The Doughnut Run
The Race Where I Took In More Calories Than I Burned
I had more ambitious plans for a half marathon earlier in November, but my training lapsed and some friends who had also expressed interest weren’t able to run it either, so I was left looking for my monthly race. Internet searches showed me a number of options across the state. I seriously considered a 10 mile race 3 hours east, just because the shirt design was so cool. My Thanksgiving plans are still up in the air, so I couldn’t commit to a Turkey Trot. Most of the local options were 5ks, and I figured that with a PR on a super flat course as well as an overall female victory in the 5k already under my belt this past year, my potential to match or best those accomplishments was slim, and I wanted to keep riding my successes.
Then I found the Matt Gfeller Doughnut run right here in Winston-Salem. The 5k race had two categories, Dough or No-Dough. Dough runners must eat six Krispy Kreme doughnuts at the halfway point of the race, and No Dough runners have the option to eat any number, including zero. I opted to enter as a Dough runner, giving myself an automatic excuse for not getting a PR or victory, along with a new sort of challenge.
The weather flipped over to winter temperatures the evening before the race, so I was running in sub-freezing weather for the first time in many months, bringing out the ear band and gloves and jacket. With over 600 total runners, this was also the largest race I’ve done in a while. There were 193 Dough runners and 477 No Dough runners. Only 42 female Dough runners finished, so the eaters were predominantly male. Not too surprising!
Matt Gfeller was a local high school student who died of brain injury after taking a hard hit in a football game in 2008. His family and friends have put this race together to raise money for brain trauma research. From the race website, “all entry fees will go to the Matthew Gfeller Foundation to support brain trauma research at the Childress Institute for Pediatric Trauma at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center and the Matthew Gfeller Sports Related Traumatic Brain Injury Research Center at UNC-Chapel Hill.” It starts and finishes at Reynolds High School, and there is a major student presence at the event, despite the fact that Gfeller’s peers have likely all finished college by now. That said, I have rarely felt so OLD at a race! Welcome to thirty, Emily!
After some explanations about the course and what to do when we reached the doughnuts, the pack was off! My toes were numb. It was different being so crowded on the course. I’m pretty familiar with the neighborhood as I run through it all the time, but I do generally stick to the routes I know, and we went on a street I don’t know if I’ve run on before. Always interesting to have a change of pace when you expect it to be familiar!
The doughnuts were in an elementary school parking lot at the halfway point. I started regaining painful feeling in my toes. As you approached the lot, the smell of sugar just smacked you in the face. If you’ve ever been in a Krispy Kreme store when they are making the doughnuts, you know the gist. There was a timing mat at the entry and exit points of the lot to track the length of time you spent eating. I thought that was a nice touch! A big group of volunteers handed out boxes of doughnuts. I grabbed one, pulled off my gloves and it was time to get down to business.
Given I wasn’t going to be breaking land speed records, I opted to bring my phone along to document this experience.
The first doughnut was actually kind of warm, probably from where the volunteer was holding it. This would be a lot easier if they were Hot Doughnuts Now!
I’d seen this in the prior year’s race photos as a good practice, smashing two or more together. I ate the first warmish one alone, then two sets of smushed double-doughnuts.
By this point they definitely weren’t warm anymore
I got glaze-finger prints all over my phone while trying to take these selfies.
Mental dialogue: “smile! you’re cold and gorging on sweets! But the picture is going on the internet!”
By this point I’m definitely slowing down.. thinking “okay Em, you can do it…”
I grabbed a cup of water to help wash them down. Maybe I should have done this sooner. Dunked them like the Nathan’s Hot Dog Contest guys do? Nah that would just dissolve and be a weird mushy mess.
Time to toss my box into the pile of boxes and head back out!
I checked my watch here and was surprised to see 10 minutes had passed. I thought I was eating more quickly.
Time to put the gloves back on and forge ahead with the second half of the run. As I took some hesitant steps forward, I didn’t find any complaints from my stomach. I was surprised and pleased. I also didn’t see any, uh, doughnut remnants on the side of the road, so perhaps other people were able to keep it together too. I ran on, decently comfortable. Actually feeling a little concerned that the binge had not bothered my stomach!
Overall, my time was 34:57. I ran the first half in 11:33 (7:26 pace per mile), ate the doughnuts in 10:12 (1:42 pace per doughnut) and ran the second half in 13:13 (8:31 pace per mile ). If you subtract the doughnut part, that’s a 24:46 5k, which isn’t too shabby.
There were only 18 people who ate slower than I did. That makes me want to go back next year and try to eat faster! I do have to question some of the times though. I’m not sure it is humanly possible to eat 6 doughnuts in 1 minute… Maybe he just grabbed the box and left? Come on fella, you need to eat them in the sugar-scented doughnut area!
Made it to the finish line!
After the race they had refreshments… all I wanted was water. No thanks to any more doughnuts, or frozen yogurt, or even fruit. No sugar for a while please!
I made the mistake of tallying up my caloric intake from the race… at 190 calories and 11g fat per Krispy Kreme, that’s 1140 calories and 66g fat. My general rule of thumb is 100 calories burned per mile, so I netted 840 calories during the race. Maybe I burned a few more before and after from shivering!
Given the majority male race, and the extremely young field, I decided to wait around for the awards. I followed the sun around and tried to stay warm. And I was right to stay! They announced me as second place female 30-39, but on the results I’m first, as a 36 year old took second place overall. The awards were hooded sweatshirts with the race logo! So functional!
Want to see it? Just a sec, I’ll lay the hoodie and the long sleeve race tech shirt out on the floor and take a photo. But uh-oh, the cats want to investigate. I think they also appreciate a cool logo and one of the better race awards I’ve gotten! Pint glasses, bottle of wine, foot massage (still haven’t used that…or blogged about that race), trivet, those are all handy for sure, but this was a nice surprise.
In the end, I really enjoyed this race. Didn’t want to eat much for the rest of the day and probably won’t seek out doughnuts any time soon, but it was fun and for a good cause. Maybe next year I can get a group to join me and we can see who can eat the fastest! But one thing I really don’t see myself doing? The original Krispy Kreme Challenge, held over at NC State. That’s a full dozen and 5 miles. No thanks.
Time keeps flying, I keep running, but not blogging. Time to catch up on some races!
June 7 – 5k on the Runway
On June 7th, I ran the 5k on the Runway at Piedmont Triad International Airport (PTI) over in Greensboro. I tried to sign up a couple days before the race but when I went out during my lunch break to the store doing late registration, their credit card machine was down and I didn’t have enough cash to sign up. So I took a pamphlet and just signed up the morning of the race.
As it happened, the day before I happened to mention it to a coworker friend, and it turns out her boyfriend was doing the 10k and she was going to do the 1 mile walk. That meant I would have company. Always a treat!
The morning of the race, I drove out to the airport and we took shuttle buses out onto the runway. There was still air traffic on other runways, but not this section. I was briefly concerned about this runway being closed for the First Lady, as Michelle Obama was in town for Maya Angelou’s funeral that weekend, and sometimes Air Force One (well, the plane that would be Air Force One if the president was on board) does touch-and-goes at PTI sometimes, so I thought it might be there. Anyway, nothing came of that.
I was able to quickly and easily sign up for the 5k, and got a nice soft purple t-shirt. Chatted with my friend and her friends some. Soon it was time for the 5k. This course was flat and fast. My goals were twofold: a new PR, and to break 23 minutes. I had some speedwork under my belt as I had been training for Ultimate Runner, so I figured a straight flat course would be just the ticket.
The route was just 2.5 kilometers straight out the runway, then turn around and run straight back. There was a slight incline on the out, with the wee tiny descent on the return leg. Seems easy, but man it was like an illusion out there. With no turns or change in scenery, it was like I never moved. I was running, but not getting anywhere. Finally made it to the turn and headed back to the finish. It was hazy in the distance. I knew it was there, obviously, but when I finally saw it clearly, I would put my head down to run hard for a minute, and I would swear it did not get any closer. It was an oasis, just shimmering beyond reach.
Well. Almost beyond reach. I finally got there, and crossed with a time of 23:09, which netted me a six second PR (hooray!) but not the elusive 22:something. Someday.
It also netted me third place in women 25-29, and for that I got a nice tile trivet. Gotta love functional awards. It’s in the stack of trivets and hot plates in my kitchen and has already been used plenty.
