Trail Monster Running
Saturday, November 29, 2008
We had a pretty good sized group today that included Jim, Jamie, Lily, Dom, Valerie, Dora, Chris, Jeff and Erik O. We headed out on the usual route which follows the Pineland Farms Trail Challenge course, minus the field loops. Although the weather forecast I saw said it was going to be about 30 degrees at 8 this morning it felt warmer in the sun so many of us left some of the additional layers behind and more were to come off shortly. I was wearing short tights, a t-shirt and light jacket, thin gloves and a baseball cap. I tried to include as many bright colors as possible since this was the last day of "regular" deer hunting season in Maine and we saw quite a few anxious looking hunters out and about on our way to Pineland, even though hunting isn't allowed at Pineland it looked like they had the place surounded and we heard more than one gun shot while we were out running. About 45 minutes into the run I took of my jacket and finished the rest of the run in a t-shirt. The dark shady parts of the trails were still pretty chilly but for the most part it was comfortable t-shirt weather.
The trail conditions were the worst that I have ever seen at Pineland. They really weren't that bad but by Pinelnad standards they were a mess with fallen branches, downed trees, washouts, mud, and standing water all over the place. It made the run a lot more fun. The maintenance crew will have a lot of work to do in the next few weeks before the snow falls in order to get the trails ready for ski season. Hopefully we'll get a few more weeks of running in before that happens, although there are plenty of people, some of whom were running with us today who can't wait for the snow to fall.
At about 9.5 miles we returned to the parking lot to drop off clothing, grab a drink, change into shorts etc. and a few people decided to call it a day there. Eight of us headed across the road to the Oak Hill trails but our numbers continued to drop and by the time we reached the end of the loop it was just me, Jim, Jamie and Jeff. These trails were in much better shape than the first 9 miles of our run and didn't seem to be affected by all the recent wet weather as much as the rest of the trails. Jamie and I had talked about repeating the 4+ mile Oak Hill loop a second time to get close to a total of 18 miles for the day but both agreed that a shorter loop on the Campus Loop trails bringing us up to 15.5 would be enough to leave us feeling satisfied with our workout for the day.
I felt good throughout the run and despite the more sloppy than usual conditions was able to maintain a good pace. I finished feeling like I could have easily gone on for another 5 miles or so at that pace but it's only been 3 weeks since the Stone Cat Marathon and I want to make a gradual progression back up in my mileage. I do need to get a few long runs in pretty soon though, before I know it January will be here and it will be time for the GAC Fat Ass 50k on January 10th. As long as the weather cooperates I should be able to get a few 20-24 mile runs in between now and then which should be enough.
distance: 15.7 miles
Today I got to try out a new pair of sunglasses I just bought. Last week Jeff was singing the praises of the Optic Nerve Photomatic glasses he got from EMS and I decided that I needed to get a pair. I specifically went for a pair that was slightly different from Jeff's, but it turns out that within the past week Jeff lost his other pair, and then bought new ones just like the ones I bought. Oh well. The great thing about these glasses is that the lenses darken and lighten depending on the amount of light around you so when you're on the trail going in and out of the woods and the light is constantly changing so are the lenses. Pretty good for about $50.
Wednesday, November 26, 2008
Neither rain nor sleet, wait that is for mailmen.
When pure polly is in trouble I am not slow, wait that is for underdog.
What we got here is a failure, wait that is cool-hand-luke.
OF COURSE I AM GOING! (that is from Jim's Running Bible!)
I like to think that there is no such thing as bad weather, just inappropriate clothing. The stormy weather, complete with 40 mph gusts, was really bad for driving but turned out to be just fine for trail running. After something like the Hell Run a little rain, wind and mud isn't really a problem. It was actually quite warm for a late November evening and I decided shorts were in order.
When I arrived at TB Blaine and Jeff had already been out for a few miles and confirmed that one of the twin brooks was flooded and impassable. To be honest I was tempted to try but decided that I would save my death wish for another day. Jim joined us and we headed off into the woods where we hardly noticed the rain, except that which had soaked the trails all day long. After about a mile Blaine dropped out, I think due to a calf issue, I think he said something about cooking veal for dinner but it was hard to hear with all the splashing and mud squishing.
