It was inconceivable to me, even a year or so ago, I could finish, much less enjoy, two marathons and a half marathon in the span of eight days. Yet it happened and the Heritage Trail Half Marathon on September 29 was the wonderful finale. Running this race with my oldest son David in his first ever half marathon and first trail race made it even sweeter.
NOTE: This is the third in the series of three blog posts on 8 amazing days of running. Here's the report of the first marathon and the second marathon.
Last summer, my daughter in law told me she had decided to enter a local trail half marathon on September 29 as part of a long-term training plan. She wondered if I'd run it with her. Of course, I said, you don't have to ask me twice to run, especially with a family member! She was concerned I'd run too fast...then I told her I was already registered for a marathon the previous day, so I'd certainly not be speedy. The plan was on.
Life zigs and zags however, as we all know and as my own recent racing schedule showed. Such was the case for Susan. The week before the race, she sensed this half was just not going to work. So, she asked her husband, our son David, if he would like to take her bib and run. While David has been running some, he's not gone much over 6 miles ever and wondered if he dared take on 13.1. Further, the closest thing he'd come to trail running was some required overland hikes while he was in the Army. Yet, he was game for an adventure, worked out the entry transfer with the organizers and we were set.
This trail race is the closest thing ever to a "home court advantage" for me. The total trail is about 13 miles long and extends in a long, gentle arc along the Wabash River. If this arcing shape of the trail were an archery bow and you stretched the bow string from start to finish, my house would sit almost exactly at the midpoint of the taut string. I can easily drive to either end in less than 10 minutes. I run part or all of this trail at least 20 times each year for many of my long runs. So, I know it well and it is fun to run a real race on such familiar turf.
I got home from my marathon late Saturday afternoon, David and I worked out the time to meet at the start point and we met up an hour before the gun. While it had been hot and humid the previous afternoon, contributing to the dehydration I felt in that race, we had rain through the early morning hours of Sunday and it continued to rain as we sat in David's car anticipating the race. We discussed how muddy it might be...I suggested the extensive sand on this route would drain much more quickly than a dirt course. David pulled up the radar and noted the rain was due to be finish just before the 8:10am half marathon start, and, even as he spoke, the patter of rain lessened. Indeed, by the time the marathoners lined up and went off at 8:00am, the rain stopped. Ten minutes later, the half marathoners we off and we even got a photo of the two of us crossing the start line, David leading the Ely Family Charge.
It was so much fun to head into the woods with David and all the others. The overcast skies kept the temperature right at 60. The trail was indeed wet from the recent rain. We had mud, some slippery, some puddles. It's always interesting in such settings, though, to see how people react. You can always tell those who enjoy trail running, powering through the mud and just getting on with it. Others try to keep their shoes clean. I was proud of David rapidly grasping the reality of a day on the trail.
I let David set the pace on the single track trail. And what fun it was to run along with him, chatting away, coasting through the woods. It's hard to describe just how enjoyable this was. The last six miles of the hot, road marathon the day before had been a grind. The first six miles of this race, the next morning, were pure joy. My legs felt fine, the pace was solid, and it could not have been more fun.
Both the marathon and half marathon ran out 6.6 miles and then returned to the start, with the marathoners doing this route twice. We began passing the tail end of the marathon pack and I saw several folks I knew. Not the least was my second chat in two days with running legend Jim Simpson. Jim was quietly doing marathon number 128 for his year and told me, with the wetness of the trail, he thought he'd mostly walk this one. "I can't afford an injury," he said, "because I have about 50 more of these to do this year." He's a dude...and is planning some 50 marathons in the remaining 3 months of 2013. Wow.
David and I got to the turnaround point, took a short walk, and headed back, continuing to enjoy the day. The ground had had over an hour to dry by this return trip, most of the base was sand and so was much firmer now. We actually found places to open up and run. Around mile 9 or so, David really felt good and gradually pulled away from me. It was fun to catch glimpses of him through the trees on ahead and then I couldn't see him any more. We pulled through an aid station and I was happy to see he didn't bother to wait for me there...that meant he was running well and enjoying it. I too enjoyed the final miles. With about 2 to go, I still had plenty of spring in my legs, amazingly, so I opened up and ran in hard.
David powered to the end and came across the line in 2:40:49 chip time (there is a 10 minute offset on the running clock below).
It was great to see him waiting for me when I came across the line in 2:49:30.
We quickly began comparing notes from the race, like a pair of veteran runners. It was really cool. David clearly enjoyed the race, the distance, the trail, the atmosphere, the runners, the chatter, the effort, the finish, the camaraderie. I suspect, in a small way, he also understands his Dad a touch better now.
David also demonstrated one characteristic normally reserved for experienced runners; he planned his shirt just for the photo op at the end. Look carefully at his photo above... I also zoom in on the front of his t shirt with this screen shot:
Yep, it's a salute to bacon, his favorite. He's a fine son, indeed.
The race was a wonderful capstone to an amazing 8 days of running for me. Words don't quite capture it fully but this post-race photo gets part of it.
Thanks for reading. Persevere.