Sunday, April 20, 2014

Down to Run - Half Marathon Trail Run

Down to Run 50k, 1/2 Marathon, 10k, 5k Trail Run Race at Jonathan Dickinson Park - Stuart, FL

6th Overall out of 144 Competitors
2nd Place Woman

Radar map over the park just before race start.

Results -

My race from my Suunto Ambit 2
DTR Half Marathon

Map of the 13.1 Run Course

Gear used:
Salomon Sense Pro shoes, Salomon hydration set with flask, Salomon Exo shirt and S-Lab Exo shorts, also Sunto Ambit 2 watch, Oakley Radar Edge glasses, Clif Gels and LG race belt.

After a successful performance in the South Beach Triathlon I went for a full week to work. Toward the end of the week however I started to feel under the weather and by the time my weekend was there to be taken and enjoyed I was completely sick.

It was down pouring...
I struggled with the flu for over a week and was just starting to feel little better. One thing lead to the other and my husband and my amazing friends did come up with a great idea of racing a run race. This is the perk of having highly competitive and outgoing friends; there is always somewhere to go and something to do, but most likely it will be a race to compete in.

So here we are, I’m still sick and I did entertain to do maybe a 10 k run for the sake of it but unfortunately it was already sold out. Lucky me and I got to enter the half marathon instead which still had a few spots open. Apparently it was going to be one big and competitive race with a trip to Brazil for the 50k overall winner. Early alarm was necessary since the race was planned to go off at 6:30 for the 50k and 7 am for the half. We woke up and got in the car for a 50 minute journey in the dark to Jonathan Dickinson Park.

Waiting for the bad front to subside, rain and lightning all over...
This park is huge and I only know a few trials from my previous biking here, but this time the road took us all the way to the other side which I never saw before.  Unfortunate for everyone during our drive we had monster triple and quadruple lightnings just flashing across the still dark sky. It started to rain when we arrived…

Everyone is preparing for the race start...

Besides the bad weather the place was packed with racers ready to go. After grabbing my race number now all we had to do was to wait under a roof for the rain and lightning to stop. It was down pouring pretty hard at some point and the whole terrain flooded quickly. The race was still a go but we were some 45 minutes behind schedule.

Eventually the front left us and we were ready to go off. There were rows of people on the start line and I could still feel a slight drizzle. And the race started. We went quickly around asphalt round about and right into the trails. It was perfectly overcast now and temperature was in high 70s or low 80s. I was maybe in top 6 after the start. We were running pretty fast from the beginning and weirdly I didn’t mind that at all and stayed with the guys in front. The grass was saturated with lots of standing water and mud pot holes.

And they are off!

Just a minute into the run I noticed that my friend Scott was pretty much right in front of me. We were maybe a half a mile into it on a wide saw palmetto double track. I felt surprisingly well for a sick person and really enjoyed my pace, oh if this could only last… I passed Scott and stayed ahead for a quite a while.

I still felt very strong. Pretty soon however I started hearing some footsteps behind me and it was some other guy that went by me. I think I was starting to get tired now. This weird sensation of coming down with a fever started overwhelming my body, I was feeling weaker, slower, hot, just like a sick person would feel when they are lying in bed and are not capable of much more at this moment. I really wished it was not going to last for too long and I will get a grasp and find myself again.

Little after that Scott did catch up with me and went by pretty quickly, what’s worst is there was a lady following him and after her another one.  That was not good, in a sudden I went from the lead to third place and it was just the beginning of the race, we were somewhere around mile 3 now.

The first girl dressed in a grey top looked really fast and the second in red with nice Salomon camelback looked very strong and had great pace. Now I wondered how many more is there behind and also how I’m going to hold on hopefully to stay in top three.  Now was the time also when we were  all approaching a tiny single-track which with time become like a mini obstacle course with wet roots and flooded muddy and grassy terrain. It felt more like adventure racing than trail running but I was doing everything I could and kept my eyes pealed on the red camelback. I would say those miles were the toughest and keeping the pace up while your body starts naturally to slow down was very difficult; therefore mile 3 to 5 I will remember as the most painful of all. But really it is not as simple as that and the whole race hurt, just different mile and different terrain attacked us in a different way.