June 28 – Ultimate Runner
I’ve blogged about Ultimate Runner a few times (2012 race, 2013 race) so I won’t go into a lot of depth this time. But I PRed almost every distance! I was particularly proud of my mile time. It was a slightly smaller race this year so I was in a faster heat, and one of the slower seeded runners in that heat. I was nervous that I would get left behind, but it proved to give motivation and pacing support. I passed three people in the last 100m of the mile!
(Asterisk indicates my PR for the event! Obviously the 5k is an Ultimate Runner PR, not an overall 5k PR.)
I also won my age group and received the coveted mug. Never thought I’d go home with one of these. People always tell me not to qualify wins, but I always do. There was not a lot of competition in 20-29 age group.
It’s funny though, I guess I’m always qualifying my running. A month or so after the race, I saw my next door neighbor for the first time in a while. He was a collegiate runner and though he has stopped now, in his fifties, he still follows local running. He saw an article in the newspaper the next day that listed the overall and age group winners, and thought he recognized my name. We are mostly on a first-name basis so he asked me if I’d won the age group, given that the first name matched and the age seemed close. When I confirmed it, he said “I thought that sounded right, but you are always talking down your running, so I was surprised to see it.” Note to self – maybe you’re being a little too modest?
July 26 – Red Warrior Run 5k
This was a first-time event. Turned out to be a rather small one, with only 51 finishers. It was held at a vineyard called Cellar 4201 in East Bend, NC, just a short drive from home in Winston-Salem.
Per my usual tendencies, I was a bit later than planned leaving for the race. I had signed up just a few days prior and already gone to packet pickup. I arrived and parked no more than 15 minutes before the race. Thank goodness for small events.
It was a cross country/trail race that started through the vineyards and then weaved through the woods surrounding. I’ve run a fair number of trail races and this was definitely the toughest trail 5k I have done. Though, I’d spent the previous month or two preparing for Ultimate Runner and thus given lots of time to the relatively bouncy and completely flat surface of the track, so this was a stark contrast to my recent training. And it was a doozy.
I started too fast and bounced out to the front, holding rank as the leading woman only briefly. Female after female passed me as I struggled up some of the inclines, but over time I passed them back. A lot of trail races I run are on moderate-to-heavily traveled hiking and running trails, with obvious wear on the route. This one really just seemed to be on a 4-wheeler trail and though it was well-marked, the actual trail wasn’t always stomped down. There were a few gotta-get-your-feet-wet stream crossings so it became squishier as the course snaked on. My early thought of “well just break 30 that should be easy” was fading fast.
Soon though, I emerged from the woods over one last little creek (no need to try and hop across rocks when your socks are already sopping) and back through the vines. One last hill for good measure and then onto the gravel drive to the finish.
My time of 31:14 was good for 13th overall, and third place female. I had a few friends present who also placed in the overall or age groups! We all took home a bottle of wine for our efforts, which is, like the trivet from the Runway 5k and the mug from Ultimate Runner, quite a functional award! All participants of age were also given a logo wine glass and a complimentary wine tasting, including the Red Warrior which is the namesake for the race. Honestly the biggest reason I signed up for the race was that the giveaway shirt was a singlet tank rather than a t-shirt, so the rest of this was just gravy. I made out like a bandit!
August 23 – Air Force 10k
On to August… this was one of those “shoot I really should sign up for my monthly race” sort of events. I had a very busy month and was pleased to find this race relatively nearby in Greensboro. It was at a park called Bur Mil Park which I had always intended to visit, the price was right (under $25), and the beneficiary was the Wounded Warrior Project, so lots of favorable reasons to pick it.
Then the day came and WHOA it was a steamy one. Incredible humidity. This was my first 10k since March 2012 and my pacing was completely off, after training for 5ks and track work earlier in the summer, then sliding back into longer distances in preceding weeks. I took the first mile at around 5k pace before realizing that was a tremendously poor choice, and dialing it back.
The route was all on a paved greenway surrounding a lake. We started with a short out and back of just over a mile, then passed back through the start/finish to a longer out and back. I counted the women passing me until I knew I was the fourth place female, and it wasn’t long before I realized I had no chance of bettering that placement unless someone in front of me just totally bonked. Fortunately for the other ladies and unfortunately for me, that did not happen.
