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

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Huff 50K Race Report – 2015

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My third Huff 50K is in the books!  As I mentioned on the TTF Facebook page yesterday, this is a race that just makes me proud to run.  Proud of myself for going back to a tough race year after year.  Proud of my run friends who brave the elements and trails, when they would rather be pounding pavement.  Proud of the other participants who are constantly encouraging and showing the newbies what trail running is all about.  Proud of the race organizers for delivering a great race over and over again.  The Huff 50K is a class act.  Pic below from top is the 2013, 2014 & 2015 belt buckles.  Maybe I should buy a belt?

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This event is at Chain O Lakes State Park in Albion, IN.  It offers a 50K, 50K Relay & a one loop option (10.8 miles).  Lots of choices.  The trails are well groomed, wider, not single track like many trials.  This is a great event for beginner trail runners and a great course to run side by side with a friend/partner.  Aid stations are spaced about 4 miles apart and there are bathrooms and/or port-o-potties at 4 of the 5 aid stations.  This is huge and not the case with all trail races.  I would recommend carrying your own water to manage hydration between aid stations.  Trail shoes are recommended by not required.  I like to use gaiters over my shoes to keep leaves and debris out of my shoes/socks but these are not a necessity either.  This is a very user friendly trail event.  No fancy equipment required.

There were a few changes for 2015 both at the organizational level and on the course.  I think everything went very smoothly.  My brain struggled with the new course, always trying to figure out which way we went last year, but I just followed the pink markers and it went well.  No idea if this course was easier than years past but this was our fastest year thus far at Huff (6:50 finish).  There were a lot more markers this year and even a few spots where they put up tape so that runners didn’t get off course inadvertently.  Nice touches that I really think helped the comfort level of the newer trail runners.  I never had an issue before at this event but I’m an “eyes to the ground” trail runner so that I can watch my footing and the trail markers.  The new course and markings allowed for more social running without fear of missing a turn off.  I think Huff is a social trail race.  So many people sign up because their friends are going, even if they have never ran trails before ….. and that’s why its FUN.  New course below.

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Great aid stations.  If you haven’t ran an ultra or trail marathon before, you might want to do so just for the food.  There is candy, m&ms, twizzlers, cookies, fig newtons, pb&j quarters, potato chips, pretzels, soups, boiled potatoes with salt, coke, water, gatorade, lemon bars and one spot was even grilling hamburgers.  So much food.  I didn’t bother carrying any gels and my tummy thanked me for eating real food.  Spirits were particularly high on the first loop.   Myself, Tamyra & Julie getting ready to tackle the hill in the background.  Hills, smillz.

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We ran the first loop in 3 hrs 15 minutes, which was my goal.  Then I thought we could hit the second loop in 3:30 but I was off a bit, took us 3:35, which is still good in my book.  That second loop gets really LONG.  It’s almost like you cross the mat at halfway and they add a couple bricks to each leg.  The hills suddenly seem steeper and each mile drags on a bit more.  But we just kept moving thru each mile (marked signs at EVERY mile!) and toward the next aid station.  It worked.  We didn’t rush.  This isn’t really a race for us but more of an experience.  So if someone need to walk or potty, we stopped.  We probably spent too much time at a couple aid stations but oh well.  Over all, we kept moving!   And we tried to keep it fun.  When Julie’s hubby started texting her (probably wondering if we were done yet!  Ummm, no we were not done!), I insisted we stop and take a selfie to send him.  Hi, Joe!   I was getting ready to stick out my tongue but we snapped the picture first with my crazy face.  That’s about right, I was feeling kinda crazy that far into the race.  I think we were probably around mile 28 at this point.  The craziness had definitely set in.  Tamyra, Me, Julie.

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I’m very thankful that Julie came back for her second Huff this year.  I know she didn’t love it last year.  She doesn’t love trail running at all but we still do a couple trail marathons each year.  Totally my fault. It always seems like a good idea at the time.  Smile  And this was Tamyra’s first ultra.  Her third marathon distance event (or longer) since November 7th in Indy when she ran her VERY FIRST marathon.  She took a leap of faith and followed us to Tulsa for the Rt 66 Marathon, and then to Huff.   2 marathons and 1 ultra in a 6 week span.  She’s definitely a tough chick and I’m proud to call her a friend!  Great job,Tamyra!!!

The swag.  Huff always provides good stuff.  This year we got a cotton tee, a Huff Santa Hat, a portable charger & a key chain with a thermometer.  Then here is a close up of the belt buckle that was received at the finish.  Most 50Ks don’t offer a belt buckle, but rather a finishers medal.  So it’s a nice touch for Huff to give the buckle and that’s probably why this is one of the largest 50Ks in the US.

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Huff is a great race.  I highly recommend it.  Grab some friends and run a loop OR two.  Next year, Huff will be on December 17, 2016.  Then the 2017 race will be returning to the first Saturday after Christmas. 

