RAIN Ride–160 Mile Ride Across Indiana

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The 3rd Saturday in July is traditionally the RAIN Ride which is a one day ride across the state of Indiana.  This year the event took place on July 20, 2019.  The start is at 7am in Terre Haute at St. Mary of the Woods College.  Event ends at 9pm in Richmond, IN at Earlham College.  One day.  160 miles.  Majority of the ride is along the Historic Route 40.

Packet pick up takes place on Friday at St Mary of the Woods.  Easy in and out.  SWAG includes a t-shirt and some ride glide.  Todd, Sara & I at packet pick up.  Easy in & out.  Hardest part was finding St Mary of the Woods. 

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Logistics for this point to point event are a bit of a challenge and that is one reason why I have not done it previously.  Oh yeah, and because I had to ride my bike 160 miles, in one day.  Sounds daunting, right?  Well, not as daunting as the logistics.

Options.  1)  Park your car in Richmond on Friday and take a bus to Terre Haute.  Bike rides on a truck, separate from you.  2)  Have some super awesome friends/family who love you so much that they will drive you to Terre Haute and then following you around while you ride your bicycle ALL DAY on Saturday.  I have some amazing friends and family but none that I could ask to do that.  Fortunately, Todd has better connections and a spouse that must REALLY love him.  She grabbed a friend and they became our Personal SAG Vehicle (PSV) for this event.  Meet Darla & Jen.  They said they felt like they were chasing a storm on Saturday.  So they will forever be called the Storm Chasers.  And we are now affectingly known as “Team Twister”.  A little 90s humor.  Smile

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The main concern in the weeks leading up to the event was the heat and the 160 miles.  The Midwest was having a heat wave and the ride was promising to be one of the hottest  in history. Fortunately, I’ve done a lot of endurance events and learned a bit over the years about heat, fueling, and salt/electrolyte intake.  Its never fun when the temperature climbs but it can be manageable if pace/expectation is adjusted and you are uber aware of how you are feeling and how your body is responding.

Time to ride!!!  7am start at St Mary of the Woods!  There were 6 of us and we started in the “Just Finish It” corral!  Lots of riders in front of us who might have been a bit more serious.

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And then there were 6!  From left:  Todd, Paul, Matt, Adam (back/orange), Sara & myself.  READY to ride!!  I have a lot of love for these people and have spent a lot of time with them.  Some more than others.  In fact, Matt may currently be looking for a new house since he lives on my primary ride route and I just pull into his drive and wait for him to come out and ride bikes with me.  Smile

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Off we go.  Big pack.  Police escort thru Terre Haute.  Everyone was locked in, two to three riders across.  Large packs continued all the way to the first official SAG stop at mile 39.  View of the first riders coming thru the tunnel in Terre Haute from the RAIN Facebook page.

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The official SAG stops were every 40 miles or so.  Mile 39, 63, 92 (lunch), 113 (water only) and lastly mile 131.  SAG stops had bathrooms, food, water, Gatorade, pickle juice, cookies, chips, trail mix, miscellaneous goodies, bike support techs and some had hoses or misting stations to cool the riders. Aerial view of the first aid station from the RAIN Facebook page.

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We were very fortunate to have 2 PSVs for the 6 of us.  Matt’s wife, Melissa.  Then Todd’s wife Darla and Jen.  The initial plan was for them to meet us at the official SAG stops for the initial 3 stops (miles 39, 63 & 92).  They did a lot of driving.  A lot of waiting. And a lot of managing our needs, both emotionally and physically.  Darla, Jen & Melissa ….. waiting.   Matt & I rolling into SAG stop 2.

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By the time we left SAG stop #2, things were really starting to heat up.  The packs were finally breaking up a little but there were still a lot of riders on the road around us.  We had 29-30 miles between SAG stop #2 and #3.  But it was hot.  Too hot.  We had already been relying on ice as our primary cooling agent.  We were putting it in our bottles, putting it in our cycling kits, and also using water to stay wet/cool.  We were going thru a lot more water than we normally would, since most of it was being used to cool us on the outside vs. for traditional hydrating purposes.  We were also being very cognizant of our fueling.  Any time the weather is extreme (cold or hot), the body uses additional calories (fuel) to function.  It has to have enough calories to cool the body and perform the task at hand, in this case cycling.  Things were starting to get dangerous.  Cyclists were overheating and stopping along roadsides, under shaded trees or beside tree lined fence rows.  I realized by the time we had traveled a mere 7 miles past SAG stop #2 that we would not make it to #3 without stopping.  We were also in the area around Indianapolis where our Storm Chasers had to jump on 465, to get around the city, to meet us at the 3rd SAG stop.  Our PSVs couldn’t get to us and we were riding thru a very populated area where we had to constantly stop at stop signs or traffic signals, which further slowed our progress and the time on the road between stops.  See ride route below.

RAIN Route

We stopped 2x between SAG #2 and #3.  Bought cold water & ice from a gas station first, then a CVS the second time.  Then a nice lady had a truck on route at one of the busy intersections and she was handing out ice, water & cold towels.  God always sends out  angels, be on the look out!  A few random riding pics below.

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As stated, we used additional resources 3x between the 2nd and 3rd SAG stops.  Hot. Hot. Hot.  My bike computer read a max temp of 116.6 degrees.

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Finally made it to SAG #3, which was also the lunch stop.  Indoor bathrooms.  Sandwiches.  Chips.  Lots of goodies.  We loaded up and were off again.

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After the lunch stop, the PSV route and the ride route converged.  Our Storm Chasers agreed to leapfrog us and meet us every 10 miles, or so, to make sure we had access to ice, cold water & fuel on a more frequent basis.  Sometimes, they found a parking lot in which to pull into, other times, we found them parked along the road with the trunk popped open and waiting for us.  So thankful for the extra stops!!!

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We had a few mishaps with tip overs, malfunctioning equipment, and my left cleat even lost a few screws at one point (no, I didn’t crash/tip over).   Thankfully Todd, or one of the other guys, always seemed to have a solution to the immediate problem and ultimately, we kept moving forward.

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As with all endurance events, the finish will eventually present itself, if you can just keep moving, avoid major mishap, stay fueled/hydrated, and manage your electrolytes.

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Overall, RAIN was a great experience and a well ran event.  Because of the heat, I’m honestly not sure we could have finished without a PSV (or 2).  We knew from some previously HOT training rides that 20 miles is a push before refilling water/ice, and most of these stops were 30 to 40 miles apart. 

What to know if want to do RAIN in the future:

  • Be prepared for a long day.
  • Train.  Stack training by riding multiples days in a row, decent length rides without getting silly and riding super long rides, every weekend.  Its about time in the saddle as much as miles.
  • Cycling shorts over TRI shorts are recommended, due to the potential length of the day.
  • A PSV is recommended unless you are just super fast and do well in the heat.
  • Expect heat and humidity.  Its July in Indiana. 
  • Take extra electrolytes other than what’s in your fuel.  We used salt tabs/capsules, in addition to Nuun and Tailwind hydration products.  Nuun is all electrolytes, Tailwind is fuel with electrolytes.  Then we used the salt tabs, Huma gels, ate food at the aid stations, drank Coca Cola & used Sour Patch Kids & Swedish Fish candies to help keep the sugar moving into our system.
  • Talk to people.  Make new friends!
  • Appreciate your support crew.  They are hot and tired too!!

Great event and I thought most of the roads we used were in decent to good shape.  Lots of turns.  We had the option of uploading the route to our bike computers using Ride With GPS or we could have relied on the well marked route, following the RAIN drops.

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Lots of people do RAIN.  This year was no different.  1200ish registered.  1028 picked up packets.  642 finished by the 9pm cut off.  I will say that most of the issues we saw were heat and electrolyte related.  Lots of people cramping up because they just didn’t take extra electrolytes.  When you are taking in a lot of water, remember that you are flushing out electrolytes.  Managing the heat during endurance events is about so much more than staying hydrated.  My experience as a marathon runner and triathlete really came in handy for this event, even if my group was tired of hearing me nag remind them to drink/eat/take electrolytes.

Will I do it again?  I would definitely do it again.  I actually can’t even believe I just said that out loud (or put it in writing).  That being said, I don’t have a lot of people who could/would do a PSV for me, so ultimately, unless I can get in with a group who has a PSV and is willing to let me tag along, I’m not sure it would be smart.

Definitely give RAIN a try!  You’ll love it!!

Amanda – TooTallFritz

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Super Marathon–Snoqualmie Pass, WA

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The Super Marathon in Snoqualmie Pass, Washington was the marathon we picked to follow up Mt Hood.  The race date was June 30, 2019.  Small race that is part of the Cascade Super Series in the Cascade Mountains.   Race day packet pick up.  Easy parking at the start line.  Point to point downhill marathon that passes thru the famed Snoqualmie Tunnel.  Julie, Me & Judy at the start.  LOVE these ladies!!!

