Thursday, May 5, 2016

2016 Big River Trail Half Marathon

I was really digging the races of the South County 4th Season Race Series that I had done in February and March that I didn't want to miss the Big River Trail Half. I knew I'd be less than two weeks off of Boston, though, so I waited until after Boston was over to actually sign up. From this point on, I'll never be sure I'm going to walk away from a long-distance race healthy and uninjured, so I was being cautious. It was a pleasant surprise to feel as good as I did the day after Boston, so I signed up for Big River. I knew I wouldn't be 100% recovered, but that didn't really matter. I just wanted to do the race. I have quite a few new-to-me trail races on my schedule this year, as I love trying out new stuff, so this was added to my list. I was super excited about it, too...until it got closer to race day when I finally admitted to myself that my legs were still pretty fatigued from Boston. I knew Big River was going to hurt.

I was really thankful for the 11am start this time around. It's a 3.5 hour drive for us, and I didn't want to spend money on another hotel this time around. Leaving at 6:30am is a typical time for most races I do, so it wasn't so bad, and the drive was smooth, with little traffic. We got down there right around 10am which gave me an hour get each of the 3 dogs a short run in as my warm ups, get myself together and then make sure John was all set. It's hard to get mentally prepared when you're taking care of everyone else, but sometimes it's better when you don't have to think about what's to come. I got a lot of strange looks and funny comments as went to and from my car 3 times, each with a different dog. Haha. Chill got a mile. Spot, .7 miles. Phoenix, a half mile. I intended to get them all a mile, but just like with Belleville, I ran out of time. The temperature was a little warm so I ended up leaving Chill tied up in the shade behind the car during the race. The other two stayed with John.

I wandered over near the start. Mike Galoob gave out the race instructions and then we all proceeded to the starting "line". I was lined up behind Eric Narcisi and Mike Daniels and next to Michael Narcisi. Eric had the same thing on his mind as me, since he turned around and asked, "Where are we going after?" Post-race beer (and food, sort of) were already on our minds, and soon Mike D and Mike N joined in, and we found ourselves discussing our post-race options right there on the starting line. Haha. I guess none of us were really looking forward to the pain we were about to feel and had already skipped over it in our heads. But, alas, we were actually there to run a race, and off we went.

The two Mike's, Eric and I in a deep discussion about post race food. I only just now realized by looking at this picture that nearly EVERYONE on the front line was listening in on our (probably loud) conversation. That is so funny, since I had no idea. Photo by Seth Acton
The race went about a quarter mile on this wide path before entering the woods. Scott Mason was at this turn and captured a few photos before venturing down to his next point at the beaver dam.

Only the beginning
The first mile was fast...too fast. I think I forgot I was running 13 miles, but I felt good and wanted to get in a good position right off the bat. The top 3 guys were gone right off the bat. There was another group of 3 that wasn't too far in front of me, and then it was me behind another guy. 1st mile was 7:28 which I knew was fast, but the trail had been easy up to this point. Mile 2 changed everything once the rolling hills started. It was still (too) quick at a 7:51 pace, and it hurt. I realized I needed to slow it down. My legs were already hurting with 11 miles to go. The guy in front of me felt the same way as I did that we had gone out way too fast and that mile 2 hurt bad, so he slowed way down. It was a little too slow for me, so I passed him and immediately started to catch up with one of the guys who had been in the group of 3 ahead of me. He was moving pretty well so it took me about a mile to pass him. He was slowing down just like I was, but once again, it was a little too slow, so I passed him right around mile 3.5.

Mile 3- photo by Mike Galoob
And this is where the race got tough. Not only were my legs screaming at me with 9 miles to go, I was all alone from this point until mile 12.5, and the course was only getting tougher as it went on. It was constant rolling hills, which I am actually really weak on. I run hills up here, but long ones. It's hard to find anything like Big River around here. It was hilly as hell. Short hills, but they really hurt. Quick ups meant quick downs, and quick downs mean a short recovery time on the legs. My legs are used to long downhill recovery periods. Add that to already fatigued legs, and I was hurting. I knew I had the women's win in the bag at this point and absolutely no one to push me faster, so I decided to slow it down a bit. There was no reason to go all out here. Had there been competition close, I probably would have, but I didn't have a soul nearby. It felt more like a long, yet quick, trail run for the rest of the way. And it was a beautiful trail run. The trails at Big River are fantastic; I'd run there all the time if I lived nearby. Windy, fairly technical, hilly. What more could a trail runner really ask for. Amazing views maybe, but the woods were pretty enough.

