Monday, March 10, 2014

Land Between the Lakes 23k

Back in December, my casual (read: 99% on Facebook) friendship with a woman named Kathlene turned into an actual, real friendship when she began asking me about CrossFit. We worked out together a few times, and we even went running together. That's right -- yours truly kinda sorta has a running partner after all these years. Sometimes we'd run together and then do CrossFit afterward. I know, I know... we might want to get our heads examined. I've heard that before!

She knew I was training for the New Orleans Marathon, and she asked me what my plans were after that. Since I had recently found another "driveable" race to possibly check off my 50-states list, I told her: the Land Between the Lakes Trail Run (marathon) in Grand Rivers, Kentucky. It wasn't a done deal, though, because a) I needed to see how NOLA would go, and, b) Chasen would likely be out of the country, which would present a childcare problem. Lo and behold, Kathlene's parents have a nice RV setup really, really close to the run, and she could accompany me and keep Isaac. Hmmm... the wheels started turning.   

After NOLA I hemmed and hawed, and I even contacted the race director, since the deadline for a guaranteed medal had passed. He gave me his word that, if I signed up by the weekend from the link he personally sent me (!!!), I'd get a medal. By golly, I pulled the trigger. I wasn't sure how it would go, as I have very little positive experience on trails (yes, you need to read that post from 2007!) but I wasn't going to let that stop me from this red carpet trip. 

Isaac and I picked up Kathlene and her son, Jack, and we headed to Kentucky. We saw lots and lots of snow (for these parts) along the way. It was bewildering to me, as ours was long gone. 

Here we are outside the small, friendly race expo.

I got a nice zipper bag.

I've never had a hot pink race shirt before. I love it!

After the expo (Kathlene's first!) we walked down to the lighthouse/marina area. LBL is simply gorgeous, snow or not. 

You just can't beat that view.

Both Isaac and Jack were given nice, green caps. Isaac tossed his in the water (and got in big trouble).

Here's my sweet pal who made all of this possible.

And here is the lighthouse of "Lighthouse Landing."

LBL is a boater's paradise.

After being blown away by the scenery, we headed back to Kathlene's parents' RV. I had never actually stayed in an RV, so I was quite excited. Isaac was even more excited and actually referred to it as "his dream come true."

For two nights we got to call this place home.

It was snowy, slushy, and muddy. Naively, I thought the trails would be OK. The communication from the race director indicated that they were in decent shape. Nonetheless, my boy needed something other than running shoes to romp around in. So we went shopping. 

My Mississippi boy insisted on camo rubber boots. Whatever floats his boat... and keeps his feet dry.

I had my more-often-than-not pre-race dinner at Cracker Barrel.

The next morning, Kathlene drove me to the race start (at Lighthouse Landing) at 5:40 AM. The race was to begin at 6:30 AM. Why so early? Because there was also a 23k race (14.291 miles), a 60k, and a 50 miler. Phew!

There go the runners, ready to face the trails!

Even though we stopped at a McDonald's on the way to the start, because the camper did not yet have running water hooked up for the season, would you believe that I had a Code Brown as soon as the race began? NOT GOOD. Believe me when I tell you that I ran as quickly as I possibly could to the first port-o-potty, which was at the end of the asphalt. So long, asphalt. 

I decided a few days ahead of time that I was going to run Garmin-free. After all, this was going to be a new adventure for me. And, per my post from 2007, I needed to pay attention to nothing else but the trail ahead of me. 


Here I am just before the asphalt ended. Asphalt, I'll miss you.

The port-o-potty and the first water stop, as I said, were at the end of the asphalt. This is what I faced next: hard packed snow with patches of ice, slippery slopes (there is no such thing as a flat trail at LBL), and very, very slippery mud. Sigh.

Miss Priss was jumping streams left and right! This one is tiny, by the way.

It was very pretty, I'll give it that.
The entire course was 1, 2, 3, or 4 loops. The marathon was 2. 


Navigation. No miles markers, but signs here and there.

This is an example of "easy mud."