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Another downhill, marathon?  Yes.  This was the closest event we could find in proximity to the Revel Mt Hood race.  We try to get a good bang for our buck when we have to fly, or travel further away from the Midwest.  We were SUPER sore for the Mt Hood marathon, which had an elevation drop of 5600-5800 feet, depending on who you ask.  But this event only had a net drop of 1500 feet.  Very gradual and to be honest, it didn’t feel like a downhill race.  At least not, like Mt Hood. 

Race started at the Hyak trailhead at Iron Horse State Park.  Majority of the race is on the Iron Horse Trail, finishing on the John Wayne Trail at the Cedar Falls Trailhead of the Cascades State Park. 

The first 5 miles were flat, an out and back past Keechelus Lake.  Breathtaking views.  

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The course was on a packed gravel trail.  Not super rough, but big enough rocks that I would have preferred trail shoes instead of road shoes.  My feet are wimpy!

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Very low key race but plenty of support and there was never a question as to direction on course.  Aid stations every 1.5 to 2 miles.  Potties, gels, water, Gatorade & other items. 

At mile 5.2 we entered the famed Snoqualmie Tunnel.  Volunteers gave us little flashlights to navigate the darkness.  This is a 2.4 mile tunnel.  Very dark.  See the progression of our run thru the tunnel as the “light at the end of the tunnel” gets bigger & bigger until we were out. 

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I loved running thru the tunnel but we were careful to take it slow since it was dark.  There were also some wet areas and the surface was uneven.  Lower air temp in the tunnel too, so it was a nice cool section for running.

Speaking of taking things slow.  The entire race was slow for us.  We were seriously damaged from the run down Mt Hood the previous day.  We aren’t new to endurance events.  Or even to doubles.  We have done several double marathons where we run 2 marathons in 2 days.  Judy has even done 3 in 3 days.  And Julie & I have each done 2 Ironman triathlons (2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike, 26.2 mile run).  But nothing has ever put the hurt on us like Mt Hood.  Normally, on Day 2 of a double, we are tight and slightly stiff but not really sore.  We start running like stiff, little old ladies, but in 4-5 miles we are loose and things go back to normal.  Its not uncommon for us to run faster on Day 2 because we know we don’t have to save anything for another race.  This was not the case for the Super Marathon.  We were sore the entire day.  In fact, it hurt to run.  Not like we were injured but rather our quads and calves were so tight and inflamed from Mt Hood, that it hurt to run.  I couldn’t even take full strides because my full body weight on a foot strike activated my quad muscles and caused piercing pain.  So we did A LOT of walking.  And I mean a lot.  It didn’t hurt to walk.  So well, we walked.   And took pictures.  Enjoy.  Smile

Nice groomed trails.  Lots of shady areas.

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Great views of the Cascade Mountains.

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Lots of bridges & I really love bridges!

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Waterfalls.

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Beautiful Flowers.

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Rock faces along the trail where people were climbing.

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Overall, I really loved this race.  I loved running the trails and there was plenty to see.  I never noticed that it was a net downhill but my quads were so damaged before I started that it may have been more perceptible to those where were fresh. 

This is a very similar course to both the Jack n Jill Marathon and the Light at the End of the Tunnel Marathon.  The Snoqualmie Tunnel being the main attraction for each.  And the gentle downhill descent which is good for those looking for a PR or BQ.  I personally am not super coordinated, so I’m happy I was able to leisurely run thru the tunnel verses trying to stay on pace to achieve a certain finish time.  And I will note (again) that I would prefer trail shoes verses road shoes for this event.

Great event.  Great swag (not pictured:  water bottle & race bag). 

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And the BEST part of the race was the famous grilled cheese at the end.  No, it wasn’t quite as large as the promo photo.  But there was plenty and it was super tasty. 

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I really loved this race.  I’d definitely go back, if it were a bit closer. Washington was state #32 and marathon #55.  Making progress!  Next up the RAIN Ride from Terre Haute to Richmond, IN on July 20th.  Then Ironman Arizona on November 24th.

** Happy Running ** Amanda – TooTallFritz

Revel Mt Hood–A Downhill Marathon, Portland, OR

The Revel Race Series is known for scenic, downhill marathons.  Last summer, we registered for Revel Mt Hood in Portland, OR which took place on June 29, 2019.  We had hopes that just maybe, if we were healthy, we’d have a great race and possibly snag a PR or BQ.  No need for suspense, that did not happen.  I’m healthy for the most part.  My concussion or “post concussion” symptoms are mostly gone from the bike crash last September.  I can go long but not fast.  I had some hip issues after IMTX in April that I’ve been working thru and I’m carrying an extra 10#s.    Not complaining, but weight does make a difference when you are trying to run fast. 

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We flew into Portland, OR.  Packet pickup was at the Oregon Convention Center.  Small expo.  Easy in and out.  A few photos at the expo with Julie & Judy below.

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Logistics for this race are definitely more challenging than most.  It’s a point to point race with the marathon starting at the top of Mt Hood at the Timberline Ski Resort and running down the mountain to the Rainbow Trout Farm.  There is a shuttle directly from one of the host hotels to the start for an additional fee; however, most participants drive out to Sandy and take the free shuttle to the start area.  Insider tip:  there are hotels in the Sandy area.  If you have a car and want to cut your travel time on race day, stay in Sandy!!  The area where the host hotel is located isn’t great anyhow and you won’t be missing anything. 

Race starts in waves based on pace.  And the buses to the start also leave in waves.  Be prepared, the temperature drops as you go up the mountain. Have some throw away clothes or extra stuff to wear prerace.  It was in the low 30s when we got to Timberline.

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The descent begins as soon as you get off the bus.  And the views at the top are breathtaking.

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I didn’t see a sign for the percent grade for the first 5 miles.  However, I can say that it was a lot.  And we were all moving pretty quick.  And it was fun!  I did feel the descent pulling me down, I was just hoping that it wouldn’t be that big of a deal.  Revel offers free photos of the runners, which is nice.  I usually don’t buy pictures of myself running …. cuz they just aren’t cute!  Smile   But this is one of the free photos.

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Initial road down from Timberline was closed to thru traffic, which was nice.  Aid stations were set up every couple miles.  Potties, water, Gatorade, first aid, Deep Blue rub, food & gels. 

Second 5 miles were at a 6% grade.  The views were hidden behind big pines, the race course joined roads with vehicular traffic, and it was starting to get hard.  I’d say miles 1-4 were fun.  Miles 4-8, I noticed things were starting to tighten up.  And by mile 10, I was slowing down and it was actually starting to hurt. 

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The sun came out.  It was warming up as we were heading down, down, down. 

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After mile 15, it started to flatten out, and there we even some inclines in the distance.  By this point, all the people who could handle the terrain were long gone.  My friends were long gone.  I was run/walking but not alone.  Lots of people also struggling.  I tried to enjoy the scenery but really just wanted to be done.  Lots of aches, pains & tightness by this point. I stopped several times and used the Deep Blue rub that was on course.  I was so happy to see the 20 mile sign, but also in disbelief that it was “only” mile 20 and I still had another 6.2 miles!

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As always, the finish line finally arrived.  I was in the pain cave by then.  The race organizers did a great job.  As did the volunteers and support on course.  Finish line festivities included a NormaTec Recovery Boot station.  Donuts & Pizza.  Local Beer.  But ultimately, we were just ready to pack it up and head out.  Since we flew to the Pacific Northwest to grab a new state in our journey to run a marathon in every state, well, you may have guessed it.  We had to pack up and head to Washington to run a marathon the following day. 

SWAG – Revel Race shirt (upcharge for long sleeve or tank top) & Goodr sunglasses.  Marathon Maniac race shirt, luggage tab & extra medal for the Marathon Maniac & Half Fanatic Race Series. 

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Mt Hood was my 54th marathon; Oregon was my 31st state. 

I’ve had some questions on tips on how to train for a downhill marathon.  I wish I had some to give.  This was the hardest marathon I’ve ever done.  The hardest endurance event that I’ve ever done.  The downhill pounding really requires a lot of strength, not only in your legs but also your core.  The recovery has been long.  I’m almost 3 weeks post race and my legs are still heavy.  I’ve had 2 massages.  Done a lot of cycling.  And no running.  My body is just not ready to run.  I’ll try something short this week.  Maybe.  Not really sure how one could adequately prepare for a downhill run of this magnitude without living somewhere with ample elevation for training.  If you figure it out, please let me know!  At this point, we can say we tried a downhill marathon.  It was hard.  Harder than it should have been.  And we probably won’t try anything this steep again.  But only time will tell.

Heading to Washington State next!  In an attempt to see something other than run courses, we did stop at Snoqualmie Falls in Snoqualmie, WA.   Pictures of the falls below.  Race report on day 2, the Super Marathon in Snoqualmie Pass, WA up next!

