Moorehead Trail Mazathon – August 20, 2016
It was time to find a marathon for August, to keep up with the quest to run a marathon a month. I had a few in mind, but it’s hard to find long distance races in the middle of summer.
I had my eyes on the Wausau Marathon (Wisconsin), the State Fair Marathon (Nebraska, post race funnel cake, or fried X on stick??) and the Mazathon in Iowa. So, I would have a short drive to all my possibilities and a hotel stay…so it came down to the fact that registration was only $50 for the race in Ida Grove, IA. Yes, a marathon for $50!
Note – apparently it’s pronounced “Maize-a-thon” as the course and park is a maize of trails. I keep pronouncing it Mahz-a-thon…I suggest “maizathon” LOL
I drove to Fort Dodge, IA the Friday before the race, which is still a healthy 3 hour drive. I checked in after grabbing some Fazolli’s plain noodles, at around 9pm. After an hour of getting my crap together, I called it a night, as I would wake up around 5 am, to stop at the nearby DD for breakfast and drive the additional hour to Ida Grove. The race started at 8 am.
I arrived to the race start at about 7am. It was in Moorehead Park. There was parking on the grass near the start and near the main building for the park.
I walked into the building and told someone my name, and they gave me my bib. It was inside a reusable lunchbox/cooler with some flyers/coupons, a silicone bracelet, and the unisex cotton short sleeve shirt. I was happy there were no plastic bags, but a more creative way to hold all our stuff. I could have done without the flyers/coupons as I wasn’t able to use them.
The volunteers also reminded me to put my name in the random drawing. The prizes were sitting next to the name box. There were water bottles, bug soother (bug spray made in IA) and other similar things on the table that would be given away. We would just check after the race to claim them.
It was a cool start. A rain storm had just passed through the night before and took some of the humidity with it. Maybe about 60 degrees and there was a slight breeze. It would only warm up to the high 70’s. It was a perfect day for a race, especially for August in Iowa. Also this was a trail race, so that rain added some additional challenges with a few muddy/slick spots.
There was a small gathering of participants, which made the pre race announcements easy to just shout out. There was a warning about the course being longer than expected and a caution about the elevation. It wasn’t my first trail race, and not the first at this distance, so I was ready for whatever.
The website had all information you would need. The course would be 3 loops on trail, of 8.8 miles. There were going to be Aid Stations with real food. The race director sent emails the week before the race, and was easy to communicate with. I asked what the electrolyte drink was going to be on course, and got an immediate response. It was a good thing I asked, as I don’t care for Heed.
Time to get to the course details. I mentioned it was on trail, through a park, and was 3 loops. What I wasn’t so sure about was the elevation or climbing changes, and we were right into the swing of things off the bat. The start was immediately up the parking lot hill.
I am sure I was running too fast…but in that first loop it was all about getting room to run on the trail. I eventually settled in behind a group of 3. They would walk up hills and muddy parts, so I just followed suit. I eventually found out, they were only doing the one loop option.
We had trotted along the trails, through the woods, passing some water stops, which had some cups available. We were told to bring our own water bottles, so it was nice to have cups if you needed them.
After this area of terrain, just around mile 5 there were the steepest of inclines to conquer. It was an eye opener! At the first summit we were treated to a gravesite, and the steep back down. The second major climb was a sledding hill, there was even a tow rope to get you to the top, in the winter…but no, we had to run up. After we came speeding down, it was the first big Aid Station (this was about mile 5), with a buffet of goodies. There was watermelon, salt, pretzels, chips, gummis, bananas, chocolate covered bacon, water and Heed. However, don’t spend too long here as there is one last big climb, back up the sledding hill on the other side. This time the reward was a cool view of Ida Grove.
The entire course was marked with orange flags that were either staked into the ground or tied in a tree. There were also signs with arrows and signs that said wrong way. It was easy to navigate the course.
So, I thought I was over the major steep climbing, but there was another one, UGH, but this part of the course came close to the starting area, where we would then turn again and head back into the wooded trail.
This is where I encountered my first “fall” well if you call falling uphill a fall. There was this steep, short, incline. It was muddy and slippery. I could’t make it up on my first attempt. However with a little more effort, I made it, and then discovered there was a small rope on the side, for help. I also thought “I have to do that 2 more times?!??!?” *Spolier alert: I conquered the additional times by taking a running start to it, and each time I threw my arms into the air for victory, lol*
I really was not familiar with the park, the trail, or course; it really was a maize across the grounds. I could see though that I was on the back side of the lake, and that the first loop would be coming to an end soon.
I had a good taste of the trail now too, there was single track, open grass, mud, woods, and all the hills!!!
I came to the end of the first loop, a volunteer noted my bib number as I came across what was the finish line. The clock was also ticking here. I looked at my Garmin and noted the loop was 8.4 miles) After I passed, I stopped at the Aid Station and had some watermelon, and pretzels.
I was prepared to go out on my second loop. This time it was much less crowded. In fact, from this point on, I really didn’t see too many people. The second loop was uneventful. I think I walked some of the inclines backwards and discovered the 5 mile Aid Station had salt to dip the watermelon slices into!
I was listening to an audiobook as I ran the first two loops. I walked some, just took it all in. I knew what I would feel like if I really pushed it. I also knew there was a 12 hour time limit, yes you read that right!
The third loop, I was sorta bored…so I turned off the audiobook and switched to music. I run with bluetooth headphones (this time Aftershockz Trekz Titanium) It’s easy to switch my phone to airplane mode, saves battery, and use the headphones. However I switched to the music and went back on the grid and created a “snap-a-gram” story on Instagram. So I took the last loop to take all the pictures and have some fun)
I finally came to the finish. I wear a Garmin Fenix, one of the higher end GPS watches. It also keeps track of elevation, which I was watching as I ran. When I finished, my time of 6:55 was nothing to be too excited about, but I only had a distance of 25.53. I know that with trail running, distances can be off. (was also prepared for a long course) I also noted the total climbing was almost 3600 ft, so I was happy calling this race done and good! I knew my legs were toast and my quads would be feeling it. (down hill is so much harder for me)
Once I was finished, I finally grabbed a stick with chocolate covered bacon. Why yes it sounds interesting, but Bacon – Good…. Chocolate – Good…it was delicious! I really didn’t see too much other food for the post race, other than what was at that aid station. * I am not too hungry after a longer run/race, so it was ok. However it would have been nice to get a burger or something, or a beer, guess I should have brought one.
I made small talk with the RD as she was at the finish and personally handed me my finisher’s medal. We talked about the length of the course, and I didn’t hear anyone else say the distance they had. She was mostly interested in the total ascent. We went on chatting and she told me that the next year they are planning for a 50k and 50 miler.
I went into the main building to see if I won a raffle prize, and I didn’t. Then I changed my clothes in the real bathroom. (There was a free shower coupon for the local YMCA too) I then said, thanks and hit the road to return home, all 4 hours of it.
Ok, so I first stopped at one of the gas stations in Ida Grove and treated myself to a Dr. Pepper, since there was no beer. I also was on a mission to find at least one castle or something. There is some weird story about a guy who is obsessed about castles, so he built his home to resemble one, and some businesses in town followed suit. Since I didn’t have a tour guide and didn’t feel like trespassing, I saw what I could and hit the highway.
It was an uneventful trip home. I even stopped at the same McDonald’s and travel plaza where I celebrated my July “marathon.”
This race was also a great tuneup for the North Face Endurance Challenge half marathon, in Wisconsin. I ran the 50k there last year, a great set of trails there too. I really like trail running, so I like to take advantage of any opportunity I can to run them.