Tuesday, March 30, 2010

CHUGging Along at the Clinton Lake 30 mi Trail Race

Last Saturday I ran the Clinton Lake 30 Mile Trail Race, located in central Illinois near Dewitt. What a rewarding finish it was. This race has a fun, hilly course, great race organization by Chris Migotsky and his devoted support staff, and lots of familiar faces in the race and volunteering. I would definitely recommend it!

Brian and I drove the few hours' drive down after work the night before and stayed in nearby LeRoy with fellow CHUGs Bill and Leslie. After an amusing conversation that night about pacing and numbers, I figured that I could muster 2.5 hour loops, a reasonable 7.5 hour goal. I still was unsure of my abilities on this hilly course -- I have only run a loop at a time here and know that the hills will be a challenge for my untrained legs. This winter has been rough for me to get motivated so I only had a few long runs and averaged about 10-15(!) miles a week. Yeah, not really the best mileage for ultra training! I modified the race plan to just enjoy the day and be ok with anything under the cutoff of 9 hours. I also had been sick with a head cold all week, so I didn't want to put too much pressure on myself.

We got to bed fairly early but it took me a while to get to sleep...I was starting to get nervous! I did finally fall asleep, and then a few hours later, I awoke from a dream that I had signed up for two races in a day. The races were near each other so I could run one and then walk to the start of the other one. Well, it turns out that after I run the first race, I found out that the second race (which was the target race) was an hour's drive away! Even though it was chip-timed I wouldn't be able to start late and still finish within the cutoff time, so I had to miss it. So weird and funny to have those types of pre-race dreams!

We awoke at 5:15 and got ready. After we left our hotel room we found that the hotel had put out breakfast items earlier than expected -- a nice bonus! We hung by there for a little while. I still ended up eating my pop tarts because my stomach was in knots and as much as I love eggs, bacon, and a bunch of other tasty breakfast items on display, I didn't want to take any chances. After breakfast, we drove over to the start. We got there with about 45 minutes to spare, and while I really wanted to chat with all the others we knew were there, I was freezing and ended up hanging out in the car until just before the 7:30 start time.

Leslie & Me

Leslie and me before the race

We walked over to the start where RD Chris was giving a pre-race talk. I then lined myself up at the back, the race started, and we were off! The nerves faded away and were replaced with an excitement to be on this beautiful trail around Clinton Lake.

I tried to take it easy the first few miles on the trail, stepping aside to let other pass me so that I could just run at my own pace and not feel pressure being in a line of runners. I ended up getting a little scratched up letting a guy pass at one point – I had stepped aside and ended up backing into a thorn bush. I didn't realize it until I got back on the trail and there is a branch stuck in my leg! Ugh! I pulled it off my leg and saw that I had some lovely puncture wounds and scratches. It stung for a while, but then the pain went away and became an afterthought. Trail battle wounds!

Pretty soon I was alone on the trail, quite the difference from running with 30,000 people at Shamrock Shuffle last weekend! I wasn't even sure if there were any runners behind me. I didn't care much about that at this point. I just wanted to settle into a good rhythm and enjoy the day. It was a really nice day, the temps were cool but not freezing, and the trail was pretty dry with the exception of a few muddy spots. I hit the mid-loop aid station, got my bottle filled, grabbed a few peanut M&Ms, and was on my way. I made it a goal to not spend too much time at aid stations – I need to use that time being on the trail making forward progress. I regularly took S-Caps and GU chomps, too. Just past the aid station I caught up to Juli and Val Aistars and was able to run with them for a while – such great people! It made the miles fly by.

At the aid station
After 10 miles, filling my bottle at the aid station

I got back to the start/finish aid station after the first loop, where Brian was volunteering. It was great to see him as always. :-) After getting my bottle filled and a "see ya later" kiss, I was on my way for loop 2. I had completed the first 10 miles in about 2:15. Not bad! I was actually starting to tire already from the uphills, so I was hoping I wouldn't slow down too much. My lack of training was starting to really show as my uphill hike pace was starting to get really pathetic. ;-) The thing about Clinton Lake is that because it's constant up and down, I couldn't really get into a decent stint of running. I start cursing myself for not having done any hill training – we have a treadmill that goes to 15% incline in our basement that I could have used, at the very least! These types of thoughts would come up every so often, but then fade as I look around and appreciate that I'm out there and pushing myself. These trail races are still out of the "comfort-zone" for me being primarily a road runner, but I am realizing that is part of what is great about them! 

