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Sunday, December 13, 2009

Tecumseh Trail Marathon...Did That Just Happen?

Tecumseh CHUGs '09

I decided it was high time to run a marathon. I have a few 50ks, a few 50 milers and that funny little 100-mile run through Vermont. Why not add a marathon to my repertoire? :) In classic CHUG fashion, a bunch of us rallied together and headed down to the thriving metropolis of Nashville, Indiana (just outside of Bloomington) and bunked up at a sweet cabin tucked into the woods of the Morgan-Monroe State Forest (or maybe it was Yellowwood Forest? They're right next to each other). Who'd have thought such a gem existed in Indiana?! I don't spend any time in Indy, nor do I know much about it, other than that interstate 65 is pretty nifty. I certainly don't identify it with beautiful rolling terrain. I thought it was flat.

It's not flat.

Plenty of peeps warned me about how tough the Tecumseh Trail Marathon is and that I was in for a real surprise. Okay, it wasn't that bad. When you consider courses like the Glacial Trail 50s or McNaughton Park Trail Runs, or even Louisville Lovin' the Hills, it was hard to take the warnings seriously. But, don't get me wrong, Tecumseh ain't no joke!

Getting ready race morning...

A couple things I liked about the format were the point-to-point course, and the fact that it started at 10:00 a.m....that meant we could sleep in a bit :) We followed our cabin-mates to the finish line where they caught a shuttle bus to the start, and Geof and I followed behind the bus. Geof wasn't running, and was going to be hanging out, being the wonderful CHUG cheerleader that he is :) After about 847 hours driving, we arrived at the start line (okay, so it was more like 45 minutes, but still...). I hopped in the potty line, and then we all congregated near the start line and took some pictures. It was super cold standing around. I noticed my shoulders felt really tense, and then I felt my upper back, neck and shoulders starting to seize up and tighten. It happened fast and it was really uncomfortable. Geof massaged them a little as we waited for the other 750 runners to gather at the start line. My neck was officially stiff and cramping. WTF? Probably nerves, and probably shrugging my shoulders up due to the cold was causing it.

Finally we started...! The course heads up the road for a bit, in the Morgan-Monroe State Forest, and eventually gets onto the trail. There were SO MANY RUNNERS that it felt like a road marathon/elbow contest. It was kinda frustrating getting started because you couldn't get into a groove. Good thing the trail was wide at this point. I thought to myself that eventually the field would thin out.

The field never thinned out.

Despite the chilly temps, and the crowd, I was enjoying myself. The trail is just beautiful, and I can only imagine how great it is in the spring when it's in full bloom!

Some of the field...not thinning out.

I ran for a short bit with Torey, and off and on with Ed Kelly. I finally met Jim Halsey (and then his wife, Vicki, after the race). I was in the mood for some quiet trail time this day, but it was clear that wasn't going to happen, so I slowly eased into the rhythm of feet in front of and behind me. Smiling to myself at the random chatter I overheard, and marveled at the beauty of the forest. Then there was a stream crossing. I didn't know we had to scale a four foot mud wall. Nor did I know there were water crossings in this race. Ooops, guess I should have done some research on the race :) These made the day interesting. There were so many water crossings, it got funny. Towards the end, I didn't bother with trying to keep dry as it was fruitless, and the cold water actually felt good on my heels.

I had no plans for racing, and no time goals going into this. I just wanted to enjoy a new trail, hang out with my friends, and run comfortably. So far so good! The aid stations were so close together, it was a little odd. I think that that's necessary in long runs like 100-milers, but it was a little excessive for this race...every 2-3 miles. I was carrying two water bottles and had extra Perpetuem and gels in my vest so that I wouldn't need to stop much. This worked out very well. I ran through most of the early aid stations, and stopped only twice to refill my bottles, eating only pretzels and some corn chips at a station. The rest of the time, it was liquid only. I was pleasantly surprised to arrive at about the 9.7 mile aid station to see Geof standing there in the road, cheering me in...! He got a lot of pictures, and waited for us all to pass through before heading to the next aid station area to see us all again. What a fantastic guy!

Most of the day passed by quickly, and the miles were just flying by. I had no idea where I was in the pack, nor did I have an inkling of what my time was. I didn't wear my Garmin, but did have on my running watch that was keeping time from the start, but since it was so cold, I never pulled up my sleeve to glance at it. I liked not knowing where I was time-wise. I did know that I wasn't pushing it hard, but I also wasn't dragging ass. I caught up to Ed Kelly at some point, just before one of the many super steep gravel road climbs and together we charged up the hill, running. It felt good! "All those hill repeats are paying off!" says Ed, and I replied with loving the fact that Geof and I had taken up stair climbing after our runs. Boy did that make a difference in this race! I ended up running a lot more of the hills after this point, realizing I could :)

The majority of the trail is single track, but there is also a good amount of steep gravel road running, and of course stream crossings. It was tough to pass peeps on the single track as it was so narrow, and either side of the trail was covered in leaves and stepping into it was tricky since you didn't know what you were putting your foot into. I got stuck in a line of people for a couple miles, with a guy behind me who sounded like he was dying. He was hacking and coughing and breathing SO LOUDLY that it was interrupting my ability to concentrate on anything except how loud he was. And he was on my heels, kicking them a few times even. DUDE, back off! How annoying, and I was stuck there until the next aid station. Serenity now ;)

I had told myself I could turn on the iPod after 15 miles, then I decided 3 hours would be better timing, then 21 miles, and finally at 22-23 miles I decided to turn 'er on. I needed a boost and I really was craving music for some reason. I popped in the ear buds, and blasted the volume as Static X's "Dirthouse" came on. WOW, that song got me moving! I found a new gear and suddenly my legs were speed demons. I was flying and it felt good! I came upon two older men, that stepped aside immediately and waved hello, then I came upon someone that was moving so familiarly and I instantly knew it was Ed Kirk. "I know that gait, it's one Mr. Edwin Kirk!" He seemed pretty surprised and turned to see me. Cool, I didn't know you were runnin' Ed! Good to see you!