Side Note:  If you’re in the woods, State/National Park or not, DO NOT litter.  A general rule of hiking, backpacking and trail running is that if you pack it in, you pack it out.  I saw A LOT of litter & debris on the trails this year.  Very disappointing.  Someone has to clean that up or Huff could get fined, get belittled by other races or worse yet, lose their permit to run at Chain O Lakes.  Please respect your environment.  Don’t drop GU packs, kleenex, hand warmers, cups of noodles, or your SWEATSHIRT on the trail cuz you are tired of carrying it.  The aid stations are close enough together that it isn’t a stretch to hold onto your trash for a little bit longer and dispose of it property.  Please.  Respect your trails or they will be gone.  Help protect the trails for all of us, our kids, and our grandkids to come. Thank you!

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2013 Huff Race Report, must have neglected to write one for 2014.  Ooops.  Smile

** Happy Trails ** Amanda – TooTallFritz

Happy Thanksgiving & Let’s #OptOutside for Black Friday

Happy Thanksgiving

Hey, all!  The holidays are a wonderful time of year, full of traditions.  Some of us start our day with a local Turkey Trot while others are already warming the kitchen with the smell of homemade pumpkin pie.  I want to wish each and every one of you a joyous Thanksgiving!  I’ll be thinking of you all and hoping that you are surrounded by friends, family and someone who loves you!

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The holidays are full of tradition.  When I lived in IL, I would always host a Black Friday run at Waterfall Glen.  There wasn’t a hashtag for #OptOutside.  There wasn’t a big corporation behind the movement to get people outside.  Nobody was talking about health, wellness, fitness, friends or family on Black Friday.  No, they gave their thanks on Thursday and moved on to retail madness on Black Friday.   Some big retail chains are saying NO this year.  REI in particular started the push to #OptOutside for Black Friday by giving all of their employees the day off with pay.  Many other retailers has followed suit.  I encourage all of you to #OptOutside for Black Friday.  Let’s wait for Cyber Monday to get all those amazing deals for our little angels, from the comfort of our home, where we can shop in our PJs.  That’s what I’ll be doing. 

If you need a place to go on Black Friday to #OptOutside, I’ll be leading a group run at Pokagon State Park, in Angola, IN.  Details HERE.  If you don’t want to follow me, then you can follow Lilo.  She promises an AMAAHHHZING trail run!  Or if you aren’t close to us, then REI has a link HERE to find a place to #OptOutside.

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** Let’s Hit The Trails With Lilo & #OptOutside on Black Friday ** Amanda – TooTallFritz

How to Stay Motivated Thru The Winter

I can already see it.  It’s happening to my group runners at the YMCA of DeKalb County and it’s happening to some of my friends.  The Winter Blues are moving in and the snow has yet to fly in NE Indiana. 

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I know that the time change put a real damper on things.  It seems like it’s dark ALL THE TIME now.  But that doesn’t mean that we give up until spring.   As always, let’s focus and make a plan to combat those winter blues!!  First, consider trying a new fitness activity or class.  Use the winter months to get stronger, leaner and even more amazing.  Make this winter YOUR B*TCH. 

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I’m taking #1 to heart this year!  I’ll be starting a CrossFit Endurance class on December 1st.  Tuesday & Thursdays @ 5:30am.  Feel free to join me if you are local and want to make 2016 your best year to date!  I’m going to get strong AND stay ahead of those winter blues!!!

  • CrossFit Tactical Strength
  • 513 Incentive Drive, Ft Wayne, IN 46825 
  • (260) 310-5360 

CF Tactical Strength 

Second, I think it’s important to not only do some different activities during the winter months but reconnect with what you really love.  For me, running is my game.  I love it.  But pounding the pavement gets BORING.  So I really try to mix it up in the fall and winter months.  The way I do that is by hitting the trails.  I leave my music at home.  Grab my 4 legged running partner and we run.  If I get tired, we walk.  If a hill is too steep we walk.  I don’t have a mileage goal, we just run and enjoy the amazing environment.  Bonus:  the trees provide a wind break on those blustery days!  Secret:  Running in the fresh fallen snow is invigorating and gives a sense of peace.

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Third, don’t go too long without a real plan.  I know you just killed your fall races.  Nailed some amazing goals, maybe even got the big BQ.  Bask in the glory!  Take some time off!  Put your feet up in the recliner and cuddle the little ones.  And then figure out what’s next so that you have a definitive point to get back to work.  I find that putting a spring marathon on my calendar keeps me honest thru the winter months.  I can be lazy like anyone but sometimes I need a reason to get my butt out in the cold to move my body.   My 2016 Spring Marathon will be the Cincinnati Flying Pig Marathon.  May 1st, 2016.  Far enough ahead that I get some down time.  Close enough that I don’t get lazy. 

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Think about how you want your winter to look this year.  Think about what strides you would like to make while others are spending time in hibernation.  Think about the goals you have on board for 2016 and how you can get one step closer by focusing on improving yourself in the off season! 

After the Thanksgiving holiday, I’ll talk more about CrossFit Endurance and how to train for the Flying Pig Marathon DURING THE WINTER.  For now, I’m pretty focused on the Route 66 Marathon this weekend and the fact that I’m speaking on the blogger panel Saturday at 3pm, Expo Stage.  If you are at Rt 66 this weekend, find me and tell me how you plan to make this winter YOUR B*TCH. 

