Kicks in the Sticks trail race

A month or so ago, Friend of Team Virtus Stoney posted about an upcoming trail race at Binder Lake Park in Jefferson City.  The Rotaract Kicks in the Sticks trail race offered a 1.2 mile fun walk as well as 3.5 and 7.5 mile race options.  I've mountain biked at Binder Lake a few times, and every time I ride there I think what a great trail it would be to run.  Even so, a 5 hour round trip drive for a relatively short race makes for a pretty lopsided drive:race ratio, and that combined with the chafing from last week's run left me undecided all this week.

In the end, my leg had healed up enough by Saturday that I couldn't resist the chance to combine a training run with some time hanging out with friends.  The fact that the race was for a good cause was just the icing on the cake.  It was a fundraiser, in part, for the HALO Learning Center, which "provides art therapy and educational workshops for foster and at-risk children in the Jefferson City area.  Kids from HALO made the winners' medals, which was a very cool touch.

The Bobby Showers Band onstage
Kicks in the Sticks was a race and party all in one. Live music before, during, and after, which made for a great atmosphere.  I met up with my blog friend Christina and her friend Susan as well as Virtus teammate Bob and his lovely fiancee Cara.  I guess the rest of the team was busy painting their nails or something. :)

POW! Right in the kisser.
I guess to go along with the party vibe, the race had a 6 p.m. start.  It was nice to get to sleep in, but the evening start meant running in 85 degrees instead of Saturday morning's 60-something temperatures.  While that's 20 degrees cooler than we've come to expect this summer, it still wasn't fun.

With this year's Kicks in the Sticks being the inaugural event, attendance was decent but not overwheming.  The 7.5 milers got the first start, and I lined up about mid-pack.
7.5 mile start group
I expected the first mile or two to be tough, and they were.  I tried to focus on going easy, but my first mile was under 11 minutes...which wasn't an easy pace for me.  By the first mile marker, most of the people who'd been behind me had passed me by.  I'd catch sight of them ahead of me as the trail twisted and turned, but I only re-passed two people.

Crappy picture, but these are the bridges that freak me out every time I have to ride across them.
Above, I referenced the first mile marker.  As tough as the first mile felt, I was pretty surprised by how quickly I came across the mile marker, and my Garmin was just as surprised.  It showed that I'd run less that 8 tenths of a mile.  Each subsequent mile marker was off according to my Garmin as well, to the point where by mile "7" my watch registered 6 miles.

I have to say, I wasn't all that heartbroken by the short course. My lack of training this summer has been well documented, so I went into the race knowing that I was going to struggle, but I felt weirdly bad during the run.  My legs felt weak, my breathing was all over the place, and I spent much of the race feeling like I was on the verge of vomiting...despite an effort level that didn't seem at all puke-worthy.
I absolutely love sections like this.  Such a pretty trail.
I spent the second half of the race walking pretty much any uphill and even some flats towards the end, running again on downhills and when my breathing got back under a pant.  When I reached the aforementioned "mile 7" I was energized by the knowledge that I only had half a mile left to run (really, probably less than that since all the mile markers had been significantly off).  I stepped up my pace a little, managed to pick off a father/daughter duo who had passed me near the beginning, and pushed on.

And on...and on...and on...

Finally I saw the finish line ahead of me and pushed as hard as I could to the end.  1.1 miles after the 7-mile marker, I crossed the finish line to the cheers of race staff and my friends Bob, Cara, and Stoney. Big thanks to them for waiting around for me!
Very cool finish line structure!
Once I caught my breath, I asked Stoney (who in addition to kicking my butt on the trail race, finished Dirty Kanza on a singlespeed in 15 hours...10th place in the singlespeed division) the question I'd been pondering since watching him cruise out of sight before I hit the treeline: "Is there anything you're not good at?"

We had some beers and cheered in Christina and Susan, who finished their first trail race looking strong.  Everybody else grabbed some food, but while the bean/salsa stuff and curried chicken croissants sounded good in theory, they weren't appealing given the iffy state of my stomach.  We hung out, clapped for the winners, and listened to music for a while, but eventually I had to head back home.  It was definitely a good time, and despite the drive I think I'll be back next year.

