Quivering Quads Trail Half Marathon

You know that your life has officially been turned upside down when you count a grueling trail half marathon as a short, easy run.  Not that 13.1 miles is, or will ever be, a walk in the park for me.  In this case, short = 7 fewer miles than my training schedule called for this weekend.  Easy = I was going to try and not push too hard, I actually stopped  to take a couple pictures rather than just shooting on the run like usual and to use the bathroom.

The weather forecast for the past week was enough to make a person crazy.  It called for storms all weekend.  Then beautiful weather.  Then the storms were back for race day.  I was not looking forward to the thought of running 13 miles in the rain, but I tried to console myself with the thought that horrible weather would make the blog story that much better.  By Saturday's bike ride, though, I was feeling cautiously optimistic about our chances of staying dry...from the waist up, anyway.

It's fitting that the weather was almost awful, because it was pretty crappy at the race that led to me running Quivering Quads.  Back in December, after having my butt kicked by the Pere Marquette run, I ran into my friend Lindsay in the hall.  She and her friend were planning to run Quivering Quads "for fun", and somebody said, "Hey, you should run it, too!"  So being the sheep that I am, I dutifully registered.  I never actually got out to train with them, but I did do a lot of trail running in the space between the two races.

So, there I was getting up at 5:30 a.m. on Sunday to shave my legs (don't judge me; I have vast mud experience and know that mud will cling to and accentuate any leg hair present, and I would prefer to have one less reason to hate my race pictures) and wondering why the heck I couldn't find a hobby that would allow me to sleep in.  I was careful to make it out of the house in plenty of time to meet my tri club teammates, having already been tarred with the tardy brush ("Looks like we've got us some new trail runners...we just need to get one of them a watch!") at a Saturday run.  Once again, my decision to join the club has been more than vindicated.  This is about the nicest, most supportive group of people I've ever met, and the fact that they're kickass athletes makes it even more fun.

And if the ride was nice, hanging out before the race was even better.  When I started running last year, I was lucky if I saw one person that I knew at a race.  This was a completely different experience. I saw a friend from school and her husband, three girls I'd ridden with the day before, a woman I'd ridden with on a Trailnet ride last year, all the tri club people I'd met, and of course Lindsay and her husband.  Because all but the first 1.8 miles was on singletrack, the race had a wave start.  Since my wave didn't leave until 39 minutes after the official race beginning, I had plenty of time to relax and hang out...and there was never a long line for the bathrooms, which is always a plus!

 It was a little cool in the morning, but I wore shorts and a short-sleeved tech top because it was supposed to warm up.  I'd considered wearing a tank top, which would probably have been more comfortable.  Jim from the club brought an extra tri club pinney so I'd have one to wear (see what I mean about nice people?), and the Team Godzilla green nicely complemented my purple top.

QQ start
Waiting with my wave.  You can see the next wave to leave ahead of us.
Everything was really well organized at the start.  The Fleet Feet people kept things moving smoothly, and before long it was time to take off.

The beginning...check out the nice soggy trail. :)
They started us off down a fire road.  It was almost a mile down and back, and it included some hills, so by the time we got to the singletrack we were pretty well spread out.  Right from the beginning people were trying to avoid the mud and the water.  My strategy was to plow straight through as long as I had decent footing.  There was no chance of staying clean or dry in this race (and really, where's the fun in that?), so I wasn't going to waste energy weaving back and forth to dry spots.

More of the quality photography that keeps you people coming back. :)
My "dirty girl" strategy served me well once I got to the singletrack.  This was a super nice group of people running, and often you didn't have to even ask someone to move or say "on your left"; if they heard you coming they generally just moved out of the way.  Even so, I passed a lot of people when they looped around a wet or muddy spot.  Overall, I think I passed more people than passed me, and once they were passed they stayed that way, with the exception of four girls and two guys (not that I was counting). 

One of the many creek crossings
One of the many creek crossings
It soon was evident to all but the most delusional people that they were going home wet.  This race featured a lot of creek crossings.  Most of them were like the one above, though some were narrow enough to jump over and one was almost mid-calf depth on me.  There was also a lot of mud.  In some places, it was ridiculously muddy.   I was having a blast.  My footing was solid in the mud, I wasn't having any problems crossing the creeks, I ran up every hill in the first 5 miles, and I hurdled nearly every log on the trail (and there were a lot).  Granted, I was probably wasting some energy with some of that, but I wasn't out to win the race and, as this was my first trail half marathon, I was already guaranteed a PR. 

Up until the second water stop, at mile 4.6, I was even thinking that I might be running too hard.  I felt that good, like I was flying, and I felt super strong.  And then, I made the mistake of checking my time.  58 minutes and change.  Less than a 12 minute mile.  That was a mental blow.  All of the sudden, I felt like I was struggling.  It was completely all in my head, but it probably took me another mile to start having fun again.

