I made the short drive to the park, found a place to park and went to check things out. This was a very informal race: no registration, no fee, no awards, and aid station only at end of each 6.55 mile loop. With all of the snow we had I wasn't sure about running the race at all. The only reason I was really there was to use it as a training run for the 50k trail run (The Hat Run) I had next month. Due to weather I hadn't been getting many miles in and this was good way to push myself into a long run.
There was a bit of a wait for start time and then for everyone to get organized. A few minutes after 10am, our official start time, we were set and the National Anthem was sung and race instructions given. Lots of warnings of ice and hard packed snow in them and cautions especially when passing. Then we were off!
Within 50 yards I, along with many others, found myself trapped by a couple groups of some of the rudest and most inconsiderate women I've encountered during a race. I understand running with your friends, it makes the miles go by easier, but when you have a narrow path with deep and dangerous to run on snow and ice to each side and insist on running on 3 a breast so you can talk you are being inconsiderate. And to do it at the start of a race with several hundred runners trapped behind you goes beyond breaking race etiquette. They made no effort to move over as runner after runner slipped and scampered off path around them. They just kept chatting oblivious to the rest of us who were taking up space in THEIR world.
It took me almost a 1/2 mile to work my way around them and I was off. The opening 2 miles were as icy as promised. I was very glad of the extra traction my Treks provided me. As long as I kept my strides relatively short and took it easy around corners it wasn't too bad. There was one steep hill, to get up the side of an overpass, that proved too treacherous to run, but rest was doable.
The first 2 miles went by relatively quickly. There was some slipping, but damage done by it was minimal. But I was looking forward to the hard packed snow with good footing that we were promised for the remainder of the 6.55 mile loop. Once there though, I was less than thrilled.
The rest of the first loop consisted of some nice scenery and occasionally passing or being passed by other runners. A few comments during the brief meetings to distract from how the body was feeling helped pass the time. Footing remained horrible and feet continued to slide all directions twisting them up as well as my ankles and knees. Everything below the waist was a bit upset with me as I hit the end of the lap.
The aid station at the start/finish area was self serve, so I grabbed a bottle of water to refill my bottle that I was carrying in my waist pack. I quickly filled up and took off again for the start of lap 2. The temperature had warmed slightly since the first lap, which wasn't surprising since it took me around 1:06 to complete it. But, the footing hadn't improved much.
The third loop was pretty uneventful. I saw very few runners, hit the gong without hurting myself and slipped around considerably less. I ran a slightly slower lap than the second, but didn't feel much worse. Unfortunately the final 200 yards was now a big puddle and my feet were thoroughly soaked and muddy by the time I reached the aid station.
I finished strong, but still had my slowest lap of the day. My unofficial and official (timing was all on our honor, we recorded our own finish times) was 4:43:24. I felt like crap, my feet, ankles, knees, and all leg muscles were killing me. My right shoulder was throbbing, I was dehydrated and blood sugar shot. But, I was in and alive and met my goals. I got in a training run that would help me be ready for my 50k. My feet, though sore, showed they could go the distance in vibrams, no way the 50k course could be harder on them. I made it through almost 5 hours of running with zero calories or electrolytes, doing 31.2 miles with them would seem easy.