The good:
  • GREAT trails
  • free beer
  • reportedly good post-race food
  • loved the live music by the lake
  • cool vibe all-around
  • several water stops--great on a hot day
Things I hope will be different next year:
  • seriously off mile markers
  • maybe Gatorade at one or two of the water stops
  • might have been a good idea for them to have a course sweep because they had no idea who was still on the course.
As for me, it's hard to know exactly where to pin the blame for feeling so crappy on the run.  Not having trained consistently of course is huge and makes it hard to judge whether other things also came into play.  There are a couple other possible contributors, though.
  • the heat
  • running too hard in the first two miles
  • food issues: I've been reading up about the Paleo diet, and initially experimenting with easing into it, starting with eliminating grains.  I've lost 6 pounds while eating quite a bit, though my snacking is down because of the time spent staring into the pantry wondering what, exactly, I can eat.  I'm still getting plenty of carbs through fruits and vegetables, but I'm struggling with what to eat to fuel before a bigger effort.  Eating vegetables before a run has never, ever ended well for me. Given that, I think it's possible that food contributed to me overall feeling like crap (during the run...I've felt really good otherwise).  Definitely something I need to figure out.


  1. Great report with some great pics. Thanks for making the drive as it was great to spend time with you where we actually got to visit quite a bit (before and after the race). Never knew you were feeling crappy - guess I was too self-involved to notice (and the fact that you finished way ahead of me). Looking forward to the next time we get to hang out!

  2. Great job on pushing through to the end! I wish I could've been there, but I couldn't get out of my "nail appointment." My nails look fabulous, though.

    The paleo diet has a bit of an adjustment period. You may want to check out "The Paleo Diet for Athletes." It's a bit older than some of the newer resources out there, but it specifically addresses issues that athletes face.

    By the way... We leave for The Thunder Rolls in 11 days!!!!!!

  3. I have found a lot of trail races I've run have been off on the markers, too....but 1.1 extra miles seems a bit extreme. They should give you an award just for extra mileage or something :). You seem to be on a more more strict regime with the training lately so this race was just a training run :)...keep up the great work and next year you'll be crossing first - woohoo!!

  4. In the city, I think the hanging shoes means a gangbanger has died there or something. I wonder what it means in the sticks?

  5. Sounds like a fun race except for the inaugural event type race issues (and your stomach discomfort). Looks like a beautiful course too.

    Hopefully you'll do a blog post on the paleo diet. Maybe a paleo of dummies post so those of us that just want to hit the easy button don't have to actually do anything :-).

  6. Congrats. I agree with Luke. Check out Joel Friel's book on Paleo dieting for endurance athletes. It is excellent.


  7. Awesome pictures! It's unfortunate that marking was off. Because live music pre-run, live music post-run, party atmosphere....sounds pretty awesome. Great job!

  8. A beautiful place and a nice atmosphere. I think that the good things are more than the bad ones. The heat is always a problem. For me, when I was a runner, it was the only problem.
    Great pics and great report as usual.

  9. Talk to my daughter. She'll tell you I have done some of those crazy drive to race ratios!
    Chaffing? I have become a bag balm convert. Have you ever used it? (for cows!) Personally I am not fond of evening races. I like that section you said you liked. Looks flat and pleasant. I like cool food after a race - the typical stuff like bagels and bananas. HOt greasy food like pizza doesn't work for me at all. Is there any chance you were at all dehydrated during your race?

  10. I miss working out on the trails; manly in the very much cooler weather. Last winter wasn't cold enough around here!! I just get sooooooooooo friggin hot these days!!

    opps, sorry, took away from your off the cuff race. Great job and sorry your tummy wasn't agreeing with you.

    and great minds think alike cuz I've been investigating the Paleo diet. I've heard good things...and i've also been told lately I should consider giving up grains.

  11. Congratulations! That course marking is TOO un-funny. This type of measurement drives me nuts! The finish line might NEVER come...ahhg.

    The photos are beautiful- gorgeous trails.

    Good ideas on the things you hope will be different. Sounds like a course sweep would be a great addition.

  12. Despite the inaccurate markers, they sold me with the finish line and those pretty trails. I wish I could do this one! Good for you for getting out there--it looks like the perfect run.

  13. What a fun finish line!!

    Have you read paleo for Athletes? It gives some alternatives to just fruits and veggies for endurance events.

  14. I hate it when mile markers are off. It seriously messes with my head.

    I will be curious as to how you do with paleo while running. I've been reading about it a lot, but my stomach is such a deal breaker for me in a race, that I am terrified to try it.

  15. "...snacking is down because of time spent staring into the pantry wondering what, exactly, I can eat". LMAO, this must be the secret to Paleo eating!!!
    Just kidding, seriously that is great about trying a new way to eating. But what exactly DO you use for fuel for longer events?


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