Monday, July 14, 2014

Dances With Dirt - Devil's Lake 1/2 Marathon

Dances With Dirt - Devil's Lake 1/2 Marathon - July 12, 2014

time = 2:15:17
pace = 10:19
placed 4 in my age group (40-44) out of 38
placed 28 in women out of 269
placed 130 overall out of 568

race start/finish - photo by tom chute

the announcer announced my "blankie" for winning 4th place
top 5 in each age group got a "blankie". it's pretty awesome.
i don't even know where to begin with this race.  i went into my first trail half fretting like crazy!  i had worked my stomach up into some crazy knots the entire week before.  turns out it was all for naught.

lets begin at the beginning.

friday late morning the husband and i packed up the car with both dogs and the boy.  we headed over to pick up a friend of the boy and then we were on our way.  as we were making the hour and a half drive up to devil's lake it was drizzling here and there so i was concerned about the weather.  the reports i had been watching like a hawk for the days leading up to the weekend were calling for scattered thunderstorms and alternating rain showers.  the forecast had gone from 20% to 60% and that left me a bit uneasy.  uneasy because setting up camp and then camping in rain with 2 dogs and 2 kids is a bear of a time... not because of running in rain.  running in rain would have been just fine with me.  anyways, we decided to stop for some food to wait out the rain and as it happened when we arrived in devil's lake the rain had passed and the skies were clear.  we set up camp and got comfortable.  once that task was accomplished we drove over to packet pick up which was effortless.  got my packet and then decided to have a little hike along devil's lake.
loving life the day before the race
we headed back to camp after a little rock hopping and dog walking.  once we made a fire, roasted some marshmallows and hot dogs, and did all the other campy stuff one does when camping we were well on our way to putting friday to bed.  i decided to turn in early-ish and as luck would have it the next campsite over from us had several kids, and a very animated dad telling an awesome bedtime story so we all got the benefit of that before lights out.  it was pretty great.

i woke with the birds well before my alarm and frankly didn't sleep very well.  not for any reason tho' considering we have an awesome tent, super comfortable blow up mattress, and i basically had all the comforts of home without being at home.  i had taken half of an imodium at about 7:30pm the night before (turns out too soon) because everything was running through me already.  such a bummer.  my nerves were fried as i was freaking about the unknown of the course (studied the route and everything), the fact that my stomach was not feeling good, and i just overall felt not good.  i ate some food and did my normal routine to get ready for a race and we headed over to the start so i could be ready for the 7am gun time (little did i know that the gun time was 7:30am... ugh.)

let's talk about my ridiculous nutrition plan (or rather lack thereof...)  i'm a poor planner when it comes to my nutrition for runs sometimes.  i always go into it with the best intentions and then FAIL.  i ate a hardboiled egg, some smoked salmon, a banana, and some cherry tomatoes with water.  um, yeah... then i had my normal vitamins as well as some tylenol, sportlegs, and about 1/2 a bag of sport beans.  i left my other bag of sport beans behind because i knew they would have GU on the course.  THAT was a mistake.  i failed to pack any nuun for my water bottle too so yeah... there's that.  so ill prepared.  i'm sure that accounts for all the pain in my legs even today 2 days later.  couldn't possibly be because i bombed ALL the downhills at FULL SPEED... nah, probably had nothing to do with that.

my wonderful husband got up, packed the dogs into the car, and drove me to the start at devil's head resort by 6:30am.  we arrived with very little fan fair, and i kissed my husband goodbye so he could head back to the kids as i would be seeing them all at the finish.  i headed to the bathroom and then to the start.  i thought it was strange that the start was totally empty at 10min to 7am.  so i start to wander around and find the list with the start times only to find that the 1/2 start time is 7:30am.  i text the husband to let him know and of course... my phone is not working.  no service up in the hills of devil's lake.  i basically had little to no service all weekend.  quite nice to be unplugged except when you need to talk to someone.

finally people start milling over to the start and the announcer says that they will have waves.  this is awesome because i've heard about things getting clogged.  because of what i heard i was standing right in the front because i did NOT want to get stuck behind a bunch of walkers first thing.  turns out the first wave was a 8min mile start... nope, not me.  i move back... next wave 8:45min mile start... nope, still not me.  let's scoot back a smidge more.  next wave 9min mile start and that's where they stopped and just had everyone line up behind that.

