"It never gets easier, you just go faster." - Greg Lemond

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Tecumseh Double Trail Marathon

I put my graphic design skills to work


I'd never run the Tecumseh Trail marathon before.  If I had, I'm not sure I would have agreed to run the course in reverse the night before, per Scott Breeden's brilliant suggestion.  I've run in Southern Indiana before, and I never cease to be amazed by the plethora of excellent trails the area has to offer.  The hills are also much larger than what we have available anywhere near where I live.  If you want to check out what the area has to offer, you can read Scott's article here.

Great idea Ryan.  Also, notice the nice minivan/station wagon hybrid in the background
Sometimes I like to get a little stupid.  And luckily, I have friends who think the same way.  Scott asked around, and before I knew it, he had found two other saps to go for the TTDM with us.  We all met at the campground in Morgan Monroe State Forest, where race started the next morning (Saturday).  Then, Kevin, Ryan, Scott and I all hoped in the Toeriffica and drove to Yellowwood, where the race would finish (Saturday).  After nearly driving off the road multiple times, I finally got us there safely.  We proceeded to each take a pull of paleo-style buffalo whiskey in order to provide some analgesic effects. And we were off.

Ryan, Kevin, and I enjoying a beautiful day
I should point out that it was also nearing 60 degrees, and soon we were all warm and had to adjust our layers.  The first 45 minutes or so flew by, we were moving at a good clip, and I had noted to Ryan Case at least once that the hills were rather large.

Anyways, we ran, and ran some more, the mood was light, energy seemed good, and I was running the hills fairly well (at least for me).  We had water stashed at mile 13, right at the bottom of Indian Hill, and if you've never run down Indian Hill, its really freakin steep.  After bombing down it, I realized I'd have to go up it tomorrow, and knew it was going to be fun.
Indian Hill Bombing
I think someone farted

mtn bike gloves for $5 are good for grabbing trees

We continued along our marry way, dodging dogs and hunters, until we finished.  Upon reaching the campground where our tents were set up, a muscle in my left leg notted up into a nasty charlie horse, and from then on it felt as if I had a deep tissue bruise.  Definitely a new feeling, I've never had that happen before.  I blame it on only drinking 2 bottles of water for the 4 hour run.

We refueled with Mexican food, met up with more friends, then Scott and I screwed around in the woods, foraging for firewood and falling down ravines (that part was mostly me).  Before I knew it, it was 1am, and time to crash for the night.  Slept pretty well in my tent, and then it was race morning.  The first thing I noticed when I woke up was a big knot in my leg from where the cramp had been the previous day.  Not much to do but run on it.
TTDM day 1 a success

I can't emphasize how nice it was to sleep at the race start, as there was havoc in the shuttle system, one bus broke down, another one tried to run over a car (the race ended up starting 45 minutes late).  I found some friends, said hi, peed in some bushes, then stood around anxiously awaiting the start.

We started, and half of us ran down the road, while the other half cut across the grass and ended up ahead of us.  Interesting...

The first mile ticked by in 6:45, then another 6:45, and the 3rd mile?  You guessed it, 6:45.  I thought, oh crap at this effort levels im going to bonk, and I could still see Scott Breeden, which should have been the first sign I was going to hard, but then we hit the hills and Scott was gone.  My legs had felt strong climbing the previous day, so it should only be expected that they would be flat and dead on the inclines on race day.  So I tried to back down to a good pace, and ran with some guys Scott knew from Bloomington, and still felt like it was an unsustainable effort.  Josh Wopata was still near at this point, so we shared some laughs and I tried not to think about the fact that I was getting roasted on the uphills.