Right before going to the wet wooden bridge section and completely wiping on the wet grass...

The race director had plenty of aid stations set up on the course and after skipping the first few I decided to refill my Salomon flask. It did cost me a few seconds but it was way worth it to have a little water with me just in case I was going to need it. This is when Scott and the 2nd girl got away a little further and I was hoping strongly that I will be able to get back closer. Now we were running through a wide grassy path with some big dips in it which had little wooden bridges to the sides of it and you have to know about them and go all the way to the left or right in order to avoid deep standing water in the middle. By the time I noticed the first bridge in the tall grass far to the left I was already in the hole and just simply waded quickly through it totally soaking my shoes. Now I had some extra weight to carry on my feet but thankfully just two minutes later I completely was no longer aware of it. After that we reached something that consisted as a wide double track just simply made of beach sand that led us to the more narrow trails which simply were monster sand dunes.

They continued to wave up and down at least with some 40-60 feet of sandy climbs. When I was on top of one I could see Scott far away on the one ahead. This gave me an opportunity to look around and try to assess quickly who is where. This section was very challenging and the rainy clouds left us at this time quite a while ago and the sun started peaking down and was adding to the misery and challenge. Somewhere around mile six we were on the loop on the end of the park and eventually we were going to turn to come back the same way we came.

This is the turn around loop at the 6.5 mile mark. Notice the deep soft and uneven sand...

However before that the trail turned once more to the open sandbox like road which become this wavy and sandy highway where the feet just were fighting to stay afloat. In succession we were climbing up and running down in this deep and uneven sand. This is when I realized that I started gaining distance on the girl in red. One hill after the other, each hurting more and more brought me closer and closer to her. At mile 6.6 I realized I was ready for my pass. I felt good knowing that I was full of doubt that I will be able to keep up with her but was fortunate enough and strong enough to be able to regain my position, well at least 2nd spot. It didn’t’ mean anything yet however since we were only half way through and a lot could still happen.

When I reached the wooden bridge section on the way back there was a lot of oncoming traffic since I think the 10k group was making their way out. Everyone was very kind and was cheering us on and at some point even saying “bring it home, you are in second!”. It was so nice to hear. We also had to share the skinny bridges now so timing was important here.

All the way throughout you could see bunch of happy racers!

Also in the same area I saw first time in the whole race my husband on his bike and he was ready to snap a picture. But the moment I went by him he started saying something and while still on my quest and progress forward I looked back and this is when suddenly I totally wiped out on the wet grass possibly hitting some root, I fell on my hand first, than elbow than hip, leg. I was sliding like I was on some kind of ice-skating ring. It all happened so quickly and before I knew I was up and running again and was trying to get off the mud off my hands. I found out later he was saying “Watch the root, lots of people are falling here” 

Somewhere in front was still my friend Scott and I almost got to pass him when he stopped because of leg cramps, but he kept going at a pretty fast pace.  I think he stopped quickly to grab water and this is when I passed him and this is where we went to another wide path fork.

I started to go left when Scott yelled “B are you going to the restroom?” and I yelled back “No, I’m not going to the restroom!”. I looked quickly around and realized I made a wrong turn and Scott just saved me here some time! I’m very grateful!

At some point we were head to head for quite a while under the power lines while the third place now girl was right behind on the chase.

Under power lines after I did catch up to Scott and made a pass on the 2nd girl who is right behind us...

I knew that going easier here will not be an option since throughout the whole race she had a solid and constant pace, I will have to keep my pace also up if I wanted to hold on to my position. I set myself a goal pace and max heart rate where I wanted to hang around approximately and tried not to drift away and let the pace slip. Having my beautiful Suunto Ambit 2 helped me tremendously with my pacing and planning out the race.

Each time I checked she was there and finally I reached again the grassy single track full of standing water. Now I had no one in front of me that I could see and I hoped dearly that there will be plenty of arrows and that I was not going to get lost in this humongous and so unknown to me park. I was alone for a good amount of time and went by another trail which spilled me onto a double track with an aid station and it made me feel better that I still was on a good track. I remembered most of the trails from running them opposite direction but it doesn’t take long to get lost in the park like this one.