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** Happy Running, All! ** Amanda – TooTallFritz

Ironman Texas 2019–The Woodlands

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I’ve been MIA, training for Ironman Texas!  I didn’t really say much about it on social media or even to my friends/family until basically it was time to race.  I told my parents a mere month before it actually happened.  They worry and I was trying to keep Mom’s stress at a minimum.  Smile  As most of you probably know, I’ve been recovering from the bike crash/concussion that occurred in early September 2018 and my training started a bit behind, in comparison to others.  I didn’t know if I was actually going to do the race but started back training and attempting a build at the end of December to try to figure it out.  Thankfully, in December the doc gave me a nerve block to help with the rear occipital lobe pressure headaches (due to my occipital bone pinching/pressing on my occipital nerve) and I was off & running, quite literally within a day or so of the nerve block.  I’m still not 100% but I’m so much better than I was and I just adjusted training accordingly & thankfully my bestie, Julie  M. really helped with the driving and travel to TX to keep my fatigue going into race day as low as possible.  So I should really dedicate this race to Dr. Kidder and Julie for all her help.  Huge thanks to both!

The Woodlands, TX is a beautiful area but its also busy.  Think major suburb of a large city, Houston in this instance.  And its named appropriately because there are quite literally trees and wooded areas everywhere.  Hard to even know what businesses are around because everything is hidden by trees.  That being said, everything was smooth and getting around was easy thanks to Google Maps.  Packet pick up was beside the canal in a parking area.  Hardest part of packet pick up was deciding where to park.  But once we figured that out, we saved that garage location as a favorite on our gps unit and parked there for EVERYTHING.  Plus it was nice because we could walk along the canal, where we would eventually be swimming, to get to the Ironman Village.

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Packet pick up was fast and easy.  No lines.  No weight stations, like we had in Lake Placid where they took our weight and recorded it for medical purposes.  This was both good cuz I’m a little fluffy still from the weight I gained during the post concussion “fun” and also bad because the heat was high and I was concerned that medical might actually need the participants weights due to dehydration issues on race day.  Julie M. and I at Ironman Village. 

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Lots of hotel options around the race site.  If you don’t mind spending the big bucks, you could have stayed at the Westin or Marriott on the canal and avoided the need for a rental car, if you flew into the area.  We had a car (and a budget) so opted for a hotel about 10-15 minutes away, the Homewood Suites by Hilton in Shenandoah (beware –  I’m a Hilton rewards member but opted to book thru Expedia  and they were not pleasant to me at check in, definitely gave preferential treatment to their rewards members and made us wait past check in time for a room while members were being checked in immediately.)  We had a suite with a full sized refrigerator, dishwasher, stovetop, dishes & fireplace which was $600 for 3 nights.  Plus they had nice grills in a common area for guest use.  This enabled us to take our own food, grocery shop, cook, eat, drink and rest without having to eat out and run around more than necessary.  I don’t love eating out before big races because I have a sensitive stomach.  I was feeling good and I wanted to keep it that way.  So we only ate out once, on Thursday for lunch, before the Saturday race.  Huge win for me!!  The room and location was perfect.

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Friday – Practice Swim, Short Run & Bike/Bag Check.  The weather was perfect for hanging out.  We headed to the swim start at Northshore Park on Friday morning for a short swim.  The water looked and felt amazing, even thought we had heard there were possible water “quality” issues, plus it was so much cleaner than the canal!!  Beautiful area for running too, with lots of trails and paths around the park.  So much shade!  We loved the run and couldn’t wait to get out there for the marathon on race day.  Yes, we are sick like that.  Also saw lots of friends, Julie’s Endure It crew, my TriDot people and other friends who were racing. 

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The swim start was about a mile from transition so after the we finished at the park, we drove down to transition to check our bikes and bags.  Once again, we expected long lines and a wait.  Nothing.  We parked.  Walked our bikes/bags to transition.  They check our bracelets to make sure we matched the numbers on our bikes and bags.  They took a photo of our bikes (for security reasons).  We were asked if we needed help.  Then we we were able to rack our bikes.  It was such a process with long lines and big wait times in Lake Placid that we were quite impressed with how quickly and smoothly it went.  We racked our bikes, let quite a bit of air out of our tires so they wouldn’t explode in the heat of the day Friday before we came back on Saturday morning.  Dropped our bags, and left.  Spent the rest of the day hanging out at the hotel and resting/relaxing/hydrating/eating.

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Race Day – My race

Saturday was race day.  We were up bright and early, headed to transition to put nutrition on our bikes, inflate tires to the proper point and take care of last minutes needs before hiking the mile to the swim start.  Everything was smooth.  Everyone was calm.  I was easily able to borrow a pump. Put my tailwind on my bike. FORGOT to put my Nuun tabs in my Tailwind, which I realized when we were checking our morning clothes bag at the swim start.  Thankfully Julie had a ziplock with her stuff.  So I swam with a tube of Nuun (in a ziplock) in my Tri top (under my wetsuit).  That’s another thing … WETSUIT LEGAL!  Yes, just makes the start of my day easier.  Thanks to the Triathlon Gods on that one because I was prepared to swim in my swimskin and it was a pleasant surprise.  

Swim (2.4 miles) – Race started on time.  Pros were off at 6:25 for the men, 6:30 for the women.  Age groupers started with a rolling self seeded start at 6:40am and it seemed smooth and easy getting into the water. I was stress-free and just ready to start.  I had hoped for a fast-ish swim (for me) since it was a single loop but I had heard this was one of the slower Ironman swims.  Course was easily broken down into 1/3s.  1/3 out, 1/3 back, 1/3 thru the canal. See below.  Start is at the top.  Finish at the bottom, furthest point.

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It was slower than I had anticipated.  But I also didn’t anticipate my goggles not sealing.  I stopped numerous times (5-6) to dump water out of my goggles and attempt to reseal them but it didn’t work.  I contemplated taking them off all together but didn’t think that would be a better.  Ultimately, I just kept swimming with limited vision and dirty water clouding my eyes.  I was sighting the bright green swim caps around me vs attempting to really “see” anything.  Progress was slow.  It took me awhile to get into a rhythm and I never felt completely comfortable with the vision issue.  I was VERY thankful to have a wetsuit at that point since I was stopping on and off to clear water from my goggles, which was absolutely pointless because they immediately filled back up with lake water. 

The course was crowded and never really thinned out the way that I had thought it would.  Sun was in our eyes on the back side of the course and particularly when we were turning into the channel leading to the canal.  Plus it really bottled up going into the canal and I was just locked into place where I was, not able to really pass anyone or speed up toward the finish.  We were all just “in line“ basically trying to get out of the water.  Eventually, a couple volunteers just reached down and pulled me out of the water.  My vision was very blurred by that point from the water, my left eye was covered with some sort of film and I was disoriented.  Thankfully volunteers pointed me to the wetsuit strippers and those ladies literally got me out of my wetsuit, I didn’t even have it unzipped since I was disoriented.  Good times!  But onto T1. 

Photos of the swim courtesy of the Ironman Texas Facebook page:

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Transition –  All the bags were lined up, in order, on the ground, in a concrete area.  We ran thru, grabbed our bags & went to the changing tent.  Super easy. Changing tent volunteers were super helpful, sprayed me with sunscreen, picked up all my swim stuff & rebagged it for me.  I left them with my bag & was off to find my bike.  I pulled out my Nuun canister, emptied the tabs into my hand, tossed the canister into a garbage can, all without missing a beat.  Found my bike, added Nuun to the Tailwind already on the bike, and I was off ….. with slightly blurred vision but it was already improving.

Bike (112 miles) – Lots of turns getting out of the area but eventually we were funneled onto the Hardy Toll Road for the majority of the bike.  This is labeled as a fast & flat course; however, there are several bridges that we climbed and descended numerous times.  On the IMTX Facebook page, I heard that there were 18 bridges that we climbed/descended.  I didn’t count but there were quite a few.

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Flat & fast?  Well, not totally flat with the bridges but it had the potential to be fast.  Apparently the course was short last year but that was corrected this year so we had a full 112 miles.  Once on the Hardy, it was a straight out (21ish miles) and back, 2x.  The “out” was into the wind and slow going.  The back was with the wind and fast.  In addition to fighting the wind on the first “out”, I was also fighting some serious nausea.  I should have been down in aero to fight the wind better but I was seriously ill and when I was down in aero, I was in the perfect position to “toss my cookies”.  I knew that was not in my best interest because the heat was quickly rising.  So I was upright, chewing pepto tabs like candy and holding in the nutrition that I had already put into my body.  I hit the turnaround, the nausea was gone, I had the wind at my back and I gave some serious thanks to the universe.  I stayed in high Zone 2 and even crept into Z3 as the wind quickly pushed me to the turnaround. 

