Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Triple D Adventure Race & Poker Run

About a month ago I learned of the Triple D Adventure Race & Poker Run, a crazy run/bike/ski event in Dubuque, Iowa, along the Heritage Trail. Since I'm presently training for my first ultra in March, I knew the marathon would be a great training opportunity. Running participants had 3 options from which to choose: half marathon, full marathon or ultra marathon, while bikers would ride 100 kilometers (62 miles, to you & me). Due to lack of snow, the ski version of the event was cancelled.

If you think the "adventure" part of the name is simply an adjective for an outdoor event in January in Iowa, you'd be partially correct. Not only is it a winter event, but it's TOTALLY unsupported meaning no water stations, no course officials, no aid stations. I was aware of this little nugget, but the reality of this "adventure" failed to dawn on me until the pre-race meeting at 9 a.m. when I looked around and saw no other participants with water belts. Sure we all had our Camelbaks, but with an average capacity of 70 ounces, I needed my water belt and its additional 40 ounces of fluid. 

My buddy and Ragnar captain Paul asked me how I would keep the bottles from freezing. Freezing?!!! Whaaat?!!! Sure it was only 7 degrees with a windchill that made it feel like -6, but freezing? So I opted to leave the water belt at the finish. Thankfully Paul also encouraged me to wear my Camelbak under my coat as that would surely freeze as well. 

My gear included dressing in two layers of thin, dri-fit shirts with a thicker third shirt over top. I was planning to wear a vest so I didn't overheat, but there was no way it would fit over my Camelbak so a non-running coat that I'd had with me had to suffice. Additional gear included regular winter tights and a running skirt, a single pair of wool socks, gloves and mittens, hat, and neck gator. My Camelbak was water with 16 Nuun hydration tabs diluted the day before so no fizz as well as 4 packs of Sport Beans. I ate a PowerBar during the bus ride from Dubuque to the start in Dyersville.

Looks lonely, doesn't it? This was about 4 miles in along the Heritage Trail from 
Dyersville to Dubuque. This was a flat, unprotected stretched that ran parallel with Hwy. 20.

The woman up ahead was running a beautifully easy pace and did not appear
phased by the snow pack & ice. I was chicken and began what would be 
many, MANY miles of walking.

While on this unprotected stretch of trail, I tried to move my braids from my 
shoulders only to discover they'd frozen. SOLID.

I'm pretty sure I wasn't mentally ready for this type of tundra.

Running just north of the small town of Farley, Iowa, the trail tunneled under
a road and then entered a more wooded area.

 While the woods on the other side provided shelter from the wind, that same
shelter blocked the sun, leaving the trail quite ice covered. Ahead of me was
Tom, a lovely man from Nebraska who would be monumental in helping me finish.

Even with the grey gloom, the trail was still gorgeous!

It's hard to emphasize the pitch of this drop off and it was here that I first
starting thinking that I would not make it. Thoughts of calling my husband
quickly evaporated as there was no way to tell him where I was.

Over the past couple of weeks, I'd been battling a weird fatigue that left me
without ANY energy to run and somewhat "bonky" and dizzy when I tried.
As I began to experience flickers of those same feelings, I thought if I fainted,
I'd be laying out here for hours! But just then the first of the 100k bikers started 
humming up the trail. "Humming" is the sound their massive tires made. I've done 
winter bike rides before but had never seen tires the width of their behemoths. 
I was very impressed (and relieved to know there were others around.)

It was during this lonely stretch that I began to glimpse a couple of bodies
up ahead. I wasn't gaining all that quickly, but I wasn't losing them either.
By mile 16 the Camelbak had run dry, but I was making solid ground on
the two runners up ahead. Eventually I caught up with them and was never
so grateful for human contact. The three of us hung together as we ticked off
the miles to the one marathon stop at Mile 22 in Durango. When I admitted 
to Tom that I might bail and not finish, he scoffed and told me, "Well, we'll just 
finish it together. Even if we have to walk." And walk we did...

In terms of difficulty, the marathon and ultra course deviated from the Heritage Trail
through cornfields and small woods. For marathoners, this was the final 2 miles
of the event. A.J., on the left, was doing the ultra and after checking in at the
marathon finish, had to backtrack those rough miles to the Heritage Trail and 
continue to the ultra finish. She showed nothing but spunk and voiced no complaints!

A.J. and Tom climb one of the few hills.