QQ trail
Hills.  Sigh.  They're not my friends. 
There were long periods where I ran without seeing anyone, and sometimes I wasn't entirely sure I was going the right way.  In fact, my only issue with the race is that I think it could've been marked better.  Once I only knew which way to go because another runner told me, and once I missed a turn and would've been way off track if a couple hiking hadn't shown me where I should've turned.  I only went about 30 feet off course, but it was still annoying.
QQ creek crossing
Coming out of the deepest creek crossing

For the picture above, I actually stopped to take a picture of my feet in the deep water, tried taking a picture of the bank, backed up to get a better angle, and still never managed to get a picture of the water or how deep it was.  Time well spent.  :P The race covered a nice mix of terrain.  It verged from muddy lower areas, lots of hills, some packed dirt trails, some that were covered in fine rock, and some with larger rocks and roots.  You definitely had to pay attention to where you were going.  I had some near ankle turns, but I felt really confident running on the trail and never fell.  (I think that's two races in a row, so I'm probably in for a doozy of a fall.)

QQ run
Photo credit: Fleet Feet
The course was a figure eight route, and I saw Jim coming back as I went out for the second loop.  I definitely struggled more on the hills on this side of the course.  I don't think it was necessarily that they were so challenging; I was just that much more worn down.  One mistake I made was not taking any GU along with me.  I knew the only food that would be out on the course was pretzels.  I did have a crumbled up fruit and cereal bar in my belt, so I ate part of that as I ran.

QQ creek crossing
Not sure what's up with the arms.  Also, I'd have been a lot dirtier if it wasn't for this creek crossing.                             Photo credit: Fleet Feet
Here's another of the creek crossings.  The "big" creek crossing.  I was expecting more.  Very nice of Fleet Feet, though, to have a photographer stationed there to get our pictures. 

A couple of guys came up behind me on one of the hills that I was running.  I offered to move, and the guy said he'd let me know when he was ready to pass.  Eventually I moved aside, and they made a remark about how I'd be passing them again in 5 minutes.  I knew that was highly unlikely...seems like once I get passed, I lose the impetus to keep up the pace.  As we hit the very next hill, though, they slowed enough that I had to go around them again.  Go figure.  I didn't see them for a whileafter I passed, but we ended up leapfrogging a few times and then running together for a while.  It was nice to have some company and conversation.  Thanks, Corey and AJ! 

Running with my new friends...I didn't end the race in the lead.
Walking up yet another hill, I saw Keith, who yelled at me to get running.  Now that's a teammate for you...he finished the race first in his AG and then headed back on the course to take pictures of the rest of us and provide "motivation".  Did I mention I love my new club? :)

He was also kind enough to get a rear view, which I'm only sharing because it's less painful than the close up of my face as I ran past.  Sigh.  I'm much cuter in my imagination than in reality.  Photo "credit": Keith Timmins
You'll notice that I ended up down to just the pinney with my t-shirt tucked into my strap.  It was too warm to run in sleeves!  After a while, I couldn't take it any more.  There were some pretty rocky spots on the trail, so I made myself wait until I had to walk up a hill--and until I was alone on the trail--and then I whipped off my shirts and switched over to just the sleeveless one.  Much better.  You'll also notice that my shorts enjoyed hanging around my ass much more than my legs, which begs the question:

Q: How much Body Glide do I need to keep my thighs from rubbing together?
A: More than what I used.  :(  Nasty chafing.  Boo.

 On the plus side of the medical equation, my poor blistered feet held up very well.  I Body Glide-ed all of my feet and put bandaids over the spots that blistered so badly on last week's long run.  I wore a (new) pair of SmartWool socks, and I had no problems at all.  Overall, my entire body felt pretty good, other than the ankle that really wanted to get twisted.  Even my knee held out well.

Corey took off with a little more than a mile to go, and now it was AJ dragging me rather than me being in the lead.  We came back through the water stop at the point of the figure eight, and I could really have used a drink.  Everbody was just sitting at the table.  I wanted a drink, but I wanted to be finished more.  AJ said something about not remembering passing something and thinking that we still needed to go up some big hill.  I replied, "Nope.  It's downhill the rest of the way.  With a tailwind."

Unfortunately, my wishful thinking didn't pan out.  What sadistic bastard put those hills in the last mile of the race??  It was such a nice challenge to encounter a couple of hills when I was just about finished, both literally and figuratively.  AJ took off; I lumbered up the hill until it flattened out, and then I settled into a jog.  The final stretch brought us back down the fireroad we'd left on, and I was able to pick it up and finish strong.  Strong enough that I probably should have still been running a little harder earlier instead of letting the hills mess with my head.
qq finish 4
Now, remember, that time doesn't reflect my wave start.  Subtract 39 minutes.
All in all, the race was a blast.  I love getting muddy, I love running on trails, I love crossing creeks...and there was plenty of all of the above.   One thing: I think the race is misnamed.  My calves and hamstrings were much unhappier than my quads.
Quivering Quads--after
After shot...awesome
Lindsay had a little more adventure on her race.  She and her friend came upon a man lying on the side of the trail.  They stopped to help him out, and Lindsay waited with him while Amy ran back to the nearest aid section to get help.  Thankfully, he ended up being OK, and they got to run in with a good story to tell, if not a PR.  The chance to be someone's angel doesn't come around every day, and I know they'd do it again in a heartbeat.

