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Tuesday, November 22, 2011

It seemed like a good idea at the time (the Skippo 30K)

Hey, I've never run a 30K on the trails! *
Wow, 18.6 miles of trails will be a great challenge...*
Hmmm, that'll be a great training run for Pere Marquette...*
*Famous last words

The training: After signing up for the Big River Running's Skippo 30K because it seemed like a good idea at the time, I actually did do a little better with my training: I ran on the Marquette Park trails a couple times, on the local singletrack trails a couple times, and did one 16-mile run on the trails at Castlewood (my only double digit run), and two shorter trail races.  I also did a couple of nighttime sidewalk jogs, and that was pretty much it.  Stellar preparation for a demanding race.

The taper:   And by "taper" I mean 16 miles of mountain biking  Saturday morning.  My friend Robin led a group ride at our local trails, and though she made me be there at 7 a.m. it was pretty awesome...once I was out of bed. 

Photo credit: Robin Rongey
You can read all about it on her blog, but here's some video from the ride.  I'm in yellow (with braids, as opposed to the guy in yellow), and while you can't see it in the video, I don't think I ever smiled in the video because I was concentrating on not falling.



Though it's not on the video, I did fall once.  True to form, it was on a not-tricky part of the trail.  I took a dip wrong and went over.  It didn't really hurt, but apparently I still made my displeasure known.  Chuck, who was ahead of me, told me, "Well, at least you're consistent...you curse every time you fall!"  Come to think of it, he's been riding ahead of me for all of my falls but one, so I'm starting to think he's sabotaging me for entertainment value or something.

Pre-race: I wasn't surprised when I woke up and heard the rain, but I'd hoped the forecast was wrong.  I briefly (ok, maybe not so briefly) thought about wimping out and going back to bed, but that wouldn't be very Super.  Plus, I'd paid my registration fee, and I hate to waste money.  So, I hit the road, learned that my tires suck in the rain, made it to the park in time to park in the park, and sat in my car for the next 45 minutes or so, only getting out when I absolutely had to.

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Everybody huddled under the tents and near the heaters before the start.  Sooo chilly.
Though I didn't realize it when I registered, I was going to be running the Skippo alone.  Vanessa was supposed to do the 20K but sprained her ankle.  There was a time when racing alone was my norm, but now I'm kind of spoiled by having friends to ride with or see there.  As it turned out, Jeff, Krystal, and Dave from the tri club were all there as well...not that I'd be running with them because they're all much faster (and saner, having opted for the 10k or 20k) than I am.

About 5 minutes from start time they pried us away from the warming stands had us line up on the road, and despite the temps in the high 30's and slight rain, I wasn't too miserable.  I had opted for a short sleeved tech shirt over a long sleeved compression top, running shorts, and tall striped socks.  I've finally accepted that being comfortable pre-race means overheating during the race, so it was worth shivering for a bit.  I did glance around for someone to huddle up to, but I didn't want anyone to get the wrong idea. :)

And we're off!    The race course was a 10K loop.  The bulk of the runners (176 finishers) ran the 10K (one loop), 136 finished the 20K (two loops), and a whopping 42 crazies runners finished the 30K (three loops).  I'm listing finishers because no DNFs were mentioned on the results page but a volunteer mentioned people dropping out.  Also, there were a lot more names listed on the registration page than results page, but people may have taken a look at the morning's weather and rolled back over in their warm bed.If they did, though, they screwed up, because it was a great morning for a trail run.  Yes, it was chilly and windy and generally crappy out at the start, but once you were running the weather was perfect.

Lap 1: With all 350ish runners on the trails for this lap, the singletrack was pretty congested.  This didn't bother me because I used all those other runners to keep my pace in check.  I'm not fast, but sometimes my body thinks I am at the start.  Instead of trying to pass people who were slower than I was, I focused on sticking behind them and running a conservative pace; after all, I was going to be out there for a while.

Despite all the runners, I did virtually no talking during this lap (shocking, I know) other than the occasional "on your left".  Nobody around me had much to say, I guess.  We started off down the road, onto the trail along the river, which was the only windy spot .  Mile 1 came up quickly, and yes, I mentally counted down all 18.6 of them.  This first section was nice and flat, but that was remedied by the infamous 200+ Castlewood stairs. People had reminded me not to run these, as if I physically had the option of doing so.  If a man with a chainsaw and hockey mask had been chasing me, I couldn't have run these. Kill me now...