Just knowing they were there helped ease the horrible pain in my feet and
assured me we would finish this thing.

And finish we did! Tom and I tied for DFL! (Dead Friggin' Last!)
I'm shocked I could smile after that! At 6:25:47 Garmin time, this was 
my worst finish by well over an hour, but as my Grampa Kroymann
would tell me when trying to convince me to eat the crusts of my toast, 
"it puts hair on your chest!" Even when running, character building still sucks! 
But I was shown once again how even during dark moments, I'm never alone...
I honestly feel that Tom was heaven-sent as there was no way I could have
finished without him. My hope is to one day be such a support to another
runner, one who may find themselves overwhelmed and beaten, and pass on a
little of Tom's strength and spirit that certainly sustained me on this
cold January day...thank you my new friend.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Chainsaw Chase 5k route

My apologies for such a lengthy delay in any long run postings. And, honestly, these can't be classified as "long run" material, but given Saturday's inaugural running of the Chainsaw Chase in Charlotte, I thought I'd post pictures of the route for any runners wanting to mentally prepare . . .

Action Central!!!

The event starts and ends on Flat Road off Hwy. 136 across from the CAAC 
(Charlotte Area Activity Center) which was the old Charlotte School
and is now home to the Haunted House Flat Road off Hwy. 136.

Flat Road continues right while runners will veer left past the kindling pile ...

... and up the unpaved portion of the Mill Creek Rec Trail. Watch out for walnuts!

If not rolling an ankle on a walnut, there's plenty of hiding spots
for spooks to pop out of!

Pretty creepy, right?

After nearly two tenths of a mile, runners will drop down onto the paved
portion of the Mill Creek Rec Trail.

A child of the corn?

Surviving one of the scarier parts of the course, runners follow the trail
into more open spaces.

Ready for some Billy Goat's Gruff? 
Runners will head over the narrow metal bridge.

Revisiting a portion of August's Deep Creek Dash route, runners will
follow the trail to Charlotte's Broadway & head right/south.

Broadway T's with Hwy. 136 and the route will dog-leg right and then left
to ?? Street where it will pass Dad's Place Bar & Grill where
participants can look forward to food and drinks following the race
before the Haunted House opens at 7 p.m.

?? Street turns left after a block and becomes Park Avenue?

Mile 1 falls just shy of the church parking lot at the top of the hill on the left.

After running Park Ave. to ??, runners will turn left/north for 1 block
before taking on the infamous Hwy. 136.

Participants will enjoy how various residents celebrate the holidays!

Turning north/right off Hwy. 136 at Louise Street.

From Louise Street, runners are treated to an easier very of 
the Deep Creek Dash route--they'll go DOWN Old Creamery Hill vs. up!!!

At the bottom of Old Creamery Hill, runners will head right/north up 
Broadway to the northern city limits of Charlotte.

Assumption Catholic Church offers a great setting.

Heading back down Broadway, runners will turn right/west 
at Gateway State Bank and out of town ...

... and toward the west city limits.

... before turning around for the final stretch through the back of the park.

Taking the back road into the park, runners will head over the bridge ...

... and to the finish, just beyond the cornfield!

See you all Saturday, October 20th!!! Race-day registration and packet pickup is 2:30-3:45 p.m. at the CAAC (Charlotte Area Activity Center) where there is plenty of parking. Costume judging for any participant who comes incognito will be at 3:45 p.m. and the race will begin at 4 p.m. Race and costume awards will be announced by 5:15 p.m. Registered runners/walkers will receive a meal discount at Dad's Place before the Haunted House opens at 7 p.m. where runners/walkers will receive HALF OFF admission!!!

Saturday, August 11, 2012

The final 10ish before Ragnar

I haven't been able to join the Clinton running crew since May but given their scheduled 11 miler a week before the Ragnar Great River Relay, Aug. 16-17, I made it priority #1 to get my butt out the door and to the Clinton riverfront by 7 a.m. today. Five of us showed, including our maimed, but spirited leader, Pam, who exemplifies the meaning of "support." Today was her first day off crutches since hobbling over the finish line of the Crossroad's Triathlon last weekend when her knee went crunch/pop/OUCH during the last yards of the 5k. She continues to go above and beyond what the sport/hobby/mental illness of running requires by being the first to arrive and the last to leave, not only at the starting point, but with water and bananas at the midway AND finish. You rock, woman! Now . . . on with the pictorial show!