** Stay Motivated THIS Winter ** Amanda – TooTallFritz

Eugene Curnow Trail Marathon–Duluth MN

As most of you know by now, I’m on a quest to run a marathon in every state.  And I’m on a budget.  As a result, I’ve pretty much given up running races that are less than the 26.2 distance.  I’ve also pretty much given up running marathons in state’s that I’ve already “checked off” unless the race is free.  I pick races based on my (and Julie’s) calendar.  I don’t stress about the course.  Or the weather.  Or the details.  It’s an adventure.  The bigger, the better.  The more the merrier.  Join me!!

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We picked our Minnesota race because Julie said she wanted to knock off MN this year.  I can’t say this was my first choice for MN because, well, we are road runners!  But alas, it   fit into our weekend warrior calendar and it was super affordable at a mere $35 entry fee.  You absolutely can not beat trail races for the price, the hospitality, the fun and the level of commitment that they give to each and every runner.  The Eugene Curnow Trail Marathon wins the TTF Award for the “Best Bang for the Buck” in 2015.  I don’t even care that it’s only July.  They already won.  $35 entry fee = $1.34 per mile.  Our race took forever 7 hours & 37 minutes = $4.60 per hour.

The aid stations were stocked with coke, ginger ale, sprite, powerade (BLUE!!!!), ice, ice water, pretzels, M&Ms, candy, fig newtons, sandwich cookies, frosted oatmeal cookies, gingersnap cookies, potato chips, watermelon, bananas, salt, salt capsules, and a ton of stuff that I can’t remember.  I probably ate/drank more than the $35 entry fee.

There was also an army of volunteers who encouraged us, filled our water bottles, wiped our tears, recorded our numbers, pointed us in the right direction and handed us paper towels & wet wipes in case we needed to go to the bathroom clean up.

The race started promptly at 6am at the Lake Superior Zoo.  There was no big start banner.  No chip timing.  No pomp.  No circumstance.  But there were people making announcements to get us in the right spot and there were bathrooms. Runners came to run and everything else is left on the trail.

The first 2.5-3 miles of the race climbed the ski trails of Spirit Mountain.  Once we started hitting nice roads and fancy bridges we knew we were close to the top!

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Then we started seeing the ski lifts and we came out of the trees for breathtaking views of Lake Superior in the early morning fog.  Absolutely amazing.

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The trail was very well marked with orange ribbons.   I never once questioned our direction.  Organizers spent a lot of time clearing trail for us rather than just using ordinary trails already cut in the parks through which we ran.  There was a lot of planning to get us from Duluth to the finish in Carlton, MN on this point to point course.   It was a creative path.  A difficult one.  Not the most technical of all that I’ve ran but extremely hard and probably the most fun so far (and that’s saying a lot cuz we ran the Dances with Dirt Devil’s Lake WI Extreme Trail  Marathon last July).  Take a peak at the various terrain from steep trails along ridges, to roped off trails to help us navigate the terrain & not fall …..

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To hills, both up and down as far as the eyes could see.

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Beautiful ferns.  Bridges.  Obstacles.

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Water crossings.  Mud.  Roots.  Rocks.

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Parks.  Rivers.

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Every step of this was amazing.  And hard.  Very hard.  But we smiled and laughed almost the entire 7.5+ hours.  If you are a trail runner, the Eugene Curnow Trail Marathon is a must.  If you are an ultra runner, then this race is just a warm up for the MN Voyager 50 Mile Trail Ultramarathon at the end of July.  Like what you see in these pics?  Try the Voyager and you’ll get to run it twice.

As you know from the above post, we finished.  And were happy to see the car and some clean clothes at the end of the race.  To our surprise, we also received a very unique handmade finishers medallion and a gender specific soft, tee.  Nice!

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I’m forever grateful for the good friends I’ve made over the years while “on the run”.  A special thanks to Julie for running some of these crazy races with me!  I can’t wait til we tromp off into the woods for the next adventure!  IMG_7590

** Maybe We’ll See YOU On the Trail ** Amanda – TooTallFritz

Pokagon State Park–Trail Running

Trail running can be intimidating but it doesn’t need to be scary if you know what to expect.  I’ve ran the trails at Pokagon State Park multiples times now and have found it to have some of the best trails in Northeastern Indiana.  Why?  The trails are accessible year round.  There are a variety of trails from easy to hard, with varying surface types.  All  trails are short and within close proximity to a road, or the Pottawatomi Inn.  Trails are well groomed and wide enough to run with a friend.  Best of all, the trails are marked well.

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And if weren’t paying attention to the last couple of signs, then look at the “You Are Here” maps,  or notes/maps on particular points of interest, which are scattered throughout the trail system.

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Pokagon is a place you can go with your family for hiking, swimming, camping or horseback riding.  Or you can run for fun or even train for a marathon or ultra.  It’s good for short distance runners AND long distance folks.  I’m particularly excited to get Aby and some of her Cross Country friends up there this summer!  