After the stairs, we climbed a slight hill and then a bigger hill, but that took us to the best part of the race for me, a long, somewhat technical downhill stretch.  I've definitely grown as a trail runner because I had a blast on this section.  I really focused on letting gravity take me and keeping my feet moving.  Another highlight was the creek crossing.  A slight rock bridge had been raked up in the creek, but I ran right through the water because 1) I prefer to run on the nice, flatter rock and hopefully not turn an ankle, and 2) it's just way more fun to run through the water.

The next section had a long, hateful hill.  I didn't manage to run too much of it.  This was followed by more level trail and then a shorter, less hateful hill where I got stuck behind some people who were walking in a spot that was hard to get around them.  We crossed the road at the top of the hill, where the volunteer was holds up some really pissed off drivers, and then ran through the muddiest stretch of trail, which was weird because it was one of the upper trails that was the worst.  I finished lap one in about 1:10, which was more or less what I'd expected.

Lap 2: Passing the finish line after the first lap wasn't too painful, but I did start doing some math (never a good thing).  Nearly 400 runners + 2 kegs of beer + and only 50 or so of us running the full 30K = little chance of any beer left when we finished.  The funny thing is, I don't even really like beer that much, but I started obsessing about it.  I decided they should've gotten 3 kegs, one for each distance, and the 30K keg doesn't get tapped until the first 30K runner crosses the finish line (and probably mentioned this plan to everyone in earshot.  I'm sure it wasn't annoying at all).  On the other hand, I love food, and I didn't worry at all about there being food left.  Go figure.

As I ran onto the trail along the river, the guy next to me and said, "You aren't likely to get shot by a hunter in that outfit!" (You'll have to take his word for it because the one--one!?!--race picture of me is hideous). That started a great conversation about running/biking/adventure racing/family/etc. that lasted until the top of the stairs when Chris dropped me.  Among other things, I had shared with him my beer concerns and tried to convince him that if he finished ahead of me he should meet me along the course with a beer handup.  How cool would that be?? As Chris ran ahead of me down the trail, I called out, "Don't forget my beer!!" Alas, it was not to happen.

On the stairs (just as bad the second time around), however, I met Jim, a fellow adventure racer who was also certifiable doing the 30K, so we spent the next couple miles talking about adventure racing, how cool the adventure racing community is, how I got obsessed with interested in adventure racing, how he learned orienteering, races we've done, etc.  With a couple of miles remaining in the lap, he moved on as I just tried to keep moving.

I spendt the last couple miles of lap 2 with Terri, who was running the 20K.  I'd let her pass once, thinking I was slowing her down, but then she had to stop and tie her shoe.  When she came up behind me again, I offered to move over, but she said it was a good pace for her.  I think for pretty much everyone I ran with, I was that slow person who helped them keep their pace nice and easy, just like the ones I followed in lap 1. That's OK, though, because she was great company, and we got to swap marathon stories as we ran .

The power of social media: Lap 3 actually happening had been in some doubt for a few days as I started realizing that I wasn't ready for this race.  I mean, 30K is 18.6 miles! That's a distance I didn't get to until well into my marathon training, and this was going to be on trails.  What were the chances I could actually do this?  I had toyed with the possibility of stopping after 20K, BUT, I'd been talking about this race on my blog and on Facebook for a while.  I'd have felt like an ass if I wimped out and didn't at least try to run the distance I'd signed up for (and of course I'd have owned up to it if I'd quit...there's no fun in telling what you've accomplished if you don't also admit when you fall short.)  So, while I thought about calling it a day after 20K, I never seriously considered it.  For long, anyway.

Lap 3: Kevin joined me as I was walking away from the water stop by the finish line, and we ran together for the rest of the race.  Funny...he went to Big River Running to buy trail shoes after signing up for the Pere Marquette race and got talked into the Skippo--a 30K for his first trail race!  It's amazing how much you can find to talk about with total strangers...and how much better the time passes when you have company.  AT the next water stop, a volunteer told me I was the 11th woman ("Out of 11?", I asked, but apparently there were more).  I really wished she hadn't told me, because I didn't want to feel like I had anything to hold onto.  Luckily, there were no other women in sight, so I didn't have to do much to protect my "ranking".

As we reached the stairs, another guy came up behind us.  I offered to let him go ahead of me because I knew I'd be dragging on the stairs, but he said, "No thanks, I've been following those socks for the last couple miles."  So then we were three. I can't tell you how much better the last two laps were because of having people to talk to.  I had a blast. Trail runners are awesome people.

