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!

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