Let me tell you a little about the race. The Legend is the final race of Running Fit's Serious Series, which includes the Trail Marathon and the Flirt with Dirt 10k, which I had already run. The Legend is my “home race” in the series, being only about twenty-five miles from where I live. There are 5 mile, 10 mile, and half marathon options. The race is held at Sleepy Hollow State Park in Laingsburg, MI.
Even though it is so close, I had never been out to Sleepy Hollow State Park. I did not to know what to expect from the course. I decided to volunteer at packet pick-up on the Friday night before the races to scope things out. I had a great time working the volunteer shift with the really great Running Fit crew. It also gave me a chance to see that much of the trail would be on grass, as well as some nice packed dirt and single track.
I did not know it, but my problems with the race started when I got home Friday night. My volunteer shift was 5-8, so I had skipped dinner. When I got home, I didn't feel like a big dinner at that time of night, so I ate a bowl of brussel sprouts and a pita bread – not really a great pre-race meal. My first clue that things might not be right was when I woke up at 2:30 am starving. I briefly thought about getting up and eating a bowl of cereal or something, but decided I only had a few more hours to sleep anyway and went back to sleep.
I woke up Saturday morning and everything was going great, except I was still hungry. I was thinking about how hungry I would be by the time I finished the half marathon and wondered whether I would have the energy for the race. I broke a cardinal pre-race meal for me and ate a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. I knew better, from previous bad experiences, but I was hungry and all the articles say eat...
I got there on race morning ready to go. It was hot and humid, as we all knew it would be. Several of my friends were also running a road race that morning, and we were all aware that the dew point was in the “expect pace to suffer greatly” range. I had my hydration pack on with Power Ade ice cubes in it that I had made the night before and plenty of electrolyte caps in my pocket. I felt ready.
The race started well. I lined up at the front of the second wave. I went out a little fast, but I did not want to get trapped in a line in the areas where passing was difficult. When I saw my first mile split I dialed it back some, but was still probably too fast. I was having trouble settling in for my target pace. I pulled it back a bit more for mile three. Still too fast. Finally at mile four, I hit my target pace, which was 9:10. I relaxed and settled down. Mile 5 went pretty well.
Then a little after mile 6, I hit the wall. Yes, the wall, like in the marathon wall. It was exactly the same feeling. As I was contemplating what to do, I had not brought any gels (although I did have some M&Ms in my pack), things got worse. I started to feel a little nauseous – then a lot nauseous. I was seriously regretting the PB&J when suddenly I knew it was coming up. I hate to throw up and don't do it often, but the few times I have thrown up in a race, it has been a relief and I always have felt better after. I was hoping for that here, but it was not to be.
As I started back up the trail, I swallowed an electrolyte cap and attempted to rehydrate. I was worried about dehydration more than anything else at this point. I was also feeling pretty awful. I started to walk – a lot. It didn't help that there were some hills popping up. They would have been nothing major if I was feeling good, but in the state I was in, they felt like Mt. Everest. As I was going along at this point, feeling horrible, getting passed by lots of people, and trying to do at least some running mixed with the walking, the second wave of nausea hit and again I lost what was in my stomach, which at that point was just blue Power Ade and the electrolyte cap. That really worried me. I started wondering how much longer I could go in the heat without being able to keep down fluids or electrolytes.
It was at that point that I wished I had spent more time studying the trail map. I knew the 10 mile had to split from the half marathon at some point, and I was really hoping that they would let me switch down because I had serious doubts about whether I could finish another 6 miles. I had missed the series mug last year because I ruptured my spleen before this race. I did not want a DNF for the series. After what seemed like an eternity, I came to the split for the 10 mile and half. I asked the volunteer if I could switch down, and she said she thought it would be okay. I thankfully headed for the finish.
I don't know if my system was finally getting itself back together or if I was just like a horse heading to the barn, but I did start to feel better in the last mile and even passed a few people. Still, I was super happy to see the finish.
|Anna and Me after The Legend|
As I crossed the finish line, I heard my name and saw my running friend Anna and her husband Jake waiting by the finish and cheering. She had run the 5 mile and had a good race. I was so happy to see her there and also happy that her experience had been a good one. After I crossed the finish, my fellow volunteers from the night before (the kids of one of the Running Fit staff) were there to greet me and handed me my really awesome Serious Series mug, medal, and pin, as well as an ice cold bottle of water, which was much appreciated.
Unlike many previous races, this was not one where I made a beeline for the food tables post-race. After talking to Anna and Jake for a while, I headed over to take a look at the results. Amazingly, I had managed to win my age group in the 10 mile, despite the total breakdown, which I guess proves the saying “it is better to be lucky than good.”
This best part of the day for me was post race. By a stroke of luck, a group of my road racing friends were running the Mint City race in a neighboring town, so we were all able to meet and share our race stories at a little diner called the Wheel Inn, which is a fixture in that community apparently. There is nothing runners love more than food, coffee, and rehashing races, so it was a pretty good end to what was an otherwise horrible morning.
I am hoping to get a chance to run The Legend again next year. It is a well run race, and I think I would have really enjoyed the course if I would have been feeling better. I looked forward to heading out there to explore the course in the future.