Jim asked if the pace was faster than usual but Jeff reported the pace was normal, it was just the 5 extra pounds of water he was carrying that made the run feel harder. That and the fact that we were running through either standing water or thick mud at all times. After complaining about chest pains and other life threatening concerns (but not the weather) Jim decided to go home and cut up a fallen tree that had blown over in the storm. Oh yeah, I should also mention that the trails were strewn with fallen tree branches which we had to dodge or hurdle and hope that no more fell on top of us.
After Jim left Jeff and I picked up the pace a bit, either that or the wind was on our backs. We ran for another 15-20 minutes just to make sure we didn't leave TB with any dry patches on our clothes. I thought the run felt great and I really enjoyed it, in fact I think it was the best I felt running since before the Stone Cat Marathon. I hope it lasts.
Saturday, November 22, 2008
Scott generously offered to lead a group of Trail Monsters around one of his favorite local trail systems, the Cathance River Nature Preserve. This was my first time running here and it made me wish I lived a little closer so I could run it more often. So these trails aren't actually new, just new to me.
I met Jamie and Jeff in Falmouth and we drove up to Topsham together where we met Scott, Kevin, Mindy, Ryan, Danielle, Chuck and Blaine. It was a bit like a bloggers convention, a few people who had never met before but had seen each others blogs. After standing around in the freezing cold for what was probably only a few minutes but felt way too long on this windy morning we set off from Mt Ararat HS on our adventure. I was quite excited about getting to see some new trails for the first time.
Scott's route took us up and over the little Mt Ararat and then through the Highland Green development before finally hitting the trails of the Cathance Preserve. These trails were a bit like the single track of Bradbury, but with the addition of a quick flowing river that added a lot to the beauty of the trail. I think it even brought a tear to Mindy's eye, or that could have been the wind chill making it feel like it was only 12 degrees.
The trail surface was technical, and would have been somewhat challenging in the best of conditions but when you throw in ice, collapsing frost crevasses and a thick covering of fallen leaves... oh, and the fact that most of us had never run here before, it made for some very challenging terrain. Although it would have been nice to stop and enjoy the view along the river it was really too cold for that, and it would have been nice to watch the water flowing as we ran alongside it this was the kind of trail that demanded constant focused attention. Especially at the quick pace we were running.
We turned at about 5.5 miles when we hit the edge of the preserve, since it's still deer hunting season around here we didn't dare venture outside the preserve. Scott lead us back on a similar route with a few variations to show us some more trail. It was all great stuff and I hope he'll slow down again for the rest of us to give us another tour, perhaps when hunting season is over so we can do some more exploring.
We ended the run with just under 10 miles in just over 1.5 hours. As much as I would have liked to hang around and chat we really started to feel the cold as soon as we stopped moving so we all went our separate ways. Blaine and Chuck went out for another 13 miles or so, and I would have liked to join them but thought I should give the marathon recovery a little more time before stepping my mileage back up. It's only been two weeks.
A question for any Garmin users/geeks:
For some reason when I import my GPS data into Google maps I don't get the whole route in one piece, it's broken up into two separate routes. When I tried importing my route from the Stone Cat marathon in came in as something like 10 separate routes and I couldn't get them to display all at once. Anyone out there know how to fix this?
View Larger Map
If you click on "View Larger Map" you'll get a full screen version of the map above, and in the left hand column there should be the option to view the other part of today's route (it looks like the results of a Google search).
Sunday, November 16, 2008
Jeff immediately jumped into action, ignoring his chores at home, and in no time produced a course map, a website, and devised an incredibly sophisticated/mysterious formula for predicting how long it would take someone to run his course based on their finishing times at other local races. The idea was that this would be a moderately competitive group run, not quite a race, and would try to strike the fine balance between extreme physical effort and a friendly walk in the woods. The plan was to start runners off one at a time, from slowest to fastest in an effort to bring everyone together at the end. Jeff's plan worked brilliantly with most people finishing no more than 3 minutes outside of their predicted time. That's even more impressive when you consider that no one, not even Jeff, had run the course in it's entirety before race day and no one was fully prepared for the severity of the wetness on the course (participants had to make a stream crossing just to get from the parking lot to the start line!)
