It started with the sleet & snow on Sunday night the week of the race. I was out shoveling & scraping the ice & snow off the driveway the next day in near zero degree windchill conditions. I did not catch a full fledged cold, but I did come down with some kind of bug -- sneezing, a constant dripping nose & worst of all was the fatigue. For several days I thought the race was not a possibility. However, after lots & lots of bed rest & vitamin C, I felt better by Friday afternoon. The race was on.
My next hurdle came when I arrived at the race -- the snow had melted at Grand Rivers, but there was sleet & ice everywhere. Despite 50's the day before & above freezing temps overnight, the trails had a thick layer of sleet on them. I needed shoes w/aggressive tread -- I had none.
The temp was nice & cool & I started the race with a slow controlled pace. After the 1st mile, I looked back & out of nearly 700 runners, there were only 75 or 100 behind me. Starting in this position, I knew there would be backups once we hit the trails & a restrained pace the 1st loop.
Despite the stop'n'go running with the crowd on the 1st loop, I was ahead of the pace that I set last week during my test run on the course. Near the midway point of the 2nd loop (18 miles), I was at the pace I needed to be to make the cutoff. I could even run a little less than 14 minute miles & still make it -- I felt I could do it.
But, it was like a switch was thrown & the course instantly deteriorated! Instead of the semi-solid sleet base, it became sleet, mud & mucho water. The water could not drain off the trails as the sides had built up with splashed out sleet. It was hard to believe it could get that deep on a usually well-drained course.
When the trail conditions changed, my chances of making the cutoff went out the window. I was disappointed, yet I continued enjoying the run with the adverse conditions.
The temps felt like they rose to the 70's (actually only 50's) & the 3rd loop was mostly run in cold water. Some of the small streams that you could jump over the 1st loop were now 15' wide & you had to be careful of dropoffs when wading thru them. Where the trails were flat, the water just stood in the trails several inches deep. On the hills there was always a steady stream running down the middle of the trail. Splish - splash - what a gas!
I have some soreness in the arch of my right foot (where I ran with too much mud in that shoe) -- other than that I feel pretty good. I did not push & extend myself this race so I've decided to go back down to Tennessee for the Savage Gulf Marathon in what promises to be a most scenic & challenging run.