I was on a roll. Where did these legs come from? My neck and shoulders were still bothering me, but I felt them most whenever I stopped or slowed. So, I went through the last couple aid stations without stopping. Running all the hills, and pushing faster on the downhills. I knew I was making great time, I could feel it. I was making up for the slower pace I held earlier in the day, passing by people I hadn't seen the entire day. I thought my legs would burn up quickly, but they were so happy! I pushed and pushed, and smiled, and loved the feel of the rocky, uneven trail under my feet. My heels didn't make a peep during this time, and I felt happy :) I was really looking forward to that finish line, and to seeing Geof. The trail poured us out onto the rolling gravel road that would take us to the finish. I could smell the finish line. It was callin' my name! I finally rounded the last corner and turned into the parking area, following the orange fencing around to the finish line. Geof was there and snapped my picture as I finished, in a better than expected 5:15:31!

Now I kinda wish I had worn my Garmin so that I could see how those last few miles played out. There had to be some serious negative splits in there. Geof commented on how strong I finished and that I really made up some ground. BAM! What a lovely little race! It was tough, but not enough to break you (well, as long as you have some hill training in), beautiful, somewhat unpredictable in some areas, complete with water crossings, great weather, and a well marked trail that was easy to stay on. A little later, Bill (finishing his first marathon, and longest run to date!!) and Leslie crossed the finish line, all smiles. Geof got the BEST picture of them as they finished...
After the final CHUGs finished, we all headed back to the cabin to clean up and grab some dinner at Big Woods Brewery in downtown Nashville, then managed to stay awake long enough to get back to the cabin before passing out from the day's efforts. What a fantastic day, shared with my CHUGs no less, and the trails :) We all felt the remnants of a tough run, and that made bed all the more inviting.

The next day, on the way out of town, Geof and I stopped at Muddy Boots Cafe for breakfast. We were so glad we stopped. It was exactly what we wanted: a cozy, eclectic atmosphere with great food, great coffee and wonderful service. You have got to stop here if you are ever in Nashville, IN. It is adorable. The mismatched furniture, eclectic mix of art and knick knacks filling the space, the aroma of homecooking and fresh coffee, soft music emanating from corners, and the hum of locals gathering around a carafe of coffee and catching up on gossip. It felt good in there. Downtown Nashville is something to see, especially during the holiday season. It was like a Courier and Ives painting, four blocks long, bursting with character and warmth. We loved it.

So, Tecumseh, I will likely see you again for another round of calf-busting running. Word to those considering the race for the first time...work on hill training, and running with cold, wet feet :)

Running my first marathon was the final goal left on my list for 2009, so I was very happy to finally check it off. Done and done. Time to start thinking about my goals for 2010...it's going to be tough to top the goal busting year I've had this year, but I'll try my ultra best :)

Crash, out.


Kelly Gaines said...

Yay Paige!! I enjoyed reading your report. Congrats on running your first marathon. :-) Sounds like a pretty good one to pick as your first, hehe! Great job on finishing strong. I predict a very good year for you in 2010!

- Kelly :-)

Nick B said...

Great report, Crash! I ran Tecumseh last year...you probably heard some chatter about the weather while you were there...the worst in the race's history. Rainy, sleety, nasty, and lots of ice. There were no blistering downhills that day unless we wanted to die! But, I loved the race and whole package deal.

That's hilarious that it was your first marathon. I don't think I've ever heard of someone running a 100-miler FIRST, then the marathon. HA! Now...back to the ultras! :-)

Paige said...

Thanks, Kelly and Nick! Looking very much forward to 2010! I did hear some horror stories about last year's weather during the race...I'm not so sure I'd run it in those conditions!!

Vicky said...

Nice write-up, Paige, and I enjoyed meeting you, too. I had so much fun out there, even though I ran with numb toes from mile 14-19. I am definitely doing this one again!

I think I saw Bill and Leslie out there early on, holding hands as they walked up a hill. So cute!

ed said...

It's a bird, it's a plane, no it's Crash! Dang! Yes, I was surprised when you flew by me . . . . I had figured you were already lounging next to a warm fire at the lake.

A strong finish always makes for a great run -- Congrats!

David Ray said...

I'm with Ed on the strong finish making a great race. Good job dialing it in and laying it down.

Paige said...

Thanks, dudes, and Vicky!

Irish Cream said...

YES!!! This was just awesome, Paige . . . fabulous write-up and GREAT job pushing it at the end of a tough race. I've heard really great things about Tecumseh . . . and reading your report makes me want to run it even more! GREAT JOB OUT THERE, GIRL!! So proud of you! :)

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