Saturday, September 18, 2010

Race Report: Hocking Hills Indian Run

Wow. That's all. My legs are threatening to revolt if I dare get off the couch tonight. I am absolutely doing this one next year.

The short of it: 10K (6.2 miles) in 56:53, 6th in my age group, 49th overall.

I was really worried... I woke up with a runny nose and a scratchy throat. Eight weeks of training about to be foiled by a simple cold. And most cold medicine gives me mild stomach upset, tolerable on a normal day but not while running. So I took some allergy meds and crossed my fingers. By the time I got to Hocking Hills I was feeling great. Phew!

Driving in I got a sense of what I was in for, the single lane roads were windy, curvy and hilly, the kind of terrain I really miss from living in Maine.

This race was a complex animal -- five different distances, but it was very well organized. The registration area was kind of a zoo with runners doing their pre-race stuff. Another sign of what was about to come: I looked for a place to run my warmup and there was not a single flat stretch of road in sight. To conserve I jogged around the parking lot a few times.

I got my best pre-race advice in the ladies room line. The consensus? They course is tough, but entirely awesome.

The 5Kers and 10Kers were loaded onto school buses. Uphill and downhill. Uphill and downhill. What have I gotten myself into?

"10K off here!" the quirky, overenthusiastic bus driver yelled. He had stopped in the middle of the road at a small campsite.

There were about 15 people in my heat. There was no giant inflatable arch to start under, no loud music or guys with bullhorns. Just a sweet older lady at a picnic table with a clipboard, stopwatch and whistle. She draws a line in the dirt with her foot.

"There's your starting line."

"45.... 20... 10... 5 4 3 2 1."

I know most people do their race report blogs mile by mile. Problem: There were no mile markers. Right now it's all kind of a blur anyway. The whole race I had literally no idea how much was left until the end.

The first 10 minutes were incredibly peaceful. I knew I had to conserve... but it was tempting to pick up the pace. Glad I didn't. This first part was a nice, kept, mostly flat wooded trail. I settled in with a pack of four. Those were the only human beings in sight.

Then the big orange sign tells us to turn onto a path that was a foot and a half wide, 2 feet at best. People in front of me were holding their arms out for balance -- dodging roots was like running tires. I'd say at least four miles of the race were on this terrain. Very rocky, a couple times I had to slow almost to a stop to get around obstacles.

We passed by a couple of campsites. People sitting in front of tents, eating breakfast around campfires, were cheering us on.

It was almost all uphill and downhill. One hill almost killed me. It had to be at least a 15-grade, not long but really steep and very rocky. It beat a lot of people, there were a lot of walkers toward the top. I was barely at a jog at the end but I didn't stop. It went straight down after, then probably about 200 yards of beautiful flatness.

The interesting thing about this race was that there were different groups of people running different courses at different distances in different heats. The 10K started on its own unique course and then I was suddenly passing a lot of people, we had met up with the 20/40/60K (yes, you read that right. 60k) runners. Sometimes two or three people would whiz by. You weren't slowing down, it was just a super-fast person from a later 5 or 10k heat.

It was also unique because you had no idea where you stood the entire time, not only on the course but in the rankings, because the start times were staggered. I ended up sprinting in with an older guy with a bright yellow shirt and a mustache, just for the thrill of racing to the finish.

At about 45 minutes the course got really narrow and took us around this old brick building. Then there were stairs. Stairs. In a race. At the top of the horrible staircase was this wonderful smiling person with water, telling me exactly what I wanted to hear. One mile left.

The catch? "It's all uphill."

I had abandoned all hope of finishing in under an hour as I huffed up the first of the monster hills. But when this wonderful smiling person told me I was almost there my watch said 47 and change. I was going to do it!

As tired as I was, this final uphill ascent was nothing -- 4 grade, maybe five. It was all on the road too so I didn't have to focus as much on my footing.

The finish was exciting, so many people, so much energy. Some people were just starting their races.

I can't believe I did it in under an hour. Bumping up the treadmill incline and running at Dawes paid off, I passed a ton of people on those hills.

I think I'm in love with trail running. I'm excited for the next challenge, I just need to figure out what that is. There is an 8 mile race at the end of October and a 10 miler in December, both are possibilities.

For now, giving my poor legs a break!


  1. Great race report, thanks for sharing. You are a fast runner! I know exactly what hill your talking about too: The one at the end of the lake that had the orange arrows pointing up to the right... right? :) What an amazing accomplishment... Congrats on a strong finish! Do I sense a 20K entry next year? ;)

  2. @Luc that would be it, short but killer!

    And one step at a time... Ie I'm making a game plan to tackle a 10-miler in December :)