Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Grinnell Games 2015...and the Hat Trick that didn't happen

The Hat Trick....that didn't happen

Well, this was an interesting weekend. Lots on the agenda, lots to think about, lots to do...and some things better left undone.

Such is life. Sometimes the ego needs to take a backseat to proper rest, recovery and TLC (especially when there are much bigger things happening the next week).  

The weekend began Friday evening with the Twilight Trail Run at the Grinnell Games, which was a 10K race on the trails of Jacob Krumm Preserve, just south of town. This was the third year of this event, and every year the course has been different. This year, the course had a change in venue (the two other years it was held at Rock Creek Stare Park, which is just west of town).

I do not do much trail running, but when I do run trails, I enjoy them! It's great being in the woods, under the trees, in the grass, mud, and sloping terrain. It certainly levels the playing field! There are no flat straight-aways and one always needs to be watching the ground for rocks, sticks and a surprise tree root.
At the start line....eager to test the legs (and wonky foot) on the terrain
As I have been progressively rehabbing my glutes/ hamstrings/pirifirmis (and most recently, my Plantar Fasciitis-laden foot), I was looking forward to this race. I knew it would be a good test for my legs (let's be honest, everything from the waist-down hurts after running trails), but I also knew the grass would be good for my foot because it's much softer than concrete.
Barb and I, ready for some trails!

My goal for this race was to take it easy and enjoy the scenery. Also, I had only run 4.5 miles in the past two weeks (since the PF reared its ugly head), so I knew it would be stupid to push myself too hard on the mostly-healed foot. I also had a 10K street race the next morning on my calendar....and a 13.1 scheduled for Sunday.

So, here's the setting: 
Due to a major rainfall the evening prior, there was quite a bit of knee-high standing water on part of the course. Instead of running kind of a figure-8 pattern, we had to do two laps on one side of the preserve instead. Let me just say, "ugh." (I am not a fan of double-looped courses....but sometimes they can't be avoided)

Off and running! (photo credit: Sarah Breemer Pfennigs)
Did I mention it had rained? The grass was wet, the air was humid, and there was plenty of mud (and an occasional puddle). But the scenery was beautiful!  I had never been out to this place (a mere eight miles from my doorstep), but I had heard many great things about it.

 Most of the trail we ran on went around a lake, and was covered in grass.

But there also were a few bridges along the route
There were plenty of grassy hills with lots of clover, most of them angled at 45-degrees or more

Some of the hills were steep amongst the brush

And, of course, some of the trails were covered in mud!

Barb and I hung together for the first four miles or so, then she broke away. I was taking things easy, and did not want to hold her back. Although it gets a little boring repeating a loop on a race course, you do have the advantage of knowing what's up ahead the second time around.

Since the race began at 7:00PM, and it was overcast, I didn't bring sunglasses. There were a few bugs smacking me in the face (and eyes), though, so a little protection would have been smart. The temps were cool, but perfect for running. I had knee socks, a long-sleeved tech fabric shirt and also a hat to keep the bugs at bay.

There were a few minutes of confusion, though, in the last stretch of the race as we'd finished the second loop and were headed to the finish line. Believe it or not, running a segment of a trail such as this looks much different on the return trip (in the opposite direction). There were so many twists and turns (and I have a horrible sense of direction), that I had no clue which way to go when I came to fork in the trail. There were no immediate runners in front of me, so I took a gamble and went right. (Since the course had to be re-routed to a double loop at the last minute, there weren't signs situated at every turn). Fortunately, I didn't have to go too far to know I had chosen correctly (whew!), and a short while later I made it to the finish line.

Bib and Bling #1 for the weekend (Check out the mud on the shoes!)

This race went pretty well. I was able to run most of it, except for a few of the steep hills. I have learned, depending on the grade,  I actually can walk a hill  faster than I can run it. It requires less effort, less impact (so my wonky foot didn't protest), and (especially on the descent) there's much less chance of slipping, tripping or tumbling.

My finish time was 1:05:xx. Certainly not a 10K PR, but for a trail race, I'll gladly take it. Given the fact that my foot was still not 100% all better (and I walked periodically), I'm completely good with everything. I think the soft terrain (even though it was seldom flat) gave my foot a thorough (though gentle) workout.

