Thursday, April 18, 2013

Iola 15K Trail Run Recap, Trail Run, and More

Monday morning I started writing a post on my Iola 15K Trail Run experience from the day before.  Looking back at what I started to draft, here is what I read:
I want to write up the Iola 15K race report while it is still somewhat fresh on my mind, but I am a little distracted by the live feed of the Boston Marathon I have playing on my computer right now.
Nice, huh?  At that moment, I was watching the elites battle it out for first place.  It would be many hours before I would learn of the devastating news from the finish line and then sit glued to my computer waiting to hear the fate of friends running the race.  Thankfully, no one I know was hurt by Monday's attacks - at least not physically.

Since Monday I have tried to get back to the Iola post at least twice with little success.  Every time I try to start, I get distracted by thoughts of Boston again and it seems almost trivial to write about something else.  Who cares about what happened during a trail run when there are so many more important things going on?  But, I guess since I don't really have any more thoughts or pearls of wisdom on the past few days' developments, no more insights, no answers, I guess the best I can do is get back to what passes for normal for me.  So, despite how awkward it seems to me to start writing about the insignificant happenings in my running life, I am going to try to get back to that.

And, for now, that means a bit of backtracking....So, here's my week in review, I guess:

Iola 15K Trail Run

So, the Iola 15K Trail Run in Iola, Wisconsin.  The only word I had for it upon completing the race
was "intense."  This is a run that would be considered hard even if the trails we ran weren't snow-covered, which they were.  The race would be a challenge even if while running those snow-covered trails you weren't blinded by driving snowfall, but we were.  Are you getting the picture here?  So, what makes the race difficult even without snow to deal with?  Well, the answer to that is short - unless you choose to make it long, which I do - namely: hills, hills, and more hills.  In fact, I would go so far as to say, Holy Hills, Batman!  Yes, they were that bad.

I didn't quite realize what the lay of the land would be until about four days before the race, when I found out that some friends of mine had decided to do the 5K event BECAUSE of the hills.  Ruh roh.  Not that I would have switched events.  After all, I have a trail 50K in a few weeks, so if I can't handle nine miles on trail (even with hills), then I guess it would be best to know now.  But, finding this out did dampen my enthusiasm a bit.

A further buzz kill was finding out two days before the event that Iola - according to a friend who cross-country skis out there - is somehow a snow magnet.  When other places are bare, Iola has snow.  Good for skiers, I guess.   Not so good for runners.

Heading into this run, my expectations of what I could do were low, and I was okay with that.  The idea was to simply get out there, practice race day strategy of slow running and hill walking and enjoy the trails.  After all, I hadn't been on a trail for a run in almost six months.  Whoa.  Did I just write that? SIX MONTHS!  I didn't realize winter lasted that long here until I did the math on that equation.

So, here's what greeted us when we arrived.  The trails we would be running - actually a series of nordic ski trails - were hard-packed with snow.

The race started at 10 a.m. and would consist of a 5K loop, which would eventually circle back to the start/finish area and drop off the participants in that shorter event, and a 10K loop.  Heading out, the course soon took us into the woods on what would be an absolutely beautiful trek through the now winter wonderland.  The hills started almost immediately, and I soon found I wasn't the only one choosing to walk them.

I have to say I was a little worried about the footing at first, but for once I was wearing exactly the right shoes for the job.  A few days before I had ordered a pair of Saucony Xodus trail shoes to try - with the idea that I might want to wear them for a trail marathon later in the year.

They have ridiculously huge lugs and a large stack height, but they only boast a 4mm drop, so similar to the Cortanas I wear for road running.  After kicking around in them for a couple of days, I was actually debating whether I should return them due to a little slipping on the heel when this race cropped up.

As it turns out, seeing as I chose not to wear my winter boots for the race, the Xodus were the only shoes I had that would even come close to being compatible with the snowy conditions.  So, how did they do?  I cannot sing the praises of these shoes enough.  To say they were the perfect shoes for these conditions is a gross understatement.  Those huge lugs dug into the snow like claws.  In fact, after the first tentative run down a hill, I started to attack the downhills with abandon.  I had full confidence in these shoes to keep me from sliding.  The one thing they could not protect against was ankle turning, which is too bad, because I seemed to do that a lot.

While the snow wasn't bad to run in because it was so well packed, running over everyone's footprints - where the snow had been churned up - wasn't so pleasant.  Contributing to the ankle turn situation was the driving snowfall we were treated to for the last 10K.  It got so bad that at times I couldn't see where I was putting my feet. For some reason, I seem to have a tendency to turn my right ankle when I land on it wrong, and I counted no fewer than 18 ankle turns on Sunday. In fact, I was so convinced I had done some damage that I was pleasantly surprised when my ankle didn't swell up like a balloon after the race.  One particular fallout from this situation though was that I started at some point to run more on my toes because it seemed to prevent (control?) the ankle roll a bit. So, this past week, I have been dealing with sore muscles on the sides of my lower legs - all those little balancing muscles, I guess.  Ugh.

In the end, it took me 2:02 to finish 15K, so not a stellar performance by any stretch of the imagination. In fact, that time is only three minutes faster than my half marathon PR.  With such a slow time, I missed the kids' run, which was disappointing.  However, Hubby - who was not impacted by the snowy conditions since he starts hitting the trails again as early as February - got back in time to see them each to a second-place finish in their respective age groups. Hubby won second in his age group, which was awesome, as was the fact that he finished 8th overall.

All three of them won cheese.  I, on the other hand, remained cheeseless, even as I said cheese for the camera.  Ah, the irony.

Despite my lack of personal performance, I can say that the Iola Trail Run was as beautiful as it was challenging, and I look forward to trying it again in a year when the conditions are what pass for normal spring weather around here.

Getting ready to leave the race, the snow still coming down hard.
Roads getting home after race.  True to what my friend had said, though, once we got away from Iola, it cleared up.
The Morning After

So, after running Iola on Sunday, I had a rude awakening Monday morning.  All those little muscles that work to keep you upright on uneven terrain suddenly were heard from.  Ah, the soreness.  I guess I could have stayed home and rested, but what I really wanted was to feel normal movement again. I wanted to experience a run where I didn't feel like I was struggling to stay upright with every stride, so I laced on my shoes and headed out.  Back at the ranch the weather conditions looked like this:

I am not sure how I feel about running in the fog.  It was kind of neat, but on the other hand I imagine these aren't the safest of conditions.  Good thing for road ID.

I ended up logging about 5.5 miles for this "recovery" run, but it was S-L-O-W.  In fact, I took numerous walk breaks, which were slow and leisurely enough that I could text with a friend and check Facebook.  What did I do in the days before the fancy phone revolution?

Back on the Trails Again

After running Monday and yoga on Tuesday, I woke up Wednesday still feeling like those little tiny leg muscles didn't like me.  (How rude!)  But, it was time for the Wednesday group run and, lucky for me, they were taking a little field trip to the local state park for a trail run.  This is the first time I have been on a trail locally this spring, and it felt really good!  The trails were still a little muddy in some sections, but okay in others.  It's good to be back on trail and off the road.

Going Forward

I don't know if this last week of cramming time on the trails will help me for my upcoming 50K or not, but I am hoping to continue this trend of - if nothing else - building muscle memory for this race by doing my last long run on the Ice Age Trail itself this weekend.  Wish me luck.

Happy Running!

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