During this second loop I came up on fellow CHUG Jason Walz, who after the first loop was going to hike the rest. He has great uphill hiking fitness so in spite of my running the downhills and flats, we were near each other for several miles. I started to get a little sloppy running the downhills, and at one point I tripped and nearly fell down the hill to the upcoming bridge. Somehow I managed to stay upright but OUCH, what a rough almost-fall!

The trail (picture courtesy of Heidi Carpenter)

I could tell I was slowing down, even walking some of the flats after a big hill where I was still out of breath and had legs feeling like jello. Luckily the miles were still going by pretty well time-wise -- I really liked the mile marker feedback even though not very typical for this type of race. :-) At this point some of the front runners were passing me, every one of them saying encouraging words as they passed. Yep, I love this sport. :-) It great to see Kevin Grabowski, after I saw him I remembered that we met at Rocky Raccoon, and also Matt Condron, who I last saw at the Windburn Six back in January. I reached the last stretch and saw Leslie up ahead and was confused by that since I thought she was far ahead of me. Then, just before getting to the road, Bill snapped a pic of me and then I saw Leslie standing there. Huh? She said she had to drop because her ITBS was flaring up. :-( It was a bummer to hear this, but a smart decision on her part. Hope you heal quickly, Leslie!

I ran around the parking lot to see Brian in his running clothes, all ready to run the last loop with me. Yay! I ended up finishing the second loop around 2:30, definitely slower but still around my goal. Off we went to run the last 10 miles. It was great to have Brian with me and hear his encouraging words. I lead for the first part of the loop, setting a pace that I could handle. At this point my running looked more like shuffling. My quads were starting to really feel the effects of the hilly course, so I started to grunt and swear under my breath going down some of the steeper downhills. We zipped through the mid-loop aid station (had a bite of Brian's pizza slice, yum), and in the last miles passed another runner whose knee was injured so he was walking the rest.

Kelly & Brian
Brian and me, almost finished! (picture courtesy of Janak)
Thanks for running with me, Sweetie!

At this point Brian was running ahead of me a little, trying to gently keep me on pace to gut out the last miles. I really didn't have much left, though, but I kept chugging along the best I could. I was definitely ready to be done! As we passed by the mile 9 marker, I was happy to see that I had a lot of time to spare to come in within my goal. Woo hoo!

Fun hills like this
Yep, here's one of the many hills on the 10 mile loop course (photo courtesy of Heidi Carpenter)

After tackling the last big hill, reading that lovely "Are you lovin' the hills yet?" sign for the last time, I hopped onto the road, entered the parking lot and circled around to cross the finish line with a big ole smile on my face. Yay! I finished! I got a hand shake and hug from RD Chris, and fellow CHUG Donna Creditor gave me my finisher medal. My time was 7:21 – well within my goal I had set. My second ultra in the bag!

A friendly question "Are you loving the hills yet?" near the end of the loop (photo courtesy of Heidi Carpenter)

Next up on my schedule is the Illinois Marathon on May 1. Totally different race but as a runner who likes both trail and road races, I'm looking forward to it!


Chris 3/31/2010 8:23 AM  

You did great Kelly! I've linked your blog post to my race summary report on my blog. Good luck at the MUCH easier Illinois Marathon--flat roads...kinda boring...but easy.

Paige 3/31/2010 11:04 AM  

Yay, Kelly! Congratulations on the finish!!!

Vicky 3/31/2010 11:34 AM  

Kelly, there was a runner behind you on the first loop...me! I would see you ahead briefly before another hill took you out of sight. I heard rumors there were people behind me as well, although I never saw them. I dropped after one loop, which was my intent. Still recovering from a winter injury. I ended up working the aid station with my husband the rest of the day. Fun race!

Vicky Halsey

Kelly Roe 4/01/2010 1:24 PM  

Thanks Chris and Paige!

Vicky - Sorry I didn't get much of a chance to meet you. Hope you're back to normal soon! I agree, very fun race!

jason elliot 4/01/2010 8:40 PM  

Nice job, Kelly! Congrats!

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