Back at home, I iced my foot (as a precaution) and stretched the legs and feet before going to bed.

Saturday morning, I felt some stiffness. My foot wasn't too bad, but my hamstrings and quads were feeling the effects from the trails. More (precautionary) icing on the foot, a fast bowl of cereal, and the husband and I jumped on our bikes and headed downtown for the 10K street race.

It was another humid morning. I think it had rained overnight, so the streets were wet and the air was very heavy.  

We met up with some of our friends before the start of the race (and took a few obligatory pics).

With Barb and her daughter  (don't mind the photo-bombing husband)

 The race started about a mile from our house, and the course went right by our driveway.  One of our daughters was camped out, monitoring the street traffic, and snapped a pic of me as I ran by.
Sorry, Max!  You can't come with me

Shortly after the first mile, the course turns right (headed east), onto a county road. This is a road I run frequently, and am very familiar with the lay of the land. It looks like one long gradual hill, but don't be fooled! Once you reach the top of the hill, it levels off briefly, and then another more subtle hill is waiting for you. These hills are not especially tough, but on a damp, humid morning (a morning following a trail run, none-the-less), they can really feel pretty ominous. Such was the case for me on Saturday.

About halfway up the hill.....
 My foot didn't really hurt,but it did feel a little stiff. My legs (especially the hamstrings), though, were feeling pretty strained. And my energy? Well, let's just say my energy was kind of a no-show. I didn't feel tired physically, but my body didn't feel like it wanted to move. It was a struggle to just keep everything in motion.

My pace was doing alright, around 9:30, but it felt like I was barely moving. And I was sweating like crazy. Usually, I wear a tank top, but chose to wear a tech-fabric short-sleeved shirt instead because the temps were a little cool. Bad decision.

I grabbed water at every aid station, and was careful to drink most of it. I skipped taking any energy  fuel (this was "just" a 10K after all), but a little extra boost of mojo would have been smart. Another bad decision.

The total stretch on these hills is less than a mile, but felt much longer. The course then turns right (headed due south) and goes by a recreation area. We do an approximate mile around some soccer fields and baseball/softball fields before looping back out onto city streets.

By the time I made it to the 4-mile mark, I was beat. I decided to grab a water at the aid station and walk for a bit. Actually, I walked for several blocks, guilt-free. Although the body felt alright (well, my heel was a little achy...), my energy was depleted. I knew if I tried to run (even slowly), I'd be compromising my form and that was a gamble not worth taking.

I also accepted the fact that the half marathon on Sunday would probably not be in my best interest. Ever since the Plantar Fasciitis had appeared (two weeks prior), I had been wrestling with what to do about these three events all in the same weekend. It was kind of a relief to finally reach a decision, even if it wasn't the most desired.

That's the husband, getting water from the station at my yoga instructor's house (small world, indeed)
 One of the great things about doing a race in my hometown is that I knew everyone at all of the water stations! It's fun seeing familiar faces, and hearing your name being called out as you run by.

Yay!  We all finished the 10K!

We don't do a lot of races together, but it's always fun with the husband
 I was able to run the final part of the race, and actually passed several people in the final mile (who had passed me while I was walking). Finish time? 1:03:36, definitely my slowest 10K ever, by almost 10 minutes. But, so what? It would have been stupid to try to race this. My body was still somewhat compromised from injury, and sore from the previous race (12 hours prior). With a big marathon only a week away, doing these three events was a risky sense rocking the boat even more.
Bib and Bling #2 for the weekend
Once we'd finished, I felt much better. I knew my legs would be tired, but I had never guessed I'd feel so depleted of energy. Barb and I had registered for these two 10K's and also the half marathon together...but I knew the 13.1 was not going to be happening for me. Disappointed? Sure, but actually not as much as I would have thought I'd be. I still planned to go with Barb, and be her cheerleader. Also, I knew there would be a few other people there that I was hoping to (finally) meet in there was no way I was staying home.

Fast forward to 3:50AM on Sunday morning...and I'm up and out of bed. It felt a little strange getting dressed for a race that I wasn't going to run. Barb picked me up around 4:45, and we arrived in Marion around 6:15AM for the Marion Rotary Marathon for Shoes. The race was scheduled to start at 7:00, so we had plenty of time to get our packets and head to the start line (a few blocks from the check-in).

