WTF – Winter Trail Frosty
Holy mud batman.
Prepping for Carmel i wanted to get a few half marathons in before race day. With the winter weather this is pretty difficult to do.
First there was the f3 half marathon on the Chicago lakefront. Coldest race I have done in my life. Leading up the race it was -50 degree windchills during the week. Race day it was -20 to -15 with a actual temp of -4 at the start to the race, warming up to a toasty 8 degrees at the end. I finished a respectable time, but nothing to brag about. I made some mistakes and actually got injured after the race, likely due to the shoes and or not probably warming up stretching.
This year I figured I would try for a actual half closer to my race, something to test out travel and mental prep. I found a trail race outside of Carmel, Indiana, so something that would not only simulate the travel time, but also the location. Perfect. The only catch was this was race was historically known to have bad weather. It’s called the Winter Trail Frosty, WTF for short. Race week forecast was going to either be rain, snow, or a mix of both.
Fast forward to race day and the weather is a mild upper 30s low 40s with a light drizzle. Only issue with that was because of the warmer weather it was raining the days leading up the race… so the trail was flooded in sections and extremely muddy in others. Did a warmup on a little section of the trail and knew it was going to be a muddy one.. Little did I know.
The race starts in waves so there is not a lot of bunching up, which was smart. After we got sent off, a group of about 25-30 of us took off down the trail. The lead pack was in sight, but speeding up as I got stuck behind a few people on this single lane trail. No worries, I can pass them in a bit. It felt very challenging to get some ground going as I had to climb up some steep hills, for the first few miles and it took me a bit to get my heart-rate under control. Either way counting the people I passed and knowing who was in front. I figured I was around top 10. Which was accurate looking at the race pictures.
The trail got pretty aggressive with tree roots, steep downhills and very slick terrain. However, the biggest challenge was the mud. Soooo much mud. It slowed me down a lot and I was only able to pass a person or 2 every mile. Still a small confidence booster when I was able to. I got to around mile 5 and there was a volunteer keeping on eye on a pretty bad section. Asking how I was doing, told him okay. And said you going for another loop? I said… yup! He responded with a big smile saying it was only going to be worse the second time around.
He was not kidding. But before I could go on another loop I had to through the finish line, problem was I was not sure how to get there. The person ahead of me got a good lead and I lost him in the forest, I knew where the finish line was but didn’t know where to turn as the course was guided by pink ribbons on the trees. I got to a point where there was a sign telling me to go straight, pink ribbons telling me to go left. I knew the finish was to the left so i took that. But as i was heading down the leaders of the race passed by saying i was going to wrong way… They also muttered… “you don’t want to get DQed…”.
Thanks, so I stop look around and continue going down the path I chose as I didn’t see another viable option. Sure enough it was the wrong way and I looped around an extra half mile or so before I saw the finish line except i was coming in the wrong direction and it was coned off and blocked, so i looped past it and stopped to ask the race director what the heck I should do. He told me to go through the finish and head back out. But between the extra half mile and stopping to wait to talk to the RD.. I lost a lot of time and ground. As I started up again I realized I forgot to grab water, oh well.
Get sloshing through the trails again and notice unfamiliar people ahead me… ugh I lost so much time. Push through a few people and end up passing a few people I passed at the very beginning of the race. Crap. Looking back at the pictures, most of the people I was running with in the second half consisted of people in the later waves, who caught up the quicker folks. Sloshing through the mud was extremely difficult on the second half, the trail was essentially like running through 1 foot thick brownie mix. Same consistency. I was very happy I decided to wear my trail Napalis as they offered some lugs to try and dig in a little. The downside being they collected the mud each time I brought my foot back up. Rinse and repeat for the next 6 miles until I get to the end and realize where the mistake was made. I missed a quick left hand turn that led directly to the finish line the first time through. Oh well. It was a fun race, a difficult race, and one for the memory books. One race I can look back at and be…. hey this is easy compared to that… hah
I ended up finishing with my slowest half marathon time EVER! My first HM was faster than this. But it wasn’t about time today, it was about seeing what I was capable of, what my mind could push through and I think this will help me in the long haul. Now to try and get healthy.. as I have been injury laden all cycle.. between foot pains and hamstring issues. About 3 weeks until Carmel… so not much time left!