Field: 45 in the 39k, ~30 in the 10k
Spectators: None, It's all in the woods.
Start/Finish: Picnic shelter with real bathrooms close by
Course: The trails of Clinton Nature Preserve
Schwag: Tech shirt
Other: The race is organized by Boy Scout Troop 39. The boys help lay the course, work the aid stations, hand make the finishers medals, and present the flag pre-race. The money goes to their troop and the project is part of their bridging ceremony.
I signed up for this race to use it as a dry run for the 50k. Being 6 weeks out from my goal race day, it would give me time to adjust to anything that wasn't working well in terms of gear or fuel and shift training as needed. I am so happy I did this. I learned a lot, including a few things that could be game changers.
Pre-race. All smiles because my feet aren't bleeding yet.Let's start with the race. Troop Trot 39k is put on by boy scout troop 39 (hence the distance). Their scout master is an ultrarunner so it is very well organized and planned out. I participated in the 10k last year, and chose the 39k this year. The 39k course consists of a triple loop (8+ miles each) with aid stations at the midway point and end of each loop. Each lap consists of fields + power lines (~20%), gravel roads and wide trails (~10%), granite slabs (~5%), and the rest is single track curving through the woods. There are roughly 800 turns per lap (give or take) as the majority of the trails used are mountain bike trails and there are some technical sections (i.e. tons of roots and rocks to trip on). The last 2 miles of each loop feels like the longest 2 miles ever. Here is a rough sketch of what it looks like:
The last two miles, also known as the hunt for the bridge. Not to scale.Race day arrived and I was a bit nervous. I kept reminding myself that it was all for training and to approach it as a learning experience. I had never run a trail race over 15k before this race, so there was a lot of 'new' to experience. It was a humid morning (low 70s temp, about 97% humid at the start) and to be honest, the humidity never really broke in the woods. Stuff was slippery and wet throughout the race, not to mention the insane amounts of sweat the runners were adding to it.
Beautiful day, but by the 3rd loop (i.e. high noon), the power line area was mad hot.Mentally, I chose to approach the race one loop at a time. The first loop involved a lot of sorting out of the field. There were several instances where I was tucked into a slower chain of runners on the single track, but I wasn't overly worried because I wasn't there to 'race'. I didn't stop at the first aid station, but did take an Island Boost at mile 5. I started to get in the grove around mile 7, at which point I was passed by a man running in flip-flops (not a confidence booster). By the time I finished the first loop (1:40ish) I was feeling strong, but was in need of some cold water. To my surprise, Miranda was working the aid station (after running the 10k) and she was awesome. She topped off my pack with cold water and got me a banana (I also had a few gummy bears because who can resist gummy bears).
All smiles at ~mile 16 with Race Director Josh behind me. I'm soaked in sweat. (Thanks to Miranda for the pic!)Coming through the end of loop 2, I ran into Miranda again and she had me pose for a picture. I had another half a banana, some more cold water, and a gummy bear or two. I set out for loop three, the victory lap, feeling good and ready to be done. I was strong for the first two miles of the loop, but by mile 18, I started to feel my energy drag a bit, a sign I probably needed to be fueling more. My tummy was feeling a bit sloshy as most of what I had consumed that day was liquid. In addition, at mile 19, I felt my blisters begin to pop and my poor toes were bleeding. I had felt hot spots forming on my big toes and baby toes throughout the race, and at this point the little ones ruptured and it was rather uncomfortable. I tried my best to keep moving to the aid station at mile ~20 and regroup there.
Yep, another bloody shoe photo to add to the collection.I took a few extra minutes at the aid station to evaluate things. A nice volunteer added some cold water to my pack (just having cold water in my pack cooled down my back) and I nibbled on a few gummy bears. The wonderful volunteers kept asking what we needed and Lisa and I both said Coke. She informed us that there was some at the finish and, thought a little bummed, I figured I could use that as motivation for the remain 4 miles. Suddenly, the most wonderful Boy Scout in the world spoke up and said "No mom, I threw some in the cooler when we left this morning" and then he served us shots of cold coke. It was perhaps the most clutch move of the day. I've never been so happy to have a Dixie cup of coke.
The coke helped settle my stomach and give me a little lift. The next three miles consisted of running and walking (my toes were killing me at this point) and dreaming of taking off my shoes. I could tell I was getting tired as I was stubbing my toes more and more (i.e. not picking up my feet) and then managed one triumphant face plant (no injuries to report). At mile 23, I tucked my head down and decided to grind it out through the remaining 40 switchbacks to the finish. I thought I would never find the little foot bridge. I came in 13th overall and was the 4th girl out of 38 finishers.
Sorry, I totally spaced out and forgot to take a post-race photo. Was busy eating watermelon.Overall, it's a great race. Challenging, but well organized. Sure, it wasn't fast, perfect, or comfortable the whole way, but I learned a lot and gained a lot of confidence on long trail runs. I have a list of things I need to address before the 50k and a plan of attack to do it (probably in another post because this is really long).
Do you like trail running? Have you ever used a race just for learning?
Miranda: How does this course compare to the Snakebite course?