Monday, June 20, 2011

Race Report - Potato Creek Trail Run

Potato Creek Trail Run (1/2, Full and Ultra Marathon)
Date: April 30, 2011
Distance: 13.1 Mile Loops (Choose 1, 2 or 3 -- I chose 1)
Time: 2:04:09
Place: 12 of 59 ½ marathoners
Dailymile Activity
Garmin Connect Activity   

Bo from a previous run
Since I started trail running heavily this year, I’ve been a member of the Indiana Trail Running social network. This website is basically just a forum for trail running information and events around the state of Indiana.  It is focused on central Indiana and the Indianapolis/Bloomington areas, but there are occasionally topics in other parts of the state.  One of these was from the Race Director of new trail runs in northern Indiana called the Potato Creek Trail Runs.  Named for the state park in which the runs take place.  Because I was planning on running the Indianapolis Mini-Marathon the weekend after these runs took place, I was hesitant to sign up.  When I found out that my running partner signed up for a road half marathon in Virginia, I decided to commit.

On Friday before the race, I drove up to South Bend, Indiana.  I borrowed the girlfriend’s Buick Century, put my dog Bo in the back seat, leaned my seat way back, threw on some gansta rap and headed up to Potato Creek State Park after work on Friday. I found my campsite, set up my tent and then decided to head down to the packet pick up at the expo at the park shelter.  I knew this race would be small because it was the first year, but I didn’t know how small until I told them my name for the bib.  RD Brett, says “You are from Indianapolis right?”  Wait, what?  How do you know me, this is only my fourth trail race…ever.  And I’ve never been described as fast enough to remember, or really fast at all.  Brett and I chatted a bit about running, the trails for the following day and where everyone was camping.

I returned to my campsite, hung out with Bo, went for a quick walk and then climbed into the tent.  I didn’t sleep terribly well and after I layered on about 3 shirts, leggings and my jeans, I finally fell asleep for a few minutes, until a familiar urge woke me.  I don’t know if it was the three Strongbows* or the 20 ounces of water I drank before and after each beer cider, but I had to get up and pee about 5 times that night.

The race started at 8:00 am, so I figured because I was only a 5 minute walk from the start I could sleep in until 7:00.  I got out of my tent, drove over to the start line and got my ½ cup of coffee.  This didn’t quite do the job I was hoping for, but it did wake me up a bit.  I came back to the campsite, did some business and started packing up the buick.  When I finished I looked at my watch.  It was 7:52, my water bottles were empty and I was 5 minutes from the start. Crap! I jogged sprinted to the start, filled up my bottles and then walked up to the line, which was actually just the sidewalk at the shelter. I then thought in my head how pointless chip timing is when there is only a timing mat at the finish line and not the start.

The Race:
The start was signaled by both some bagpipes and a spud gun.  That was pretty cool, since you know; we were in potato creek state park.  The group all moved at once down the course.  Now, I’m not a trail running snob, but when I hear things like “I’ve never run on trails before” or “this is my first ½ marathon” I try to pass those people as quickly as possible.  I quickly fell into a line of runners and chatted with a runner ahead of me. I told him that I wasn’t trying to be mean, but he didn’t have the legs I was hoping to follow for the next 13 miles.  He gave a little chuckle and then told me he was running the ultra.  I didn’t have any more smart remarks to say to that, so I just told him good luck.  I followed him for a couple miles, and then stopped at the aid station to switch one of my water bottles for some HEED.  He disappeared and I found some other legs to follow.

The first 6.5 miles of the course were through the mountain bike course that had been built there over the previous years.  It was really nice to run on, but quite narrow and it prevented a number of passes that I wish I could have made.  I wasn’t really trying to finish this race quickly, but I didn’t want to be stuck behind a long line of people when the technical parts caused people to slow.  The course has very few hills, but still rolls up and down about 15-30 ft from time to time.  It was nice to keep the legs working but not tire me out too much.

After the mountain bike path, we started running on crushed gravel paths that were wider and much more established.  This was nice because the group could finally spread out and find their pace.  I found ultra legs again, whose name I believe is Steve, but I’m not sure.  We chatted after the 2nd aid station and stuck together for the final 6 miles of the race.  I was wearing my Vibram KSO Trek Five Fingers and only had to do one loop, so I was splashing through all the puddles.  He was trying to keep his socks dry, so he would tip toe around the edges of those parts.  That allowed me to pass and be passed by him a number of times.  It was nice to run with someone and we kept each others spirits high.  He pulled away from me on the final mile but before he made the right turn to do another loop, he waited for me and said congrats/good job.  That was really nice of him.

I turned left, did the final couple hundred yards and finished with a 2:04:09.  I was pleased with that and I didn’t feel like I really killed myself on the run.  The RD saw me after I finished and said “Hi Ben! How did it go?” I’m always impressed by runners and race directors who remember names well.  Sorry Ultra Legs, I forget your name!

I hung around for awhile to get my personalized medal and some food and drinks.  I chatted with the RD’s family who were running the finish line and then hit the road back to Indianapolis.  It was a really fun run. There was no competitive pressure, but there were some strong athletes there.  I’ll be back to run again next year, but maybe a longer distance…

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