Every time I trail run, I have a blast. It’s much more fun than running the roads. A for a fleeting moment, I think to myself about possibly taking up this sport and replacing triathlons. But, it’s a very fleeting moment. For now, it’s a good way to put in training time on my feet, build a good base and strength while hopefully not injuring myself.
Otter Creek is a park located southwest of Louisville, in Meade County. Even though it’s outside of Jefferson County, Louisville Metro Parks owns the property. Located just off of Dixie Highway, it’s very easy to get to and offers several things to do at the park from repelling, hiking, fishing, and camping. However, this time I came to trail run. There were options for 8, 16, and 26.2 miles (actual distances were more like 9, 18, and 27). Each distance beyond 8 miles, meant you had to run an extra lap. I signed up for the full marathon giving myself the option to cut it short if I didn’t feel like running 3 laps since I had only trail run once in the last 3 or 4 weeks.
I came into the race with a mindset of just running a nice even pace. Obviously, I wanted to win, but if I didn’t win, I wasn’t going to be upset since I was coming into this race unprepared. I had a nutritional strategy figured out based on other trail running I’ve done. Infinit Bike formula and some gels to help replace calories. I used gels because I knew with the cooler temperatures I would be drinking too much sports drink to get adequate calories and would have to find a tree off the trail too often. I carried two gels with me, and planned on using a couple from the course to get me through the marathon, if I ended up running that far.
The race started on time, with looming clouds overhead promising that this race wouldn’t stay dry for long. Just a couple miles into the race, it started sprinkling. At that point, was the steepest decent of the race. Just the small amount of rain made it a bit slick, but not too bad for the shoes I was wearing. I managed to make it down in one piece with 1st place about 30 seconds ahead of me. My friend Ryan Althaus ran about half of the first lap with me. It was nice to have someone to talk to for the first 5 miles. Unfortunately, he has been struggling with some pain issues in his hip for a few months now, and had to back off after the first aid station.
The aid station marked the bottom of the trail, and to get back up to the where we started involved climbing. There was two sections of sustained climbing, and with the rain picking up, it made it tough to climb. My stride lengths were cut in half from sliding down the hill while climbing. I came to the second aid station, starting my second lap, in second place with third just behind. First lap was completed in about 1:05
I approached the steep decent again, only this time the trail had turned to mud. I had to walk a good portion of this part because I was wearing road racing shoes and didn’t want to plummet to my death onto some sharp rocks. I let 3rd place pace me, but caught back up to him at the 3rd aid station. When I arrived there, he told me first place was 2 or 3 minutes ahead of me. I kind of figured he would continue to build a gap and would go on to win. I didn’t really care too much… I was just having fun. I downed a gel and began running back up to start of the 3rd lap. Second lap was completed in about 1:08
At this point, I was contemplating cutting it short and doing the 16 mile option. However, about a mile before reaching the 3rd lap, I got a second wind and started feeling really good again. I refilled my bottle with more Infinit Bike formula and took off on the third lap.
Just as I started the 3rd lap, it started pouring. I began dreading the down hill. Between feeling good and wanting to distance between me and 3rd place, I started picking up my speed. I actually made it down the hill a little faster this time than the last despite the even muddier conditions. Maybe it was confidence from the first two laps, or maybe it was stupidity, but what I did seemed to work. I came to the bottom of the trail and ran along Otter Creek for the third time. I saw someone ahead of me wearing bright green. For a moment, I thought to myself, “I wonder if that is first place?” I quickly threw that option out thinking that he was probably beyond the aid station by now. As I got closer and came around the corner, I realized it was first place. I though to myself, “Okay… maybe I can win this thing.” I didn’t want to pick up my pace yet as I still had all the climbing left to do for this lap and knew that it was going to be a muddy mess climbing those hills again.
I entered the short out-and-back section that lead us to the aid station. I didn’t waste any time. I grabbed a gel and ate it on the run instead of savoring it while standing still at the aid station. I saw second place about a minute behind me after passing him about a 1/2 mile ago.
I did my best to maintain a steady pace, but as I neared the end of the third lap, I began to feel hungry and lacking energy. I drank what was left in my bottle of Infinit and felt a little pick me up. Finally, I saw the final aid station. Once I got there, I only had about 1/4 mile run to the finish. I looked over my shoulder and didn’t see 2nd place behind. I jogged it in and crossed the finish line just after the clock clicked to 3:28.
I am very happy with my results. I am even more happy with the even pacing I did for the three laps. I think it would have been even closer to even pacing if the trails weren’t so wet and slippery.
I’m just glad that Troy “the Kentucky Hammer” Shellhamer didn’t show up for the race, giving me a chance to win one last race before 2012 ends!
Thanks to Infinit Nutrition for the amazing product to fuel my body during this race. I also think that the boot camps I’ve started doing at Pure Fit played a huge role in helping me race so well. My legs felt strong the whole time and the day after the race I wasn’t really sore, which typically happens when I run trails.