I’ll begin my race report the day before. I had visions of getting to the site very early, and doing a warm-up on the course before enjoying the pasta dinner, and getting to know my fellow runners. Alas, that was not to be – I got to fiddling with last minute errands, which had me leaving town much to late. I didn’t get into Summerville until around 9:30 at night, just in time for a dinner at one of the only diners open that late. There is a rule with endurance sports that you don’t do anything for the race that you didn’t do during training. I was already off on the wrong foot on that one! After dinner, I just went right to bed.
I went downstairs from my hotel room, and promptly ran into other racers getting ready for the day. I met a guy, Steve, and we wondered over to breakfast. I ordered a big bowl of oatmeal. I looked up at Steve after I ordered, and he was obviously conflicted about something. Finally, he just had to say, “You don’t want to order that. Bad things will happen to you out there if you eat that.” Laughing, I ran down the waitress and changed my order. Steve was there through out the rest of the day, with helpful advice. Actually, the whole day was filled with very helpful, low key folks. One of the great things about this experience was the people I met!
The race began at Sloppy Floyd Park, around 9 in the morning. The super cool race director began her pre-race speech. “The course maybe 25 miles, it may be 30 miles. Don’t get uptight.” With most of my experience being with road races and Triathlons, I was really digging the laid back vibe from the trail running folks.
The race had us run 2 different loops, 4 times this year. Instead of winding through the National Forest as the race has done in past years, we stayed within the Park.
Being from Florida- read the flat lands- what happened next was pretty comical. When we got to the first hill, I realized the “hills” were quite a bit steeper than where I had trained, and went along for quite a bit longer than I imagined. This was going to me more “Trail” than “Marathon”.
I stuck with the strategy of walking the uphill sections, and running everything else. It was an absolutely beautiful, breath-taking course with really fun people. With the shared effort before us, everyone remained in really good spirits, and chatted as we ran through the woods.
Some things about the course
If you are from Florida, or any place flat, I highly recommend a few field trips to Summerville, to get in some practice runs. I was actually fine with the up hill portion, what I didn’t count on was the steep down hills. I’m use to relaxing down the down hill portion, and enjoying the free speed. These trails were steep enough that I found myself breaking a lot, and my knees were not happy about it. More specifically, my IT band on the right side.
The aid stations were FANTASTIC at this race. Peanut Butter and Jelly sandwiches, Gummy bears, pretzels, gels, Poweraid and water. After a few miles, a peanut butter and jelly sandwich is pure heaven. The aid stations, and the up beat volunteers working them make a HUGE difference.
The monkeys. Throughout the race, they have these inflatable monkeys hanging down from the trees. Awesome.
At the halfway point in the marathon, my right leg around the back of the knee would sting and burn if I tried to run. It was a really tough time to be faced with this, as I was right by the parking lot. I could see the lawn chairs and the cars. Rest was right there! This was probably my lowest point, mentally.
I decided to keep moving, and see what would happen. I’ve learned from past races that there are ups and downs in any race, and the problems tend to work themselves out with a little problem solving. I ran to the next aid station, and into the rest room. Now to take care of a problem that hadn’t really cropped up during training, but was showing itself mightily right now. I had some nice size rashes forming in my neither regions that needed some serious tending too. I remembered that some where in my iFitness belt, I had some Aquaphor. WOW, did I feel smart remembering that. My apologies to anybody whose hand I shook later that day…
After another fill up at the aid station, it was back out on the course, and what ever I was feeling before was now gone. I couldn’t have been happier, even through the fatigue that was building. I can’t say enough about the cool people in the race, the volunteers at the aid stations, or the scenery.
For the rest of the race, I wasn’t able to run, so I hiked the hills, and tried to go as fast as I could. At some point, I began running with the wonderfully upbeat Mindy Stephens, and she did an excellent job of talking me through to the finish line.
At this point, I was running aid station to aid station. I would get to the next one, and someone would say, “Do you know Steve? He said for you to take this gel…” Steve from breakfast was still looking after me.
The finish line was over this bridge, on the park lake. Very cool ending!
Steve and Mindy congratulated me on finishing my first trail marathon. Becky, the race director was there, offering refreshments.
That night Steve, and his parents invited me to join them for dinner, at the restaurant across the street from the hotel. His dad had bad knees he told me, and Steve and I had just finished the Twisted Ankle. It was comical, watching our merry band cross the highway. We were all taking baby steps, so it looked like a slow motion version of Frogger watching us cross the street.
Some lessons learned, and things observed
If you are reading this like I read the race reports of past “The Twisted Ankle” races- do it! That being said, prepare as specifically as you can. I had a wonderful coach, Sandy Holt from TriAttic that got me ready for the big day, but I would recommend some course-specific workouts.
Darren Allen is the President of White Dog Design Group, where he leads a talented group of designers passionate about engaging users on the web. Darren loves the space where great design and business strategy meet. Where clients succeed because the message, the branding, and the online strategy are all working together with clarity and focus. When he isn't pushing pixels, Darren is probably out somewhere training for a triathlon, or spending time with his uber-cool family.
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