I usually park at the Potawatomi Inn and start on one of the trails which begin at “The Inn”.   If it’s dark, I run on the roads within the park until the sun comes up.  Got a great pic last weekend of some of the holiday lights.

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At this time of year, there is little traffic in the early mornings.  It’s a good time to tour the campgrounds, roads and paved trails while there isn’t too much hoopla.   Bathrooms are still open but lacking toilet tissue.  There will be a few scattered campers and park workers moving about in their vehicles.  And the Inn will always have guests who are coming and going. You will not be alone. 

The two trails which are easiest to connect with are those which lead to/from the Pottawatomi Inn.  Trails 1 & 3.  Trail 1 is easy to find by going down by the beach and it picks up to the side of the playground.  A nice easy trail that is in the woods with views of Lake James and some of the houses which surround the water. 

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Good trail for beginners or seasoned trails runners.  A couple hills but nothing scary.  If you have a young Cross Country runner, or a new 4 legged friend to train, this would be the perfect trail developing an excitement about trail running while still keep everyone close to people, park roads and The Inn.  Well traveled trail.  Bonus, if non-running family members want to go with you to the park, they can play on the beach and playground while you take a short trail run.  Big win for everyone!!  Trail 1 & 3 highlighted in yellow below.

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Trail 3 starts in the parking lot of the Potawatomi Inn, in the Northeast corner.  You can park your car and be on the trail in 30 seconds.  In my opinion, Trail 3 is the heartbeat of the entire trail system at Pokagon.  You can access every trail in the Park, plus the Beechwood Nature Preserve loop via #3.  If you ever get lost, run towards 3 and you’ll eventually start seeing signs for The Inn which is why I suggest you park your car there.  The trail starts in the woods, runs across some wetlands with a few cute bridges with benches for sitting.  Great trail, not too technical. 

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Then #3 leads wherever your heart desires, just check the map and go!!  Since most of the trails are loops, if you have a long run to do, you can run most of the trails without backtracking or even thinking too much about what to do, or where to go.  I see a sign for a trail, I just take it.  It generally loops me back to the trail I was standing on when I saw the sign.  Super easy trail system, I promise!!

Hardest Trail  – #9.  This trail takes you up, Up, UP and eventually overlooks Interstate 69 before going back down to reconnect with Trail #3.

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Point of Interest – Hell’s Point, on Trail #3.  I expected it to be harder to get to with a name like Hell’s Point but it wasn’t too difficult, just follow the signs and run the trail.  Fun set of stairs and a nice view from the lookout!

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Hidden gem – Beechwood Preserve Loop, which is not part of Pokagon but accessible from Trail 8.  Lots of wildlife.  Short loop which is good for walkers.  Super secret parking lot off of 127 to access this area and make it a family friendly adventure (no strollers).  Even has a half loop sign if you want a shorter route.  One big hill if you do the full loop.  Yeah, I walked that hill!  Smile

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Easiest Trail – #7.  Grassy loop with a nice view of a wetland.  Lots of water fowl in this area.  Benches everywhere to sit and rest or watch the wildlife.

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Biggest attraction:  Toboggan Slides.  Open from the Friday after Thanksgiving thru February.  Yes, I’ll be taking the kids.  Looks super fun and slides pick up speed of 35-40 mph.  Sounds terrifying and exhilarating!  Image source

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Pokagon State Park is amazing, go check it out cuz I know you’ll love it as much as me!  It offers over 1200 acres of fun from water activities to hiking and trail runs.  Great fun for the entire family!

** I’ll See YOU On The Trail ** Amanda – TooTallFritz

Bobcat Trail Marathon–Glouster OH

On Sunday, my friend Julie & I knocked Ohio off our list of states with the Bobcat Trail Marathon!

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As usual, we picked a weekend we were free & signed up for a race that was within driving distance.  We didn’t know much about it other it being a trail marathon.  I think we both figured it couldn’t be any worse (harder) than the Dances with Dirt Marathon at Devil’s Lake WI but we were about to find out.  Our one and only unspoken rule about our marathon running adventures is that we don’t obsess about the course.  We don’t spend any much time looking at the website and thinking about race day.  It’s an adventure and with adventure comes surprise and well, it’s always a surprise.  We pick races based on timing and our availability, nothing more.  The rest of what’s to come is a mystery.

The Bobcat Trail Marathon is in Glouster, OH at Burr Oak State Park.  It features 26.2 miles of running around a 660+ acre lake, thru the woods, mostly on single track, up and down leaf covered trails in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains.  Yes, the Appalachian Mountains.  SURPISE!  In case you don’t know, Julie & I are Midwesteners.  You might even call us flatlanders.  We run and train in and around Chicago and we consider the Roosevelt Bridge a mountain.  Let it suffice to say that we only see mountains on TV and we don’t even really have “hills” on which to train.  So this was a difficult run for us to say the least.  But the lake was beautiful!

Burr Oak Lake

Packet pick-up and the start/finish were at the Burr Oak Lodge.  Great location.  Great price on rooms. Great food in the restaurant.  Lots of activities for the family!  Plus it was super nice to be able to stay inside and use real bathrooms until just moments before the race began. 

