Saturday, October 13, 2007

Indian Run 20K - My Sixth Race

Animated Map OverviewThis post is very long overdue! I ran the Hocking Hills Indian Run 20K Trail Race back on September 22nd (almost 1 month ago). Honestly, I wasn't sure what I should write, so I procrastinated until it got ridiculously overdue. Now that I've reached this milestone (ridiculously overdue), I felt it was time to tell my story. The first thing I guess that I should say is that it was the hardest thing (physically) that I've ever done! This was the longest distance I've ever ran and it was also the toughest terrain I've ever run on. Here is my story...

The Night Before
I left my house around 6PM the night before so that I could setup camp at Caveman Retreats. By the time I got there, it was pushing 8PM and it was pretty dark. I basically setup my tent and laid down to sleep. Believe it or not, I was in my sleeping bag by 9PM and laid awake until about 10:30PM before actually falling asleep. It was a long night because I slept right on a root or something. I woke up every hour or so all night long shifting my body around this thing under my tent. Needless to say, I loved the whole experience. I was born for this crap! Everything about it was just great. Lying in my tent under the stars was very relaxing. I just listened to the crickets chirping and Sasquatch yelling...

The Morning Of
When morning broke, I literally woke up, packed my tent, paid my dues, and was on my way to the race. Notice I left out a few important steps: breakfast and water. That information plays an important part later... By the time I woke up at 8AM, to the time I was on the road 8:45AM, I was just focused on getting to the starting line. I knew I was in for a true test of endurance and focus that day and I just blocked out all common sense (food, water, stretching, etc..). The weather was pretty hot already and I had a long 2+ hour run through some nasty wooded trails and hills ahead of me.

The Race
My start time was at 9:30 exactly. I started with 2 other women, they had both ran the Indian Run before. However, this was the first time either of them had done the 20K. At this point I was questioning my sanity. Was I crazy to think I could do this my first time. Of course!! :) To set the stage for this race, I must say that while I was standing at the starting line ready to start, I realized that I hadn't done any stretching, I hadn't eaten anything, and had absolutely no fluids in me. This concludes the crazy factor. I'm nuts!

The first 3 - 4 miles was up a few hills, through some nature paths and along a very hilly road. So far so good; nothing too bad at this point. I felt great and had a good pace going. At about the 4 mile marker I was met with a hard left turn at the bottom of a huge hill. Once I made the turn, I looked up a hill that seemed to stretch all the way to Heaven. It was a dirt path that literally looked like it went for about 1/2 mile winding up through the woods. I decided that I was going to run/walk up this thing so that I didn't kill myself too early. I still had 8+ miles to go and didn't want to spend all of my energy on this thing. I was pleasantly surprised to see many of the stronger runners walking up this thing too. I didn't feel so... noob.

Once we got to the top of this hill my legs were burning so bad. There was the first water station setup that had water, power-aid, pretzels, fig newtons, and crackers. It was pretty crowded, but I squeezed over and took down 2 dixie cups of water. The pit stop lasted about 30 seconds for me and it helped a bit.

After the water stop, I got back into a nice pace and passed a few runners and I felt like I had gotten back into my rhythm. At this point, the course got very beautiful. We went back off of the road and wound through some dirt roads through the Hocking Forest. It felt very reminiscent of Blackhand Gorge (aka. My Park), only it was 10 time bigger in every aspect. I was in a zone for the next 4 miles and they went very quickly and very easily. Yes, I even went through some pretty treacherous parts, but I was in my element just by noticing the scenery and keeping pace with the runners around me. Nobody talked, we just panted and kept up with one another. I loved it!

About 8 miles into it, we met up with the 10K course and I was really looking forward to the finish line. I only had about 4+ miles to go and I think I got a bit cocky with myself. I picked up the pace a little bit and passed some runners thinking "I can do 4 miles in my sleep". The thing that I didn't take into consideration was my fuel tank was on empty. I was only running on water and a bad night's sleep. Luckily, there was another water station about this time, so I stopped and had 3 dixie cups of water and 2 fig newtons. I think the fig newtons helped a bit because I could feel myself coming out of a funk a bit. I probably should have taken a minute or two and eaten some more food for the remaining 4 miles, but I didn't.

After that pit stop, my race turned to shit! I found myself walking more and more up every little hill and only ran on the strait aways (which were few and far between). There were a couple of spots where I did some stomp-running where I just kept falling forward and allowing my legs to keep me upright. We ran through some nasty hiking trails that were just wide enough for one person and was inviting me to twist my ankle with every step. Much of this trail was along side a beautiful lake. I wanted to jump in that lake so bad and just float lifelessly for 10 minutes, but I still had 2 miles of hilly, wooded trails to go. Everybody that I had passed earlier was now passing me. Of course as they passed they would say words of encouragement for I guess my pain and fatigue was pretty noticeable. The support from these other selfless runners really did help me get through this part of the race. I'll remember this in my next race when I see people struggling.

The final stretch was the hardest mile (hands down) I've ever done. The course came out of the woods and onto the main road that led back up to the Lodge. Key word here is "up"... it was an uphill run. I actually stopped at one point and sat on a guard rail to give my legs a break. By this point, I was numb and completely exhausted. One runner came up and stood next to me and talked to me for a minute. He was spent too. We realized that we were crazy for running this thing then started inching toward the finish line. He pulled away from me after a while and I was struggling to put my feet in front of one another all the way to the finish line. Once I saw the finish line, I sucked it up and tried to run as fast as I could. The crowd was so motivating; everybody was cheering me on like I had won the race. It helped me finish strong.

The Result

My finish time was 2 hours 25 minutes and 30 seconds!!! :D

The After Math
Honestly, the moment I crossed the finish line, I knew it was worth all the sweat and pain. I stumbled over to the fruit and water table and couldn't sit down quick enough. My legs just hurt. Period. It was a "weird" kind of hurt that I had never experienced before; deep in my muscles. I sat at that table for about 20 minutes and got my sweat under control and let my body pull itself back together again. A lot of people stopped and talked to me and I realized that runners are very encouraging and supportive of other runners by nature. I didn't feel out of place at all. We had all just put ourselves through the same amount of torture and there was an odd bond by this point. I sat there until I got caught up on my food and water deprivation. I probably ate 3 apples, 2 bananas, a gatorade, and 2 water bottles. Once I got myself back together, I stood up and made the long walk to my car (~200 yards away... uphill).

Needless to say, when I got home I slept for 4 hours strait with my legs elevated and iced. The cool part about this killer race is that ever since that day, my training runs are MUCH easier and MUCH faster. :) It's amazing how much you can improve when you break yourself down to nothing. Next week is my Columbus 1/2 Marathon race. I'll be sure to post my race results a lot sooner than I did this one.

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