This was a challenging yet doable trail marathon, an enjoyable day in the woods. The weekend was worthwhile. The experiment also worked, as this was the first time I've ever run two marathons only 14 days apart.
The Indian/Celina Challenge is a trail race in the Hoosier National Forest in a remote part of southern Indiana. A fund raiser for high school cross-country teams in the area, it had 8 mile, half-marathon and marathon divisions. The weather was mild for this time of year.
I took my camera on this run, so my report will be mostly photos and some videos. Hope you enjoy the pictures!
This race was a solid four-hour drive from my home, so I went down the night before. This of course gave me the chance to stop at any one of many of the ubiquitous Waffle House restaurants along the way.
Race morning dawned with temps in the upper 50s. It was calm and wonderfully cool. I arrived at the start area to see this idyllic scene on Indian Lake.
Check in was magnificently simple, as the RD tries to keep this race uncomplicated. They handed each runner a T shirt and then a lady wrote the race number on the back of each runner's hand with calligraphic precision and spacing. No goodie bag, no litter, no hassle. And a nice t shirt to boot.
It was a small field, not unusual for trail races. About 140 people ran all the events with only 34 in the full marathon. We assembled and were off, right on time.
The trail was mostly single track, up and down, under full forest canopy for the entire 13.1 mile loop, except when traversing the two dams which created the lakes for which the course is named. The organizer produced a marvelous set of 26 videos here which shows the course in all its details. It was very useful to me in planning and was very accurate.
Around mile 4, just after crossing the first dam, the 8 milers broke off and the rest of us continued on the loop. The field was spread out by then and I passed four runners in the remaining 9 miles of loop one. I finished the first lap in 2:47, better than I had planned on. I picked up a banana from a bag I had stashed at the start/finish line and headed out for lap two.
Lap two was unique for me. I was at the back of a small marathon field which meant for the entire second half of the race I did not pass anyone, was not passed by anyone and also did not even SEE another runner! So, I had a lot of time to myself in the woods.
Which meant I got to think a lot.
As I came back to the same overview of the Indian Lake dam the second time, I was deeply moved with memories of my Dad. I stopped on the dam and made this 75 second video to try to explain.
Many days, running is not at all about running. And this was an example.
Back in the woods on a now-familiar trail, I just kept going. I walked the steeper ups and ran the flats and downhills. Before long, I had finished mile 20, feeling amazingly good. So much so, I stopped at the 20.5 mile aid station for another photo op.
And, wouldn't you know it, not long after came the only rough patch of the day. I've learned any stable, enjoyable run rests on a multi-legged table resting on the proper combination of pace, hydration, fuel, temperature and electrolytes. Keep these things balanced and you just can go and go. One of them going off kilter, however, requires adjustments or the table starts tipping.
I felt some early stage "tipping" around mile 21. A bit of stomach queasiness, a touch of a headache--what was off, I wondered? It was noon by this time and even though the trail was 90% shaded, the temperature was over 80. I started drinking more fluids and that helped. I modified the pace, which also helped. But it was still not enough. I reached the final aid station, 2.5 miles from the finish line and poured three full cups of ice water slowly over my head. That was the final piece of the puzzle, helping to cool me off.
As a result, the final 2.5 miles went very well. I was back to running steadily on all but the steepest uphills. I reached the trail's exit onto the road to the finish line before I even expected it...what a nice surprise! Only then did I flip my watch back to the time mode--it read 5:56 even. I had 500m to run on asphalt to get in under six hours. I cranked it up, felt very comfortable at just over an 8 minute pace and hit the nearly-deserted finish line at 5:58:59. I had told my wife this could be a six hour marathon...little did I guess I'd only miss that by 61 seconds! Marathon #29 in the books.
I knew it was crucial to focus on cooling once I finished, as the temperature was now well over 80. I found a picnic table in the shade, got permission to douse my small towel in the ice water in a cooler full of water bottles and spread the icy towel on my head. After five repetitions of this regimine and about 10 minutes of sitting, I was nicely cooled and felt just fine, so much so my stomach was quite grateful for a freshly grilled cheeseburger from the organizers.
Official results showed I placed 31st of 34 marathoners, 21st of 23 men. And a first for me---at age 58, I was the oldest marathon finisher. Wowzers...that's never happened before. Yet, I hope it's not the last time!!
In summary, the experiment worked. I ran two marathons in 14 days. The two could not have been more different: Bayshore was a large, flat, social road race. This race was a tiny, hilly, lonely trail race. In many respects, the two races represent bookends on the range of races we can enter. I'm fortunate to have found both enjoyable.
I don't have any races planned until August 25, when I run another trail marathon, the North Country Run in northern Michigan. I'm looking forward to not racing for a couple of months, just enjoying running for the sake of running through the summer.
Hope you've enjoyed the photos here...I've enjoyed putting it together.