Friday, January 27, 2017

Frosty Trail 3-hour Trail Race - Saturday, January 21st, 2017

This one was a bit of an odd duck, but I certainly can't complain about the outcome.

Woke up at stupid o'clock on Saturday morning to make my bowl of oatmeal with almond butter & maple syrup feeling dreadful - I'd had 4.5hrs of sleep (5 the previous night), my jaw was still unhappy from having a couple of wisdom teeth cracked out of it the week beforehand, and I just wanted to go back to bed. So, after eating my porridge and a small post-race-sammich-related mayonnaise explosion, I did. It clearly wasn't my day.

And really, the day was anything but clear.

Bed was good. Bed was cozy. A little too cozy, because I napped longer than I'd intended, which meant a minor panic to get out the door and up to Camp Heidelberg. I hated it - I despise being rushed on a race morning. We did arrive just a few minutes later than I'd hoped, though, thanks to some rather frenetic driving on the part of Tanker the Wonder Sherpa.

I just tried not to spill coffee all over myself.
The fog was almost as thick in the air as it was in my head, but I was delighted to see so many friendly faces had turned up to run around in the woods for anywhere from one to six hours. I chatted and caught up with many wonderful people as I slowly progressed toward whatever would pass for "readiness", swinging my limbs in ungainly ways in an effort to loosen up and slathering myself shamelessly in anti-chafing goo. I got my straw from Ron Gehl, and with just a few minutes before the start I stripped down to the bare minimum I thought would keep me from getting chilled in the mild (4c/39f) but damp air.

"Bare" being a fairly apt descriptor.

Shoving some nutrition in my pockets and grabbing my hand bottle (plus a spare to keep at the start/finish for hand-offs), I stepped outside and we all gathered 'round for a group photo.

Well, almost all - there are definitely a few faces missing here!

A few instructions, a horn, then around the parking lot and into the woods for the initial conga line. I was partway through the upper woods section and working pretty hard up a hill when I realised I was directly behind Charlotte and just ahead of Catherine - as in, completely out of my effin' league. I tried to let Catherine pass but she said she'd wait for the downhill, where she went flying past as I tried to get some kind of handle on my pace. Little right-left jog to get onto the driveway, then down the muddy slope and back onto the snowpack.

Start of the long way down - emerging from the upper woods

The driveway got very muddy

A huge slush puddle appeared here just before the end of the 3-hour

Past an icy patch (fortunately one of the only ones, as I'd decided to forego my traction aids) and into the main woods - the Frosty Trail course does not go down around the pond that the Horror Trail one does, making it a 2.2km loop instead of 2.5km. This is a rather important distinction.

Slight downhill on ice - wheeeeeee!

Into the trees..

Down a rooty, sketchy bit, then up the big hill in rather mushy snow. How would this hold up to the passage of many feet throughout the morning?

On approach

Not super encouraging seeing an 8" slide mark from someone clearly wearing Yak Trax..

There was a girl in a pink jacket still behind me as I traipsed through the forest, so I dodged off to let her pass as I don't like holding people up. Then it was just me, alone in the mist as she steadily pulled away. I'd apparently ditched some people well behind me, and spent most of the day just seeing other runners in the 2-way traffic on the driveway or as they'd lap me.


On through the first lap and into the second, my legs were feeling pretty stiff and uncooperative and my calves seemed to be threatening to cramp. I just wasn't into it, and I wondered if it was going to be a long day. Suddenly I looked around me and discovered I'd run right past the turn into the woods and was nearly down to the pond - at least a hundred metres downhill that I'd have to climb back up to get on course again. I'd blown it on my second freakin' lap!

Stupid bloody lemming.

So, back up the hill I ran, then down into the woods again. Up the big hill and through the main, mostly flat portion - there were some less-snowy spots further to the West where the coniferous trees were a bit thicker.

Getting churned up even early on

Fortunately it didn't get too muddy.

My left leg was complaining a bit about the unsure footing in the mushy snow, but finally after about 45mins my legs seemed to figure out I wasn't going to give up and finally started to respond a bit. I grabbed the camera from Tanker (who was single-handedly running the aid station by the building, 'cause he's awesome like that) and took most of the photos of the course that you see here during my 3rd loop. Hey, at least it kept me paying attention to where I was going..

Well, mostly.
I was nearly through my 4th lap when the horn sounded to end the 1-hour. As I came past the aid station I remarked to Tanker that I couldn't imagine being done already, since I was only just starting to warm up. As soon as I ran away into the upper woods I regretted my words: there might have been some people coming in from their final lap in the 1-hour race who had just run longer than they ever had before, in tough conditions to boot. I felt like an elitist jerk, though I hadn't meant it in a disparaging way at all - just that I was so accustomed to running for hours on end at this venue, and my legs were finally starting to buy into the morning's activities.

Can I just disappear in here?

Maybe I'll go hide in the tepee..

I finally started taking in a bit of nutrition at 1h5m - a swig of sea salt chocolate Gu Roctane gel diluted 2:1 with water from a flask in my pocket. I had further sips at 1h40m and 2h10m, but that was it for calories for me - about 150cal total, plus 3 hand bottles' worth of water (~60oz).