The three of us stuck together for the remainder of the race. I think this was the first trail race for either of the guys, which I guess makes me the wily veteran (or at least the one who should have known better).  I think they both enjoyed the trails, though Paul mentioned that he felt like he was the very last person.  I was a combination of feeling pretty good (considering) and really wanting to be done. Around the halfway point of the lap, I noticed a couple a ways in front of us. Eventually I realized one of them was a girl. "She's probably not in the race, right?" I said, "so it doesn't matter that she's ahead of me."

"There's tenth place," Paul said, and as much as I tried not to care (I mean really...tenth place...big deal), I felt myself picking up the pace.  We steadily chipped away at the distance and passed her with around a mile to go.  And then I was done.  It was ridiculous.  All we had was a downhill, a little field to cross, and the finish line, and I could hardly make myself run.  Paul pulled ahead of me, so I told him, "There you go...not last anymore!"  "No," he answered, "c'mon, you've got this," and the guys pulled me the rest of the way as it started to sprinkle.  It really started to rain once we were under the pavilion. Timing is everything. 

Stats: 
Time: 3:43:13, which is more or less what I expected my time would be.
Overall: 40/42
Female: 12/13
Age group: 4/5

Part of me wants to feel sad looking at those numbers, but I'm mostly happy just to have finished.  Third last is actually a bonus, because I truly expected to be last.  There are no walkers to pad my place in a race like this.

I'll run 30K, but I won't walk to my car: Because I arrived so early, I scored a parking spot about .1 mile from the start/finish, but it might have well have been 10 miles.  There were shuttles running racers to the overflow parking at a nearby school, so I begged a ride with one of them.  He didn't even make me feel bad for being such a wimp.

All in all, it was a fantastic race.  Big River Running has put on some of my favorite races.  They outdid themselves this year: organized parking, great race shirts (Nike dry fit), heaters at the start/finish, a fun course, a bag drop area, enthusiastic volunteers, good music, food and beer afterwards, and plentiful water stops.

Oh, but while there was beer left, all the BBQ was gone.

15 comments:

  1. I think I might have been one of the ones to look at the weather and go back to bead - ha ha! Nice run :)

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  2. Yes 18+ is serious business. I can only imagine what that feels like on trails. Once again amazing girl, well done!

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  3. 18 trail miles is so tough...you are one helluva stud, girl!

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  4. wow...great job Kate!
    I know I could not do this..not on a trail for sure!
    I am impressed!!!!

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  5. OMG it looks so cold! I don't know if I could have done it. I would have stayed in the car until the last minute for sure. You are smarter than I knowing that a little shivering pre race pays off!
    I always really appreciate the volunteers holding up the really pissed off drivers and when I volunteer I always say I want nothing to do with traffic. I'm a wimp!
    That is really funny about obsessing over the beer (and not the food). I love that you were mentioning it to all. You could have gotten a revolution going.
    I agree that saying you are going to do something on a blog/FB is a good motivator! I guess I will have to do that triathlon next summer.
    I love that you passed #10 and that the guys kept you going. You make it all sound rather fun.
    Glad you got your beer!

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  6. I love the description of that final lap, and I agree - trail runners are totally awesome people.

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  7. Very impressive SuperKate! Great race report too. Regarding your placement, your neat the 312 other runners that choose shorter distances not to mention all of us wimps that weren't tough enough even to sign up.

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  8. It's even better the second time I read it!

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  9. Well done Kate! That is not a bad time for a trail 30k at all. "Trail runners are awesome people" - oh yes! I'm running a 32km (20mile) on the road on Sunday with about the same famous last words...how tough can 32km on the road be...

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  10. Kate, I've been having a great time reading about all your adventures! I was wondering if you were still taking applications for side kick. I figured for the entertainment value alone (and of course the adventure)it would be worth it. And even though I haven't wore tall knee socks since the eighties (it was back when I could grow hair on top of my head and not out my ears) I could get some if we had to have matching super hero outfits! :-)

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  11. Great time for an epic race. Sorry about the BBQ. You made it sound quite easy and almost misled me to wanting to do a 30 km trail, but luckily I caught myself out.

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  12. Sounds like a fun race! I love trail runs.

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  13. Trail run (the longest distance) in a very cold day: you did a very good job.
    And only 42 runners means that it was really tough: only the best!!!
    Brava SuperKate.

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  14. You did awesome! Where did you find the pictures from the race?

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  15. The pictures were part of the results pages.

    http://results.bazumedia.com/event/results/event/skippo2011

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