I hauled my completely sweat-drenched self over the finish line in 51:16, which made it a PR, which was unbelievable on that humid sticky North Carolina summer morning. Honestly I sort of question if it was a true 10 kilometers, but I suppose that I did indeed train hard this summer and I shouldn’t talk myself down just because I was surprised at my speed!
Turns out for this event there were only top three overall awards, so no official age group placement for me, but logically since I was the fourth woman, I sort of won my age group. That is important because……
With that, I say farewell to the 20-29 or 25-29 (once even 14-29) age groups.
Tomorrow I turn 30 and this weekend I mark the occasion with the Salem Lake Trail Races 30k, and my first foray into the 30-34/30-39 age group.
Goodbye 20s, it has been rewarding! You will forever be the decade when I ran my first 5k, 10k, half marathon, full marathon, 50k and 50 mile races, not to mention all the other less-common distances. My twenties were the decade of Starting To Run. I have notched 93 races in this span, and learned a lot along the way. The age groups get a lot more competitive now, but this year I’ve managed to choose a number of races where I was in the top overall (or close to it) so here’s to more of those races, and more awards!
I’m quite behind in my blogging and figured that I’d never catch up if I waited to write chronologically. So I apologize to the Umstead Marathon, Cherry Blossom 10 Miler and Lapper’s Delight 24 hour race for skipping over you. I hope to make at least brief posts eventually!
But before May is through, I’ll give a little write-up on this month’s race. The first weekend of May, I ran the Hammerbird 5k here in Winston-Salem. It was a first-time event to benefit Habitat for Humanity and the ReStore.
I first learned of this run from lots of well-placed signs around the city and through my neighborhood. They were nestled among many political signs as the race was just a few days before the primary elections, but a different shape so they stood out. Honestly I just liked the logo. My goal for this summer is to focus on getting faster, but I wasn’t really ready for a race yet until I saw this one. I crossed my fingers that I’d get a shirt with the neat logo – and I did!
I mentioned the race to my friend Lauren who decided to come run it as well. She also brought the added challenge of a stroller full of her solidly built, sweet as can be, baby boy. And boy oh boy, it was a challenge.
This course was hills on hills! It ran through the neighborhood that Habitat has been working to revitalize for many years. I hadn’t previously been there, but I’m now drawn to return to help build with Habitat. What a supportive area it was! The 5k was in conjunction with a larger fundraiser, and all of the homes they have built over the years were marked with signs. Lots of residents were out on their front porches, cheering us along. And we needed it on some of the hills for sure!
What a doozy!
Okay, believe it or not, I was the leading woman in the whole race up until that hill, which was about the 2 mile mark. I had gone out way too fast and the hills and my level of fitness were definitely catching up to me. So was a speedy young lady. Some supportive cheering neighbors shouted out to us as we ran up the hill together, acknowledging our roles as first females. How exciting! And then someone asked her “where do you go to school,” and she answered a local high school. Then they asked me and actually seemed surprised when I said I was out of school entirely! Turns out she was only 14 years old – and ended up as the first overall female. Impressive!
When Lauren and I arrived at the ReStore before the race began, we saw a big table of prizes, including six rather odd-looking trophies. Lauren had the confidence to suggest maybe I’d have a chance to win one of them, which I doubted very much. I’ve never placed in the overall women, though it has always been a goal of mine.
Well – goal achieved! It was amazing to be the leading woman for part of the race, even if I did get passed by two faster women in the last mile. But yes, it means I did manage to finish as the third overall woman in the race! My time of 25:01 was hardly speedy, and in most races it would not stand a chance of overall placement, but one can only race against those who show up! Lauren also placed in her age group – even with the stroller on those hills! – and got a cool rubber mallet award that had been customized for the race. Her little guy wanted his hands on that!
You know, we even color-coordinated with the ReStore building.
It was a tough but fun entry point into my summer of speed. Up next for me is my fourth Ultimate Runner, with really short distances on the ticket! Though it’s amazing how long 800 meters can feel when you sort of sprint from the beginning. I’m hoping to race another 5k or two this summer with the goal of besting my 23:15 PR. There is a pancake-flat one next weekend at the airport so maybe that’s something to consider.
