Short story (who am I kidding--all my infrequent posting lately is 'short story' form)
Results here. I knew I wasn't in as good of shape as last year, when I ran 3:15 despite walking the final .7 miles. This year, however, was just as satisfying, as I was able to finish relatively strong and I improved upon my running nutrition practices. And, oh yeah, for the second time in my life (and first time in a Marathon), I won my age group!
Looking ahead to future races, I really want to run well at Ice Age in May. Looking backwards, I really haven't been running very many miles recently. I decided the Trailbreaker Marathon would be the "kick start" I needed to get training.
This course is a unique one that follows a rails-to-trails path for about 10 miles, then transitions to the single track Ice Age Trail for 3 miles. The "halfway point" (it's actually a bit further than halfway) is a climb of Lapham Peak, where volunteers are waiting for you at the top with a cowbell to ring. Runners then turn around, follow the same IAT back, and end up on the same rails-to-trails path back to where you started. I've run this marathon twice and learned from those experiences (3:47 in 2007, 3:15 in 2009) that the key to the run is to NOT run the first 10 miles very hard, NOT blast up the trail, NOT bomb back down the trail...thus saving some strength in the legs for the flat paved bike path back to the finish line. By the time one is back on that path, the field is very, very spread out, there are only 1 or 2 aid stations, and one is close to that 2:30 running time area where your body starts looking for new sources of energy.
So, knowing that, I really wanted to focus on having a good training run and getting the miles in. I knew I could run the first 10 miles and keep the leaders in my sights (which is how I ran last year), but this would spell DEATH MARCH in the closing miles. Instead, I started very slowly.
So slowly that I damn near quit within the first two miles. Running only in shorts and a tshirt, a mild headwind and mid-30's temperatures had me FREEZING. "Should have worn the Arm Panties," I kept thinking to myself.
Finally, about 4 or 5 miles in, I was warmed up. The sun came out about this time also, and now I was the smart one--at least in terms of attire. About mile 6 another runner caught up to me and shared with me that he had been trying to catch me for about 3 miles. He was breathing heavy, and was sweating pretty bad. As we ran, he told me he was overdressed (he was wearing a baseball cap with a stocking cap over it, gloves, two long sleeve shirts, and a shortsleeve shirt) and began to take off layers. I even helped, holding on to one of his shirts while he removed another. I didn't say anything, but this didn't look good for his overall "trailbreaker experience."
Soon enough he moved on. I almost felt bad, but I simply wasn't feeling all that social during the run. And judging by the pictures (bib #55, if the link doesn't work), I didn't look all too friendly, either. I'm not sure why--maybe because this is the first marathon (of 22 total) that I've run without any family member there. I drove down on my own, ran it, and drove home. I had always wanted to have a "solo day," but perhaps I didn't run as well as I could have because of this.
Finally, with 2 Gu's in my belly, I was finally off of the pavement and on to the trail. Ahhh....
I soon passed two runners in front of me, and began to look for the leaders coming the other way. My legs immediately had a "pep" in them, and I landed softer, pushed off stronger, and simply felt HAPPIER once I was on the dirt. It's an odd feeling to try and explain if you haven't run many trails, but for me, the trails just feel right. It wasn't long into the climb to the tower and I caught the guy dressed in too many clothes. "You're a much better trail runner than I am," he said. I smiled, shared with him that he should forget about the GB marathon he's training for and instead run Ice Age. He told me I'm crazy. I wasn't insulted though. Soon enough he's going to discover the trails.
The final part of the trail is the roughest and ends in some steps...which only lead you to the foot of the tower, which must be climbed. This year they even had a cowbell waiting for the runners on top to 'ring.' Approaching the tower, the picture from my last post was taken...those steps really zap you. (I think that "photographer was using a cell phone or something--I truly don't remember anyone up there with a camera at all. But that may have been the pissed-off mental attitude talking.) At that point I remember thinking about the speedsters that passed me on their descent down the trail. I remember noticing how hard they were working--sweating, breathing, not replying with a "Yeah, you're looking good too" as they whizzed by. This race is so interesting to me because of that. It's really 3 different races, and the strategy is something I'm still working on. The leader on the descent (leading by about 45 seconds) ended up 3rd overall. After the trail, there's still a lot of race left.