I was amazed at the number of people that responded to our last minute plans for the event, a total of 26 runners showed up, plus 2 dogs. No one was safe from the water and mud. We all had wet feet before the start and it sounded like most people, myself included, fell in at the first stream crossing about 1/4 mile into the race. We all continued to get wetter and muddier as the run went on. I'll let the photos I took during the run do the talking for me, and share the experiences of a few other participants:
Another fun twist to the event is that we asked all participants to predict their finishing time, and then run with their watch faces covered. George Alexion was the winner in this category finishing just over 1 minute off his predicted time! Brett Hellstedt was a double winner by being the first person to cross the finish line and also running the fastest time overall (handicap races don't always work out this way). Shauna Baxter ran the fastest time for the women.
Thanks Jeff for all the hard work that went into putting together such a fun event on very short notice. Thanks to both you and Cacky for hosting the after-party, I'm sure you'll get the results posted as soon as you're finished cleaning up after all of us!
Wednesday, November 12, 2008
After getting two 50's and a 100 under my belt this year I felt like I had learned a lot and that I had every right to expect to do well at the Stone Cat Marathon. All I had to do was rest up after Vermont, do a few shorter fast runs, a couple of long runs and I'd be fine. The problem was that I had fairly consistent knee pain throughout the 6 week period between the VT50 and Stone Cat. The pain wasn't really that bad, I tried not to complain about it too much, but the mere fact that it was there at all had me worried about missing another goal at a big race.
In the week leading up to the race I began to prepare myself mentally for that moment in the race when I may have to decide: Do I DNF and save the knee, or fight the pain and try to make my goal? I hoped it wouldn't come to this but I felt that I needed to be prepared in case I had to make that tough decision. After the VT100 I know that I can push myself through just about anything no matter how much it hurts, but what's the point? Is a slightly above average race finish worth risking an injury that could keep me from running for weeks? I know what the answer is but I've never DNF'd before.
Friday evening I left work a little early and headed down to Danvers, MA to the official hotel of the Stone Cat Trail Races. I ate dinner on my own since there was no official pasta dinner this year, and later in the evening Erik joined me at the hotel. Sadly, Emma wasn't able to run in the 50 miler this weekend due to knee pain far more serious than my own that has kept from doing much running at all since her third place finish at the VT50 six weeks earlier.
Erik and I woke up at 4:20, joined a big group of runners in the hotel for breakfast and headed off in the early morning darkness following a long line of cars for the short drive to the race start in Ipswich. 50 mile runners got preferential parking right at the start, but marathon runners had to park half a mile away and get a shuttle (some guys minivan) to the start. I got my things together and decided to jog to the start, this would be my warm-up. When I arrived at the school gym to check in the atmosphere was like a family reunion, one or two annoying uncles but great to see so many familiar faces and to catch up on the races that everyone else has been running. Unfortunately I spent most of the time before the start waiting in line to use the bathroom.
Gilly (namesake of the GAC) made a few announcements about course changes this year and confirmed that the distance was accurate. It turns out that the 50 miler I ran here last year was actually closer to 53 miles! He also reminded us that if you have to go to the bathroom during the race to "bury your shit!" Gilly has a great way of lightening the mood before the race start. We all filed out of the gym just after the sun had come up and the race got under way at about 6:25 am. The sky was overcast but the temperature was surprisingly warm for this time of year, great conditions for running.