In the meantime, have a look at the cool trophy. I want to show you a close up! Wish I had gotten a photo of the other ones. They were all very different. One had circular saw blades, one had a colander, and they were all made up from items around the ReStore (except, I assume, the winged foot toppers) like lamp parts, finials and dishes. So creative and unique! I’m displaying this proudly.
Twenty is Plenty.
To think that I attempted to sign up for the Uwharrie Mountain Run FORTY miler a year ago! In November 2012, I registered for the 2013 edition of the 40 mile race (blog link). A few days later, I found out there had been a registration problem and I was not registered after all, but I would have guaranteed entry into the 2014 race (blog about that). It would have been my first foray into the ultra distance. I think it is for the better that I wasn’t actually able to register.
October 2013 comes along and I get an email reminding me of my guaranteed registration into the 2014 race. At the time, I was a month out from my now-first real attempt at an ultra (for some reason I have trouble counting 50k?), the JFK 50 miler, and wasn’t sure I’d be up for 40 miles barely 2 months later. Actually I was allowing myself the real possibility that I might never want to run again. I considered “just” signing up for the 8 mile race but decided 20 was a happy medium and 8 miles was too short a race to drive very far for. So I registered for the 20.
Fast forward to February 1. (Yes, the race was many weeks ago now… I’m behind on the blogging!) Somewhere along the way, I recall someone telling me that a road marathon time was a good comparison point for the 20 rolling trail miles at Uwharrie. I knew I wasn’t superbly trained for the event so I figured an average marathon time for me around 4:30 would be an estimated finish time. Boy was I wrong!
I took a wrong turn on the way to the race, but managed to get to the packet pick-up point in time. The 40 mile race began at 7am, the 20 mile at 8am, and the 8 mile at 9am. All runners park at an outpost outside the park and take a short bus ride in to the race start. It was a chilly morning so I was thankful for a small group of runners which meant I could wait until like 5 minutes before the race began to take off my jacket and put it in my drop bag. The cold morning was expected to warm a fair bit, so I gambled and skipped the gloves. Went with long sleeves over a singlet, capris, and an ear band.
The race begins rather aggressively with a long uphill which is strenuous but slow. I was carrying my handheld bottle and balling my other frozen hand inside my sleeve, periodically switching hands to try to warm them somehow. Totally numb. But within about 20 minutes, blood circulation had returned and my hands were fine. One thing I’ve learned with all my running is that my hands seem to warm up way faster than the average runner. I have terrible circulation in my fingers and toes and they get very cold very quickly, but I’m generally finished with gloves long before anyone else. Definitely preferred 20 minutes of frozen hands to having gloves in my pocket for the next 4-5 hours.
Honestly, it has been a while now so the details are kind of a blur, but it was a slow day out there for me. I enjoyed cookies and soda at the rest stops, which I definitely learned I can handle thanks to JFK 50! The trails were constantly rolling up and down, with a few major climbs and descents, like the aforementioned one near the beginning and another around mile 17. The website warns multiple times that runners are likely to roll their ankles and fall down, due to leaves covering roots and rocks on the trails. The warning was reiterated at the start of the race during runner instructions. I managed not to fall down but did roll my ankle a time or two.
There were also a few places where I had trouble following the trail markings, which were white paint on the trees. That definitely can fade and blend in. I prefer blazes that are those plastic shapes nailed to the trees, though I suppose paint is friendlier to the trees. Only got off course once, and not for long. A couple guys followed me but quickly called out, asking if I’d seen markings. I thought I had, but we backtracked and saw much clearer marks on a suddenly much more obvious trail. Only lost a couple minutes there, if that.
With all the roots and rocks, I wasn’t a very confident runner. I cautiously picked my way down the hills instead of taking advantage of gravity. There were a lot of stream crossings where I tip-toed across rocks to keep my feet dry, and others where I very slowly balanced my way across a log. Thankfully the runners were pretty thinned out most of the time so I wasn’t holding other people up with my nerves.
At one point I heard someone call my name and was pleased to find some friends out camping on the course, cheering on the runners and enjoying a nice day in the woods. It was an unexpected surprise and a nice reason to stop running for a few minutes to chat!