Now I was at mile 9.45, 9.64 and couldn’t wait to reach mile 10. I was telling myself to stay strong and don’t think of the distance that was still left. I was distracting my mind with thoughts of the beautiful scenery around me and trying to forget how fatigued my body felt now. I was also shocked how good my feet felt and I was very glad with my shoe choice for this race, since my Salomon Sense Pro were just a perfect choice for this very long run and mixed terrain.

Power Girl!

I finally reached my long awaiting for mile 10 and somewhere around this time I spotted a runner with a bright yellow outfit far ahead. This confirmed me once more that I was heading in the right direction. With time I was getting closer and closer and near the final two miles I did catch up with a guy in the yellow shirt. I think he was happy I showed up there since now the favor got returned and he was pacing himself off of me. When I looked back just to check if anyone is near he asked me if I see anyone and he was happy when I said I couldn’t see anyone. Final miles were all in the open, almost blue sky and full sun beaming on us full strength. The air was very warm and humid from all the moisture evaporating. All I had to do now is to just keep my pace and bring it to the finish which thankfully I was able to see soon after. But just before that we went to some winy path full of taller palmettos and did catch up to another racer, Kenneth. He looked at me and said “really, really?!” and didn’t want me to go by and kind of elbowed me on the turn. I wasn’t sure if he was serious or not but I said “yeah, really, come on lets race!” and he sprinted out to the finish and also the guy in yellow got into the sprint. I let the guys go and battle it out and I found out shortly that they were actually running for overall Men’s podium. When they were crossing the finish line just few seconds of me ahead I was dodging the little kids of the guy with a beard. Fortunately for them and for me we all ended today on the podium. The guy in the yellow Zack finished 3rd in Overall men and I placed 2nd for Overall Women and 6th overall including men out of 125 racers. The lady in grey, Robin which passed me on mile three ended up 1st with minute and a half ahead of me. 

Finally, in the full sun and heat of the day I crossed the finish line!

Of course I was exhausted, soaked with sweat, dirty with mud all over my legs and very surprised at the same time. I think I did much better than I anticipated and would not imagine keeping that good of the pace on this demanding course while being still sick. I just had to thank my husband Pax for believing in me once again and Scott for letting me know of this fun event.

Yes, it did hurt.

After that there was some food and music and a small award ceremony. My most memorable runner of today’s race was the red camelback clad Natalia who I was chasing down for a good chunk of the race and who was following me after I made a pass on mile six.  To my huge surprise I saw her crossing the finish line some 44 minutes later. I was shocked that she didn’t make the deserved top three today and didn’t get on the podium. Very unfortunately for her she lost the sight of me when I was working hard on keeping my pace up and missed a turn and ended up running in the circles for a few extra miles in a company of other lost racers. This was sad since she is a great runner and definitely deserved to be rewarded. I’m sure however that her time will come in the next race she decides to challenge herself.

I'm just happy to be done and be able to enjoy nice and cold water...

Overall the race was very well put together by … from DTR and looks like amazing amount of people besides me had a good time today.

Scott and I. Finally relaxing and awaiting the award ceremony.
We were ready however to head home since we were completely exhausted, I know I was! But the day was still going to be much longer for me with some planned mountain biking in just a few hours and then a family dinner…

My Salomon Sense Pro's did tremendous job today!

Oh yes; it was a very long and very rewarding day at the same time. And getting finally to my bed like always felt amazingly good…

Ladies Overall Podium

Half Marathon            
Place  Name  Bib No  Age  Age Group Place  Chip Time  Total Pace
1  Bryan Sandala  83  33  1 Top Fin  1:42:49.3  7:51/M
2  Christian Gums  181  45  2 Top Fin  1:43:39.9  7:55/M
3  Robin Wecksler  205  45  1 Top Fin  1:48:23.0  8:16/M
4  Zack Kraev  209  44  3 Top Fin  1:49:31.5  8:22/M
5  Kenneth Russell  94  35  1 M 30-39  1:49:31.9  8:22/M
6  Beata Wronska  210  39  2 Top Fin  1:49:37.8  8:22/M       

66 Natalia Shelton 134 29 7 F 20-29 2:33:58.3 11:45/M

Until next time!

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