what the hell? let's be optimistic and start here right in the front of this pack!  yay!  i'm chatting with a couple of ladies and i hear my name... it's TOM!  woo hoo!  i didn't think i'd see anyone so that was great to see a familiar smiling face.  tom and andrea are two runners from my beloved LPTR group.  so i started with them.

the gun goes off and we're running!  the first half mile is flat-ish field with sometimes sandy, grassy, and/or dirt terrain to a very short paved section and then back to the first stuff which then led to a 2mi wooded incline on the ice age trail.  seriously, it is no joke.  this is the hardest part of the run in that because it comes first the desire (or maybe just MY desire) is to gung ho run it balls to the wall but really... a nice run/hike is better.  i found it really challenging to control myself and not allow myself to run it full force.  however, i knew and had planned for this 2 miles and kept telling myself to take my time.  although, i didn't take my time in the way i had original planned... i ran more than i walked but i'm glad that i did in the end as it helped my time a whole lot. i ran/hiked it the whole way and passed a lot of people.  don't get it twisted tho'... A LOT of people passed me too.  i tagged onto the tail of a few different groups of people, and in hind sight i should have passed some of these groups earlier than i did.  i should have passed them because i got comfortable at their pace when i know i was faster than they were, but i didn't know the etiquette of passing yet so i stayed put.  if i had passed them instead of staying it's possible i could have skimmed a bit off my time.
a weird thing:  i got a lot of comments on my tattoos which rarely happens in a race setting.  a lot of comments.  normally no one says anything to me about my tattoos in this sort of setting.  during this race i'd say that at least 8-10 different people commented in some way about my tattoos.  so odd.
anyway, i finally took the cue from some people taking innitiative to pass, and tacked onto a group of them. once i did that i started running my own race and left a bunch of people at an unmanned aid station about 2.6 miles in.

i started passing people a lot after that.  especially on the downhills.  i LOVE running downhill.  i run full speed and have no problem doing so which is what saves me in trail runs.  sure it's hard on my feet, but i make up so much time running full speed and most of all it is SO MUCH FUN!  that's the best part... how much fun it is.  it saved me in the end, but i'll get to that later.

the hardest part was trying to pass people on the single track trail, but i loved running with people.  there was never a time when i was completely alone on the trail.  there is a section of trail that is gravel which was also an incline and really challenging to run on.  it forced me to power walk which was disappointing.  i loved that the course overlapped the 50K/50MI course so we could see those runners and cheer them on as we passed... that was really nice.

at about mile 7 i was running with an older man who also loves downhills (he commented on my tattoos too) so i trailed him for awhile, and we ran a huge downhill together which was really fun.  he was great to run with, and we had a lot of fun running side by side flying down the hill passing runners as if we were the only two people there.  it was beautiful!

mile 9.8 i was with two other dudes who thought my garmin was wrong and that we were closer to the finish, but turned out they were wrong and i was very disappointed because MAN, I WAS TIRED! at that point from the exertion.  when i finally did get to the 2mi downhill i FLEW!  i passed so many people all i remember was that i kept saying "excuse me" and "on your left".  over and over and over.  those 2 miles were what i was looking forward to the entire race... i knew i would make up so much time on that downhill.  it's like having a turbo booster... i just fly like a crazy person and actually i heard some comments to that end.  likely because people expected me to take a digger or two (incidentally i didn't fall until about two tenths of a mile to the end which i'll get to).  i'm not sure i'd call this trail super technical but there certainly was a variety of different types of terrain and lots of rock, roots, and single track obstacles and obstructions which could certainly cause a fall if one were going at full speed downhill and didn't have dainty little tinyfeet.  just sayin'

i finally get to the last half mile which is mostly flat and i can barely clear a 10:33 minute mile.  i know this because i looked.  my legs felt like lead.  2 of the people that i passed gained on me and got me back but that's it.  all the rest stayed behind me.  then i almost missed a turn because i was following the woman i passed who passed me back and then we got back on the turn and i eat it.  right into a bunch of sand.