As the race continued, the 40 mile leaders started to appear on the course. The 40 mile run does the 20 mile course out and back, so these 40 milers had started an hour ahead and already gotten to my finish line and turned around to run it again. I was pretty beat and seeing those folks with so many miles still ahead was impressive. I was on the lookout for some folks I knew who were running the 40. I saw Shannon, who finished as 2nd place female (blog here), and Nathan and Paul (Nathan’s blog here). It was nice to see some friendly faces! Check out their blog entries, there are some nice photos of the course.
Nathan even captured this silly image of me as I was running away. As you can see, I had warmed up enough that the long sleeve was off too! Definitely glad I skipped the gloves!
Anyway, this isn’t a very helpful race report for someone looking to run this event. I’ve really got to work on blogging in a more timely fashion so I can remember details! It was a very pretty run but I’m very glad I didn’t have to do it twice. I adjusted my 4:30 race goal midway through to just finishing under 5 hours, and I did manage to get it done in 4:56. I found it pretty crazy that my average pace per mile of 14:49 was notably slower than my 50 mile pace of 13:52. It would have taken me forever to do the 40 miler! The race support was top notch, with well stocked aid stations throughout and at the finish line. There was hot cocoa and soup, lots of cookies, and vans waiting to drive runners back to the parking area.
The finisher award was a nice little piece of pottery. It served me well to hold a snack of gummy bears as I was writing this post! The shirt was also very nice, though I found it odd that they did different colors for the men’s and women’s shirts… since neither was a masculine or feminine color. Mine was navy and the men got orange. I’ve worn it a few times since and had some guys seem a little jealous of the more subdued color of the women’s shirt!
I enjoyed this race more in retrospect than I did at the time, since it just wasn’t a strong day for me. The pain and suffering do have a way of fading, isn’t it odd? I do have to remind myself how lucky I am to be capable of running (and shuffling… and walking…) for 5 hours though. Can’t take it for granted.
A little while back, some very well-targeted banner ads finally convinced me to give Fabletics a try.
What is Fabletics? It is a neat athletic wear company for women.
I was very excited to take advantage of the new member offer, of a full outfit for only $25! I chose the “Capable” outfit consisting of the Desio top and the Lima capri pant. I chose the top in small and the pants in medium.
A couple weeks later, I got a package containing my new running gear. Always exciting!
I found the top was a bit thinner fabric than I expected but very stretchy and comfortable. The capri pants are great and I’ve worn them a lot, though the addition of a drawstring would make them really top- notch.
In my new house I don’t have a floor length mirror so it was over Christmas when I asked my Dad to snap a couple (awkward, though that part wasn’t by request, just hard to avoid) photos of me in the outfit to share for the blog.
As you can see, the shirt is a bit snug, showing some tummy bulge at the pant waistline, but nothing too bad. I actually think it is pretty flattering after I got over some linebacker shoulders. And while it is one of the cuter running tops I have, it is also very functional. I’ve worn a few times in appropriate weather and it wicks well and is comfortable to run in. The pants are also very good, and I’ve worn them even more.
So the idea of Fabletics is after the new member discounted $25 outfit, which this gear above was absolutely worth and then some, each month there are other outfits of 2-3 pieces (sometimes including sports bra, head band or arm warmers as an additional piece to a top and bottoms) available at a discounted price, starting at $50. You do have to opt out of the charge each month if you do not want to purchase clothing that month. Unlike some monthly clothing websites I’ve heard about, they don’t ship anything you have to return; if you miss the opt-out date I think they charge your card then you have the credit waiting.
I haven’t bought any more outfits, partially due to depleted available sizes, and partly because I don’t really need more running clothes. For $25 I definitely found this first outfit worthwhile though and if I get a little more expendable income I may check into some warmer weather gear! I’m extremely pleased with the quality for the price.
If you are interested in giving it a try, please use my referral link below. I’ll get some credits towards some more clothing for myself! It is attractive, functional workout gear at a great introductory price. I’m not getting sponsored for this or anything, just trying to share the news and maybe earn myself some credits at the same time. I hope you enjoy!
Referral link: http://www.fabletics.com/invite/22535836/
On Saturday it rained.