But back to my race...I rang the cowbell and took the steps 2 or 3 at a time on the way down. A volunteer had filled my water bottle for me when I left it on the way up, so I collected that, disposed of the Gu that had exploded in my hand (the first of 2 to do so), and started my descent. I ran hard down the trail and felt sooo good going downhill. If you haven't picked up on it yet--I love the trails :)
Unfortunately in this event, the trail part ends, and you still have about 10 miles to run. On pavement. Pancake flat pavement. Without anybody else around for the first 4 ish miles.
The first few steps on the pavement simply deaden your legs. The legs respond with a "wait a second...what the...ahhh I quit" type feeling. It's hard to explain, but once experienced, and saddled with the knowledge you're at mile 16, and your "pep" from the trail run recedes quickly.
But I plugged along, and actually passed a couple runners I recognized from my ascent and their descent. I figured I was someplace around 12th (I was actually in 11th but would be passed later), but really starting to feel the trails and the previous 10 pavement miles. But this time I approached the sensation of "bonking" differently.
It was about Mile 19, and I had given in to walking. I was a bit lightheaded, my gut was messed up, and I barely grasped my handheld--just enough not to drop it. I felt like crap. In previous runs, at this point I've called it quits (Twin Cities last fall comes to mind, right about the time I saw Matt P) and just slogged it in, deciding that no water or sugar or salt would help. This run, however, I realized my body's signals weren't a white flag, but more a sign that it needed something. I popped an SCap (and almost burped/barfed), then started sipping on a Gu and forcing intake of water to make sure the salt/sugar got absorbed. While I didn't want to take anything in, I kept telling myself that this stuff is fuel--not food--and that my body needed it. I also decided that I've GOT to find another way to get in calories--real food calories--while running. Chocolate Outrage Gu is causing a full blow Outrage mutiny in my gut.
I'll be honest. You've probably read about someone taking a gel in, and 5 mintues later feeling GREAT! I'm not sure I've ever had a "light turn on" like that. I felt far from "great," but the gel and salt kept me moving...I no longer had the urge to walk.
I got another jump from joining the half marathoners along the course. Those poor souls run 13.1 miles of the pavement--an out and back along the marathon route. The half maratho starts an hour (?) later than the marathon, so I felt great and moved a bit quicker, trying to pick off each of those runners.
Down the stretch, back into downtown Waukesha, and finally...the finish. I admittedly got passed by another marathoner with about a mile to go and had ZERO ability to respond, but I was still able to pick up the pace a bit down the stretch, and came across the line in 3:26. 11 minutes slower than last year...but I felt better overall at the end of this one. I congratulated the fella who passed me down the stretch and made my way inside. Soon enough Jerry recognized my truly blank stare (I was really, really low on blood sugar at that point) and we talked for 15 minutes while I engorged myself on frosted cinnamon rolls. Wow, tasty!
Talking to Jerry was a blast! We picked up right where we left off at one of the numerous other events we've met at--Icebreaker, Lakefront Marathon, North Face 50K (I'd provide links but I'm lazy)--and I'd have never met him if it weren't for this post, way back in '08. Soon enough, after Jerry had talked race plans, our runs this morning, and daughters (I DON'T know what I'm having, but I feel like it's a girl. and Jerry has 4), the RD started announcing the age group winners. "You win anything today?" he asked. I replied NO immediately, but told him I was going to check the results. We got up, went seperate directions, and I was kicking myself for not shaking his hand and saying "see ya at the next race!"
I got to where the results were posted...fought my way to the front...realized they were the 5K results...moved to the other results...and realized, despite finishing 12th overall...I won the 20-29 age group! No, Matt I wasn't the only 20-29 participant. There were 8 others. So there.
This is my second ever age group win. My first was the benefit of having a bunch of YOUNGINS finish in front of me. This one? Well, all 11 in front of me were 30 yoa or older. Not bad!
While running the Trailbreaker this year, I had myself convinced this would be the last year. Yet, looking back, there's just a lot that intrigues me about this race. Example: is it possible to run even splits out on the paved portion, and then back?
All the thoughts I have about this race really just add up to, you've gotta try it. Yes, it's low key. There are ZERO spectators. There are even fewer amenities (although this year they had 2 taps of beer running at the end, but it was fizzy yellow beer, so I didn't have any). Still...
chances are, I'll be back next year.