Saturday, December 19, 2015

Otter Creek Trail Marathon

This morning was the Otter Creek Trail Marathon near Brandenburg, Kentucky.

I drove down to the park Friday evening.  The race director, Cynthia, had invited runners to stay in the heated cabin/bunk houses the night before.  I called her up, and she said there was still room. I don't think they used half the bunks.

She said she was making dinner for anyone who wanted some, so I took her up on that.  We ate, and talked, and welcomed other runners as they made there way in.  She is a very accomplished ultra runner, and had great stories to tell about many races.  She had done at least three 100 mile races this year, including Western States, and has been doing them for decades.  I've said it before, but it would be hard to find a friendlier or more hospitable group of people than trail runners.

The cabins were right next to the packet pick up and the start/finish line, so that was super-convenient.  I slept great and had a relaxed morning getting ready for the race.  The race was set up as a loop, with the marathoners doing 3 loops.  Most people were doing one loop.

The morning temperature started out quite brisk.  It was a little cool waiting around for the start, but once things got moving, it felt good.  The first lap was pretty crowded, and I was following someone most of the lap.

The sunrise through the trees on the bluff overlooking Otter Creek.  The loop was very run-able.  There were rolling hills, one big descent down to Otter Creek, and one big ascent up out of the Otter Creek valley onto the bluff of the Ohio River.

The loop followed Otter Creek downstream for maybe a quarter of the loop.  The creek was very pretty, and there were many fly fisherman.

There were two aid stations on the loop.  One at the start/finish, and one along Otter Creek at the Blue Hole.  After the first aid station, I spent some time with Dan and his family.  Dan was doing the marathon, and his two kids were doing two laps.  It was cool to see them running together.

After the first lap, the second was much less crowded.  I had more time to myself to run my own race.  Here is an example of some of the rocks on the trail.  What was really challenging were the roots.  Especially when the sun was in your eyes and after people had scuffed up leaves.  Many people fell.  I stumbled a couple times, but kept on my feet.  It took near constant focus.

Cynthia had a temporary bridge put in at one water crossing.  As the day went along, you had to pay attention to what was frozen and what was slicked mud.

Here is a rock wall we ran along in the Otter Creek valley.  I eventually caught up to one runner on my second lap, and we stayed together for the second half of my second lap.

After the Otter Creek/Blue Hole aid station, the trail climbed several hundred feet up onto the bluff overlooking the Ohio River.  It was a very pretty section, with a nice oak woods.  Once you got to the highest point on the bluff, it was mostly downhill to the start/finish.

On the third lap, I was really alone.  I hardly saw anyone until the Otter Creek/Blue Hole aid station halfway through the loop.  The first quarter of the loop wound its way through pine plantations and red cedar glades.  The pine needles were a nice surface, as long as you didn't hit a root.  I kept up a good pace for this first quarter of the third lap, shortening my strides and keeping my foot speed up.

Running along Otter Creek on the third lap.  I really focused on relaxing for the first two laps, knowing that the third lap would decide the race for me.  The stretch along Otter Creek seemed to stretch on.  I took ten minutes longer to get to the Otter Creek/Blue Hole aid station than it did on my first lap.  I ran out of water on this stretch, and filled up at the aid station.

Dan and I ran together after the aid station.  He climbed the big hill faster than I did and never looked back.  I kept up a good pace, running everything except for the uphills.  I had some muscle cramping, but nothing too bad or too hindering.  I had a sprint left in me for the finish line, and I crossed in five hours, 17 minutes.

I was very proud of my race today.  I managed my race well, with my layers, my hydration, my fueling, and my pacing.  So often, I have had a race derailed by fueling and hydration.  It can't be overlooked how glorious the weather was today.  Sunny, not too hot, not too windy.  I was able to run for the whole race, and felt pretty good the whole time.  I kept pretty consistent on my loops.  The first two loops I did right at 100 minutes.  The third loop I did in 117 minutes, which wasn't bad considering.  Here are the results.

Everyone was very friendly.  I sat by the heater after the race, eating chili and talking with other runners.  They even had showers available in the campground.  I liked the loop concept, as it made it easier to know what to expect.  I'd recommend the race to anyone interested.

No comments: