Sunday, January 29, 2012

Planet Adventure Winter Trail Half Marathon

I was excited as soon as I found about about this race. I even skipped the Brewers Guild of Indiana Winterfest so that I could run. The idea of a night time trail run in the winter was so appealing to me that I skipped a day of drinking craft beer to put on some tights and a headlamp and run around in the woods in near freezing temps for 13 miles. I am pleased to report that the good people at Planet Adventure put on a great event that didn't disappoint.
You had the option of a quarter, half, & full marathon, each one made up of the appropriate number of 6.55 mile loops around Eagle Creek Park in Indianapolis.  Each race started 10 minutes apart and with 500 people signed up between all three races, I had some concerns about getting stuck behind slower runners on the trail.  The first mile was mostly traffic free but things started to get congested after that.  A few runners took to running off the trail to get around people but I tried to relax and pass where I could.  I knew that after mile 2, the course opened up while going around the bird sanctuary and that there would be plenty of room to pass people & make up time there.  Miles 3 to 5 were very runnable and I was able to settle in to a good rhythm. After there it got a bit interesting.  With all the rain/snow that had fallen over the last week & the temperature hovering right around freezing, the "swamp" loop lived up to it's name.  Shoe sucking mud for what seemed like a mile straight.  Some people tried to tip toe around it but I really didn't see the point and just charged through. It was wet and ridiculously cold but I'm sure I saved some time by not trying to avoid it. It's a trail race. You're going to get dirty. I may have had a different approach if I was running the full marathon but I wasn't worried about wet socks or cold feet on a half marathon.  From there the trail conditions approved and ran my first lap in 57:25.
The crowd thinned out a lot for the second loop. It was a completely different feeling than the first lap.  On my first time around the bird sanctuary, I turned around to see hundreds of headlamps running along Eagle Creek Reservoir, making their way down to the water.  On the second lap, I saw maybe a dozen lights behind me.  I was running with 2 other runners and we took turns passing each other until we arrived at the Lilly Lake aid station.  I stopped to drink some Heed and take a GU and lost sight of both of them.  One of them I would catch toward the end of fitness trail section, the other one I never saw again. When I arrived at the swamp loop the second time, the conditions had become even worse.  There were a few times that I thought my shoe was going to stay lodged in the mud.  Once I had cleared the mud, I pushed on to the finish line.  I ended up finishing in 1:58:02 & 29th out of 228. The finisher's medal is one of the best I have ever received. It's a cross section of a log with a piece of leather acting as the ribbon & Planet Adventure placard. Age group winners received an additional plaque with their age group standing to put on the back of the log.
Thanks to Planet Adventure for putting on a great race and thank you to all of the volunteers for standing out in the cold for 8+ hours.

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