Back on the ShITR (Shivering Icy Trail Run)

Saturday was the 3rd ("Turd") annual ShITR, a nighttime trail half marathon hosted by my friends at ROCK Racing.  Its January date has so far supplied the conditions necessary for the Shivering Icy Trail Run to live up to its name: the initial race was held in freezing rain and sleet, while the second year the race featured patches of ankle-deep slush left by the semi-melted snow.  This year was no exception, lacking precipitation but including freezing temperatures and multiple icy patches.

Photo credit: IronGirl Photos
I'd spent the week before the race feeling ambivalence, if not outright dread. I had no desire to run a half marathon, but I felt like I had to do the race because it's typically the kind of thing I love to do. Because I always do the ShITR.  And then I realized how stupid I was being.  I don't have any sponsors with expectations to uphold; I wouldn't even be out any money since it was a free race.  I messaged Chuck and told him I probably wasn't running the whole thing and he suggested I ride sweep with him and Bob.  Mountain bikes, whiskey, and a chill pace with two of my favorite people? Yeah, that sounded pretty good.

But then Patrick and I did a trail run on Wednesday night. Since he's just coming back from a knee injury, it was a pretty chill run that included a lot of walking. And you know what? Between the company and the relaxed pace, it was pretty fun. Maybe I wasn't in half marathon shape, but I could potentially just short course myself.  I had plenty of options.

In the end, between being nervous about riding the icy trails in the dark and the fact that my friend Aaron planned to run the race at an easy pace, I decided to just do the run, cutting out early on the gravel if I felt like I needed to.  

The race start is at 5:00 at the Mound, typically about an hour drive for me, so the fact that I ended up leaving my house at 4 made for a pretty stressful commute. Luckily I was parked with about 8 minutes to spare. I got to start on time, but I missed out on a lot of the pre-race socialization that I love.

Look at this group of nuts!
Photo credit: Lori Vohsen
We started with a run up the Mound to the highest point in St. Charles County...

Photo credit: IronGirl Photos
It was only chilly at the start, but it was downright cold with the winds at the top.

Coming back down. A good picture of my friend Cheri in the forefront with the least unattractive picture I could find of myself over on the side and Aaron (in red) looking a little like a serial killer.
So fast that I'm a blur!
Photo credit: Lori Vohsen
In contrast to the Little Woods race, where pretty much every mile felt terrible, our first four miles ticked off without me thinking much about them. I haven't seen Aaron for a while, so we had plenty of catching up to do and lots of good conversation interspersed with comfortable silence.

There were plenty of friends out on the trail as well, so we had lots of people to talk to, and since I've spent a lot of time on the Lost Valley trails, I was able to reassure Cheri, Doug, and Donna on a prolonged stretch of gravel that we hadn't missed our turn.  Even with my familiarity, though, I started to feel a little less sure of myself as the gravel section went on...and on...and we weren't seeing any other headlamps.  That section takes a lot longer on foot than on bike!

We later ran into my friend Matt, who was running the race with some other tri club friends. I love seeing people I know on the trail, though between my paranoid focus on the trail in front of me and my crappy night vision sometimes it's hard to tell who's who.

The temperature hovered around 30, though it felt much colder along the creek bottom, and it was a perfect night for running. I pretty much nailed the clothing for the weather, so I was always comfortable.  About halfway in I started paying a little more attention to the distance, beginning to count down until we were finished. I still felt good, but my legs were getting a little heavy; even on some of the slight uphills I started feeling like I was on a treadmill: all of my effort seemed to get me little progress.  I guess I'd stopped picking up my feet as much, too, because I tripped and caught myself several times.

And then 10 miles in I tripped on an embedded rock, and instead of catching myself I let the other rocks do the job.  Most of my running falls (which are less frequent than people seem to think) tend to see me landing on fairly smooth surfaces, so I guess I was due for a rougher landing.

Sometimes you're the windshield, sometimes you're the bug. And sometimes you go flying through the air and land in the last rocky section before the doubletrack. Still a great night at the ShITR. #grassrootsracing #trailrunning #lostvalley #rockracing #ru
Battle wounds!
With just three miles to go I took an extended walking break to catch my breath and not cry.  The temperature had definitely started to fall, so I was glad to have a wind jacket along, but my cold, sore hands couldn't untie the knot around my waist.  Finally I gave up, shimmied out of it, and handed it to Aaron to untie.

I'd fallen at basically the last bad place to fall in the whole race, very close to the end of the singletrack. Once we hit the gravel doubletrack we started running again. Despite the fact that I'm out of running shape and this was Aaron's longest trail run to date, we were actually maintaining a pretty respectable pace. That was a nice feeling 10-11 miles in.

The Lost Valley and Hamburg gravel usually seems to last for-ev-er, but this time it wasn't bad at all. My hands really hurt, of course, but my legs felt pretty good and my mawmaw hip, which has been complainy lately, was perfectly happy.  We took a couple of short walk breaks in the last 2 miles but finished strong, changed clothes, and met up with the rest of the race at a nearby Mexican restaurant. Great night, great people, great end.  Big thanks to Aaron for running with me, to ROCK Racing and all of the volunteers, and to El Azteca for accommodating our noisy group.

Photo credit: Denzil Jennings
I wouldn't say my mojo is back, but last night's happy race definitely encouraged me to keep running without expectations of myself until I want to do more. has a ring to it! :)


  1. Glad you got yourself a fun race! Maybe this is the turning point to starting to really enjoy running again. Your poor hands - that's a bad fall. Keep them clean!

  2. Wow, those are some serious trophies - glad to hear your running mojo is intact after all.

  3. You are the last person I would call a slacker! Great write up of this event. As always, it was good to see you.

    1. Good seeing you, too! I'm glad your race went better this year! :)

  4. Excellent wounds! Always good to see blood in a race post

  5. Yes, those look like fantastic battle wounds. :) Congrats on the race. Keep running as enjoyment. It'll come back, especially if it was there in the first place.

  6. Ow! Your hands look pretty gnarly. I think that officially qualifies you as a major bad ass :) Where do you hear about most of these races? I'm trying to plug into the community more.


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