Then back into the wind and that’s when the fun began.  I was in good spirits because I knew I only had to go 21ish miles and I could get an aided ride back but ….. I started cramping.  Serious cramping, like the kind that wakes you in the middle off the night and you jump out of bed with a leg or calf cramped up.  Serious.  And this would not go away.  I felt good otherwise so it was frustrating.  I can only assume that due to the heat, I managed to flush my own electrolytes by drinking too much water.  I had a lot of electrolytes in my nutrition but the cramps kept coming.  I stopped 8x for cramping, legs locked up, pulling my bike off the road, attempting to get out of my pedals before I tipped over.  Then I’d rub out my legs, and get started again, hoping that was the end of the cramping.  I also stopped 5 or 6 times at aid stations to get extra fluids & fuel (Gatorade & bananas).  I went thru all my Tailwind/Nuun concoction, used 8 Huma gels and drank 4 of the large Gatorades on course.  I knew I had an electrolyte issue and didn’t want to be ruined for the run.  There were not any salt tabs on the bike course because its not normal to need them out there.  I had salt tabs in my run bag.  I just needed to get back to transition to access them.  The last time my leg locked up at mile 105 and I just prayed to get back to T2.  I finally made it.  So thankful!!!  Grabbed my run bag in transition, headed to the run tent, immediately took 6 salt caps, changed, volunteer took my bag, I ran out.  Transition in Texas was easy.  They have a great set up. 

Photo below from somewhere on the bike course, thankfully not while I was grimacing in pain from leg cramps.

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Run  (26.2 miles) – 3 loop course.  So thankful to be running but it was hot, hot, hot.  A volunteer said it was 87 at one point when I hit an aid station.  Not that I asked, didn’t change my plan to merely survive this darn thing so I could get back home to my kids.  Just keep moving forward, right?

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The run course was full, mostly of athletes walking and spectators were everywhere, spilling out onto the course.  If you like people yelling at cheering for you while you run, then TX may be the Ironman course for you!  Lots of people.  Mostly drunk people, but lots of people.  It was hard to maneuver the course sections along the canal because of all the bodies.  The fast Iron people were done and meandering back to their hotel or car, with their crew of family/friends.  Some spectators were cheering and high fiving and entertaining the runners and crowds alike.  Kids.  Dogs.  Strollers.  Restaurant goers.  Bar patrons.  It was crazy.  But once we got away from the canal, it calmed down and the crowds thinned.  We ran a lot of shaded paths and trails thru the woods.  Those were my favorite parts, the quiet spots, away from the sun and the people.  And lots of room for me to just run.  And run, I did …. but slowly and with stops at every aid station for water, ice, pickles, coke, and chicken broth.  Ironman run aid stations are like a buffet.  Eat, drink, be merry.

Loop 1 was fun.  Loop 2 was long and I was in the nomads land of “am I ever going to finish this thing?”.  Loop 3 was a celebration for a long hard winter of trainer rides and questioning my own sanity.  But as always, if we just keep moving, the finish line finally comes into sight.  So sweet!! 

SWAG:

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Coveted backpack which Michael claimed for school as soon as he saw it:

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So how was it?  I liked it.  Organizers, police and volunteers did an amazing job!  Did I like it better than Ironman Lake Placid?  Hard to get better than Lake Placid.  Although the course is harder at LP because its in the mountains, its undeniably beautiful.  Always something to look at scenery wise in the swim, bike & run.  While I certainly can’t comment on what I “saw”during the TX swim, the bike was pretty blasé on the toll road.  Nothing to see, just keep moving. Wind was a factor which was a bit of an equalizer, in my opinion, for the lack of elevation. The run was entertaining in TX but a 2 loop course suits my personality better and since I’m a runner, I want to run with as little interference as possible.  I liked the TX run course because of the variety and overall, I think the run course was the best part of this particular race.  This would have been a great race for my mom & kids to spectate.  If you want more info on spectating IMTX, please go download the Crushing Iron Podcast #263 where Coach Robbie Bruce from C26 Coaching talks about his experience spectating. 

What You Should Know, If You’re Considering IMTX

  • Hot weather race.
  • Take extra fuel & electrolytes.  Plan to carry extra electrolytes on the bike.
  • If you are from the Northern or Midwestern states, plan to ride your trainer all winter long.  And then you’ll have to ride some more. Plan on IMTX being your first outdoor ride of the season.
  • Expect extra soreness/fatigue in your neck & shoulders from being outside and having to pay attention with your head up for the first time since last fall.
  • Water quality may be questionable (I’ve heard a lot of people got sick).
  • Expect wind on the bike.
  • Easy transitions.
  • Spectator friendly.
  • Great Finishers area, accessible to friends/family/spectators.
  • Easy bike pick up after the race because its possible to navigate around the race course to regain access to transition & the bikes/bags. 

Overall, a great race.  Definitely give it a “TRI” at Ironman Texas!

Next up for me:  1)  Revel Mt Hood Marathon in Portland OR on June 29th.  2)  Super Marathon in Snoqualmie Pass, WA on June 30th. 4) RAIN Ride, Terre Haute to Richmond IN on July 20th and 5) Ironman Arizona on November 24th.

Stats:  Ironman Texas was my 2nd full Ironman, which also included my 53rd marathon.  I’ve ran marathons in 31 states so far.  Texas was not a new state for me but it was for Julie, which is why we went.  Still slowly chipping away at my 50 states goal.  

** Happy Running & Racing  ** Amanda – TooTallFritz **

Charleston Marathon (2019) Race Review

I’ve had the Charleston Marathon on my list for years!  The race always falls on the second Saturday of January.  That’s a popular weekend for many races in the southern states.  Since my long term goal is to run a marathon in every state, I try to pick races that fit into my schedule AND are also in a new state.  I finally made it to Charleston this year to check off South Carolina, my 31st state.

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I was really looking forward to this race.  Charleston is one of my favorite places.  I love the location, the weather, the town and the people.  The city never disappoints and I basically begged my friends to go run the marathon with me because of those reasons.  Thanks, Tamyra & Julie for making the trip with me!

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We rolled into town on Friday for the Saturday (1/12/19) race.  The expo was in downtown Charleston at the Gaillard Center. Easy in/out.  Small expo.  Metered parking.  Cool SWAG.  A long sleeve tech tee, which is about the only type race tee that I actually wear, plus a buff & gloves!  All very useful.

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The race was on Saturday morning at 7:15am.  We stayed in a hotel that was close to the start and were able to walk over.  It was about 40 degrees with a cool breeze.  The start area was at a local high school.  Runners and spectators were able to wait inside & even use the school bathrooms, if they had time.   Race started on time and we began our 26.2 mile tour of the area.  First up, Hampton Park, the Citadel & the Battery (my favorite area).

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Then we turned down King Street, which is known as the art & shopping area.  New and old mixed together.  I loved this old pharmacy sign.

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Once we got thru the shopping district, we headed out of Charleston toward North Charleston.  I’ll be honest, the sightseeing kinda stopped when we left Charleston between mile 7 & 8.  It was a long way up to North Charleston, we did run thru some sort of Government area that allowed us to see some of the swampy areas but it was a lot of time with just us, the road & our fellow runners.  We made fast friends with those around us to pass the time.  There were a couple spots with live entertainment.  Aid stations (and potties) were every 2 miles or so.  Lots of water, Gatorade & GU brand gels.  The volunteers & police support were great.

The skies were overcast most of the day and the temps were 40s to low 50s.  Great weather for those of us who came from the northern states!

Once we got up to Riverfront Park in North Charleston, it was around mile 18. The half marathon runners turned off to finish, the full marathon runners went out and looped North Charleston.  This is the map from my watch, if you want to see the course.

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We could hear the finish line music and fun during a lot of the 8 mile loop around North Charleston and it was a welcoming return as we headed back to Riverfront Park.  Cute area & a great place for the finish line festival.

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The finish festival greeted us with music, food & several varieties of Sam Adams beer, plus mimosa’s.  Plenty of space to hang out with the family.  But the temps were cool and it was windy so we headed for the buses to shuttle us back to Charleston as soon as all of us finished.  No lines for the buses!  Huge win!   And just like that marathon #52 was in the books.

I was a bit disappointed that the race didn’t showcase more of the great city of Charleston.    Especially the bridges that go over the Coopers River.  So we got up early and went to run the Arthur Ravenel Bridge on Sunday morning before starting the drive home.  This bridge goes from Charleston to Mount Pleasant.  There is a walking/running/biking section on the bridge and it’s a popular spot, any day of the week.  My favorite time of day is always sunrise, so we started early enough to catch the sun coming up.

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If you want more information on Charleston, the bridge, or would like to see more photos, check out my previous post from a visit in 2015:  Charleston SC, I Ran That Town.

