Sunday, April 13, 2014

Possum Kingdom 20k - 2014

Well, after a false start due to ice at Isle du Bois, I finally ran my first trail race yesterday. I had some reservations the day before when I realized I was going to a place called Possum Kingdom where the starting line is at Bug Beach. Possums and bugs. Things I'm not super fond of! Alas, I ran into exactly zero possums (well, maybe one roadkill version while driving), but plenty of mosquitoes in the bathrooms at Bug Beach (so tip #1 for PK: use the porta-potties).

Naturally, there is a cold front moving in the day AFTER this race, so while it was nice at the start, it got warm quickly, especially as the start is pretty much straight uphill for the first mile and a half.

And worse, the downhills from that just pounded my knees. I should have taken those slower, I guess, because I ended up having some bad pain in my left knee for a couple of miles after that. I ended up walking for probably half a mile, wincing every time I planted my foot/leg in a way that made it hurt, but eventually, it just... went away! It was bad enough that I thought if it didn't get better, I was going to have to DNF at the 6 mile aid station, which would have sucked. But I wasn't about to trash my knee.

Luckily, I fell back with a couple of other friends (and even behind both of them for a while), but caught back up as my knee started to behave, and stayed with them and a few other folks the rest of the way. As per usual with running, the latter miles fell into a nice rhythm and the prospect of a nearby finish line was enough to pull me through the sandy finish.

I ended up with a 3:22 finish for 12 miles, exactly 1 hour longer than 13.5 on the road. I went into this one with almost zero compete level in my heart, and mostly stayed that way from start to finish, though I really thought 3:30 was the best I could expect, time-wise, so I was pleasantly surprised. Still, I really didn't care much about the time, and didn't look at my Runkeeper at all. I put everything into Rock 'n Roll, so this race was just my reward for all that work and progress, and it was really a perfect marker for that.

Lake vista early on in the run

This was my first Endurance Buzz race (which figures, since it was my first trail race), and what a great job they do. Even though I only knew 3 other people there, it was a very familial environment with people taking care of each other. Amazing to me was that the folks running 52 miles or 52k would pass us with big smiles and a "Looking great! Keep it up!" as we 20k folks are slogging along. Different animals, these trail maniacs.

I found it very helpful to have memorized the mile markers where the aid stations would be, especially with water bottles running dry much faster than I'd been used to. Plus, the stations had a buffet of wonderful food choices, from Oreos to dill pickles. It's nice to have a selection, because you never really know what will sound good. I grazed there (mile 6.5 and 9.5) and ate two of my Payday mini bars, which as usual were exactly the boost I needed. I seriously need to get Payday to sponsor my running. I can sing the praises of those little guys all day long.

One thing I did wrong was not eating soon enough. It was 4+ miles before I even ate 3 jelly beans (Happy Pills) at the first unmanned aid station, and was 6.5 before the first full aid station where I ate more. Should have tucked into my payday bar at mile 4.

Also wonder if I need to down some endurolyte tablets or something along the way. I don't really like Gatorade or Nuun or things like that, but I know the salt in my snacks probably aren't enough for warm runs.

The course itself is certainly the most diverse I've ever run. From soft, easy single- or double-track to deep, annoying sand, to small rocks, boulders, and roots/stumps, this course had everything but mud and water. There are some really nice views along the way, though Possum Kingdom Lake was VERY low and has been for several years, so it's a little sad to think how much nicer it must have used to look.

There was a fair amount of two-way traffic on the trail, which was good and bad. I think I enjoyed the areas where it was a loop and we were on our own and not having to get out of the way of faster runners in the opposite direction. But it was cool to see how easy they made it look and how friendly they were, so that definitely enhanced the "newbie" experience for me.

For this race, I'd probably invest in some gaiters or plan to stop and shake sand out of your shoes after the Hamilton Rd. crossing (that's where the sand is done with for the most part, until the final couple of miles). It felt like I had sandpaper socks on and I HAD to stop and dump my shoes out or I would have had raw feet by the end. Maybe my shoes are more porous or something.

Rosie, who finished 30 minutes ahead of me and 5th in her division, because she's awesome, and I had talked about doing Whispering Pines next month, and after the race, she said, "No way. I'll come volunteer if you run, but I'm done." And I said, "Yeah, I have no interest in doing that now. I'm done."

Well... I woke up this morning, my quads throbbing, and thought, "Yeah, I want to do Whispering Pines." It's only 10 miles! :) I really didn't feel nearly as bad yesterday for how hard the race felt, if that makes sense. And today, the day after, my quads are sore, but that's really it. I feel great otherwise.

So, I need to see how it fits into my schedule, but yeah, WP's probably going to happen. I'm going to have to find recipes that use lots of honey if I keep running these EB races. I think I'm kinda hooked. Of course, all it may take is a confrontation with a snake to send me back to full time road running. :)

Happy trails!