October 18, 2008

Big Woods Half Marathon

The final race of the 2008 MN Trail Run Series is in the books! Today was the Big Woods Half Marathon that was run (mostly) in Nerstrand State Park, on a picture perfect fall day.

Got up early and headed down for the race in thick fog - the sunrise was surreal. Race headquarters were located at a church about a mile from the park, and the place was buzzing with runners and lots of cheerful volunteers. Got the table set up to recruit more members to the awesome Upper Midwest Trail Runners club and then got ready to line up for the start next to the cemetary. It was a cool morning - mid 30's at start time - and the fog was starting to burn off and give way to abundant sunshine.

The half marathon and 10K runners started together, and there were A LOT of us! The first mile was run on a paved road to get to the park, then we were off into the woods! I had no idea how many aid stations there would be (or where), so I opted to bring the Nathan vest instead of a hand held. As it turns out, there were several aid stations serving water and Gatoraid, the first at about mile 1, so a hand held would have been fine.

Soon after entering the woods, the 10K and half marathon runners parted ways. The half marathon course was billed as a hilly run, but other than a couple of noticable hills I found it to be rather flat. My garmin measured only 2136 feet of total elevation gain/loss for the entire 13.1 miles.

Very pretty course through open woods, the trail twisted and turned over gently rolling terrain. I had my camera tucked into my Nathan vest and was hoping to get some pictures of peak fall colors, but we were about a week too late. Lots of leaves on the ground which covered the roots - I saw more people take diggers during this race than any other all season! Someone must have gotten dinged up because a 4 wheeler pulling a rescue cart passed us on the trail.

I felt like I was making good progress for about the first 6 miles, then was starting to feel a little crampy. My hands were also swelling, so I took some Endurolytes. I had decided that since it was cool (and I'd had all summer to get acclimated to heat, which also results in more efficient sodium retention), Endurolytes would be sufficient rather than S caps. Big mistake! I was also noticing a blister forming on the ball of my right foot even though I've been wearing the same shoe/sock combo for more than a year. WTF? Wayne passed me around this time, and I had to start slowing to a walk for most of the uphills - even the gentle ones - to avoid cramping. More meandering through the twisting trail, then up one of the noteworthy hills with the "cheer leader of the year" shouting encouragement to all of the runners.

Popped out onto a gravel road where we had to do a little loop up and around a cone before trotting back for another short section in the woods. Finally we returned to the paved road for the last mile back to the church. There was a pretty stiff headwind by now - I hadn't noticed the wind at all in the woods. The ol' feet and legs were feeling a little crampy, so my progress was way slower than it should have been and I was getting passed by several people. I kept thinking that I am in big trouble with a 50K on the schedule in just 2 weeks and I'm limping in for a half marathon!

Finally got to the finish and met up with the usual cast of characters for the post race chat. We had a sit down lunch with soup, bread, cookies, bananas and oranges at the church - tomato vegetable soup never tasted so good!

Special thanks and congrats to RD Mark Bongers and ALL of the many, many, cheerful volunteers that helped to put on a great race!


keith said...

Great job, Kel! Way to gut it out despite the cramping! Congrats on your shooting of the moon!

Jean said...

Wow, way to "shoot the moon," Kel! That is quite an accomplishment!

I was wondering how the fall colors would be down there this weekend. Sounds like the Nerstrand area peaked about the same time we did.

Great report!

Helen said...

Great report - wish I could have fitted it in this year! Congrats on your race.

Londell said...

Thanks for sharing... 50K next ... rest and taper and it will be easier than you think... I did this 1/2 marathon twice in my life and always thought it was hard so keep faith and attack the next race.

Runnin-from-the-Law said...

Congrats on another great race! I was thinking of trying this one, but wasn't recovered from TCM yet. I saw your post on Mindi's. I'm trying to find your email then I'll send you invite-

Carl Gammon said...

Kel, what a super accomplishment finishing all the races in the trail series. Great job!

And don't sweat the 50K in two weeks. It's just another stroll in the park. :-)

SteveQ said...

I don't think anyone knows how hard shooting the moon is until they try it. Way to go! (And thanks for setting up the UMTR stuff there)

Wayne said...

Kel - Congratulations on series race #12!! Way to stick it out and get it done. It's been a fun journey.

Surf the Murph is bonus, and all about having some fun. You'll get it done.