** Happy Running **  Amanda – TooTallFritz

Grand Rapids Triathlon 70.3 & The USAT Athena/Clydesdale National Championship – 2018

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The Grand Rapids Triathlon is held the 2nd weekend of June in Grand Rapids, MI.  This year, the race was on June 10, 2018.  The GR TRI has also been the host of the  Athena/Clydesdale National Championship race for the last several years. 

What’s an Athena?  An Athena or Clydesdale is a classification by USAT (USA Triathlon) that is defined by the weight of the athlete.  The athlete must be 165(+) lbs as a woman, or 225(+) for a man.  This type of classification is not found in all triathlon races.  Ironman races will NOT have an Athena/Clydesdale division.  Most other “non-branded” triathlons will follow USAT guidelines and offer it as an option.  If you are an athlete who meets the weight requirements you get to CHOOSE if you want to race in that division.  Its not a requirement.  You may race your normal age group, if you want.  If you choose to race Athena/Clydesdale, you are pulled out of your normal age group and added to the Athena division for which you qualify.  For Nationals, the divisions were:  39 & Under, 40-59 and 60+.

Is there an advantage to racing the Athena division?  Depends on the race.  This can be a very competitive group of athletes.  Just because an athlete is 165 lbs or more, does not mean they are not fast.  We all come in a different package.  We have different strengths & weaknesses.  We are individuals.  I think options are good.  Over the last 10+ years, I’ve seen so many of the non-branded races disappear and get gobbled up by the big dogs.  I like to support non-branded races so that we have more options.  As a result, I felt like it was also important to support the Athena/Clydesdale division at Nationals because if we don’t race that division, it too will disappear.  So, I raced Athena at the USAT National Championships in Grand Rapids.  Race Review below.  Feel free to discuss your opinion on the Athena/Clydesdales division in the comments.  I know its controversial and I’d love to hear your opinion. 

Grand Rapids Triathlon Race Review

I needed an early season 70.3 this year to prep for IM Lake Placid in July.  The early season race that I did a couple years ago (Cutting Edge Half Triathlon 70.3 in Effingham, IL) was no longer in operation.  My options were Grand Rapids or the IM 70.3 Wisconsin in Madison.  Grand Rapids was closer.  Non-branded.  Cheaper.  And home of the 2018 Athena/Clydesdales National Championships. It was an easy decision for me to try Grand Rapids and I am so glad I did! 

It was a 2.5 hour drive to Grand Rapids from the Ft Wayne, IN area.  Straight to packet pick-up.  Plenty of free parking.  Decent sized expo.  Several vendors.  Organized packet pick up & race meeting.  Lots of SWAG.  Race number tattoos!!  Plus a separate area for the Athena/Clydesdale athletes to go for packet pick up and weigh in.  Yes, we all had to weigh in to participate in the championships.  Since my predominant distance is the 70.3, there aren’t a lot of non-branded races that offer that distance.  Therefore, I race Ironman more often than not.  In Ironman, as mentioned above, there is NOT an Athena division.  So I haven’t had much opportunity to race this division.  I was not surprised that I had to weigh in but I was surprised that they had the scales behind a privacy screen.  Everything was very nicely done & respectful in regards to recording our weight.  If we did not weigh in at least 5 lbs over the minimum (170(+) at the expo), then we would have to reweigh on race morning, in our race kit.  Shoes off for the weigh in!  They were very determined to make sure that everyone met the weight requirement.  Not an issue for me.  I did not have to reweigh on race morning. Smile   Photo below from GR TRI Facebook page – if you are one of these lovely ladies in this picture, let me know so I can tag you!

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Race morning.  There were various parking areas around the race site in Ada, MI.  We parked at the Amway Headquarters, then put our transition bags on our back and rode to the race site.  Maybe a mile or so.  The other option was walking or being dropped off, if you had spectators/shepras.  Spectators could take a shuttle but no bikes on the shuttles!  We did ride to the race site in the dark but it was drama free on closed roads which were partially lit.  The weather was cool & overcast.  And there was nothing but smooth water looking out at the inlet of the Thornapple River where we would be swimming. 

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Transition was LONG and narrow.  Very long.  The 70.3 athletes were positioned closest to the “bike out”.  Good news for us.  Transition spaces were not marked individually, just a series of numbers per rack.  First come, best spot!  I got an end spot!  Leslie B’s mom got a picture of a few of us setting up transition.  I’m in the rear right of the photo, my side/back is to the camera.  I’m in a navy & orange kit.

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Team Stella Fly got this photo below of transition, from the front.  I was down the line much further, past the yellow port-o-potty.  This might be 1/3 of transition.  Maybe.  I was WAY past the potties.  But great shot! 

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Swim started at 7am sharp.  1.2 miles.  The Athenas & Clydesdales were in the first wave and we had fresh, calm water ahead of us!!  Of course, it didn’t take long for the 2nd wave to catch up but it was still nice.  5 minutes between each wave.  Start is below (from the GR TRI Facebook page):

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Heading toward a yellow buoy hidden by the trees.  Maybe I’m in there somewhere?  Photo courtesy of GR TRI Facebook page.

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Out of the water in record time (for me!!), even though I swam a little extra.  Smile  Straight to the wetsuit strippers.  Such a nice perk!  I love races with wetsuit strippers.  Since I hurt my back a couple years ago, getting in and particularly OUT of my wetsuit is a real challenge.  The “strippers” really help me so much!!  Thank you!!!!

Long dash to transition, then THRU transition.  Trying not to crash into anyone from the shorter races who were leisurely walking thru the area before their races.  Heart rate was definitely up by the time I got to my spot!  Wetsuit & swim cap down.  Goggles …..ooops, lost my goggles somewhere.  Helmet on.  Glasses.  Shoes.  Go, go, GO!  Out of transition.  Bike mount line.  Plenty of room but its always important to focus on getting on the bike, clipping in correctly and not rushing too much and hurting yourself or anyone else.  I’ve seen so many accidents on or around the bike mount line over the years.  And the people who do the flying mounts, well …. good luck, I’m just going to move to the side and safely mount my bike.  I’m not “flying” anywhere.  Winking smile 

Bike course is an out and back.  56 miles. Lots of volunteers.  Most roads had police or volunteers to direct traffic.  Thank you!!!  A few hills.  2 aid stations (that we hit 2x).  Headwind going out.  Tailwind coming home.  6 miles of VERY rough road at the turnaround.  OUCH. 

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Slow first half.  Faster 2nd half.  My legs were toast the entire time. Quads were BURNING.  I had a poor bike split.  Whether my back is to blame.  Or my training volume for Lake Placid.  Or maybe something was just off, not really sure, but it was a tough day on the bike.  I wasn’t 1/3 of the way into it and both feet were numb & my left hip/glute/hamstring were screaming at me.  I had to be VERY careful when I dismounted my bike and ran back into transition on numb feet.  I was wondering how long the feet would stay numb.  It was a very odd sensation, one I haven’t had before, but alas it passed once I put on my run shoes & got going.  So thankful!  Awesome volunteers below as we were approaching T2.  Pic courtesy of the GR TRI Facebook page.  I just love FB, don’t you?!?!

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I hustled thru T2 as much as possible with numb feet, dodging people who weren’t in as big of a hurry as myself.  But it wasn’t horrible.  Bike back on rack.  Helmet, glasses off.  Shoes on, slowly cuz well, my feet where NUMB.  WTHeck?!?  Race belt.  Visor, no, I don’t need the visor today.  Go, go, GO! 

Out of T2 & onto the run.  Thank the good Lord, I’m off that damn bike.  I have a love hate relationship with the bike.  I love my bike.  Its good to me.  It’s a great bike.  I just want to be better.  A lot better.  And I don’t really understand why its so freaking hard for me?!?!  But I’m running now.  2 loops.  Out and back course.  Aid stations every 1.5 miles.  4 total aid stations on course, which we passed 2x.  Lots of support out there.  Lots of food. Ice.  Water.  Coca Cola.  2 hills, which we passed 2x.

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I like loop and out/back type courses specifically when I have friends racing.  I did get to see several people on the run, some I saw 2x.  I was motivated to not let one of my fast teammates pass me on the run.  So I did push a bit faster than I probably would have normally, just trying to get around that first loop before he passed me to finish.  I made it.  Whew!  Overall a great day.  It was overcast most of the day which helps me a lot.  I melt in the heat.  It wasn’t cool but it wasn’t hot.  And I had the overcast skies on my side. 

Overall, I thought Grand Rapids was a top notch race.  I’ll definitely go back.  I was impressed.  Great area.  Well organized.  Lots of support and volunteers.  Vendors.  Lower fees than branded races.  GREAT swag!  And I was fortunate to be part of the Clydesdale & Athena National Championships where I placed 2nd in my division!  WhooHooooo!