Well, it rained on Friday too. But the usual steady calming sound of rain falling on the roof above my bed wasn’t so charming on Saturday morning when coupled with flashes of lightning and booming thunder. Not exactly ideal weather for a trail run.
Yet I spent the early hours with tea and oatmeal and a constant refresh of my weather app, wondering if it even made sense to make the 45 minute drive to the race. As final decision time came near, the worst of the storms seemed to be through. The race was being very active on their facebook page to many inquiries about whether the race would be held. Only concerns for runner safety were going to stop the event, not just some mud and water!
So I headed east and started the country music playlist on my reliable ol’ iPod.
When darkness comes, and pain is all around, like a bridge over troubled water, I will lay me down….
Bridge Over Troubled Water – Johnny Cash
I don’t know why, but with you I’d dance in a storm in my best dress. Fearless…
Fearless – Taylor Swift
There’s a storm moving in, he’s headed back from somewhere he never should have been, and the thunder rolls…. and the lightning strikes…
The Thunder Rolls – Garth Brooks
Honestly. They didn’t all play in a row but Johnny and Taylor were back to back. Spare the lecture on whether Ms. Swift (or even Garth) should be on my country playlist, but she started out leaning pop-country and this is where it fits in my genres.
The soundtrack made for an inauspicious start.
I make it out to the soccer complex where the start, finish and parking areas were. Headed up to the brick and mortar restroom facilities to find that somehow the water was turned off. The buzz was frozen pipes but it had been back above freezing for days and was around 50 degrees. Who knows. Porta-potties would have been far superior to the scene in a ladies room where dozens of runners were unable to flush. Like I said, inauspicious beginnings to the day.
This was my second time running the Lakeside Trail Race. There are 8 and 15 mile options, and I ran the 15 two years ago in the beginning of 2012. I was training for my first trail marathon at that time and figured I had so many more trail miles, and miles in general, under my figurative belt (figurative because RaceReady capris > a running belt), so I’d certainly be aiming to beat my 2012 time of 2:48. (author’s note: HAHAHA.)
I hadn’t run more than 7 miles at once since the JFK 50 Miler in the end of November. I needed a January race to continue my monthly streak and since I volunteered instead of running the week prior at the big Frosty 50k in town, I found there was a dearth of available races in a reasonable driving radius. I considered just signing up for the 8 mile but I’ve got Uwharrie 20 in a couple weeks so more distance seemed prudent. (again with the inauspicious thing.)
It was quickly apparent that trail conditions were far, far different than they had been two years before on a dry day. The rain had stopped but it was really all just sitting on the ground, waiting for us. About 150 runners headed out onto the singletrack trails, parading along in single file lines. At first we tried to pick around the muddy bits, running to the side and hopping about. Then ahead there are shouts of half-glee and half-shock. A puddle covering the trail side to side and at least 10 feet long. No hopping over this one. Once we knew our feet would be wet, we stopped trying to navigate around the puddles.
These were the worst trail conditions I’ve ever encountered. There had just been far too much rain and the ground couldn’t possibly soak it all in so quickly. In many places the trail was the natural low/vegetation-free place for water to collect and led to huge puddles. Splashing through puddles is fun!… for a while. Note that the photo below is not a creek crossing but the actual trail we were traversing. I have to give some thanks to The Man Upstairs for keeping temperatures above 50 degrees on race day though. The water was chilly but overcast 50s is great running weather.
As we splashed and squished along, runners forced together by pace started laughing and chatting. It drizzled a little during this time but not much. We wove through the woods and eventually got to a road crossing. This was an aid station and the turn-around point for those runners doing the shorter 8-mile race. I sipped on some orange Gatorade and contemplated turning around here, cutting short the 15 mile race for the sake of my pruney toes. It seemed everyone was turning around! But then I saw three folks crossing the road to the next section (a big loop) of trails to continue on the 15 mile route and I figured, I was out here, I was wet, I might as well continue.
Though there were other 15 milers, the race thinned out considerably at this point. I was alone for a stretch, splashing alone and trying not to let the mud suck my shoes off in the thankfully few sections of serious mud. My big drop in mileage and training in general since JFK was becoming apparent as I was tiring already. The course was well-marked and I was in no danger of going off-trail, despite the conditions, but I did start wondering if I was the last person. Was there even anyone else behind me?