If you’ve been to packet pick-up at a trail race, it’s  normally a non-event.  They almost always offer packet pick-up on race day.  You stand in a short line, tell them your name, they hand you a shirt and a bib.  You leave and get ready to run.  So easy!  Bobcat was no different.

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The race started on time.  The only distance offered was the marathon and we soon found out why.  We basically ran into the woods and short of a few road crossings, we never came out until we were back at the lodge/finish line.  It was a full day of single track trails around a huge lake.  No cell service.  Race officials were in constant contact with one another via radios and they kept very close track of the runners and made sure we all went thru each of the check points.  We were told to “not worry” and that if something happened, they WOULD come get us.  Comforting.  I think. 

The entire race looked like this.

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We ran single file 99% of the time.  Following the path of partially crushed/disturbed leaves.  I’m pretty sure the local wildlife “cut” this trail.  It was very technical with an endless amount of exposed roots & rocks buried beneath several inches of fallen leaves.  Super cool.  Fun.  Adventurous.  Yet totally exhausting.

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I fell on my face one time but didn’t get hurt.  Stubbed my toe & went “flying” countless times.  Slid both up and down hills on the fallen leaves.  Crossed numerous bridges & ravines.  We had one full on water crossing that was impossible to navigate without submerging ourselves ankle deep in a cold creek.  I climbed.  I descended.  I wondered how bad this would hurt “tomorrow”.  I wondered if I would lose any toenails from the nasty downhill’s.  Three days after the fact, my quads still feel like they went thru a meat grinder.  I’m definitely sore this time.  Like really sore but I still have all my toenails so far.

We carried our own water and were thankful to have it.  There were aid stations every 4-5 miles, some manned, some with just water jugs dropped along the trail.  Aid stations offered coke, ginger ale, heed, water, cookies, Halloween chocolate candies, chips, pretzels, chex mix, Hammer Gels & other goodies I can’t recall.  The only thing missing was the salted/boiled potatoes that most trail races offer!  Multiple places with park potties.  Multiple check points with volunteers keeping track of our progress and encouraging us to continue at whatever pace was manageable. 

We were at the end.  Like almost last.  Everyone we met seemed local and trained on the trail which we were running.  They seemed light on their feet.  Running was effortless for them.  It took slightly more of an effort for us.  But we still got the same medal that they did when we crossed that finish line!!  And something cool, when we finished, we were offered a choice between a medal or a finisher’s plaque with a picture of the lake.  It was a tough choice but we both picked a medal. 

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Best part of the race?  Locals decorated part of the trail with Halloween decorations!  But beware, if you spend too much time looking at the decorations and taking photos, you may miss a flag or two, get lost and run off course. 

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Worst part of the race?  The endless roots/rocks that necessitated spending the entirety of the race looking at the ground.  It was tiresome and very rough on the feet.

Absolute must if you run this race?  Trail shoes!  You need those babies to protect your precious feet!

All in all, it was a good event.  It certainly wasn’t my favorite of the year but a nice solid race that was well supported.  Very peaceful.  All the runners and volunteers were super encouraging and very nice.  Yet, we may have decided that we make better road than trail runners!  Our lack of hills for training, our injured feet and the occasional need for a potty or two, may keep our feet planted on the road for the next few races!  But only time will tell.  We are taking a short break to recoup, then we’ll see where our adventures lead us next!

** Adventures in Marathoning ** Amanda – TooTallFritz **

Dances With Dirt – Devil’s Lake Marathon

 

I can’t say that I really had time to tromp off to nowhere Baraboo, WI to run a marathon. Realistically, I don’t even have time to write this post but sometimes you just gotta do, what you gotta do!  🙂 So last FRI, I packed it up and headed 3.5 hours north into WI to run the Dances With Dirt – Devil’s Lake trail marathon. I hadn’t read much of the website other than details on registration and where to stay. I “picked” the race because I wanted to knock Wisconsin off the list {as part of my long-term goal of running a marathon in all 50 states} and I specifically wanted to do Wisconsin prior to moving further away. There aren’t a ton of marathons in WI right now and well, Devil’s Lake was the only one on my “partially free” weekend. Therefore, I didn’t pick Devil’s Lake, it picked ME. There you have it.  That was the process of picking my WI race and pretty much how I live my life “married with children“.

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Eventually info did start trickling down to me that I was in for a race of my life but I didn’t really pay too much attention because I didn’t have any too many other options.  Let it suffice to say that I was prepared to “suck it up” and knock WI off the list!  Let’s do this, right?!?!?!?

Thankfully registration was quick and easy, on site the morning of the race since I had previously missed online registration. Multiple distances options were available from 10K to 50 miles. Plenty of clean port-o-potties on site. Well organized event with a few freebies from the sponsors. Julie, myself & Dawn at the start.

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We didn’t even run a mile before reality started to set in and we were climbing up, up, up.  On single track.  And we were walking.  Not running.