All runners start together but after a few hundred yards the marathoners branch off to complete what is supposed to be a 1.2 mile loop before rejoining the regular 12.5 mile course for two laps. This first short loop took me exactly 7 minutes to run, I often set out too fast but there was no way that I was going that fast. I was immediately disappointed that this race might end up being a little short but there was nothing I could do about it. Shortly after getting back onto the 12.5 mile loop portion of the course there was a major moment of confusion at an unmarked intersection. I followed several people straight along the trail but immediately had a flashback to last years race when I thought we turned right. I knew there were going to be course changes this year but I would expect them to be marked. I immediately announced my intentions and turned around to go double-check the intersection for markings, a few people followed but others kept going. When I got back to the intersection it was a clusterfuck of stressed looking runners, but I was sure that we were supposed to turn right. Andy Hall was right behind me at this point and he agreed so we headed off together leading a group of skeptical runners. After about 1/2 mile we finally came to a course marker indicating a sharp left hand turn, uphill and onto single track. I knew we were on course now so I took off quickly up the hill. This was not a good way to start a race that I was trying to take seriously, but I figured that this was a good opportunity to separate myself from the rest of the marathoners, or at least the ones who weren't already way out in front of me.
From here on out the course was well marked and most of it looked familiar so I settled into a comfortable pace and set my sights on catching up to the 50 milers ahead. One unique, and not so favorable aspect of this race is that even though we all start together the marathoners (most of whom are running a faster pace than the 50 milers) have to work their way through the slowest runners on single track trails. Maybe that's the GAC's way of punishing us for choosing the wussy race option.
By the time I reached the back of the pack 50 milers they were strung out enough that I didn't get held up too much and could pick them off 2 or 3 at a time. When I reached the first aid station, Al Cat's at about 4.25 miles into the big loop (5.5 total), a lot of people went to the table and stopped for fuel, I had plenty of Gatorade in my handheld bottle so I ran right through picking off one or two marathoners in the process. Although I was trying not to go out too fast I was looking for any opportunity to get ahead by running smarter, but not necessarily harder.
Once I got through the bulk of the 50 milers it was pretty quiet on the trails. There had been a lot of rain in the week prior to the race but the trails were in pretty good condition. The ground was completely covered with wet leaves, but my Inov-8 Roclite 295's provided great grip and I didn't find myself slipping at all. Generally the trails weren't too wet, but there were a few puddles on the course that couldn't be avoided. Well, they could be avoided, and I saw a lot of people tiptoeing around the sides but is was easier and way more fun just to run down the middle and splash through the mud. Dry feet are overrated.
With the "alone time" on the trails I began to notice some discomfort in my right knee about an hour into the run, pretty much when I had been starting to notice the pain throughout my training. It wasn't bad to start off with but I knew I had close to 3 more hours of running ahead of me and it wasn't likely to get any less painful as time wore on. For the time being I pushed on at a steady pace knocking off the miles at about an 8:30 pace - although I wasn't actually looking at my pace at the time, just trying to run what felt right.
I don't even remember if I stopped at the second aid station, Fast Fred's at 7.5 miles (8.7 total). I probably did slow down long enough to refill with Gatorade. The 5 mile stretch from here to the start/finish area and the end of this first 12.5 mile loop went by uneventfully, enjoyable but not much to talk about. As I finished the first lap it was great to see Jamie helping out at the aid station. We said a quick hello, he refilled my bottle and I was on my way. It was hard to believe that I was more than halfway done with the race. Just like when I started my 4th lap of the 50 miler last year I set off on my second and final lap this day with a renewed sense of energy. I knew that there was a good chance I was going to slow down during this lap, but I had enough of a cushion that I knew breaking 4 hours was guaranteed as long as my knee pain didn't get too much worse.
The biggest hills of this course, which really aren't big compared to the ones you get in VT, come early in the 12.5 mile loop which meant I put my knees under a lot of strain in the first few miles of the second lap. I was trying to run hard and the result is that I really started aggravating the knee situation.
I channeled the music I had been listening to on the drive to the race and focused on the trails, the trees, the weather, the wet leaves. Anything but my knee, this had been my downfall last year in the 50 when I couldn't stop thinking about the pain and I let it get the better of me. Not this time. What's the point of doing this if it's not fun? It's not worth taking things too seriously. I may come away from this with a limp but damn it, I want to be able to say I had fun in the process!