SWAG – Race Tank, Finishers Visor, Event poster, Athena/Clydesdale National Championship water bottle, Quench Gum, HexArmor Cold Rush cooling towel, plus a few other things from the expo.  See photo below.

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2nd place Athena – 40-59 Division.  Me, Leslie B & Nikki W on the podium.  My friend Andé from IL, also got 2nd (with a MUCH faster time) in the 39 & Under Division.  Great to see old friends & make some new ones!

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Up close.  Green medal is the finishers medal for the GR 70.3 with the Clydesdale/Athena National Championship lanyard.  USAT medal for placing top 3 in the National Championships.  2nd place plaque for my division from GR TRI. 

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The Grand Rapids Triathlon is partnered with MI Titanium.  They offer a Double Down Challenge for anyone who does both races.  I guess I’m headed to MI Titanium now on August 19th.  Gotta get that Double Down medal and check out the MI Titanium race.  I’ve heard great things and am looking forward to another race with this group.  Hope to see you there!  Like Grand Rapids TRI, there are a lot of distances & options to choose from, even Aquabike & Duathlon if you don’t like to swim!  See you in August!

Next up:  Ironman Lake Placid on July 22, 2018.

Happy TRIing ** Amanda – TooTallFritz

Muncie May Triathlon – Muncie, IN

It can be a bit challenging to find an early season triathlon that gives you everything you want and more!  I registered for the Muncie May Triathlon this year after my beloved Pokagon Triathlon was discontinued.  This race is put on by American Multisport & is in Muncie, IN.  This group puts on several triathlons throughout the year, of varying distances, with races taking place at the Prairie Creek Reservoir.  This is the same location as the IM 70.3 Muncie event that is held each year in July.  Great way to check out the venue in a low key setting.

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The Muncie May event is in mid May, May 12th for 2018 and May 18th for 2019.  One of the first open water events in the Midwest.  However, the Prairie Creek Reservoir is on the shallow side so the water heats up quickly with a few nice days.  The race this year was wetsuit legal with water temp around 63 degrees.  That being said, many events at the reservoir are NOT wetsuit legal, so watch for current info on their website & Facebook page

So what’s the scoop on this race?!?! 

The Muncie May TRI is a great event for athletes of  varying abilities.  They offer an Olympic distance, Oly relay, Sprint, Sprint Relay, Super Sprint, Duathlon, Du Relay, Sprint Du, Sprint Du relay, & Aquabike.  That’s a lot of options and I hope I didn’t miss anything! 

Race starts at 9am with a race day packet pickup option.  Therefore, you can easily drive in the morning of the event if you are within 3 hours of Muncie.  Packet pick-up was easy & quick.  Body marking on site.  Practice swim area open and available to those who want it.  And the water is usually pretty calm.

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Small intimate venue at Prairie Creek Reservoir.  Indoor bathrooms & showers.  On site parking.  If you’ve only been to the Reservoir for the IM event, then go back for an American Multisport event.  Totally different atmosphere.  Small parking area.  Small transition area.  Very low key race at the same great venue. 

Races start at 9am.  Super sprint first, then sprint, then Olympic.  I did the Olympic and the times estimates were a bit off as to when we got in the water.  They waited for everyone in the previous category to get out of the water before the next group got started.  Safety first!  Then we self seeded and got into the water in pairs.  Very easy.  No drama. No fighting.  Nobody swam over the top of me.

Once we hit the water, it was noticeably rough on this particular day.  The wind was really blowing and the current in the water was pushing us off course a bit.  Tougher swim that usual at this venue.  The swim was counter clockwise too, opposite direction of the IM event.  1.5K swim for the Olympic, which is 1600 yds.  I swam 1800 though just for fun, or maybe I had trouble staying on course with the wind & waves.  Smile

Once out of the water, there was a short run to transition.  Small transition but it wasn’t chaotic.  Smooth sailing in and out.  Then on to the bike course which had some new pavement!  Olympic distance was a 2 loop bike course.  The wind which gave us some hassle in the swim was in full force on the bike.  Yes!  Love a challenge, right?  A few tiny hills but only 577 ft of ascent on the two loops and a total of 25.3 miles. 

Back to transition for T2.  Just as easy as T1.  Not crowded.  Easy in and out.  On to the run which was an out and back course for the 10K.  Same route as the IM event in July.  Small rolling hills.  213 ft of elevation gain for the 10K.  Warm.  Its always warm. There is a bit of shade on the back side of the out/back but overall, its usually sunny in this area.  Make sure to not forget a hat or visor.  This venue is good about having ice due to its notoriously warm runs.  So ask for ice, even if you don’t see it out.  I did and they did have some in coolers.  Took me an extra minute at a couple of the aid stations but it was worth it because I heat up fast. 

Overall a GREAT race.  I’ll definitely be back.  Registration is open for 2019 and I’m considering registering early for that event.  I’m also looking at my calendar to see if I can fit in another American Multisport event before the year is out.  Lots to choose from between now & September.  And bottom line, if we like our “non-branded” events, we need to support them by showing up and racing so they stick around for years to come.  Too many great races have been discontinued because of lack of participation!  So let’s race American Multisport!!

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Other than a great race, they also provide great SWAG.  See below for the pullover & finishers medal.  I’m wearing the pullover right now.  Lightweight & perfect!

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My next race is the Grand Rapids TRI.  Another “non-branded” event.  Sprint, Oly, 70.3 & Aquabike in each distance. Still time to register!  Race is on June 10th.  Hope to see you there!!

** Give it a TRI ** Amanda – TooTallFritz

Tobacco Road Marathon Race Review

Its been six weeks since the Tobacco Road Marathon but I still want to review the race for those who might be interested in putting this on their future calendar. 

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The Tobacco Road Marathon was on March 18, 2018 in Cary, NC.  Close to Durham & Chapel Hill.  The race venue is the Thomas Brooks Park & USA Baseball Fields.  Race is  traditionally held on a Sunday and requires travel to the area on Friday or Saturday to pick up race packets.  Small expo at a local hotel.  Easy & fast, in and out.  A few vendors, like my favorite girl, Gypsy Runner

If your traveling with the family, there isn’t a lot to do in this area (or maybe we just didn’t know where to look?).  Beautiful area though.  New neighborhoods.  Nice homes.  Cute boutique like shopping areas.  Nice.

Race day started bright and early like always.  Getting to the race site required some planning.  There was a local pick up area in Cary called NetApp, where people could park & get shuttled to/from the race site.  There were a few onsite parking spots that required pre-purchased parking passes.  Then there was runner drop off at the venue.  Fortunately, my daughter now has her license.  GASP!  She was able to drop me off, then drive back to the hotel with her little brother, then return to pick me up.  This race would have been challenging, logistics wise (as a mom with kids & no other adult to supervise), had she not been able to drive.  I’ve taken them to a lot of races & I usually pick a hotel on the race course or close to the start/finish so they can sleep in at the hotel, then come to the race when they are ready.  This race started at the park, then ran to the American Tobacco Trail, stayed on the American Tobacco Trail, then ran back to the park for the finish.  You need access to a car to get to packet pick up and to/from the race.  No shuttles for local hotels.  No way to spectate without access to a car.

On to the race!  The important part, right?  Please note that the majority of these photos are courtesy of Amy at Gypsy Runner.  I wanted to ring the PR bell, so knew I couldn’t waste time with photos.  Thanks, Amy for always helping me out!  I love seeing your smiling face at expos and out on the marathon courses! 

We got to the race early.  The race started at 7am but the parking areas shut down at a certain time.  I think they wanted everyone in the parking area by 5:30 so that the shuttle buses could come/go without issue.  It was cool.  Probably upper 40s at the start and while we were waiting.  I rarely take throw away clothes but did this time because I wasn’t planning to check a bag.  The plan was to run the race, finds the kids, leave.  We were headed to Disney World for Spring Break & this was just a pit stop for momma to grab another state! 

The race started promptly at 7am.  Start/Finish area was easy to find, just down from the row of port-o-potties.  It was still dark when we started the race but the area was well lit around the bathrooms & the start/finish area.  Photo courtesy of the Tobacco Road Marathon Facebook page:

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We left Thomas Park with an incline to get out of the park and onto the road.  Key to remember because that’s a downhill to the finish line!  Couple other rolling hills in the 2.5 miles from the park to the American Tobacco Trail.  Then the marathoners had 21 miles on the ATT.  Very few turns.  If you are ever afraid of getting lost, this is the type of race for you.  There was never any question as to where to go or where to turn.  It was very well ran, volunteers were great.  All road crossings were patrolled. 

