Saturday, December 4, 2010

Race Report: Salt Fork 10-mile Trail Challenge

Not as bad as they were when I finished, but
my muddy feet.
So I come home, tromp up to my 2nd floor apartment and show off my race swag, but Matt just glares at me.

"Umm, are you going to take those off?"

Oh, you mean my running shoes that are caked with mud, before I wander around the house anymore? Yea, probably not a bad call. 

I did the Salt Fork 10-Mile Trail Challenge this morning, about a half hour east of Zanesville. Final time was 1:57:42. On the surface that's nowhere near where I wanted to be. But, given the completely insane course and race dynamics I'm not disappointed. 

Edit: I'm feeling better about my time now. Top female was 1:33:46!

It's December and cold was a given, it was a nice day for a run. Chilly, but no rain or snow and not much wind. I wore my running tights from LL Bean and a pair of athletic pants on top of them. I wore my long sleeved tech shirt from the Nu Race Trail Run, and then my bright yellow polyester fleece from LL Bean. And, of course, my Asics Kayanos, which only have 20 miles left on them:(

I also loaded up my FuelBelt with Gu Chomps, Gatorade and fruit bites.

I forgot my watch. I decided to leave my lucky baseball hat in the car because there was a slight wind. And my cheap Target headphones finally went ka-put, so I ran in silence. Wasn't that bad, a lot of the other runners were chatty. 

Still, it was a great day, great crowd, great event. The course kicked my butt, thoroughly and completely. Even though it was a basic short sleeved tee, I love the shirt.

Several photos of the course can be viewed here, including one of the hills (but far from the worst one), one of the creeks and the really cool wooded area we ran through.

There were a lot of people there but it wasn't overly crowded – 165 runners. The event was sold out. I'm glad they limited the numbers, because you can't run a trail race with too many people.

The guy explaining the course had a chorus of some moans and groans. Watch out for logs and sticks. Some parts will be muddy. This part is really rocky so stay to the right. All the bridges are covered with snow and ice. So, are there any questions? Yea, one guy near me says, “what were we thinking?” My thoughts exactly. A girl in front of me and glares at the guy with her: “Why did you talk me into this?” It's kind of like that pit in your stomach you get when you first get on a roller coaster.

The race starts and turns immediately onto the trail. This was tough because there was very little time for the runners to fall into order before the course forced us to go single file. Passing was very difficult those first couple of miles. The course was so narrow, and so rocky. There was a steady line of runners, so even if you got around one, you weren't going far. While it was irritating at the moment I'm glad I was forced to go a little slower than I would have run otherwise. I always start out too fast.

There were no mile markers, so without a watch I had no sense of time or distance. I knew there was an aid station at Mile 6, that was it. At the first hill, I realized that 1:40:00 was a completely unrealistic goal so I decided to slow down and enjoy the run.

Even with that said, through all of the first four miles(ish) I further doubted my sanity. I pictured the one two-legged and two four-legged creatures snoozing in my nice warm apartment, thought of all the unwatched episodes of CSI, thought about my giant crossword puzzle in dire need of completion, and in general questioned humanity as I tromped through the woods.

I've skipped my hill workout for the past three weeks for various reasons. It showed. Those hills were horrid. I was pretty much forced to walk the first few because everyone in front of me was, too. Not like it mattered... they were so steep that run or walk would have been the same speed.

That's all it was, up and down, up and down. Some of the downhills were steep and frightening. Some hills I ran, some I walked. To top it off you had to watch every step because leaves disguised obstacles. Some stretches were all mud – or lets hope it was mud... they were also horse trails.

But it was so pretty. The course went around a lake and at some of the highest elevations you could see down and it was absolutely scenic. There was this wicked cool wooded area in the photos I mentioned above.

After about four miles the course spit out onto the road for about a mile and a half. There were some hardcore trail runners around me who lamented having to run on the road. For me it was a welcome break. It was uphill but not too steep. It was also a tease. I was sure I had gone at least 6 when it spit out onto the road, but nope! We just went and went and went. Plus, I knew the aid station was at a showerhouse. We passed at least two before we finally hit it. How is this race only halfway over?

Still, glorious glorious slightly-more-than-halfway point! A lot of other runners were breaking so I did too. Yay for awesome race organizers, there was Gu Brew (not that great but still what I needed at the moment), more Chomps, and cookies. I took a few minutes, hydrated, and continued on my merry way.

Maybe it was the two cookies I ate against my better judgment (but I was ok). Maybe it was all the chomps. But I was feeling great! So ready for the last few miles!

The course went back on the trail, and the next three miles were fantastic. There was one killer hill at the outset but the rest of the uphills weren't bad. Then for about a mile and a half or so it was downhill and I felt like I was flying. I probably gained a lot of time for all the stops before. The course had cleared out a lot by then, and it was wonderful to be moving that fast. We had to cross a couple of creeks and rocky areas, just enough to keep it challenging, and this was hands down my favorite stretch.

There was another part on the road. We had been warned to wear bright colors and look out for hunters, even though there were “No Hunting” signs everywhere. As we were running down the road, a heavyset hunter complete with heavy camo garb, an orange vest and a rifle, walked across. “Hey man, you're a little overdressed for the race” one guy near me jokes. “I couldn't run from here to this tree” the hunter says, looking at us like we were all out of our minds. As I have well established by now, he wasn't wrong.

Looking back, I really cursed myself for not having my watch. Had I known this was the last hill, I would have found the energy to run it. But I had no clue how far I had gone or how much was left. The last ascent was a doozy, very steep. I walked most of it. Then I hear cheering – the end was in earshot! I picked it up and finished in just under two hours.

My body is very tired. Every muscle in my legs aches, even my back and upper body hurt. So, I'm taking a little hiatus. Except for the Holiday Run at Sharon Woods, which I'll be taking very slow, I'm not going to run until the Marathon in Training program starts Dec. 18. I'll still go to the Y to keep all the holiday goodies at bay, but stick to the low impact stuff, maybe try swimming or spinning to strengthen up knees.

Ouuuuuuccchhhh! Despite that, though, I'm feeling pretty good. I didn't do it in the time I wanted, but screw it! I talked to a guy afterward, he had run the Boston Marathon, and even he didn't break 1:40! I ran 10 miles. How many people can say that? Seriously??

Time for a rest, then I'll work on 26.2!


  1. The Holiday Run at Sharon Woods is great. It is one of my favorite places to run. I've done hundreds of laps there (3.81 mile loop). Not to scare you, but last year the conditions were terrible, about 33 degrees and raining. I didn't have a good race either, seeing that I was coming off an injury at this time last year. Now I'm injured enough that I won't be able to race it this year :(

  2. Jamison, I'm just going to take that one real slow. Hopefully the weather won't be too horrible! I hope you get better soon!