I've had the race on the calender since New Year's Day...so I had planned my Lake Placid training accordingly. I basically spread my week 7 training plan over two weeks (last week and this week), with the race scheduled for Saturday. That would give me some time to take it easy a few days before and after the race...
I thought it ironic that we would head into the city for a trail race...but that's what we did. Up at 5:00am, on the road by 5:40, my good friend Adam and I headed into Joliet, IL. The race was capped at 200 people and had both a 50km and 25km race. 25km seemed enough of a challenge this year...especially since I needed to get back to IMLP training ASAP.
The weather was cold and windy. I opted to go with my Salomon Gore-Tex trail shoes w/gaiters, shorts, two short sleeve shirts, arm sleeves, stocking cap, and gloves. I was cold before the race, but knew I would be fine once we got rolling. I carried 20oz of Ironman Perform to drink and two Gu packets.
The beginning of the race was a bit chaotic, as they sent the 50km racers off a little after 8:00am and we followed about 15mins later. Why they choose to send the 50km racers off before the 25km racers is a mystery to me. It would seem that the 25km racers would ultimately have to work through the packs of slower 50km racers. This indeed turned out the be true.
The first 5 miles we great. Adam and I held a fairly conservative pace and steadily moved through the field. The trails were in fine shape considered the weather N. Illinois has experienced. Lots of mud and snow...but most parts of the trail had decent footing SOMEWHERE. Hit the first aid station at mile 5, took in a Gu and drank some water. All is well.
Immediately after the aid station, we latched onto the lead female runner. The original plan had been to pick up the pace during the middle 5 miles...so we did, and managed to run with her during this stretch. Things were about to get interesting...around mile 7, we passed two guys on bikes (walking their bike). They were supposed to be out in front marking the course...but said they couldn't and we should follow the marks on the ground (in the mud and snow). Hummm....
A mile later, we ran into the leaders...two guys that were absolutely killing it. They were back tracking, so we assumed they had made a wrong turn. We spent about 5 mins jogging around a few trails, looking for the right trail when all of a sudden the leaders headed back down the trail they had just come from. Our conclusion? It WAS the right way. Follow them. At this point, we know we are running in 3rd and 4th place. Lucky break for us....
We finally hit the 2nd aid station, mile 10. Grabbing some calories and some water, we continue on for the last 5 miles. The trail got BAD. At this point, we began to put a little distance on the lead female and began to feel that we had 3rd and 4th place locked up. This is about the time we passed the race director. He said that there were no more marking from this point on...and then told us which way we needed to go. Great.
With about one mile to go...I managed to find a smooth, and rather large patch of ice. I slid for a moment, and then hit the deck hard. And I mean HARD. Adam laughed...and I was up quickly with a little shot of adrenaline. Approaching the finish (which is also the 10 mile check point) two guys showed up out of literally NO WHERE. My theory is they were hitting mile 10 of their race (which was also the finish line)...they were not listed as complete finishers. About 1 min later...the top female finish crossed the line. Now for the weird part...about 10 mins later, the two studs killing it out front finished. So, either they took another wrong turn and made their run longer...or we took a wrong turn and cut the run short. If we cut it short, I'm fine with a DQ. Otherwise, there was no one between the "studs" and us...putting me in roughly 3rd or 4th place. The official results list the top female finish 2nd overall...and I'm not even listed. It is what it is...bummer to have such confusion at the end of a race.
Although the course could have been marked better (or just plain MARKED at some points)...any day is a good day for a run in the woods with a friend. Especially when they give you shiny medals at the end. Back to the Lake Placid grind...lots of biking to do this week. Thanks for reading.
(PS: Got a great email from race director explaining all of he problems they encountered. Seemed like a great guy. I'll run it again...really was a nice race/course.)