The race was advertised as fast & flat.  As a Midwest gal, I know flat.  Any race that claims to be flat, will probably have more hills than I can get when I make an effort to FIND hills to run.  I wasn’t sure what to expect with this race.  I will say that it was pretty flat.  There were a few rollers to/from the ATT.  Once on the ATT (where we ran 21 of the 26.2 miles), it was pretty flat.  This was an old rail trail.  So the inclines/declines were not visible, you’d just feel it in your legs.  On a slight decline, you could feel the load lighten and the pace got easier.  On the incline, you couldn’t really “see” it but you could tell you were going up because it took more effort to hold the pace.  But honestly, I heard some people complain post race about the elevation, Garmin showed 735 ft of gain, Strava showed 819 ft for the entire race.  Small gains & losses over time.

The ATT was a mix of crushed limestone and asphalt. Mostly tree lined with giant pines which provided a break from the wind and the sun.  Temps started in the upper 40s but climbed to the 60s while we ran.  Humidity was low to non-existent.  I don’t do well in heat & humidity so while I did notice that it was getting warmer toward the end, it didn’t effect my performance.

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There were 9 aid stations on course, most of which we hit 2x since the trail was an out and back.  All stations were well stocked with fluids, food items & there were port-o-potties! 

On the ATT, we headed out to the north initially, then flipped between mile 8 & 9.  Then headed back south, past our point of entry until another turn around between mile 18 & 19.  As always, that last turn around always feels great.  I also am a huge fan of out and backs, particularly when I know people running.  Watching the other runners makes me happy. I like to encourage them, cheer for the fast people at the front & it distracts me from the task at hand. 

Not a ton of spectators.  Logistics put most spectators at a trail head that intersected with a road we were crossing.  Some dogs.  A few signs.  But everyone was enthusiastic & encouraging. 

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I really liked this race.  I picked it for a few reason.  Fast, flattish, few turns, smaller number of runners & the fact that most of it was on a rail trail which would feel a lot like my old training runs.  Some people run better on Saturday mornings with their friends than at big venues with long waits & a bazillion spectators.  I’m probably more of the Saturday morning girl than the “wait & shiver for 2 hours before the major marathon” girl. 

I knew I wanted to try to run faster since I’m not allowed many races this year.  I’m in the midst of training for Ironman Lake Placid.  When I run less races, I’m faster.  No brainer there.  And my back is feeling the best it has in several years.  I’m not 100% but to be honest, this is probably as good as its going to get.  Also, it was important to plan and execute a race strategy, just to know that I can do it.  After Lake Placid, I’m going to take a break and then see if I can qualify for Boston.  This race time was not anywhere what I need to run a BQ but it was all about planning & executing. 

I did have a snafu leading up to the race (pulled something in my foot) so went with Plan B vs Plan A, in the name of being smart & facing down a lot more training for Lake Placid in the next few months.  I started with the 4:10 pacers with the plan of running away from them before the finish.  I figured I could easily gain a couple minutes and drop into a 4:08 before I hit the line, if I was smart.  That’s really the hardest part, being smart.  And patient.  The first half of the race feels so easy, its hard not to just go with it and run faster.  Well, take my advice, going faster than the plan is a good way to blow up.  I used to run less races & try to go faster but I always blew up.  I would go out too fast!  Every time.  That’s really how I started running more races.  I decided that I worked too hard for ONE race, for it not to end in the result I wanted.  I decided I could run  A LOT of races and have a A LOT of fun, and  really my times weren’t any slower than going out too fast & blowing up. 

Anyhow, shout out to the 4:10 pacers.  They did a great job.  I even dropped back 2 different times to get something out of my FlipBelt.  The one pacer checked on me both times & basically “yelled at me” to close the gap & regain contact.  I will say that the added pressure that someone was waiting on me did help to make sure I didn’t fall off pace.  They even told the runners to start floating away from them as we got close to the finish, that a pacers job was to finish alone, on time, with all their runners ahead of them.  Smile  I had already started moving ahead after we got off the ATT in the last 2.5 miles.  That was the last thing I heard them say as I was pulling away.  And I was able to ring the PR Bell at the finish!  4:08:09 was my chip time.  Good day!

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Overall a great race.  There were 1088 full marathoners that started the day, 884 finishers.  The half started 2277 runners & 2202 finished.  Great race, if you are looking for a fast run.  Since most of the race is on the trail, the camber of the road is not as much of an issue as in other races.  Not too crowded. Just enough aid & support.  Low entry fee!  Definitely a good one. 

This was my 27th state, 49th marathon.  My 50th marathon will be at the end of Ironman Lake Placid.  Now that’s going to hurt.  LOL!

** Hope you are all healthy & running happy ** Amanda – TooTallFritz

The Huff 50K Trail Run …. 2017 Edition

Saturday was the annual Huff 50K Trail Run.  Huff is known for bringing something new and unique each year.  The 2012 race brought epic flooding.  2016 brought 6 inches of fresh powder to the start and then added freezing rain atop the snow (and us) for the entirety of the race.  2017 will go down in history as one of the coldest years on record.  Temps at the start were below zero with wind chills, then plummeted further thru the day for an average of –13 to –15 “feels like” during the bulk of the race.  It was a long day for those who were able to finish and there was a large number of runners who had to drop out, or were not allowed to continue after the completion of the first loop, due to weather related concerns.

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The Huff 50K offers a 1 loop “fun run” of approximately 11 miles, a 3 person 50K relay & a 50K trail run.  I’ve ran, and managed to complete, the 50K every year since 2013.  I’ve had good years & bad years.  Ones that were tough because I wasn’t up to par physically.  Ones that were brutal due to weather like 2016 & 2017.  I love this race and will continue to run it as long as I am able.  It’s a great way to end my racing season each year.  Its close to home.  And  love that we can pick up our packets the morning of the race!  Win, win, win!

This year, due to the cold temps, I left my phone in my check bag.  My iPhone has a very short battery life & the cold kills it almost instantly.  None of the photos you see in this post are mine.  Thanks to Tadd B, Stacey H & Sara P for sharing their photos so I could add something visual to this write-up!.

Pre-race with Tadd B & Pat H.  I’m the one in bright orange. 

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The race started at 8am for the 1 loop runners.  At 8:20 for the 50K runners.  The course is different for each race.  For the 50K race, there are 3 aid stations on each loop.  Located at miles 4, 8 & 14.  Then the warming tent at the start/finish which is also the half way point of the 50K can be used as an aid station.  Other than the aid stations, there are only a few road crossings.  This is not a race that you can cut short in very many places if an injury, illness or other issues result.  I heard some criticism from some who were not allowed to go out for a second loop of the 50K due to time & weather issues.  I can say from a safety standpoint, it was imperative to have runners off the trail by dark.  Then if we add in the weather concerns, the second loop of the 50K was cold. Really cold.  Plus the trails were drifting from the blowing wind & snow.  It was a bit of a challenge.   I had to have my face covered almost the entirety of that loop to avoid frostbite. Our bodies were burning extra energy to try to keep warm, in addition to the running, so fueling was a huge issue.  And the volunteers at the aid stations were FREEZING trying to support us.  More respect needs to be given to the race officials and volunteers for these races.  Nobody wants to cancel or shorten a race.  Its bad publicity, especially in this age of social media.  However, they are liable for each and every runner.  They have to do what they think is best for everyone, runners & volunteers included.

We had about 3” of snow on the ground.  Flurries during the race. Roads were iced over with a little snow on top.  It was a much better situation running wise than the deeper snow and freezing rain of 2016.  However, it was still a tough race.  Tough but beautiful.IMG_5751

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Lots of hills.  Lots of slipping and sliding.  Running for most of us was slow going.  I was amazed by the varying degrees of dress.  I was focused on keeping my face covered to avoid frost bite, yet there were people running in shorts, or less.  The conditions were dangerous.  I wouldn’t recommend running with exposed skin when the temps are below zero. 

Sara & I in the pines on loop 1.  One of my favorite areas. 

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Pure joy as we cross the half way mat (after I stopped to put on my yaktrax). 

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And then the wind hit us.  Cold.  Strong.  Blowing us around.  Trying to cover the tracks of those before us.  Time to put our heads down and just run.  The yaktrax were a welcome addition to loop 2.  They helped A LOT in the areas that were packed down and in the slippery areas.  I wish I had worn them for the first loop but thought the snow was probably too deep for them to do much good.  I’ll definitely wear them for all snowy trail runs going forward.  My footing was a lot better after I put them on. 

The wind made the temperature drop further but I was warm.  My clothing was perfect:  Athleta Polartec tights, Injinji over the calf compression socks, thin Under Armour Long Sleeve Infrared tech shirt, Nike Pro Hyper Warm Fleece Lined 1/2 Zip, Saucony Vita Run Vizipro jacket, ear band, hat, balaclava, lined gloves with a an extra pair of throw away gloves that had hand warmers inside.  I used the throw away gloves with hand warmers at the start for a several miles, then again on loop 2 after a lengthy stop at an aid station.  Only difference between loop 1 & loop 2 was that I had to keep my face covered the majority of the second loop due to the added wind. 

