OK, so Nov. 18th through Dec. 3rd got a wee bit out of hand. A couple months back I was at the Morton Arboretum which is the local hangout if you want to run hills. I was with a few runners in the club and we were plotting out our end of season events. I was talked into Hot Chocolate Chicago in early November and Tecumseh Trail Marathon in early December. This seems reasonable.
About a week later, I was goaded into running a trail race in Palatine, by a club member. He's a tad preachy about how none of the club members have the gumption to wander off of roads or the Prairie Path. I took his challenge and added an 8K trail run to the end of October, 10/29. In addition, I had not yet run a 5K since returning to running and that's the kind of race I am built for so I added the Roadrunner Challenge in early November, 11/12.
So that was three weekends in a row with races and it turns out I did OK at them. The first was the 8K trail run and I finished in 4th overall. This race is stacked with old farts, because despite being 4th overall, I was 3rd in the 40-45 age group. Old folks rock. The next weekend was the Hot Chocolate 15K and I was fine with finishing in under an hour. I was 6th in the AG and 82 out of something like 13,000 runners. That was a fair showing, but it was the first time this season that I did not bring home hardware. At my return to running last October this was not a concern, but as I kept excelling, my expectations grew too. The next weekend was a 5K and I won this overall, by more than 4 minutes, so it was basically a solo effort. I started feeling good about myself and had no real plans for Thanksgiving, so I started playing with the idea of a Grand Canyon Rim to Rim to Rim run. Thanksgiving, because I had no plans, time that I needed away from work and a need to get away. After about 48 hours I pulled the trigger and booked hotel and airfare. Only then did I recall that I was committed to the trail marathon the following weekend. What evs, I was gonna run the canyon.
So I went down and ran the Grand Canyon, 48 miles in one day for my first ultra and it offers some hilly elevations along the way. It was the experience of a lifetime and you can read about it here and here. If you read it, you'll note that I struggled to recover quickly from the canyon; old folks were passing me in walkers. I took 4 days off running after that first ultra and then started back with modest runs on Tuesday and Wednesday the following week. On Thursday night, I was feeling better and ran with my running club, Glen Ellyn Runners. This was a great night, I set out with Todd, Tim and Jared. Todd was very curious about the R2R2R and we chatted while we ran. I was actually doing OK while talking and running low 7s. By the end of the run we were doing 6:40s and the overall was 6:55 pace. I was almost back to normal and just in time to run a freaking hilly trail marathon two days later.
So off to southern Indiana we go. The Tecumseh Trail marathon is known for being exceedingly tilty and having less than perfect traction. The night before the marathon we stayed in a club member's (Sherry) family home. Another clubmate, Francesca, made dinner. It was a boatload of pastas and full of YUM. The rest of us, Tara, Brian, John and myself, just sat back and shovelled in food while sharing great stories.
Race day started well; it was dry, no wind and mid 40s on the way to 50s. This is a point to point marathon so we had to drive to the finish to board a bus to the start. Our driver took two wrong turns, thankfully we had some veteran racers onboard. When we got to the start, I darted off to find some fresh forest real estate to unleash the mornings liquids. With that task done, I chose the warmth of the bus, rather than stand around outside.
When the race director called everyone to the start, I chose to wear compression shorts, a tech tee, a Swamp2K singlet with a lightweight outer shell. I also picked my Adios shoes over my PureConnects. They give me confidence. I had 5 Stinger honeys with me and no gloves. The start is a tad sophomoric; guy stands up, move his lips, but not loud enough to hear and then a horn goes off. It's On!
I was running this race without my Garmin. Those of you who read the R2R2R reports know why ;) I think I went out in 7:15-7:30 pace and that was a lot of adrenaline, but there were 6 guys that shot out even faster. I was told to expect about an hour slower than a road marathon, but was going to run solely on feel today. The race starts in one state park travels through it, some private land and into the other state park where it finishes. This race is highlighted by a lot of run up this hill, so that you can run down it. I doubt we have a level 100 yard segment the whole day. The net elevation is -300 feet so it's a downhill race; please note the tongue planted firmly in my cheek. I think the elevation is like 3500 feet up and 3800 feet down. After about 4 miles the adrenaline wears off and I start to assess how I feel. Surprisingly the assessment is pretty D@mn good. I am in like 15-17th place. and running comfortable to the point where I am not passing nor being passed. This is important, because most of the course is single track and you don't want to get stuck. Shortly after this I start hearing some young folk whooping it up. I'll soon learn that there are 8 kids from Wabash College running the race; 7 athletes and 1 coach. They are having a grand time and yapping up a storm. They are a TEAM; it's easy to see. They are floating up hills but my girth has me quickly catching back up on the downhills.
When we got back to the house, Francesca went out for a run and I took two beers out of the fridge. I was gonna walk one beer down the road and one beer back. It felt and tasted great. I then took a shower and got into some comfy pants. I was done for the day. We got a call that Tara had finished, but not John yet and he was past his expected time. The nature of this course causes it to be difficult for communicating up and down the course. A short while later we got the call that John was in. He's a very kind man and he'd passed a woman in her first marathon, who was only running it to honor a fallen soldier. John helped her complete that task. A+ John!!!
Overall Place: 21
Age Group Place: 2
Once we all got back to the house we had food and wine and merriment. I was feeling rather good for the strain that I'd put on my body over the last month or so. I turned in first as I was really tired. The following morning at about 6:00 I awoke. I couldn't sleep so I did what every person having just run a marathon would do. I ran 5 easy miles. It was still very dark there, but we were so far out in the country that I didn't fear traffic and it was very enjoyable to just plug away some 9 minute miles. The rest of that day was food, driving home and doing homework for school.
I had just closed out what I believe was a pretty good year for my return to running after the 20+ year hiatus.
I went from miserable 9:00 minute miles last October to Qualifying for New York and Boston, winning a road race overall and pulling hardware out of all but one event, and I did an Ultra. The only thing left is to get the rest of my 2000 miles in for the year.