I think that first time LLTH race directors Cynthia & Todd Heady pulled off a great job & should be commended. I’m so happy that they kept the event alive this year. In trying to play a more active role in helping out this year, I’ve truly realized just how much time & effort & organization is required to direct an event of this size.
I tried to update the LLTH blog with an eye on the forecast, but the weathermen kept their record intact as they missed the weather & temps for about 5 of the last 7 days. Had their predictions held true thru the week, the course would have been frozen solid with a lot more snow on the course. Instead, the course had sections with no snow and the snow that was there was not solid, but an icy/powdery type snow with a thin crust that was hard to get good traction on. The course also thawed out quick & became muddier as the day went on.
With the temp at an unexpected “warm” 30 degrees approaching the start, I decided to go without tights & keep with the plan to use the Yaktrax Pros for the 1st time. I felt the decision on the tights ended up the right one as it warmed up quite a bit thru the day. The Yaktrax though, were troublesome all day as I had a constant problem with keeping them positioned correctly on the shoes, and if I ignored them at that point, they started to come off. I felt they were most helpful in getting traction on the snow, but not so helpful on the roads or mud or especially when I got tired of bending over to fix them.
Noting my time at early checkpoints in the race, I knew I was running slower than the 6 ½ hour pace of last year and that my goal of finishing in less than 7 hours this year was not going to happen either. Although I was only running 15 minutes slower than last year by the end of the 2nd loop, the course conditions were changing & I knew all that extra effort to get traction in the early miles was going to catch up with me. However, upon reaching the 1st junction on the Purple Heart Trail, I came across a change in the course I was totally unaware of – the biggest part of the trail was being bypassed and the Purple Heart “shortcut” trail was being used. So I stood there pondering at the junction -- I knew the course should have gone to the right, but the big yellow arrow & flagging indicated a left turn. So down the left side of the trail I went. This change would save at least 10 minutes at my pace on the outbound & 10 minutes on the inbound – so less than 7 hours was now a distinct possibility.
I was feeling OK at the turnaround point & still felt I had a good energy reserve to finish well. But, things changed soon after as I was heading up the 1st big hill back. Trying to get out of the way of a runner coming quickly down the hill, I took a big step up the side of the hill & when I did, the left leg locked up stiff & became extremely painful. After a few minutes writhing in pain, it finally subsided. I found I could continue, very slowly at first, but with a much shortened stride. All stepping over logs & up steps was now with the right leg first & very cautiously bringing up the left. Near the end, I felt I had something left, but held back as the leg was still tender & felt if I strained the leg it would lock up again. Officially, I finished in less than 7 hours, but knew if the full course had been run as expected I would not have reached that goal.
Overall, I’m happy with my performance considering the condition I was in & am very hopeful that Cherokee Road Runners will continue this great event next year. I enjoyed getting back together with all the fellow trail runners I’ve gotten to know over the years & am really glad to have started these blogs as it really intensified the experience.