Well, I did it. I completed two marathons in two weekends. Not just any old marathons, trail marathons. And frankly I'm pooped.
As you know my current work responsibilities have me traveling throughout the country and Canada to visit orthodontists that are trialing our newest product. The doctor in Louisville was able to see me tomorrow, December 11, which would require me to travel on Sunday. A quick search of the internet (isn't technology beautiful) led me to the website of the Otter Creek Trail Marathon. The allure of another state was almost more than I could bear. Besides the $40 entry fee is a bargain too good to be missed. So I booked my airfare to arrive on Saturday (the same price as the airfare on Sunday, so I don't feel too badly that my company paid for the flight).
Last weekend I ran the Tecumseh Trail Marathon in the company of fellow blogger Joe Ely. The Tecumseh Trail Marathon was a very tough course that was further compounded by the muddy conditions brought on by the heavy rains just prior to race day. I would say that Otter Creek is the kinder, gentler, more civilized cousin to Tecumseh. It still has its challenges, but not nearly to the degree of Tecumseh, not nearly the elevation gain and loss and definitely not the mud.
Last year was the first running of the Otter Creek Trail Marathon, or at least the first time it was reported on marathonguide.com. There were 31 finishers in 2005. I would guess there were probably equal number of participants for the 8 and 16 mile runs as well based on this year's attendance. The race directors were a little overwhelmed this year. There were probably triple the number of participants from last year.
Dean Karnazes's blog stated that getting to the race "required some doing". I found getting there from the Louisville area quite easy; three highways and done I was there in about the exact time that mapquest had predicted.
The race consisted of three loops of the Otter Creek Trail and an additional 2.2 mile loop for the marathoners. Due to the unexpected volume of people the RD's decided to send the marathon out on the 2.2 loop first at the same time as the 16 milers went out on the 8 mile Otter Creek Trail. The 8 milers started about 5 minute later. This helped clear up the single track trail considerably. We were glad that the extra loop was done first. Last year it was done last after having survived the 3 loop Otter Creek Trail.
There were two aid stations, 1 at the start/finish line and 1 half way around the loop at a place called Blue Hole. There were two porta-potties at the start and really that's all that was necessary to accommodate the runners.
The weather was just around 30 degrees at the start. The prediction called for highs in the 50's. I wore the exact same gear that I had worn the weekend before (all washed and dried, of course), minus the beanie. I took it off early last week and carried it the rest of the way. I didn't want to do that again. After the 2.2 mile loop I discarded the micro-fleece pullover and was plenty comfortable.
After the 2.2 loop the main trail run started through a pine forest for about a mile. It was reminiscent of the woods in Findley State Park where I camped often with my family. The trees were obviously planted by the Corps of Engineers or other government body; in perfectly symmetrical rows and columns. We then crossed over into woods predominately oak based on the leaves on the trail. Thankfully no problem with mud, at least on the first loop. The ground was frozen solid. We ended up on a trail that parallel Otter Creek then ultimately parallel the Ohio River. The major challenge of Otter Creek was the tree roots. The trail was criss crossed with roots. They sometimes served well as staircases but mostly they just need to be watched closely as they had a tendency to reach up and grab you. I fell once and I saw the guy in front of me during the first loop fall twice.
The first loop went smoothly. I felt good. I stayed with a pack of half a dozen or so runners up to the Blue Hole aid station. I left the station before them and ran the next four miles pretty much alone except for the occasional 8 or 16 miler that I would overtake. There were many walkers in those divisions. There was one significant hill and it occurred on the back 4 of the loop.
I passed the start/finish aid station the first time in 1:48 (including the 2.2), for 10:36 pace. I fell in behind two other guys for about 3 miles of the second pass until I stopped to take some pictures. By the time I hit Blue Hole for the second time my legs were feeling pretty beat. I soldiered on and made it through the second loop with out falling. I stumbled a few times but never fell. The temperature had climbed and I was beginning to warm up.
I finished the second loop in 1:25 (10:38 pace). Nice and consistent so far, albeit slower than road races. By this point I knew the third and final loop was going to be a struggle. I had thought about leaving my tights behind at the start but didn't and was glad to have them on the first part of the loop. For some reason the first half of the loop was cooler than the second. My legs were getting seriously fatigued and even doing the downhill portions was difficult. I felt like I had no real control, so I went slower. I resorted to walking the few uphills there were before Blue Hole. At Blue Hole I had a tough time getting going again, especially knowing that the biggest hill was yet to come. A few minutes after leaving Blue Hole I stopped and took off the tights. I thought maybe if my legs were a little cooler they would respond a little better. The bad part about taking them off is now I had to carry them. I really wished I had taken them off at the start when I originally intended. A little life lesson there: you have to live with the choices you make.
By now my legs were completely shot. I began to take walk breaks even on the littlest of inclines and it became increasingly difficult to begin running again. I really began to question the sanity of trying to run 2 trail marathon in 2 weekends, but I had to finish. I rationalized my dead legs with talk of Tecumseh, of my work travel schedule, of crazy sleep patterns. It was all just negativity that wasn't going to get me to the finish. I passed a couple of walkers but other than that I ran the last 8 miles virtually alone.
The nice thing about repeating a loop three times is that you know where you are in relation to the aid stations and finish. I was very happy to see the pine forest which signaled nearing the finish. I made it through the last loop in 1:54 (seriously slowed from the first two in 14:15 pace) for a finish time of 5:08:34. I was the 28th finisher.
I'm not sure I've ever been so wiped out after a marathon and based on they way my legs felt I'm really pretty happy with the 5+ hour marathon. I was greeted at the finish by the wife half of the husband/wife RD's. She printed my name on the bib tear off with my time and had me take it to the husband half who printed my finisher's certificate. On the spot, no waiting 3 months like those big races. The finishers medallions are three inch disks of tree limb with the logo branded into the wood and a leather strap. They were made by kids at a local high school, pretty cool and unique.
So now I've completed nine states and I'm ready for a rest, at least for the rest of 2006. Beginning January it will be time to start training for the Eugene Marathon. The completion of two marathons in a 9 day span qualifies me for membership in the Marathon Maniacs. I may have to give this serious consideration. I'm not sure I would ever meet the criteria again, I should take the chance while I have it.