Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Free State Trail Marathon

This past Saturday was the Free State Trail Marathon at Clinton Lake State Park in Lawrence, Kansas. The race was all on trails that hug the north shore of Clinton Lake, winding up and down the wooded hills. The topography was very similar to the Westwood Lake trail in New Castle, IN, but rockier.

The race and the rain started at eight in the morning. We did a little loop on the trails away from the lake to let the crowd disperse. The half marathoners started with us, but did a smaller loop.

Shortly, the light rain turned into a full-on downpour and thunderstorm, soaking everything, and turning the trails into a soupy, sloppy mess.

There were 54 marathoners (plus dogs, halfers, 40 milers, and 60 milers). I dropped back in the pack to make sure I didn’t get caught up starting too fast. This is what the rain was like a half hour into the race.

There was no point of trying to keep your feet dry, so I just ran through the middle of everything. Overall, the mud was a silty mud that wasn’t too sticky. It didn’t weigh down my shoes too much, but it did make things slick.

I was thankful that I don’t get blisters as my feet were wet the whole time. I was glad that I had sturdy trail shoes, since sharp, large rocks were mixed in with the mud.

Someone had made a fun tunnel on the trail.

I was glad that I had studied the map before the race, as there were no mile markers, and very few landmarks. The race was well marked, though, with wrong way signs on intersecting trails.

Looking back on a rocky shoreline stretch. The racers bunched up here due to the footing; this was roughly mile 10 or 11.

Here was one of the many wet creek crossings. As the runners spread out, I focused on relaxing and covering ground.

The mud actually got more sticky when the rain slackened later in the race and runners had churned it up. I managed to keep my balance the whole time.

A wetter spot near the eastern turn around. There was a short stretch on grass, which was a nice surface change. The trail back wound around and had more hills.

I made sure to snack when I got to aid stations, and particularly enjoyed the dill pickles and oranges. I carried two small water bottles with me, and only ran out of water once, and only for a short time.

I was pretty much alone for the second half of the race, but that was fine. I kept up a steady routine of running the downhill and flat, and walking the slippery hills.

I was encouraged to get to the last aid station and hear that the finish was about three miles away. Of course, I took that with a grain of salt. Spectators and volunteers have a pernicious habit of under representing distances. ‘About three miles’ can mean anything less than five miles. The muddiest stretch was that last three miles. Even running everything but the ups, it still took me 50 minutes for that last leg.

I finished with a 5:17 time, which I was very happy with. I am sure it would have been under five on a dry, cool day. I felt strong, never crashed, and ran my way across the line. The one lesson I re-learned was to be even more liberal on the application of body glide. My legs didn't chafe, but moving in wet clothes for over five hours left chafing in other places. The race was a well-run race, with a nice staff, and a very well-marked trail. Being soaking wet and tired, I didn't hang out long at the post-race party.

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