My teacher friend Erin, who was baptized into the craziness of trail running with this race, had a few thoughts on it, too, and shared them last night via Facebook.  (I'm using this with her permission.)


10. Road running shoes do NOT work on trails.
9.   Sometimes old people are faster than you think.
8.   Don't underestimate the 250 lb kid because he is deceptively athletic as well.
7.   "Trail running" isn't really running...it's actually scaling/climbing/trudging across muddy terrain. With rocks.
6.   Ryan (her brother) will still SMOKE YO' ASS despite #7.
5.   When choosing names for one's blisters, one must be more creative than "Blister #1, Blister #2..."
4.   "The mind is willing, but the body is not able," was surely coined while running a trail 1/2 marathon.
3.   When prevention of injury is your NUMBER ONE PRIORITY you might consider an alternative hobby.
2.  If Kate ever recommends a race, save yourself the blisters & tell her you need to wash your hair that day.
1.  Regardless of age, YOU TOO can get a participation medal after crawling trhough mud, hurdling fallen logs, crossing multiple streams, and creatively running around rocks.  You might die trying, but you'll still have a medal.
Finisher's medal (& obligatory "Got Bling" picture)
 And Ms. "I've never done a trail race"-racing-in-her-road-shoes beat me by 13 minutes and came in fourth in her age group.  If I was at all competitive, I'd hate her a little.

Sooo...the details:

Chip time: 2:46:20 (12:42/mi)
Age group: 12/24
Overall: 224/364 (but 450 people were registered, so I'm just going to assume that nearly 100 people didn't finish and I was right smack in the middle. :)
Calories: 2,545
Post-race meal: 54th Street Grill chicken avocado sandwich, onion rings, strawberry margarita
Post-race meal guilt: Absolutely none


  1. You absolutely beat all those people who didn't finish or start or whatever! You were out there doing the whole thing!

  2. Gosh, I can see why they call it Quivering Quads! My quads would be quivering at the end of this for sure!!! But you look tough Kate! Love your list of lessons at the end. Those old people always surprise me! :) ha!

  3. I love reading your adventures Kate...I am so trying trail racing after this marathon :)

    BTW, please come follow my new blog and delete the old one, there were problems with it. Here's the new link:


  4. Great Report Kate, I agree with all of it. And I should just carry body glide with me and use it 15 or 20 times during the race.

  5. That looks like so much fun! I would've probably done it spikes or else I would've falling all the time!

  6. It makes me sad that I am not the Jim in your blog. That looked like so much fun!

  7. It was fun to read your blog post! I was there too and wrote about it -- but nearly as eloquent as you! Great job! :D

  8. That looks like a tough half marathon for us trail runner wannabes. Way to get it done.

    Only a mountain bike ride Sat and trail HM Sunday this weekend? No swimming the English Channel or being dropped of in Alaska to hike out Man vs. Wild style? Just messin, you've really been killing it with your training, racing and adventures. Keep it up!

  9. Super awesome pics Super Kate. The one thing I learned about trail running is that pace is sooooo different. I would say at least 90 secs slower when incorporating big hills.

    Nice job. Great results.

  10. Old people are ALWAYS faster than you think!

  11. NIce report, Sounds like a great race. Congrats.

  12. You are a super-hero; that half marathon is terrible, you made a very good job, congrats.
    In every pic you look strong and in perfect shape.
    Thanks for the mention (the old people are faster ecc. ecc.)!!!!
    Beautiful report.

  13. Super Kate, you're such a dirty girl! Those photos are awesome - it looks like you had a blast...

    Trail shoes would help, however, judging from the pics, mud is mud. Not much you can do about that!

  14. OK, everybody...I have to emphasize that that was my friend's list of lessons. I've gotten my butt kicked by enough "old people" in the past few years to have learned that lesson over and over again. :)

    Chris K, I only wish my pace only suffered by 90 seconds! Maybe with more practice....

  15. I love the fact you had no quilt post-race food fest :). You so deserved it. Nice muddy legs, definitely a badge of honor for a fantastic trail race. LOVE LOVE LOVE your enthusiasm, your smile at the finish paints the fun adventure you had. Congrats, girl!!!

  16. Looks like a blast! I always try to step in the first puddle or mudhole just to get it out of the way.

  17. Super run and great report! Oh how I miss the trails…not too long before my trail season starts. This really made me feel part of the run and I enjoyed every bit. Thanks and well done!

  18. Kate, I'm a little late getting over to your blog, but I just had to read this race report! My goodness, what a supreme challenge, you ran an amazing race.

    I think I would have been one of the runners trying to avoid the mud and water, however, after looking at all the pictures, I don't think anyone finished the race with dry feet.

    Congrats on the half, and a tough half at that!

  19. I read this blog last year after my disastrous trek over the course and now wonder why I am going to do it again. I guess it is that most of the gray matter and common sense has deserted me. I really enjoyed reading the blog a 2nd time and refuse to let it deter me.

    Thanks for writing it.



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