hands submerged to my wrists, water bottle covered in sand, knees to ankles covered in sand... ugh.  so gross!  no pain... just gross.  covered in sand and i can barely run at this point anyway!  now i have to pick my sandy ass up and keep running.  i get back up and turn the corner to see all the people!  thank goodness i fell just before all the people. hahahah!

now i've got all the people clapping and saying that there's only the one turn left and let's go and woo hoo and all that jazz.  i remember telling some guy that i just really want to walk.  he laughed.  i was so close to the finish i could see it and i want to walk!?!

race splits

i just kept plugging along and finally i made it!  it was a hard finish.  really challenging.  especially after how great that 2mi downhill felt.  super easy and effortless!  then that 1/2 mile of hell.

this race was so rewarding.  i stopped at an aid station around mile 6 i think and got a GU which ate a minute or so of my time.  turns out i missed 3rd place in my age group by 2 minutes, 2nd by 4 minutes, and 1st by 5 minutes.  FIVE MINUTES stood between me and 1st place in my age group.  i'm totally bummed about that.  if i had walked a little less on some of those hills or ran a little faster on some of those flats... i could have easily shaved those minutes.  i'm really happy with my time tho' as this was my first trail 1/2 and the time i will measure all the rest of my times against.   now i know what i'm capable of, and can try harder for next time.   it was also such a good time.  it certainly sets the bar high.  i would recommend this race to anyone who wants to experience a true trail race.  devil's lake is breathtakingly beautiful.  i loved it.

race route and elevation information

nature: has a way of breaking through
my poor feet hurt pretty bad after the race.  they take a beating when i bomb the downhills like that so i don't do that anymore when i'm not in a race situation.  i was pleasantly surprised to see that i placed and i got that sweet blanket you see in the picture at the beginning of this post.  the finisher medal is a bottle opener which is also pretty sweet.  the race director was adorable when he announced the winners and the food was great.  i love trail races.  i love running.

after the race we headed back to the campsite so i could shower.  i saw several of the 50K and 50MI runners pass through as their course ran right past my campsite. then my husband and i took the boys and dogs on a TWO HOUR hike from our campsite, down to the west bluff trail and then took that to the tumbled rocks trail and back to the campsite.  this was probably a very bad idea, but the kids were really great about waiting out my race.  this is what they wanted to do so i was determined to do it.  i cannot tell you how much i was SWEATING BUCKETS as i very slowly caboosed it up the bluff behind my entire whole family.  my lovely 9 year old dog was wonderful enough to putter along beside me.  i'm not gonna lie... it was tough.  the hiking guide says that the west bluff trail is "moderate/strenuous" and let me tell you... when you hike it after running a half marathon it truly is strenuous!  sheesh... it was a challenge to stay upright. lol!  i'm sure that's why my quads still hurt today.  the intention was to hike around the entire lake but we gave up that idea once we made it over this short trail (1.4mi).  it felt so much longer!  i'm not sure how far it was from our campsite but i'm guessing maybe 1.5mi.  add in the tumbled rocks trail which is 1.0mi according the the map below (but there's a sign on the trail that says it's 2mi so who knows) and that hike was about 4-5ish miles.  wow... it seemed like a lot more at the time.  here's a map in case you care.

i love devil's lake.  if you ever get a chance to get up there for hiking, running, camping, or just for a day trip... it is well worth it.  i had a great weekend and my experience with dances with dirt was amazing.  can't wait to do it again next year!


Sun said...

Congrats on your first trail half! Sounds like you had a great experience :)

I think your time and strategy were great. I also love running downhills but haven't tried it on a trail yet. Sounds like you were flying during the last downhill!

Josh said...

I'm glad you had a good time and a good race! Nice job! And now that your first trail half is out of the way, you can go into the next one with less anxiety and do even better!

And I'm with you: I love running downhill. I just lengthen my stride and go for it. It feels awesome when you really get moving. I still don't understand why people slow down on the downhills. But it's really fun to whiz by them.

nikki said...

i think that people go slow on the downhills for fear of falling or tripping over whatever might be on the trail... in this case: roots, rocks, uneven terrain, and loose gravel. really just over cautious and probably for good reason. i, on the other hand, am haphazard and just trust that my feet will take care of me and that my foot/eye coordination is good enough to get me down the hill in one piece! lol!