After reading about trail runs from friends on Daily Mile, I decided to try trail running. Well, I have to sell that I fell in love with it. I found that it was fun, easier on my feet and it is ok to walk up hills. After doing just one trail run, I decided to sign up for the Wilson Creek Frozen 50K, only I would only be doing the 10.8 miler. With two more trail runs in (including a 10 miler the week before the race), I was a ready as I was going to be (or at least I thought I was ready).
Two days before the race, I received an email from the race that included the following:
MANDATORY and RECOMMENDED ITEMS TO CARRY WITH YOU
Yep, this was sounding like it was going to be quite the experience for a first trail race. It did, only not for the reasons mentioned in the email.
The started off with a nice temperature in the high 30s and was supposed to get to the mid 40s that day. Plus the night before, it had rained. The email also said the parking was limited at the location, so I opted to car pool with some friends on Daily Mile. Ok, I had actually never meet these people before but has conversed with them on Daily Mile a lot. In fact, even though the 50K and 20 miler were supposed to start at 7am and the 10 miler at 9am, I choose to go to the earlier start so I could meet other runners from Daily Mile. As we started from the car pool location to the venue, the driver and my new friend Ryan, starts talking about how he brought WD40 and would share with anyone that wanted to use it. Of course I am totally knew to trail running and the only thing I can think of that would need lubed up would be my nipples (nipple chaffing sucks). However, I cannot think of how WD40 would be any good for preventing nipple chaffing. Nipple chaffing required heavier lubrication to last the entire race. Fortunately he explained that the WD40 was for the soles of your shoes to keep the mud from sticking. I have to say, this made more sense as a use, but even so, I suspected that it wouldn’t last very long. Besides, why would we need to worry about mud, the email made it very clear the big concern was going to be the cold.
We arrived at the starting location and then stood around and talked with other runners. I got to meet several new runners, plus see a couple I already knew. Everyone was all excited. The start of the 50K/20M was in the dark as the sun was not up then. The national anthem was played by a guy on his trombone. He did a great job. After he was done and had put his trombone away, he got into the starting line as he was a runner. I thought that was pretty cool. The next thing that got me was how loud the starting gun was.
As I stood there waiting for their start, I talked with one of the people working the race. I have to say it was a very organized race. They had several search and rescue teams there on hand, plus they had a ham radio club there. They would report the runners into/out of each aide station so they would know where everyone was last seen.
After sitting around a camp fire for two hours, it was time to start my race. I meet more fellow Daily Miler friends and was looking forward to running with them. For the start my race, a girl played her cello (and yes she ran the 10 miler). It was here that I learned why the starting gun was so loud: it was a twelve gauge shotgun. (In fact the awards for the run where old shotgun shells nailed to a block of wood, with writing on it.)
The first 1/2 to 3/4 of a mile of the race was this narrow one person trail. This made it a little tricky as people were trying to get around slower runners. It was one such passing that I left my new running friends behind. After the 1 lane path, we turned onto a wide path that could support three people side by side. That however didn’t matter. This was where the run turned ugly. What do you get when you combine warm weather, rain and dirt? You get mud. This was the worse running condition. In all of my 3 other trail runs, there had not been any mud as the ground was still frozen so this was new to me. This mud was the worse kind, it was clay like and just built up on your shoes, making them about 10 pounds heavier and providing no traction what so ever. A lot of people started walking at this point. I did a lot of running in the sage brush because even though it was very uneven, it had better traction. This worked until we entered this narrow canyon where there was no where to run but on the trail.
I ended up walking most of this little canyon we had to go through. This mean over 3 miles. I also started trying to figure out how to create a pair of running shoes with a drip release of WD40 in the soles. I really think there is some money there if someone can figure it out. At one point, the trail dropped about 15 feet (pure mud) into a lovely not-so little puddle and then a 15 foot mud covered climb on the other side.
It was shortly after the mud-hole that my running friend Les caught up with me. We ran together from here. We finally made it out of muddy canyon and after hill climb, we reached the first aide station. This was 4 miles into the run and was the highest point in the 10 mile run. Oh, did I mention that the whole first mile of mud based “fun” was also all up hill?
I was relieved to be here for two reasons: 1) this was the highest point so the rest should all be down here from here (yeah, right) and 2) I was told the next section was not muddy, but rather just rocky. Les and I started off down the next section after a short break. They were not kidding about it being rocking. The rocks were all over the path and were all baseball and softball size. They were perfect twisting your ankle. Sadly this meant that you were either looking at the trail or tripping and falling while you viewed the scenery.
Although I had managed to make it through 4 miles of mud without falling, cannot say the same about this two mile section of rocks. My left foot hit a rock really hard and down I went. I got back up and continued running. As I assessed what I had damage, I found my knee hurt a little (which I quickly worked out) and my big toe. My big toe, I did a number on. It was hurting. I managed to find a place I could run and not have my toe hurt me (except when I hit a rock just right). The second aide station was at the bottom of this two mile rocky section. When I stopped at the aide station, I realized that I had lost my friend Les (turns out he had a fall during this section and he stopped to help someone that had fallen and hurt herself).
After another small hill, we dropped down in to this canyon that had a quick flowing stream in it. I was really exited because we were running down stream and as fast as it was flowing, it was going to be a nice down hill section.
Sadly, we did not stay with the stream for very long. The trail started a nice long slow climb up the canyon wall.
This was also a single lane trail with no room to pass, but by this point in the race, the racers were spread out enough that I didn’t pass anyone and no one passed me.
I kept expecting that the trail would at some point level off or even go back down hill, but it was pretty much all up hill until the last 1/2 mile of the race. The next section was through two broad valleys with one narrow canyon in between. The worse part of this section was the head wind. Up to this point, the wind had been at my back and was wonderful. Now it was in my face. It was also at this point that the 20 milers and 50Kers starting passing me (the 20 mile look shared this part of the 10 mile loop). I wanted to tell the 50Kers about the terrible mud on the 10 mile section (as they still had to run the 10 mile loop), but I was told that the 20 miles loop they just ran was worse that what I did. So I said nothing other than good luck. Although this was a pretty easy section to run, I was beat. I ended up walking most of it until the last 1/2 mile (you have to run across the finish line).
As I crossed the finish line, I was greeted by my friend Amy, who was handing out finisher scarfs. I finished in 3 hours and 4 minutes. Ten miles in 3 hours does not sound all that impressive but when you consider the mud, it was a great time. I was a little disheartened by how hard the run was for me (being my first trail race), but when I heard my friends who have a lot more trail running experience talk about how hard the run was because of the mud, I didn’t feel so bad (it is good to have friends).
I know that I enjoy running but I didn’t realize how much until I saw this picture of me crossing the finishing line:
I was exhausted as I crossed the finish line and didn’t realize I was smiling. I love this picture of me as it is a great smile and as my wife put it: If you want to know why I run, you just have to look at this picture.
Foot note: Although I don’t think I broke my toe, I did a heck of a job jamming.
It later turned a pretty purple color.