Soon my question was answered as I heard footsteps and there was a lady behind me. I heard her for a while, getting closer and then fading back some as we ran differently on the ups, the downs and the puddles. Finally she called out as she was close and I assumed she was giving the heads up that she’d like to pass me. But no! She was actually asking me if I was Emily, from THIS BLOG. Yall, I got recognized in the wild. It was kind of surreal. So Rosemary, thanks so much for reading my drivel and for your kind words about my little slice of the internet. We ran along together for a while, chatting about races we had both run, and others. So enjoyable to have company during a sparse trail run! Soon though, my weary legs were tiring as she remained strong and forged ahead. See you at Uwharrie!
Time was a blur out here. We had some more road crossings to get to other sections of trail. There were aid stations, Gatorade, cookies. No mile markers and I wasn’t wearing my Garmin, so I was just watching time pass on my simple watch. If I wasn’t back to that first 4-mile turn around that would also be our final 4 miles, then the prospect of beating my 2012 time was just a pipe dream. Ah well, just make it through in one piece with both shoes still on.
The wind started picking up and the overcast skies darkened. It was definitely going to start raining again. Finally I made it to that mile 4/11 aid station and really assumed I was going to be pulled from the course. The skies were obviously about ready to burst open. However, the police and aid station volunteers just agreed with me that it sure looked bad, and handed me Gatorade and water as I readied to finish the last stretch.
Well, I was right! The clouds opened up and the rain started. It rained hard. The trail conditions would have been worse on this return trip regardless, as the 8 milers had all run it twice already, and the faster 15 milers had covered that ground a second time as well. As there had been along the whole route, there were streams to cross that I vaguely recalled from 2012. But back then it was dry and you could hop over, or step on some rocks to keep your feet dry. They were at least double in width now.
You know when you’re driving in bad weather, it’s always stressed to NEVER drive into running water, or water of uncertain depths. It can sweep a car away. Well I sure as heck felt like a bad driver of my own body because I was boldly fording through running water of uncertain depth. I worried about finding a root or rock in the most painful way possible at the bottom of a puddle, but thankfully that did not happen. The deepest water I encountered was probably about 7-8 inches deep. There were sections where the water was over ankle deep for like 100 meters. My feet were very cold, or if I could feel them, I would have told you that. My trail shoes felt like 20 pound bricks on the end of each leg. Traction was tough to come by on the muddy trails, but I did stay upright the whole time.
Finally the finish area was in sight. There was no timing system set up, and almost all of the cars were gone. A dozen or so people were under a tent and as I approached someone rolled down their window to get my bib number. I was the final runner.
As it turned out, everyone behind me had indeed been stopped at the mile 4/11 aid station, due to safety concerns and the coming bad weather. I don’t know how close I got to actually being stopped, but I’d guess it was about 5 minutes since I think it was about that long after the aid station when it really started raining hard.
So circumstances were such that I got my first DFL (Dead F***ing Last) but not my first DNF (Did Not Finish).
Oh yeah, and my finish time was 3 hours 15 minutes. Almost 30 minutes slower than my 2012 version of the race. I think I’ll have to remember this one for 2015 and hope for a dry day so I can exact my revenge on this course!
Per the results, 85 runners finishes the 8 miler, and 13 are marked “weather” without a finishing time.
And for the 15 miler, I was 42nd of 42 finishers (woot woot, top 42!), with 28 “weather” runners without finishing times. I feel a little better knowing there were actually a decent number of people behind me and I wasn’t just the only super slowpoke running 13 minute miles out there in the slop.
A volunteer ran up and gave me a nice ceramic mug, which I promptly filled with sweet, decadent hot chocolate under the food tent. There were cookies, bananas, oranges, and jelly beans. Much of which I ended up leaving with because they were breaking down the finish area due to no more finishers. I saved a bunch of food from being tossed into the garbage can. My coworkers have had sugar cookies all week, my freezer is stocked with bananas for smoothies, and next week I’ll bring the Jelly Bellys to work. I felt like a weird scavenger but oh well, better than wasting the food.
Thanks for a distinctly memorable day, Lakeside Trail Race, and for the delicious cookies!