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What started out as a jaunt thru the woods quickly became a serious endurance event. It was much more difficult to climb at a walking pace than run at marathon pace. Granted I am currently out of shape. I’m also above my normal weight by a solid 20 lbs. So I didn’t expect a walk in the park but even if I had read the website, I wouldn’t have ever guessed this event would be so challenging. We climbed up. We ran or walked down depending on how technical the section of the trail. We picked our way thru large boulder fields. We navigated stairs. We followed a paved path at the top of the mountain that we couldn’t believe existed. We saw Devil’s Lake from a bird’s prospective. And then we headed down, passing people who came to Devil’s Lake to climb and repel with legit climbing equipment. Julie and I were in our normal running shoes, just taking everything as it came. Step by step. My trail shoes are packed away in a box and her’s are so old they wouldn’t have helped much anyhow.  So there were no trail shoes for the two of us!  We just kept moving, at whatever pace we could manage. One of our miles “up top” took 38 minutes. Yes, that’s 38 minutes for ONE mile. But the views were breathtaking and it was worth it.  Seriously worth it.  Look at these amazing photos.

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I wanted to squeeze in a report for this event because I know that other people actually research races before jumping in the car to check off another state.  🙂  There are a few details that might help if you go to run an event at Devil’s Lake.

1) Take a fuel/water belt. You’ll be going thru A LOT of water. The aid stations are well stocked but usually 4-5 miles apart. In fact, due to the terrain, I’m amazed they had as many stations as they did.
2) Wear trail shoes if you have them, buy them if you don’t own any. The purpose of trail shoes is to protect your feet. They have a foot and toe plate made out of a tougher/stronger material. I stubbed my toe, on unseen roots/rocks, 4 times and went flying. fortunately, I didn’t break any toes and I managed to land “on my feet” each time. This isn’t normal so I’m thankful to come out unscathed. Plus I could feel the rocks under my feet thru my road shoes. Not the most pleasant thing. I would have loved to have my trail shoes.
3) Gaiters are optional. Not necessary in my opinion. We weren’t kicking up a lot of dirt or debris but that could be due to our pedestrian pace. If you’re a mover and a shaker, wear your gaiters.
4) Compression works!  I strongly encourage the use of either compression sleeves or socks for this event. Firstly, it will keep the blood flowing in your muscles when the blood wants to leave the legs and go directly to the lungs, as you are clawing your way up the hills!!!  Secondly, the compression socks will protect your legs against the tall grasses/weeds and/or branches that are pushing onto the trail. There are several sections that are pretty grown up. I personally don’t want my bare legs touching a lot of weeds/grasses/trees with which I’m not familiar. It would be one giant itch fest for me.
5) Bug spray is your friend. Use it. Reapply. And keep your mouth shut if possible. It’s SUPER buggy and you’ll be lucky if you only eat a couple of bugs.
6) Pray for an overcast/cloudy day. We got lucky. I hope you do too!  We heard some stories about previous years which were a smoldering hot.  It was 80 degrees for us and overcast. Super muggy and buggy.
7) Low light on the trails will be an issue. If you want to protect your eyes from the bugs, use photochromic sunglasses (I prefer Ryders Eyewear) or lenses with low tint.
8) Have fun. If you aren’t going to win there is really no reason to press down the hills and risk your life. Ego is one thing. Safety is another. I highly recommend running this one “for fun”.  It took me over 7.5 hours to run/walk/hike this marathon and my quads & stabilizer muscles have been shredded all week. It’s a rough one and well, I’ve hiked the Grand Canyon from Rim to Rim and this was way tougher and much more technical.  I’ve run/walked/hiked a lot of trails.  I’m not an “expert” but I’m experienced.  I’m not trying to hype it, just be honest.  It’s going to be tough.  If you don’t believe me, check out the warning on the BACK of the race shirt.  Swag below, back of the shirt says, “Dances with Dirt 2014 …. I realize that my participation in this event entails the risk of injury or even death”.  Truth.  But at least the medal is a bottle opener so you can drink lots of brews if you survive.  🙂devlils lake_swag_backGreat race. Amazing job to whoever marked the trails because we never had any doubt that we were headed the right way. Huge shout out to the volunteers who hiked in the aid stations and their supplies. Thanks to the fastie trail runners who didn’t run Julie and I over as we were hiking our way thru the rough sections. And of course a special thanks to Julie for “getting in the car” to go run her VERY FIRST trail event ever …… with a mere 24 hours for advance notice. Girl, I owe you. Thanks to Dawn for awaiting our finish and making sure we survived before she left to continue her family trip. Dawn, Me & Julie at the finish!

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**Wisconsin Is In The Books {Under Unforgettable}  ** Amanda – TooTallFritz **

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Huff 50K Race Review & Experience – 2013

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On Saturday, December 28, 2013, I ran my first official trail race, the Huff 50K.   The “Huff” also offers two other events, a 50K relay and a one loop (10.8 mile) race.  I’ve wanted to do this race for a couple years now because it’s very close to where I grew up and where my family currently lives, plus it lines up well with the fall trail running which I normally do after the Chicago Marathon.  However, I was nervous to take on something so big right before I leave for Disney for the Dopey Challenge.  I was thinking about it, and thinking some more, leaning toward the one loop option, not wanting to do the relay and having to wait around all day for a relay team but also considering the 50K.  I finally decided on the 50K cuz I was healthy and also hoping it would force me to be a bit more serious about my post Chicago Marathon miles and my Dopey training.   Yeah, Dopey didn’t worry me but Huff scared me big time.  So in order to be properly trained for Dopey, I decided to take the plunge on Huff.  I realized this sounds insane but I always downcyle after the CHI Marathon and that’s where my brain wants to go in November and December.   Dopey starts on January 9th so I didn’t have much time to downcyle.  The Huff 50K was essential to put me back in the mental and physical training game and I used it as one massive, slow training run.  I was very cautious and kept it very slow and just celebrated one last last hurrah of a training run before Dopey.  Insane.  I know.  I got it.

