Saturday, August 29, 2015

2015 St Paul Trail Marathon Race Report

Had 7 weeks after Afton to train for the 3rd St Paul Trail Marathon, held on August 22, 2015. My buddy Todd had told me a couple months beforehand that he would be up for work in August and we should find a race that Saturday. I told him I had already signed up for this, so he did too. We picked up our packets in Minneapolis on Friday and ate some pasta. Saturday morning, we woke up early and after parking, got on a the bus to the start. We easily could have slept in longer. We started at Battle Creek and the whole course was unfamiliar to me except the section between Swede Hollow and the Eastside Heritage Park. We were a little intimidated by the hill seen from the starting line, but it turned out to be nothing in comparison to the hills overall in the first sections. We started off easily together as we wound thru the grassy trails before going thru some woods. Lots of turns! I took a pit stop and caught back up. Met and ran with a few people on and off (Sami, Chris) - both with Todd and without as he moved ahead of me. I caught up to him on an out and back and we had some more miles together. With all the turns, there were only a couple areas where you could miss a turn if you were not paying attention. We eventually got intermixed with the half-marathoners and even the 10kers. They were really good about allowing up to pass.
I had expected the race to be on paved trails just about the whole way, and wasn't too excited about the course going into it - moreso just about seeing and running with Todd. A few days before the event - I realized that the course was 55% on 'real' trails. So much for not training in my trail shoes and doing all those miles on the paved path around Lake Phalen.
Anyway - the trail did become technical the 2nd half and had some good ups/downs. Todd took one spill (behind me, so I missed it), and I had one good rock/root I kicked, but was barely able to keep myself on the trail. (That big toe hurt on and off for a couple of weeks).
One section on a rock wall was interesting, as was going by an empty homeless campsite - but those 83 (or 86, I forget now, but I counted them during the race) stairs were quite difficult at mile 19? or so.
After a steep rocky climb to an aid station at Mile 17.2, as I crossed the walkway over highway 61 - my legs started cramping up. First the left inner thigh, then the right leg, just above the knee. Then the left just above the knee. Then the inner thigh on the right. It alternated between all those places for the next hour and last 8 miles of the race. It was bad enough to stop me in my tracks on two occasions - once as I passed near the finish line after a long downhill (mile ~21.5) prior to going out to Swede Hollow, and another time at mile 24.5 near Heritage Park, before heading back toward the finish. I was hoping to see Todd near that turnaround before getting split off on the opposite Swede Hollow trail. When I did see him just after another cramping episode, he told me as he passed that this was my fault. I completely understood and felt it myself. Just wanted to get thru it and keep moving to fend off more cramps. (The decision to leave my S!Caps at home - it was in the 60's to low 70's, why would I need them? and the fact that there was No Gatorade on course. ok - just water is fine. Duh, no wonder I got cramps the worst I have ever gotten them!).
The last few miles were slightly downhill and I continued to move. Wasn't so worried about time and had very little expectations with not knowing the course AT ALL. As my watch ran though, I had a goal of beating 4:10...and I came in at 4:07:36.
Ended up as my 3rd fastest marathon ever (out of 11 now) and best since my fourth marathon I finished with a 3:53 PR in Dec 2009.
Todd wasn't too far behind me. As a non-trail runner (one other trail event in his history), he did rather well!
We enjoyed a post-race beverage and food before finally ambling to my car and making the short drive to the house. (My family was on their way back from Milwaukee, so missed this one).
We took a little walk to the lake later on to help things get back to normal. After three days of my legs being sore to the touch, they were perfectly fine.
Early miles