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January 16 2014 / Emily

Race Report: Lakeside Trail Run

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!

hoodie

Couldn’t wear the hoodie I picked up Friday unless I actually ran the race!

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.

photo by Lakeside Trail Race photographers

photo by Lakeside Trail Race photographers

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.

Wet, muddy shoes, on and off.

Wet, muddy shoes, on and off.

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.

run.eat.nap.drink quality control says this works well for hot cider + bourbon

run.eat.nap.drink quality control says this works well for hot cider + bourbon

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!

the haul

the haul

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3 Comments

Leave a Comment
  1. Darrel Wells / Jan 17 2014 8:59 AM

    Homeric! What a miserable-sounding experience! Very impressive performance and what a great report. Except for the muddy feet, of course, I felt like I was right their with you! I’m happy you weren’t injured running those difficult trails in the slop. Remember, DFL is way better than FDOT (found dead on trail)!

    Better luck for you at Uwharrie… Lots of streams to splash through there, as well!

  2. Dana / Jan 24 2014 9:56 AM

    You are such a talented writer Emily! It sounds like the worst conditions I could imagine for running FIFTEEN miles- so well done, I am proud of you!!! I miss you and hope you have a great weekend!

  3. Rosemary / Feb 2 2014 6:52 PM

    Delightful report Emily. You describe the conditions exactly as I remember them and make me smile. Wish I had read it before meeting up with you again on the trail at Uwharrie. It was nice to get to chat to you again. See you at Umstead with some with 2 clean shoes.

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