One of the great things about the people of the GAC is that they're great at lifting your spirits if you're feeling down in a race, if you're feeling good when you pull into one of their aid stations then be prepared for a lot of fun. I knew when Al Cat's aid station was coming up (17.5 miles) and I was so looking forward to it. The trail was quiet now and even though I was having fun on my own a little extra kick never hurts. Since the runners were now spread out all over the course I think the volunteers at the aid station were more happy to see me than I was to see them. It helped that I knew most of them, and also that they'd probably been drinking adult beverages for a few hours. I almost wished that I needed more than a Gatorade refill, but I did stop to chat for a few seconds. I got my bottle and was about to head out, I turned to thank them all for their help and caught Al's eye from behind the makeshift bar that was set up on a card table next to the aid station. "Can I get you anything else?" he offered.
"My knee is aching," I said, "can you give me anything for the pain?"
Al poured me a big shot of Goldschlager in a platic cup. Out of nowhere one of the volunteers asked me "Are you going to run for President?"
I tossed back the shot and declared "Parlin - Palin 2012!"
I ran off into the woods with a warm feeling in my belly and a smile on my face. This is how a marathon should be.
A few non-runner-types that I know seem to think that just because I have run a few 50's and a 100 mile race that a marathon should be easy. What they don't understand is that with any race it's all about how you pace yourself. The point is to finish with nothing left because you poured it all out on the course. If I finish the marathon feeling good enough to go run another lap then I know that I didn't truly race the marathon. For the next 8.5 miles I made sure that I was going to have nothing left in the tank when I finished. I'd like to say that I picked up the pace in these final miles, but that wasn't the case. In fact, I logged some of my slowest miles of the day in these late stages of the race, but I was going as hard as I could. Even when my knee started to scream and my calves threatened to cramp I kept pushing it. I knew there was very little chance of actually injuring myself, I just had to suck it up and keep pushing.
I started to wish that there were a few more people on the course to give me something to chase. I occasionally came across another runner, a few pretty fast 50 milers who were hard work to get past. I thought to myself, and even said out loud to one of them "You're running twice as far as me I should be faster than you!"
Finally, with about a mile left to go in the race the lead woman in the marathon sidled up next to me. I had met Laurie at breakfast and talked to her briefly before the race. She was moving well and got a few steps ahead of me. This was just the motivation I needed to work a little harder. Being married to a woman who is faster than me at pretty much any distance I have no problem being girled in a race, but I hate losing a place in the last mile of a long race. We battled it out for a few hundred yards but with a half mile to go I kicked in the afterburners and took off. I was a little afraid that she was going to catch me and that I wouldn't have any more to give. I didn't dare look back, just pushed as hard as I could. It turned out that last half mile was done at a 7:20 pace, just fast enough to get me across the line ahead of Laurie. Thanks for the motivation!
As I slowed to a walk after crossing the finish all the pain I had been denying during the last few miles began to wreak its revenge on my knee. I limped to the sidelines and sat down to catch my breath. Finally a race where I met my goals. I had fun and I ran well.
Sunday, November 9, 2008
When we got around to the far northern side of the trail we came across a massive wet patch that has been there for as long as I have been running at the park (4 years) and never seems to dry out. Even in a normal summer the heavy tree canopy keeps the ground from drying out completely, but this summer was insanely wet. One of the problems with drainage on the Boundary Trail is that there is an old stone wall that runs across the slope of the hill, and as water runs down the hill it carries debris that builds up against the wall creating a dam and then a puddle. If no one ever clears the debris then these spots grow into muddy bogs as everyone goes around them loosening up previously undisturbed soil.
We discovered last week that few minutes of raking away the debris in the right location along the stone wall can drain the "ponds" along the wall very quickly. Emma and I worked on another pond today, you can see our work in this very exciting video:
Saturday, November 8, 2008
Friday, November 7, 2008
I'm a little nervous about the Stone Cat Marathon tomorrow, I know I can cover the distance but it's a scary distance to race. The Stone Cat course is easy enough that I should be able to run a consistent pace throughout, I'm just not sure what that pace should be. I don't want to go out too fast and have a bad second half of the race, and I don't want to go out too easy and miss the opportunity to run to the best of my ability. I'm also a little nervous about my knee, it was bothering me a little bit last weekend. I took it easy with my runs this week and felt fine, but racing for nearly 4 hours could easily bring it on. Yesterday I went to see Michael Gaige for a massage at Maine Running Company. He immediately identified the muscles in my quads that were responsible for causing the knee pain and worked them over pretty good. I'll spend a little time on the foam roller tonight and theoretically I should be fine for the race.