Best Aid Station Ever at Dock Lake.  Team Tritanium ran the aid station again with the Huff Couch.  Two fires were burning.  Smores, gluten free chicken noodle soup, homemade sweet bread, plus the usual ultra fare. 

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But really the best part is always the finish.  My 5th Huff 50K is in the done column.  I hope to be back for #6 in 2018.  See the finishers medal and cool handmade soup mug below.  Lots of fun. 

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Finisher stats:  50K – 118 Finishers, 57 DNFs; 1 Loop Fun Run:  139 Finishers, 5 DNFs.  Relay – 24 Finishing teams, 5  DNFs, 3 DQs. 

As always, a great race.  If you are going to run in the winter, I’d recommend layering up and minimizing exposed skin.  There will always be people running with very little on but honestly, that’s just not safe. Be smart & enjoy the beauty of the season.  Running is a great way to get out and enjoy the winter months and keep those Winter Blues away!

** Happy Running ** Amanda – TooTallFritz

Wildwood Trail Marathon Race Review– Wildwood MO

I ran the Wildwood Trail Marathon in Wildwood MO on Sunday.  It was my 47th marathon (or longer).  I’m a runner who loves to run.  I love the trails and the serenity.  However, I’m not a real trail runner.  Let’s not squabble over the fact that “if I run trails, then I’m a trail runner”.  You know what I mean.  I’m a road runner.  I enjoy the road under my feet.  A solid surface that does not move.  One where I probably won’t trip over something that I can’t see because its covered by a forest of leaves.  One where sharp rocks don’t jut out at every step.  One where if I fall, I won’t stress about sliding down the bluff in the process.  Road runner.  Yep, that’s me. 

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Now that is has been clarified that I’m a road runner, my report follows. 

The Wildwood Trail marathon is self described as scenic & fast.  Good for road and trail runners, experienced and beginners alike. I’ve ran a lot of road races, plus my fair share of trail races.  So I feel well versed and able to give a realistic point of view.  Scenic, yes, in spots.  It’s a beautiful run thru the woods.  This race, unlike others I have ran, consisted of a lot of rock based trails.  Most trail runs are on dirt trails.  Wildwood has a lot of rock.  Not to make this too simple but the bluffs are made of rock.   The dirt wears away & only rock is left in spots.  Second pic below shows it well.  That looks like a well worn dirt trail, right?  No.  Its solid rock.  Somewhat smooth surface in some spots.  Jagged rocks sticking out in other spots.  Pics below are from the Bluff View Trail.

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The race started at a school, right off the Hamilton-Carr paved trail.  Then we hit a crushed stone & dirt type trail called the Al Foster Memorial Trail.  This lead us to the first detour, the Bluff View Trail which was about 2 miles into the race.  That’s where things started to get interesting.  The trail (seen above) was 2.5 miles of single track, some slanted to one side or the other, winding up the Bluff for an awesome lookout.  The Bluff View Trail provided some of the most scenic views of the day to the Crescent Valley below.

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After climbing the Bluff Trail, we made a small loop & returned the same way we went up. I must say that after staring at the course map for days, I really didn’t understand it.  But thankfully, the race was marked very well and there was never a question as to where we were headed.  Course map below.  One note, it would have been super helpful if the course map had mile markers.  For those of us unfamiliar with the area, we never really knew where we were at any given moment.  I had the map in my head but as you are climbing, climbing, climbing and maneuvering the switchbacks, everything is very focused.  It would have been great to know that I just had to manage the climb/terrain until mile x, then I would get some relief. 

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December can be tricky but we had a beautiful day with the sun shining on us.  Made me happy.

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Dry trails.  Leaves cushioning the rock.  And a few breathtaking views.  After the Bluff Trail, we hit the Rock Hollow Trail with the infamous Zombie Heights.  This was by far the toughest section (on the map it’s the tall section of zig zags, middle of the map) and I was zombie like, just watching the ground and trying to navigate the terrain.  Rock, switchbacks, lots of technical sections, all on a single track of rock and/or dirt.  We spent a lot of time hiking in this section for safety reasons.  My legs felt good but I can only go as fast as I feel safe.  I’m not a super coordinated person.  I’m not exactly clumsy but I do try to be careful.  So we saw a lot of 20  minute miles in this section.  Took forever to get thru it.  This was approximately mile 6 through 14.  Pics below of this section show the varied terrain.

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After Rock Hollow and Zombie Heights, we had a nice flat section back on the Al Foster Memorial Trail heading to Sherman Beach.  Easy terrain.  Well packed.  Fast section. 

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Sherman Beach was a hot spot.  By the time we got there, a lot were already headed back to the finish.  Lucky them.  But this was an important area.  First, the only port-o-potty on course was here. It was also the 3rd & 4th aid station.  And this is where the cut-off happened.  Once passing thru the Sherman Beach aid station (mile 15.5ish), there was a 7.5 mile loop.  We had to be back to that aid station by 2:30pm or we wouldn’t be allowed to finish.  Technically we had plenty of time.  But if we ran into a section of 20 min miles, then the cutoff was in jeopardy.  I must say this is the first time I ever really thought about a cutoff (in any race) and it was stressful! 

Leaving Sherman Beach we had a short section of flat, well groomed trails.  Then we hit the tunnels.  Concrete, manmade tunnels.  I had to bend over and walk thru them, they were short in height and long in length.  A volunteer on a bike told us that he would see us in 2 miles, once we hit the tunnels.  Must say this might have been the longest 2 miles of my life.  The tunnels lead to the Cedar Bluff Trail.  Obviously a short 2 mile jaunt.  Not as technical as the Zombie Heights but we had to be on our toes. And we were apparently rushing because of the cutoff.  Both my run partner & myself fell in this section.  Hard.  Blood & bruises the result. 

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Once we were back to the tunnels, things got much better.  We hit a network of trails by the Meramec River.  These trails consisted of dirt & sand.  Well groomed.  Lots of people riding bikes, walking dogs & hanging out.

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And then eventually the Stinging Nettle trail which was a sand trail taking us back to the 4th aid station at Sherman Beach.  Well AHEAD of the cutoff.  Smile   Tamyra below on the Stinging Nettle trail.

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After Sherman Beach, there was an easy, flat run back to the finish on the Al Foster & Hamilton Carr trails.  Photographer caught us in this section.  Yep, I’m dirty.  I fell down somewhere along Cedar Bluff.

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This marathon was approximately 25.77 miles.  If you are a 50 States Marathon Club runner who is trying to run all the states, don’t use this one for Missouri or you’ll be short & it won’t count.  Trail runs are always questionable in distance since you go where the terrain takes you.  Very normal. 

So, was this race scenic & fast?  Yes. Obviously scenic.  But its also one of the faster trail marathons that I’ve ran thanks to several flat sections where you can run faster.  Good for beginners & experienced runners alike?  Maybe.  The flat sections help a lot.  But there was a lot of technical spots too.  Anyone can do it.  But they really have to be invested in it.  So yes, good for anyone as long as they are committed & ready to go the distance no matter what the trails present.

Overall, great race.  Great volunteers.  Only 4 aid stations.  Stocked with trail running basics:  Coca Cola, Ginger Ale, peanut M&Ms, cookies, pretzels, oranges, pickles, electrolytes, Hammer gels.  Water & Heed (a Hammer product).   This was a cup free event so everyone needed a handheld, water bottles or collapsible cups to utilize the fluids on course. 

Small event.  I had read before race day that there were 209 entrants.  Not exactly how the results panned out.  I’m not sure if everyone was listed but they show 89 finishers.  I was #81 (6 hrs 30 min).   3 DNFs.  8 DNS. Winning male:  2:52.  Winning female:  3:44.  So it was apparently a fast race for some.  Smile Cutoff was 8 hours.  Last finisher was 7 hrs 51 min.

SWAG:  Beanie, Hammer gels, Hammer Endurolytes, sample pack of Biofreeze, finishers medal & FREE race photos.

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That’s a wrap on this marathon!  If your interested in trail running, I’ll link to some of my other trail runs below.  The hardest I’ve done so far is the Eugene Curnow Trail Marathon in Duluth, MN.  That race is the warm up for the Minnesota Voyageur 50 miler.  God help those 50 milers.  They are tougher than me!  My second hardest trail marathon was the Dances with Dirt Devil’s Lake Trail Marathon in Baraboo, WI.  Easiest trail run/ultra was the Lakefront 50K in Chicago.  If you  need a fast 50K time, go to Chicago.  Race is on a paved path along Lake MI.  Fun.  Easy. 

Trail Race Reviews (minus the 2014 Huff 50K, which apparently I didn’t write up?!?):

Next up the 2017 Huff 50K on 12/30.  Then I rest. 

Happy Running, all!  ** Amanda – TooTallFritz