And all the moisture I could suck out of the air.
This section in the main woods was badly rutted by tire tracks from logging.

Round and round I went, counting my laps as they ticked past and the snow got mushier in the mild air. The sketchy downhill just before you come out of the main woods got badly churned up, and I was convinced every time I came to it that I was going to fall and break my damn fool neck.

This does no justice at all to how petrifying this descent got for my clumsy arse.

Made it through every time, though, thankful to reach flat ground again.

While the conditions were getting more difficult, I was actually surprised by how strong I felt after the initial slow start. One of the things I love about returning to the same course over and over, year after year is the ability to gauge your fitness based on obstacles with which you're intimately familiar. While I never used to be able to run up the driveway to the building past about the 2nd hour at any Camp Heidelberg event, I actually ran it every time on Saturday, despite the energy-sucking mud. I even ran up the steep hill out of the woods to the driveway a few times - mushy snow be damned!

Climbing up as Ron Gehl goes rolling on past.

The fog was relentless

Almost done the lap

I didn't really slow much past the first half-hour or so, just trucking along as the snow turned to mashed potatoes and some sections got stomped into mud.


The sun tried to come out a couple of times, but it would only increase the melting of the snow, so the fog would thicken once more. I lapped a couple of people, and got lapped by some others. I noticed that I ended up passing the girl in the pink jacket when she stopped at the aid station, and she never came past me again. I smiled and offered encouragement to my fellow runners and they kindly did the same. Ron Gehl asked if I'd like to pace him for the other 3 hours after I was done, and I said I'd probably come out for a few loops with him anyway. No matter how tough or weird a day, running with the group of folks who came out to Frosty Trail this year is always fun.

Jonathan and Jeff overtaking me in the parking lot
(a.k.a. the overall winners of the 3-hour & 6-hour respectively)

My left leg started griping at me a bit more after my foot slipped climbing up the hill with the log "stairs" (which were totally invisible under the snow), but coming through the start/finish with 9 laps down and about 38mins left to go I knew I could get at least one more full loop in. As a cold wind started to blow over the snowpack in the field beside the driveway, I started pushing a bit, hoping I wouldn't end up doing my usual: one full lap plus just past the top of the big hill before the horn.

I cannot begin to count the number of times I've heard that horn sound just after reaching the top of this thing.

In my haste I started to get a bit reckless on the trail, tweaking my oft-damaged left ankle nastily in the increasingly mushy snow. I got through my 10th full lap with more than 20mins to go, though, so figured I could probably get another loop completed if I hustled.

Still illin' with minutes to go.

Ditching my bottle to run unencumbered, it was muddy splashing down the driveway and back onto the snow. Suddenly my feet were completely sodden as at least an 8' round slush puddle had appeared out of nowhere! With conditions getting even dicier in the forest and my sore ankle, I decided that I'd be done when the 3 hours was up - the 6-hour folks were welcome to this crap!

Runners emerging from the upper woods

I made it through the start/finish for the 11th time, then continued on as the race director had put out some markers every 200m and would be counting them as checkpoints for partial laps. I managed to make it around the parking lot and into the upper woods once more, just past the first 200m checkpoint before the horn sounded to end the 3-hour. I ended up running down the grassy (snowy) downhill from the upper woods to the building anyway, because gravity.

Finito bandito.

Final distance: 24.4km 
1st woman (of 6?) - 3rd overall (of 8?)
(No official results have been posted yet - see my Garmin Connect data)
It was a bit disappointing that the volunteers who were supposed to be recording laps seemed to have missed 3 for each person in the 3-hour, but enough of us had GPS devices that we were able to verify actual laps completed. I was delighted to discover I'd come in 1st woman overall (just behind the only 2 men in the 3-hour), with a prize of a $10 gift certificate for my favourite local running store - thanks Runner's Choice Waterloo! Even with the tough conditions, I still managed a 50 metre PR for Frosty Trail - my prior best was 24.35km in 2015.

I strangely wasn't that tired or hungry afterward - another sign that I seem to be getting stronger, though that didn't stop me from plowing through some of the delicious post-race chili while I hung around until the end of the 6-hour so Tanker the Wonder Sherpa could finish up his volunteer duties. Rest assured I took him out for a feast afterward at our beloved post-race venue - Taco Farm in uptown Waterloo - though I'm pretty sure I got the best part of that deal!

You'd look like that if you knew how good that porchetta taco was, too.

I am totally pleased with how my day turned out, given that I had no expectations coming so close on the heels of the RUN4RKIDS 8-hour just a fortnight prior. Better yet, my legs were hardly even sore the next day and my ankle was sufficiently recovered to get in a short road run - I ran every day from Sunday to Thursday morning, which I think is another sign I'm getting stronger. So, after 2 more teeth pulled out of my skull last night (it's Friday now - my usual day off), it's time to get myself fully recovered and then start the real work for the spring races I have planned. It's going to take a lot more strength and fitness than I've ever built before to achieve the goals I've set for myself, and I can't wait to get back to my adventures in the woods!

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