Here's what I'll be listening to on the drive to the race:
Bring it on!
Monday, November 3, 2008
Moore and Baxter Capture Inaugural Creepy Trail Titles
34 adventurous runners turned out to take on the Unknown at the inaugural edition of the Wicked Creepy Halloween Trail Run. Runners dealt with darkness, wet trail conditions, creepy ghouls, and 4 trick-or-treat stations -all while dressed in costume!
The start was a time-trial format so runner's battled personal demons, without any sense of overall placement until the time was stopped crossing the finish line. Shauna Baxter blazed the course in 33:20 for the women's overall title, followed by Valerie Abradi and Kaity Iverson. It should be noted that in the men's race there was a timing discrepancy and apologies go to Malcolm Lewis for incomplete start and finish times... his soles were, in fact, turning water into steam. Blaine Moore turned in the fastest official time of 27:34, followed closely by Ian (Giant) Parlin in 27:53 and Chuck Hazzard rounding out the top 3.
A huge thanks to all that participated and all the volunteers making this event possible. Complete results are as follows:
Mark and Jill 44:20
Sarah and Robin 44:32
Lisa and Kathy 1:07:45
Shauna Baxter 33:20
Valerie Abradi 36:57
Katy Iverson 39:41
Nicole Pisani 40:24
Amy Viara 41:25
Sue Chase 42:26
Wendy Hallenbeck 43:40
Erin Moore 45:33
Kathy Donnelly 50:49
Karen Ferguson 54:07
Malcom Lewis* 22:15
Blaine Moore 27:34
Ian (Giant) Parlin 27:53
Chuck Hazzard 28:52
John Totman 29:16
Juan Martinez 31:52
Trevor Davis 32:03
Norman Morgan 33:13
Jim Dunn 33:14
Erik Boucher 33:26
John Collins 34:32
Rob Leigh 35:31
John Carpenter 38:43
Ben Davis 38:53
Matt Viara 39:35
Greg Goodhue 45:13
Rick Abradi 48:23
Jason Finnimore 54:07
WELL DONE TRAIL MONSTERS
Sunday, November 2, 2008
I spent the next 4.5 hours on the Boundary trail, with help from Blaine, Chuck and Katy, working to improve drainage along the trail, clearing debris and rebuilding stone walls. It turns out those rocks are pretty heavy. The next time you're out on the Boundary Trail you should see a dramatic reduction in the quantity and extent of wet areas on the trail. It became clear today that it has been quite some time since this part of the park received any significant maintenance, and there is still a lot of work to do, but I'd like to think that we made good progress today.
If the weather cooperates for the next few weeks I would like to organize a Trail Monster Maintenance Day to get some more work done on this trail before the snow falls. If good drainage is established now then it means we should have a quicker return to dry trails in the spring. Stay tuned.
Saturday, November 1, 2008
Actually I came across this picture on a write-up about the Hairy Gorilla Half Marathon that Jim pointed out to me. So there is actually a legitimate connection to trail running. And we were talking about this race while running at Pineland today.
Since the Halloween run and post race festivities turned into a pretty late night last night I decided to sleep in late and meet Jim and Blaine for a run at Pineland at 10:00 am. My ankles were a little sensitive from all the twisting and rolling on the rocky terrain last night but in general I felt pretty good. The trails were busy with a cross country meet on the Oak Hill trails and dryland sled dog event on the River Loop so we had to choose our route carefully. We did get to see a few folks set off in the sled dog event, 4 exceptionally athletic looking dogs pulling custom built chariots built out of mountain bikes. Pretty wild, I wish we had a camera with us.
About 40 minutes into the run my right knee started to bother me a bit, and by 50 minutes it had turned into a slight pain. Jim and I decided to call it a day after about 6.4 miles at a 8:49 pace, Blaine continued on for a few more miles. The knee feels fine now but it does give me a little concern since it's only a week until the Stone Cat Marathon. Time to really taper.