I only took photos in the beginning, when I found the whole trail thing to be novel and interesting. I was initially among some other slow-ish trail people, but it quickly turned into me being, as I have since said, "all alone in the woods like Grizzly Adams." It would have been OK, but I was having an extremely hard time staying upright. If I wasn't sliding down into a stream, unintentionally, I was turning both ankles, slipping and sliding, and getting sopping wet feet in the process. That wouldn't have been the end of the world, mind you. However, with no Garmin and no mile markers, every time I'd approach a water stop as the trail approached some asphalt (thank God!), I'd be shocked by how little progress I was making. I knew I'd be slower on trails, but man oh man... this was going to take all day. And that'd be fine.

Or so I thought.

Once I got to the other side of the lake, the trail actually got worse. At this point the super fast people had looped me, and they were zooming past me like this was no big deal. Mind you, I was having trouble just walking. Seriously. I was only at mile 7.something when the volunteer asked me what mile I wanted to be at when I looked shocked to find out my location. I said "26.2." The whole table chuckled. 

Back into the #$%& woods I went. I had been talking with Kathlene from time to time, and she'd ask "Where are you?" (meaning, which mile?) I'd answer "I don't know... somewhere in the @&*$ woods." That's the truth. It seemed to be getting steeper and steeper, muddier, slicker... you get the picture. Never one to quit (never!) I thought "I can't do this. I've got to get out of here." But there was literally no way out. At the very least I had to complete the 23k loop. I called the race director (from the $#@* woods) and asked if I would be permitted to drop back to the 23k distance. He said that lots of people were doing so. That was comforting, but I still had miles to go. Miles. In the $&%* woods. 

Just after that I fell in the mud and jarred my back something fierce. Ouch. It really hurt. I thought "Girl, you might have to crawl out of these $%&# woods." 

Finally, by the grace of God, I hit the asphalt. PRAISE HIM!!! There was a man who would alter my bib to indicate the 23k distance. Happily, sir... mark that baby in red!    

Two loops happily became one. 

Kathlene and the boys were waiting on me. Awww!

I still had 1.7 miles to go (on asphalt!) and Kathlene said she was going to go with me. I thought that meant she was going to follow behind with the boys. Nope! She walked and ran that final 1.7 with me. Her hubby and mom (known affectionately as Mimi) drove the boys.

There's me and my camo boot wearing baby crossing the finish line.

I was given a key chain for the 23k distance. Yes, a key chain.

Dried mud. This actually doesn't look that bad.

Nor do these shoes. The iPhone has a way of prettying things. 

It's a pretty key chain, at least. And hard earned, for darn sure. 

We all went to get some lunch, including me and all of my mud. Then I finally got to take a much needed shower at the campground's bath house.

It says "MAW" on the wall. The men's side said "PAW." Cute!

Here are my dirty feet and swollen ankles. 

Here's my recap. If I had known just how treacherous that trail would be, I would have never signed up for this race. If I had know about the severity of the snow and ice, I would have never signed up for this race. If a course elevation map had been offered, I would have never signed up for this race. Alas, nothing ventured, nothing gained. Are trails for me? N-O. Now I know. I thought my Missouri and Idaho races had prepared me. Nope. They were just rural... not "real" trails. Again, nothing ventured, nothing gained. While this is technically a DNF, in this case I believe it stands for Did Nothing Fatal. It took me 5:00 to make it 23k. Yes, FIVE HOURS. That's a 21 minute pace. I would have been out there over 10 hours  for the marathon, most likely, and who knows what all kinds of injuries I would have sustained. 

Want to know what good came from this? I had a fantastic time camping with some awesome people. Isaac had the time of his life getting filthy dirty with Jack. I've found a gorgeous area for a family vacation. I now have a very easy to beat 23k PR. See, all is not lost. And, it was a pretty inexpensive weekend. 

His shirt, a present from Kathlene, will be applicable another day.

Marathon #14 looms ahead, and it may even be in Kentucky. Who knows? I can't wait. I'm gonna kick some asphalt!


Anonymous said...

You are awesome as usual. I would have taken one look at that trail and turned around right then. lol. So glad you didn't hurt yourself!!! And also so glad you found a friend and had great adventures on this trip! -Heather W.

Anonymous said...

I think this was a total win - new running buddy (great great win!), new location, new experience, new knowledge. Some races are so different from how you think they will be, but you always learn something. Well done girl!

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