A little background: Christi mentioned signing up for the Planet Adventure Winter Trail Run way back before the Huff Ultramarathon experience. I joked that I would like to complete one trail race before signing up for another. Which was true. However, true to
my obsessive form, once the first trail run was over, I immediately wanted to register for another. Christi and I recruited Amy and Kelly to participate in the quarter marathon. There was one major difference in this race: the start time was 6p and lights were required.
After desperately trying to recover from my windy 10 miler earlier in the morning, I finally got my act together with time to get ready for my second run of the day. Of course us girls coordinated to wear matching outfits. We had a black and white theme: tights and running skirts, tops of choice and hats/headbands. Amy also picked up four pair of neon pink argyle knee socks just so everyone knew we were together (cause that’s hard to figure out). I packed a sizeable bag consisting of gear for our post-race outing. After getting dressed, packing up the cupcakes I had baked, and a quick stop for gas and a sugar-free Rockstar, I was off!
We met at Amy’s on the west side of Indy at 430p. We donned our bright socks, charged up our handwarmers and posed for pre-race pics. We packed up Libby and made it to Eagle Creek Park by 5p.
Parking was a little confusing, but after pulling a U-ey, we found a spot and trotted over to packet pickup to get our goods. The wind had (thankfully) died down almost to nothing, making for an absolutely beautiful evening. Chilly, but gorg.
After grabbing our gear, we sat in the car for a few minutes to stay warm. We discussed how insane this race was bound to be. Most of the snow from earlier in the day had melted so we were hoping that the muddiness would be kept to a minimum. Whatever we were handed, we decided we would rock it with style. Clearly. I told the girls that I listened to a Jay-Z/ Kanye song on my ride down that summed up everything that was about to go down ~ “That Sh&& Cray.” It became the night’s anthem.
The quarter marathon wave started at 6p. We lined up with the other runners and turned on our lights. Christi and I rocked our knuckle lights while Kel and Amy strapped on their headlamps.
We took one last look at our clean socks. Surely they wouldn’t be so pretty in an hour or so.
When the race started, the pictures (unfortunately) stopped. PS, my Daddy called us out later, asking if all we did was take pictures together or if we actually ran too? Snap. Similar to the Huff, all of us girls couldn’t stop raving about “how cool” this race was right from the beginning. Such a change from our mundane Monon runs (in terms of scenery). The sun was going down on the horizon and the color and clarity of the sky bouncing off the water was an absolutely stunning sight to see. The terrain started off awesome; occasionally squishy, but nothing remotely similar to the “chocolate pudding” ground experienced at the Huff. We wound up hills, down slippery stairs (on which they successfully warned us not to speed down), over snow-covered cliffs, and through tons of tall trees. At one point we all looked behind us, and just seeing the line of runners with their lights on coming through the park was so unbelievably cool.
Within the first 15 minutes, Christi asked us if she could go on ahead since we were in no way planning on racing this. So on she went, like her own little version of a Boppy Fairy. (Wo)man, she has become such a strong runner. So darn proud of her. Kelly, Amy and I hung back and just took it easy. Enjoying the sights and making lots of small talk. I was more concerned about not rolling my ankle than setting any sort of PR 😉 I love that we all essentially run at the same pace. We feed off each other’s performance with such ease. We walked when it got a little too hard and sped up when we were feeling strong. Since our Garmins were not so much accurate with all the hills, running based on how we felt was the perfect remedy for us all.
Hands down, our favorite part of the race was running across the reservoir. On the map above, it looks like you would need to swim across the water to get to the other side of the park. However, we actually ran on what turned out to be an isthmus (a strip of land with water on both sides)! PPS, don’t act like you’re not impressed with my geographical knowledge. Anyway, running across the rocky paved trail while the sun set, and once again turning around to see the stream of headlights in the distance was purely amazing. I wish I had my camera, but I don’t think it would’ve done ANY justice to the beauty of the environment. This was so. much. FUN!
The aid stations came every 2 miles. Again, amazing. I’m going to keep running trail races just for the food! The shining star: individual salted potatoes! Mmmmmmm.
The second half of the race was ‘slightly’ different than the first. Though the hilly ups and downs were about the same, the terrain had shifted to one that was less than smooth. The mud puddles were becoming much more frequent and the “chocolate pudding” was making a comeback. We were forced to run in a single file line, so whoever was in front was in charge of warning the others behind what was coming up. Whether that was “MUD!” or “ROOTS!” or “SLIPPERY!” we had our system down pat. Mind you, all we had to rely on was our headlamps or knuckle lights. The approaching ground was NOT easy to visualize if you didn’t pay attention. Being overly aware was pretty fricken exhausting.
The last mile and a half was pretty darn nasty in terms of mud pits. But having been through the experience before, my mindset this time around was much different. I busted through those pudding pits like it was my job, not worrying about my pretty pink socks that were now anything but shiny and new. This was Kelly and Amy’s first experience with the mud, so they were a little less gung-ho with it all. I did my best to encourage them to just get dirty. What’s a little more mud when you’re already dirty? 😉 Overall they did fantastically with their first trail run. All we kept saying was that we were so glad we were stopping after one loop. Sounds familiar.
We finally hit the pavement and approached the finish line in a row of three, arms linked together. We cheered as they announced our names. 6.55 (ish) miles in 1 hour and 25 minutes! Christi, who finished in an amazing 1:12, was cheering off to the side. Best part: being handed our “medals,” which were large pieces of wood with the Planet Adventure emblem on top. Hysterical. This will definitely spice up our medal racks.
We grabbed some post-race grub (Fig Newtons!!), took some post-race pics, and chatted with friends (Hi Lori!). We then headed back to the car and subsequently back to Amy’s to change out of our muddy/sweaty gear.
Our next stop was Rock Bottom for dinner & drinks in our Perfect Strangers sweatshirts. We’d been talking about doing this ever since we had them made. And honestly, it was everything I had thought it would be. We had a crazy waiter who right off the bat complemented us on our “wood,” and proceeded to tell us a completely inappropriate story about feminine products. 3 out of 4 of us ordered sliders. We all partook in a delicious golden brew. We signed eachothers medals, yearbook style (PS4EVER). We listened and cried as Kelly told us about how her and Jaime had always dreamed of having “closies” but just hadn’t been successful in finding any; until this past summer. I also talked about how all I do is blog about running and how much I love my Perfect Strangers and how boring it must be for my readers 😛
After laughs and tears, we each went our separate ways. I fought off yawns as I made the hour drive home. What a long day. Nearly 17 miles ran in everything from snow, to ice, to mud. Another experience for the books. And a great race I will most definitely be signing up for next year. And with a little more encouragement, I’m sure I can be convinced to run my next trail run in May 😉
This Is The Good Life.