Prerace with friends, photo on left:  Austin B, Mike S (Run Nerds Rock), Adella B, Brandi M & me.   Photo on right, a few of the FNRC members who were running:  me, Susan M & Nicole F.

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One of the biggest things about Huff is the unknown.  The trail conditions, the weather, the hills, the weather, the miles, the weather, the ability to fuel for the duration, the weather, proper hydration and yeah, the weather.  We totally lucked out because although the Midwest has been hit hard by day after day of sub zero temps this season, Mother Nature brought us a nice warm spell for Huff cuz God NEVER gives you more than you can handle.  We had a balmy 30 degrees at the start and the sun worked it’s magic all day to bring temps up to 45 by the finish.  Weather crisis averted.

My plan, if you want to call it a “plan” was to focus on the fact that I need to run two loops, use the mantra “just two loops!” and move thru the course without thinking too much about mileage.  You know, definitely don’t think about the fact that it was going to be a 31 mile day cuz well that just sounds CRAZY.   I don’t consider myself crazy so I certainly wouldn’t consider running 31 miles for fun.  However, I’d do just about anything for a training run.  🙂  I also had an ace up my sleeve cuz my friend and fellow Team Tough Chik member, Kasey, was also running the 50K and I was thinking we might be a good match to run together IF she wasn’t looking to race the course.  I figured if she wanted to race, then she would just have go without me cuz I couldn’t afford to put too much effort in this event.  I didn’t want to trash my legs and I needed a fast recovery for Dopey.  Slow and steady was the plan.  Walk the hills, run the downs & flats for as long as possible and then just survive.  Meet my partner in pain crime, Kasey.  First pic is on the first loop about mile 4, right before the first amazing aid station.  Second pic is as we started our second loop where were excitedly announced to the world that we ONLY had one loop to run.  Third pic is us running toward the bag drop finishing our first loop.

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I can’t really say enough about Kasey.  She had a great attitude.  Promised to be the anchor on my ass me in the beginning when I really just wanted to run fast but knew I couldn’t.  Promised to help me thru at the end when I would surely be in tears struggling.  She sang, danced, laughed, bitched complained, ran, walked, crawled, and ate sour patch kids ….. all in perfect step with me.  When things got rough for one of us, the other person sucked it up, ignored any tears/complaints/profanity and took the lead to keep us moving toward our one and only goal, the finish line.

The first 15.5 mile loop was icy and snowy but the sun was shining.  It was rough on the feet because the frozen trail had zero give and our feet, ankles and the stabilizing muscles/tendons were working overtime.  But it was beautiful.

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The trail was also covered in fallen leaves and hid the roots, rocks and wooden beams that held the trail together on the ups and downs.  We were very careful but still stumbled, tripped and slid on multiple occasions.  Very typical of trail running, which is why hard soled trail shoes are necessary to protect your feet and toes!

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And there were hills.  Lots of hills.  Some little, some big.  Some up, some down.

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There were aid stations about every 4 miles but I highly recommend carrying your own water.  I didn’t, even though I had a water belt with me in my drop bag, and I really struggled with dehydration in that second loop.  The aid stations that were on course were very well stocked with anything and everything a person could want:  water, coke, pickle juice, Gatorade, bananas, cookies (store variety and homemade), pb&j sandwiches, pretzels, chips, fishy crackers, licorice, m&ms – plain & peanut, homemade truffles, hamburgers, chicken noodle soup and other things that I can’t even remember.

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We both utilized the bag drop at the half way point and after a 20 minute layover to fix our feet, change shoes, readjust/shed clothing, potty, eat, text and Facebook (you know the important things) we headed out for the second 15.5 mile loop.  It was pure mud.  The 1000 people between the three races, plus the sun and warming temps had done their job to thaw our frozen trail.  We slid around this loop and sometimes even had to use bushes on the side of the trail to help pull us up the hills.  I was in a total panic, sliding down the hills afraid that I would fall and manage to get hurt and ruin myself for Dopey.  Kasey even offered to throw herself in front of me if I started falling/sliding down the hill to coerce me into going faster break my fall. But I was focused on being overly cautious to avoid a fall/slip.  The theme of the second loop was mud and survival.  I had a very hard time getting thru miles 24-29.  I was all done.  I was tired of the mud.  Angry that we were sloshing and splashing each other.  Angry that 31 miles seemed like a good idea.  But we just kept moving forward, sometimes at a snails pace but relentlessly moving forward.  Mud on the left, me walking down the trail on the right.