Sooner rather than later, Josh scooted away, I fell down, and I started to question my goal.  What was my goal?   Oh yeah, to finish.  I figured I could at least do that.
Up direction

Mile 12 came and went, then mile 13 at 1:45 into the race, and this time we had to go up not down Indian Hill.  It was as steep as I remembered from yesterday.  However, my legs were starting to come around, I was a little suprised I wasn't feeling bonky despite the early pace, and I felt confident that I had settled into a effort that I could maintain for hours.  I started the race with two scoops of roctaine powder in my water bottle.  I figured at the high intensity I would shoot for 150 calories an hour or so and continued to fuel at this rate.  I never had any stomach trouble and just ate gels and drank water after my Roctaine bottle ran out.

Around mile 16 I started to really feel good.  Only 10 miles left, and I feel this good???  I still couldnt believe I wasn't hitting bonk city running between 7:30-8:30 miles on trail in this hilly woods.

I guess my last two races had been 100 milers and I've forgotten that you can run hard at the end of shorter stuff.  Thats great.  I slowly worked my way up the field.  I think around mile 13 I was in 10th or 11th, now by mile 18 I was in 6th or 7th.    

I pushed hard when I saw Josh up ahead.  He had slowed a little, and I was moving well, so I said hi and kept moving.  He has done this to me numerous times in races so I had little remorse about not slowing to run with him.  I picked off a few more people, until I saw Scott's friends from Bloomington, probably around mile 25.  Usually if you are running hard enough to see someone you haven't seen all day, you know they're probably blown and you can catch them easily.  This guy...  Not so much.  I think hearing my panting behind him really woke him up, and he floated up a series of switch backs.  I dug deep, went deep to the well to try to match his effort, and came up with nothing.
Almost done
A couple wobbly running steps later, I pow hiked the remaining steep portions of the switchbacks and ran as soon as I reached douche' grade, but it was to no avail, 4th place was outtro.  We came into a long road section and I could see 4th and 3rd place about 1/4 mile ahead of me.  With only a 1/2 mile to go, I smiled, laughed a little bit and ran it in.  What a day.  Scott was already finished and was hanging out with Becky and Rebecca, other members of our crew; cheering and waiting for everyone to come in.  I asked Scott if he got the W, he said yes, which gets a thumbs up from me.
Scott posing for the camera
Finishing holding hands - how cute

Ended up 5th overall, in 3:26, which means I negative split the race, and funny because I've run slower road marathons...  I think it might have had something to do with the generous downhill sections towards the end, but I'm going to pretend it was my excellent pacing.  I think everyone had a great time - Fellow michiganders Ryan and Alaina Case also participated in our pre-race shinanigans, and then crushed it the following day (Alaina was 3rd OA woman in her first trail marathon!).  I fear if those two feed off each other and really train hard, soon I'll be getting Case'd.  Kevin Kearney, the other member of our stupid adventure finished with a strong kick, beating out whoever he had been running in with, and although I'd just met him, he seemed to always be in a good mood, making for a good running buddy.

Tecumseh is challenging, but beautiful.  Friday we ran the up direction, while Saturday we had a net downhill run.  We had great weather, like 60s and sunny, and the creekbeds were relatively dry - I can see them being difficult to maneuver if there had been flowing water.  According to my Garmin the up direction (Yellowwood to Morgan Monroe) has 3400 gain and 2800 decent, with the opposite being true for the actual race.  This is slightly less than advertised, but its still a lot for a marathon.  It felt more like the advertised numbers of 3500 ascent and 4000 decent, but who knows (or cares). 

Comments on paleo and the run.  For breakfast I had a banana with a ton of cashew butter, and followed the fueling plan I described above.  I'm still very interested in the fact that I didn't bonk.  Personally, I don't feel like I have any business running that fast of a trail marathon, especially running one the previous day.  The previous day I did the entire 26 on just 2 gels, which is on the low end of things.  I also felt like I got more of a kick out of the gels than I used to.  This was the first race I've run since going paleo, and I think that at lactic threshold, I am metabolizing more fat than I used to, allowing me to run longer at a higher heart rate or intensity without bonking.  Just a thought, but it would be pretty cool if that was the case.

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