A grand turnout of Trail Monsters were present, with a few friends becoming honorary monsters for the evening. I distributed TMR shirts and glow-in-the-dark (for 15 seconds) hockey masks to the team that included Chuck, Jim, Valerie, Erik and Lisa, in addition to those mentioned previously. As we gathered for the start Hannah went through the race instructions which came as an interesting surprise to most of us. The course was an out and back, "almost exactly 3.8 miles" lined with the carved jack-o-lanterns that participants had dropped of during the week before the race. Along the way there were four locations where runners would have to pick up a creepy item to bring back to the finish, only those who returned with all four items would be eligible for prizes. We were also warned about water on the course, and were promised that it wouldn't be more than waist deep. The final last minute surprise was that the start would be like a time trial, with runners heading off at 15 second intervals in a random order.
All 34 participants gathered around the start line and as each of our names were called made our way to the front and then headed off alone down the dark trail that was a continuation of the "road" we had arrived on. Mine was about the 10th name called, after Jim, Shauna, Valerie, Lisa and Superman (did I mention that everyone was in costume?) had hit the trail. Not knowing what to expect ahead I ran as fast as I felt on could on the unfamiliar trail. Before long there was a small stream crossing, some mud, lots of rocks, a few little hills and then we hit the puddles. I skirted around the edges of the puddles in an attempt to avoid discovering the one that was waist deep but it was impossible to stay dry. Within 5 minutes my feet were soaked and numb from the cold. But it was so much fun it didn't matter. As I ran I passed a lot of people, which was sometimes difficult as we all tried to navigate the obstacles of the rugged trail.
Another element of surprise along the course was the "volunteers" in costume who would jump out from the darkness to scare the runners. More funny than scary actually. I missed the first treat along the trail, but reached into a bucket at the second location to pull out a plastic spider from amongst a few pounds of cooked spaghetti. The third stop was another bucket filled with peeled grapes and more plastic spiders.
Just before the turnaround I started to close in on Superman who had started about a minute before me. The halfway point was at an old cemetery, completely decorated with jack-o-lanterns and we had to climb a stone wall into the cemetery and retrieve a treat from a ghoul hiding behind a grave stone. Brilliant. I was wearing my Moeben Sleeves which have little pockets and proved to be perfect for stowing the treats while I ran.
Shortly after heading back up the trail I passed Blaine who was heading out in the opposite direction. I knew he would be trying to catch me and I was trying my best to stay ahead. I figured this would probably be my only chance to cross the finish line ahead of him in a race. Since I was now familiar with the course (yeah right) and I knew that a bunch of people were on my tail I pushed the pace a little bit. It proved to be an added challenge dealing with all the oncoming runners and their blinding lights, not to mention the fact that we were running straight at each other and everyone was trying to navigate around the puddles and rocks.
About halfway through the way back I was skirting the edge of a particularly large puddle, could have been a pond I'm not sure, and I hit a slippery rock that sent me sprawling into the icy water. Thankfully my treats were tucked away neatly in my sleeve pockets so I didn't have to worry about retrieving them from the water. I think I was taking this race a little too seriously. Eventually I reached the one spot I had missed on the way out where I needed to pick up my final item. I looked into the bucket and a hand reached up at me. "Give me my treat!" I demanded. The hand disappeared and returned a second later with a set of plastic vampire teeth. Thank you!
From here it was a short sprint to the finish and by now there wasn't anyone else on their way out so I could really run fast. My feet had lost all sensation and a chill was starting to set into the rest of my body from my little swim so it felt good to run hard and generate a little heat. I crossed the finish line second overall, which was pretty meaningless since the race was a time trial but it meant I was there to see everyone else come in. It was great to be there and see so many Trail Monsters cross the line.
After the race there was cold beer, hot chocolate and plenty of sweets. There was even a fire to warm up by. Perfect. This race had a great atmosphere and I hope Doug and Hannah put on more events like this throughout the year, they pretty much said they were going to. After hanging around for quite a while eating cookies and comparing bloody knees Doug raffled off a bunch of goodies and announced the overall winners. Congratulations to Trail Monsters Blaine and Shauna for finishing with the fastest times.