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You might wonder how I got thru that second loop.  I do too.  But really it was from tree to tree.  We ran to the big tree on the left.  Then walked to the multi-trunk birch on the right.  Then we ran to the bridge.  Then we walked to the tree with the funky arm out over the trail.  Then we ran up the hill so we could walk when it was flat and easier.   We did a lot of “this is the last damn time we ever have to run up this hill”.  We probably said that 20 different times on 20 different hills.  We just did it.  One foot after the other.  One tree at a time.  One hill at a time.  One mile at a time. One loop at a time.  No goals other than to finish.  No pressure.  No problem.

And finish we did, in just under 7 hours.  And we were happy.  Really happy.  Mike even waited for us even though he had to wait 2.5 hours after he himself had finished (he ran it in 4:33 and placed 4th in his age group.  Wow.  Great job, Mike & congrats!).

Kasey Me Mike  me & Kasey - medals me & mike

As for the race itself, super organized.  Aid stations with potties about every 4 miles.  One unmanned/no potty aid station on course.  One “pit potty”.  One potty stop without an aid station.  Amazing volunteers.  Amazing trail.  Amazing views.  Variety of terrain from roads to grass to trail to hills to bridges and from lake to lake to lake.  One bag drop at the half way point.  Changing tent.  Chip timing.  Homemade goodies like soups, cookies and candy.  This race really has it all, including multiple race options for whatever distance you are willing to tackle.  I’d absolutely recommend this race to anyone would is looking for an awesome trail run.  It won’t be easy but it will be worth it.

Swag = unisex tech tee, cooler bag and a key chain that is a mini replica of our finisher medals.  I love  the key chain!

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Great race!  Maybe I’ll see YOU in 2014!

** I’m an Ultra Marathoner Now!! ** Amanda – TooTallFritz **

Huff 50K – Just Two Loops

As the end of the year is closing in and most are tallying their 2013 races, miles and accomplishments, I am still staring down one more REALLY.BIG.THING.  The Huff 50K is on Saturday, December 28th.  Yes, that’s two days away.  Yes, I’m scared.  Yes, this will be the farthest I’ve ever ran at one time.   Yes, this will probably be the hardest thing I’ve done to date.

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I’ve wanted to participate in this race since it was moved to Chain O’Lakes State Park in Albion, Indiana for the 2011 event.  This very close to my hometown.  It’s very close to where my parents currently live.  It’s basically “home” to me and I love any added reason to go home and spend time with the family.  However, in 2011, I took most of December off to try to pacify a nasty flare-up of Plantar Fasciitis.  Then in 2012, I was in recovery mode.  I tore a tendon in my foot (thanks to the Plantar Fasciitis) at the beginning of June and as a result spent all summer rehabbing.  By the fall racing season, I wasn’t racing anywhere but happy to begin rebuilding my body and mileage base.  Once December rolled around, I was in no way ready to tackle 31 miles, nor was my foot strong enough to make any attempt at a technical trail run. 

One year later, I’m very focused on running smart.  Listening to my body.  Knowing my limits.  Enjoying each and every run.  It’s been a long year of nice, slow running  …. not so much by choice but because my body wouldn’t go fast.   I ran smart this year.

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As a result of smart running, regular Chiro treatments, a decrease of mileage and the addition of strength work with CrossFit, I am healthy.  I am more flexible than I’ve been in years.  I am not only regaining my speed but getting a hold of the fact that I’m going to be faster in 2014 than I’ve been in a long time.  I have hope.  I feel inspired.  I feel ready to tackle new challenges.  I am ready to tackle the Huff 50K, in a mere 2 days.

What to expect during a 50K trail race in the middle of winter?  I have no idea.  I imagine it to be hard.  Like really hard.  I imagine my friend Kasey will want to dump me because I’ll be whining too much.  I imagine us walking up all the hills and running the straights and flats.  I imagine amazing foods, candy and soups at the aid stations.  I’m imagine my tummy will not approve.  I imagine beautiful scenery, lots of friends and hills.  Lots of hills.  Then probably some more hills. 

I anticipate mud and fun.  I anticipate that someone will be able to help me assemble myself properly and put on the new gaiters which I took out of the package just yesterday.  I anticipate my friends all around at the start then us quickly floating apart as we all hit our own stride as the start gets underway.  I anticipate cold, wet feet.  I anticipate new blisters.  I anticipate fatigued legs.

I know that I will be running 31 miles.  I know that the race will be “just two loops”.  I know the mantra I will use throughout the race.  I know that I will have at least one water crossing where my feet will get wet.  I know that I’ll have a drop bag at the half way point although I’m not really sure what to put in it.  I know that the trail will be technical.  I know the trail may be confusing.  I know that I’ll be following the pink/magenta ribbons and arrows.  I know that I will finish. 

Just two loops and I’ll be done.  Just two loops.  JUST.TWO.LOOPS.

So on Saturday as you are huffing and puffing thru your run, please whisper into the wind “just two loops” to give me that added push to get thru whatever Huff gives me. 

** Just Two Loops ** Amanda – TooTallFritz **