Just before mile 7, I saw a clearing through the trees and realized I was nearing the beaver dam, which meant Scott Mason would be waiting with camera in hand. No time to stop to do my hair and makeup, so I just had to continue on and hope not to fall in the pond. Scott yelled out that it was all runnable, but I still wasn't sure about it and I proceeded across it timidly. I did not want to be one of Scott's infamous photos of people falling. For example...

Lisa Ransom about to hug the snow at the NE Snowshoe Champs 2015
Twilight Meet at Bentley College 2015
Jackie Shakar going down at the Cranmore Hill Climb 2014
Fortunately for me, Mike Daniels had already taken the plunge just ahead of me, and I made it across just fine.

Mike is sinking. Hahaha.

As soon as I crossed the pond, the race actually got tougher. Even more hills with tougher climbs. I was hurting. It was still fun, though, since it also got more technical. I can still have fun even when I'm in pain. Just after mile 8, the course crossed a huge stretch of water that I probably could have just run around, but I decided to just run right through it thinking it would save me time. As soon as I crossed and topped the hill after it, I felt something large and sharp in my shoe. I stopped and tried to fish it out with my finger. Instead I pushed it further down and directly under the arch of my foot. I had no choice but to take my entire shoe off and empty it out. A pretty large piece of a stick fell out. I wasted about 45 seconds getting that done; good thing no competitors were close. I will rarely ever stop to empty my shoes, but this stick was so big there was no way I could go another 5 miles with it under my foot. Even a mile would have been iffy.

Once the shoe was back on, the trail continued to kick my ass until I reached the water stop at mile 9ish. Normally, I would grab water and go, but I was so all done by this point that I just stopped. Ate a gel and a had a cup of water. Seth Acton was manning the station and asked how the course was and if the markings were ok. I told him they were perfect, no problems at all, because they were. Extremely well-marked course, for sure. The second I started to wonder if I had gone off trail, a flag would appear, and all the turns were marked so well that there was no way you could go wrong.

My gel looks like I'm looking at a cell phone.
From mile 9 to the finish, the trail actually eased up a bit. It wasn't flat, but it was definitely less hilly. I was so happy for this because I was all done. 4 miles to go, and I was junk. I was just hanging in there at this point. Felt like I had been beaten to a pulp. Big River had chewed me up and spit me out. I kind of got into a zone and plugged away. Around mile 12, I glimpsed someone ahead of me. I couldn't tell who it was and couldn't fathom how I could possibly be catching up to anyone. At 12.5, I realized why. It was Mike Daniels, and he was walking... and then he stopped. He was cramping up big time and had to stop to stretch. I passed him by here and then jogged it on into the finish. Finished in a REALLY slow time of 1:51:26, 5th overall and 1st woman. I can't say I wasn't happy with my race, though. I definitely was. I probably could have run it faster, but I honestly don't think it would have been the best thing for me. Considering how beat I was when I finished, I feel like I did give it a hard effort.

In between my finish and the awards, John and I took the dogs down to a small pond close to the start/finish so they could get some water and cool off. John threw the stick for Chill, while I corralled the other two.

We stayed for the awards after which are always some sort of GOOD beer. I chose the Captain's Daughter and got a mug! I think that's the last one that will fit in my cabinet. I sooooo need a beer glass cabinet. Haha. I have the space for one; I'm just missing the cabinet. Donations will be accepted. Thanks.

My mug and Captain's Daughter winnings PLUS the six Michigan beers Beth Lazor-Smith brought me. Thanks, Beth!
Thanks to Mike Galoob and his volunteers for putting these races on. I'm actually really sad to see this Series come to an end and sorry I missed the first two races. Rhode Island is a bit of a drive, but I'm planning to attempt at least 4 out of the 5 races next year. I like expanding my racing horizons! Who knows what's next, "Hey, John. This weekend's race is in Virginia! Yay!" Ok, not planning that, but I would like to keep travelling New England a bit more here and there.

Our starting line conversation actually became reality, so Eric, Michael N, Mike D, Jonny Hammett and I all followed Scott Mason over to Doherty's on the lake. It was such a beautiful day, so we sat outside. Awesome spot. Beers, of course. Root beer for John. Good food, friends and duck porn made for a good time.

post duck porn
After lunch, we went across the street so John could have his first Del's lemonade and then headed for home....

....But Foolproof Brewing just happened to be on the way home, sooooo....I had to stop. It was just before closing so I only used two of my 3 tokens. Queen of the Yahd and Peanut Butter Raincloud Porter. Good stuff.

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