I probably should have taken another GU here, but I didn't. We ran through some muddy sections and I heard a scream behind me - the mud had sucked off a girl's shoe and she was hopping around. I had to laugh.

Very pretty running.

Trail closed? Don't mind if I do!

Crossed over some bridges.

More great trail.

We started to climb again during mile 10 and my running buddies from before found me. We settled into a rhythm again, this time with me leading, but no one talked much. I think we were all exhausted. I called out miles from my Garmin and we all wondered when we'd be getting to the downhill portion.

This was difficult to run down.

Then after hitting an elevation of around 1,600, it was alllll downhill to the finish line. The downhill actually hurt worse than the uphill. I was thankful to have young joints and young knees. We saw many people paused on the trail because their bodies just needed a break from all the pounding. We hit some sand and I skidded and took a tumble. My first one of the race. Cut up my thumb a bit, but it's not a good trail run until you're bleeding, right?

About a mile from the end, I stumbled over a root or a rock or who knows what and twisted my ankle. I didn't fall, but yowch, that hurt! I tested it and was able to put weight on it, so I just kept on trucking down that hill. Finally I saw sunlight and we burst out of the woods onto a dirt road. I didn't have much of a finishing kick, but I managed to pick up the pace to normal running for the last bit.

The crowd support for the back of pack half marathon finishers was great. I really appreciated their enthusiasm and good jobs. The people at this race were spectacular. I love trail runners and the whole community.

I finished, got my medal and DWD shot glass. Age Group winners got some pretty awesome beer mugs. Post-race we soaked our feet in a lake, drank free beer, and had an amazing lunch.

Soaking our feet in the lake felt so good!

I'm actually not too muddy.

We made it! My friend on the right took 10th woman overall.

Free Spotted Cow and delicious food.

Elevation profile.

I forgot to turn my Garmin off auto-pause, so Garmin gives me a time of 3:12:06 for 13.72 miles.

Official time was 3:19:52.  About an hour slower than my road half marathon PR.

Crazy splits:

Mile 1 - 14:53
Mile 2 - 18:31
Mile 3 - 13:03
Mile 4 - 13:43
Mile 5 - 13:11
Mile 6 - 13:04
Mile 7 - 14:00
Mile 8 - 12:59
Mile 9 - 13:37
Mile 10 - 14:20
Mile 11 - 16:27
Mile 12 - 13:19
Mile 13 - 12:05
Last .72 - 11:55 pace

My whole body hurt for days afterward, but I loved it all. I definitely recommend any of the Dances with Dirt races if you're up for a challenge.