It didn't take long, and I spotted Amanda (from and Lindsay (from Glitter Girl on the Run). I have known both of these fun gals via Facebook, but had never officially met either in person. Both were just as friendly and gracious as I'd imagined. The fun thing about meeting other Facebook page administrators, is that I already feel like I've know them forever.

A short while later, I spotted Alanna in the crowd. She's a gal I've known for awhile (via my running page, Running on the Fly ), so it was nice chatting with her briefly. This was her third marathon!

Photo ops with Amanda and Lindsay, Barb, and Alanna
Even though I had not pinned on a race bib or double-tied my running shoes, I still loved being amidst all the pre-race excitement. I certainly did not miss having to wait in line for the porta-pot, or panic at the last minute as I search for water to wash down the start-line energy gel. Everything I'd need for the next couple hours was in my drawstring pack, and I'd be just fine sitting this one out.

This would have been a cute pace car!

All the racers got to run under this amazing display of the US flag

Once the racers were off, I headed back to the parking lot outside the high school football stadium, where the finish would be. There was music playing and the morning air felt nice. I studied the course map for a few minutes and realized the marathon and the half marathon courses split off from each other around mile 6.5, so I would not be seeing any of the 26.2 finishers until they finished, but the 13.1 course would be looping around near the start line, just past their 8-mile mark. Perfect! That would give me a chance to spot Barb.

The temps were surprisingly warm. The forecast called for cool temps, with a chance of rain. We had driven through some rain on the way to the race, but the clouds had parted and the temps had risen.

I spent some time blogging my thoughts and reflections on my races from Friday night and Saturday morning. It was a good chance to evaluate how I was feeling, physically (great!) and emotionally (even better!). Sitting this race out was the right decision for me. I probably could have gritted it out and ran those 13.1 miles, but what would I have gained in doing so? Another race shirt (which I was less than thrilled with) and a medal (which actually looked pretty cool)...and I would have probably further injured my foot. So not worth it.

I waited until about 1:10 minutes into the race to walk over to the start line area, and waited for Barb. Gosh, all the runners coming along looked exhausted! This part of the course was about halfway up a gradual hill, and some of the racers were not looking too happy.

I cheered and clapped for the runners. I was really happy to be watching. It confirmed what I have believed for several years... it's not all about me, but about the entire community of runners. It wasn't long before I spotted Barb working her way up the hill. I took a few pics of her, before heading back to the finish line area.

I spent several minutes scoping out the other cars in the parking lot...and the variety of running-related stickers on them. #runnergeek

One of the most rewarding aspects of spectating a race is being near the finish line, and cheering for all the runners as they make their way to the finish line. Some were walking, many were sprinting, several were smiling...and all looked very sweaty. The temps had really gotten warm in those couple hours (and continued to get worse as the morning wore on), and Barb said she'd seen several runners down, receiving aid on the course.

I can't say much about this event since I didn't actually run the course, but I heard it was very hilly (for both the half and the full). The shirts were tech material, but the sizing was huge (my small shirt fits my husband), and I was not happy with the $5.00 "fee" to pick up my packet on race day (instead of driving over for the expo)...I have never had to do that for a race before, and I have done a lot of races in the past 10 years. But, this race was for a great cause, so I respect cutting a few expenses regarding the swag.

How was my weekend? Great! Am I disappointed in missing a race? Yes. I have only ever had one DNS (Did Not Start), and that was a couple years ago for a 5-mile race on the morning of prom...and the weather was cold, windy, and rainy. This DNS was for injury prevention (and further healing). I have a marathon happening in a few days, and I need to arrive at the start line ready to run. I looked to the bigger picture, and listened to my gut. All is good!

Have you ever done a crazy weekend with more than one event? Ever have a DNS? (It's not the end of the world)


  1. You totally did the right thing by skipping the half--so close to your marathon. Which would you rather DNS? I sat out a half last spring--my first DNS as well--with a broken foot. I went to the race and spectated and had a great time watching all the runners come in! I sat next to a woman who cried the whole time because she had to DNS as well. Seriously.

    It wasn't the end of the world for me!

  2. First off, the trail run looks awesome. The course looked beautiful, but I bet those grassy hills were slippery!! Glad you made the decision to sit the half marathon out especially with the marathon coming up!!