Having run into some friends along the riverfront, I stopped to chat while the
other three runners kept going. When it came time to cross over the river, I
veered off the rec trail for new scenery. Even though the morning temps were
in the 60s and I was wearing capri tights, this summer's blinding sun and
spirit-killing heat had me automatically seeking  the shade of Clinton's Pershing 
Blvd. where I got to see first hand the damage from last weekend's crazy storms. 

Many trees were lost in the 80 mph winds.

It's amazing how everything seemed so changed! Having been in Wisconsin for
the last week, the weather has dramatically changed here in Iowa. Gone is the 
heavy humidity and sizzling, triple digit heat, not to mention the browned, 
crispy lawns. The greens were gorgeous and the blooms were colorful!

I don't know why trees get me so. Probably because they are
pretty irreplaceable. What was once beautiful symmetry
greeting visitors to this front door is now lopsided and "off."

But rather than focus on the sad, I found plenty of cute out there, too.

Wh, wha, what?!!! A couple of weeks ago, I'd had my kids out on the 
Great River Trail from Fulton to Thompson, Ill., and the three of us
were amazed to see cactus growing wild along a portion of the trail.
I'm guessing it's a perennial in this person's flower garden, too!

Is it just me, or does anyone else see a tree growing in a spiral
and wonder, "What the heck?!"

One of my favorite things about running in town is freaking out the
neighborhood guardians. These two were quite miffed by my presence.
Just look how the left one's giving me the stink eye!

Since I began running in Clinton, I've had an affinity for the Lyons area on
the north end of Clinton. This gorgeous Siamese feline is always lolling in her 
shop window, stocked with various cat couches and toys.

Waking the neighbors! Note the head of the black hairy beast on the left. 
The vigor with which he threw himself at the fence told me
he was hungry for a stinky runner. 

And speaking of stink . . . check out the kybo! Isn't nice to see that the
railroad bosses are thinking of everything.

After climbing the killer hills en route to Eagle Point Park, I stopped to
smell/wheeze the berries . . .

Again, have the leaves always been so GREEN! It seems
like all sorts of colors and hues have been returned to nature!

Not sure how I've missed this sign in the past, but it instantly
had me thinking of the British "Keep Calm and Carry On" signs.

It was mentioned in our pre-run talk that once we entered Eagle Point
Park we could either run with or against traffic. I'm usually an 'against traffic'
runner, but in this park, I've ALWAYS run with traffic. It's never occurred
to me to run opposite within the confines of the park. What a treat! It was
amazing how different the park looked and felt!

The shadow this hedge cast made me think of tiny, little gnomes.

Viewing the widest part of the Mississippi River.

This is another tree that made me think, "How the heck?"
But not only how it grew that way, but how the heck 
have I missed it all these years?!

A fir almost bonzai in nature.

I've been coming to Eagle Point Park since my age was in single
digits and today's the first time I really LOOKED at this obelisk.
Any Dan Brown or National Treasure fans think there could be
some masonic secret being communicated here?
Where's Tom Hanks or Nick Cage when you need 'em?!

Several hydrangia bushes edge the entrance to the park.

This quaint cottage serves as the office for Oakland Cemetery
that, along with St. Ireneaus Cemetery, sits adjacent to the park.

After leaving the park, I opted to remain on city streets and wend my way
back toward the riverfront. I was totally psyched to spot my favorite flower! 
I don't know its name, only that it's a perennial that just springs up in late summer/
early fall. I'd LOVE to grow some of my own . . . if I only knew its name.

Not long after the flower, I happened upon this sparkly ground cover.
Upon closer inspection, I realized it's broken beer bottles! How clever!

It wasn't until I reached St. Boniface Catholic Church, which
was decommissioned and now serves as the Catholic Historical
Center for Clinton, that I noticed more broken glass around Mary.

I loved the homage to the rosary!

One of the two steeples on St. Boniface.

Just south of St. Boniface is The Bicycle Station.

I just love those beak-like adornments!

Even though today was supposed to be an 11 mile LR, I only did half of Eagle Point Park because my knee's been feeling quite well and the short, mean little hills throughout the park was taxing the legs so I did not complete the full 2.5 mile loop through the park. Also, in stopping several times to chat with different people, I forgot to restart my Garmin. Soooo, it's a strong estimate that I banked about 10 . . . ish.