Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Memorial Day Xtreme 12k Trail Run

Bzzz Bzzz Bzzz …. 5:15am on a holiday Monday morning and my alarm goes off. It’s dificult enough to get up on any given Monday, but after a weekend of holiday parties, hot dogs, chips, and a modest selection of adult beverages it wasn’t any easier on this particular day. Even the dog gave nothing more than a passing glance before going back to sleep while I went about the house.

Breakfast, shower, dress and out the door at 6:15. First stop was Dunkin Donuts for my usual pre-race drink; a large iced coffee with cream and sugar. Okay, so it probably doesn’t make the list on The Breakfast of Champions, and it probably doesn’t even make the list of The Breakfast of The Mediocre… but it’s become my pre-race ritual and that’s that.

Next stop; pick up my friends Gaby and Debbie that managed to talk me into running the Xtreme 12k race. It didn’t take much of an arm twisting, as I was looking for a good Memorial Day race and the chance to race with friends sealed the deal.

8:00am we arrive in Portage Indiana at Imagination Glen Park, check-in and begin waiting patiently. Actually, Debbie had decided to run without socks which sounded like a good idea and I agonized over doing the same for the next hour (I finally decided to run with socks).

There was a presentation of colors by the Marines, a dedication and prayer for those in the service, a brief course talk, a remembrance of Pat Rhoades, and starting instructions.

Before too long, we were off. It was a field of about 300 runners and the course started with a lap around the park. At the back side of the field the path narrowed to 15 feet, then down to 4 feet and finally single track trails. Shortly into the event was the first stream crossing; 4 feet deep and maybe 50 feet across. There was a rope strung across the river which helped to balance and pull yourself through. At this point the group was bunched up and we had already slowed to a walk. I’m not sure if Gaby or Debbie said it, or I just imagined it, but I’m sure I heard someone say "lets pass these people"— I crawled under the rope to the other side and passed 20 people before crawling up the bank on the far side.

The next few miles would be difficult to explain in any interesting detail. If you’ve ever ridden technical mountain bike trails you know the drill; log piles, up hills, down hills, switchbacks, and more stream crossings.

It was easy to get caught up in a group and maintain pace but Debbie was on a mission to beat last year’s time and would eventually pass the pack in one fell swoop. Gaby was never far behind. Myself, on the other hand, took much longer to pass a pack of runners but would eventually catch-up.

At some point we came out to a trail head with a directional sign. "Roller Coaster" was the name of our final path, and that it was. Up, down, up, down, down, hard right, up, down left, right, left, left, up..... This was the first time I was glad I was not on a bike and actually thought taking these trails on foot might have been easier.

We approached a group of standees warning us about the upcoming stream crossing. This was the same section we crossed at the start of the race but would do it in reverse. The steep bank we climbed out of at the start, was now our launch pad into the river. My plan to charge down the steep embankment and attack the river quickly proved foolish. The embankment had been beat by 300 pairs of feet on the outbound trip into deep muddy mush.

My first step on the downhill and my feet flew out from under me. I landed flat on my back and my rear sank several inches into the muck. I inched myself out of the rut and immediately started sliding down the embankment until I was half under water. I threw my arm up over the rope hoping to slow my descent and provide some assistance in climbing out. I was finally able to get my feet dug in so I get up and continue forward motion.

Exiting the river led to a short uphill climb and back to the grassy paths we started out on. Gaby, Debbie and I had already started to joke about out next trail run. We had very little left for a kick during the last 1/4 mile return loop around the field but continued a strong pace to the very end.

After crossing the finish line I removed my shoes and all the mud, sand, and peddles that had accumulated and promptly dumped them in trash.

Congrats to Gaby for coming in first in her age group. Congrats to Debbie for dropping 4 minutes from last year. As for myself... I set a PR for my 12k distance...


Anonymous said...

great pictures. Thanks

MJ said...

You carried your camera through that? Did you tell me it was waterproof?

Congrats! Sounds like a pretty cool race!

Russ Foster said...

Yes, waterproof and shockproof: Olympus 770 SW. It never leaves my side!

Kiki53 said...

Wonderfully accurate description of the race. I haven't attempted this race since I first walked it five years ago. I run at Imagination Glen on a regular basis, and I just might try this race again next week. Beautiful website! Thanks for sharing your experience.