Places to Run – Squire Point

PLACES TO RUN

SQUIRE POINT, 2800 N Dubuque St, North liberty, IA / Coralville Reservoir

This area I call Squire point is a combination of a couple trails near the Coralville Reservoir. It is also referred to as Linder point or Woodpecker Trail. All the trails hook up together, creating one trail system.


Access / Location: There are parking lots at the entrance to the Squire point off of N. Dubuque St. The trail loops around to another access point off of West Overlook Rd. with more parking spots. The parking is free. The maps will provide a clearer picture of access to this area.

Mileage: A loop of the outer edge of this trail system will come out close to 4 miles. The way the trails are laid out you can make a longer or shorter run by turning left or right.


Terrain: The trail is a combination of many surfaces. The majority is packed dirt, and it’s solid. There are sandy patches, leaf covered areas, many tree roots, and near bridges there are rocks. There can be washed out areas and downed tree limbs. Wider than single track. There is one spot you can cross into a campground to hit the trail as a loop. Trail shoes aren’t necessary, but if it’s muddy I would recommend them.


Elevation / climb: The trail takes you to the edge of the reservoir, so you climb down, it can be steep in spots. Iowa isn’t mountainous, but these are nice trail climbs, so beware if this is your first go at it.

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Scenery: The is near the Coralville Reservoir, many views of the water, while still being lost in the woods. May see deer and hear many birds.


Maintenance: The trail is maintained by the Army Corps of Engineers (I think?) Tree limbs are cut up and removed. There are steps added on steep inclines. Water crossings have bridges. There is no winter maintenance.


Markings: There are maps at every intersection or fork in the road. There is a hole in the sign marking “you are here.” No mile markers.


Features: There are benches with views of the reservoir. The trail also has workout stations where you can do pull-ups, climbs, sit-ups, etc. There is no trail user fee. There is a bath house located in the campground off the West Overlook parking area.

Warnings: There are tree roots and can be muddy in wet conditions, watch your footing. No fires, no bikes, no horses, and pets must be on a leash.


Personal Notes: Try to get to the area in the mornings or avoid weekends as it’s more crowded.

Map:

*information current as of 8/10/17

Places to Run – Hoover Nature Trail

Places to Run

The Hoover Nature Trail, West Branch, IA section

The Hoover Nature Trail is an old railroad bed that follows the old Chicago, Rock Island and Pacific Railroad route between Burlington and Cedar Rapids. Only portions of the trail are completed for recreational use.

Location: West Branch, IA to Oasis, IA

Mileage: 3.5 miles (one way) You have to start near Main St in West Branch and run to Oasis Rd.


Terrain: The part in the city limits of West Branch is chip and seal, and the parts in the county are maintained crushed rock. One highway crossing and one gravel road crossing. Trail shoes are not necessary.

Elevation: FLAT! no hills

Scenery: Trees and farm land line the trail. Depending on the year you can find corn or soybeans planted next to the trail. Small creek runs alongside in parts with a few bridge crossings.


Maintenance: The City of West Branch & the County Conservation Board maintains the trail(plus volunteers.) The sides are mowed, tree limbs are cut away, a grader will touch up the rock periodically. There is no winter maintenance, you get to make your own way in the snow/ice

Markings: At one time mile markers were on the trails, but have been damaged over the years. There are gates to keep vehicles off the trail. Random signs for horses to stay off to the side.

Features: Peaceful! While the trail sees a lot of usage you might be the only one out there. There is an outhouse style bathroom near Oasis. There is no fee to use this trail. There are some benches placed in random spots.


Warnings: Be aware of off leash dogs, while it’s not posted to keep your dog on a leash, many use the trail this way. The bridges have some holes, so watch your footing.

Personal notes: This is a great flat trail that’s easy on the body. The start is close to where I work, so I am able to #runch easily.

Map:

 

50k? Ok!

Why would you run 31 miles?

The most obvious, cocky answer is … because I can! Also, have you not been reading the blog? JESH!

Alright, I’ll be nice. I ran 31 miles or 50k as part of my goal to run a marathon a month. In my previous post about this run (CVNT Ultra) I had planned to run from point to point on the Cedar Valley Nature Trail to accomplish at least 26.2 miles. However last minute safety issues near the starting point (runners being attacked) had me re-assess the plan. That turned into an out and back, that would be 31 miles or 50k (due to facilities)….that is why I ran 31 miles.

Background – I was on a short road trip with my dad, and we stopped to check out the “Largest Skillet” in Brandon, IA. We stumbled upon the Cedar Valley Nature Trail, a flat crushed rock, maintained trail that runs from Cedar Rapids to Waterloo, IA, approximately 51 miles long.

It’s hard to find a close race in the summer, or it’s a tough terrain on a trail that I am not trained for. Instead of spending all my money traveling and on hotel, I planned my own event.

Race Day – Josh was going to be “crewing” and friend, Joel was going to be biking. There were really no plans, but to make it out and back.

July 16, 2016. We arrived at the Center Point Welcome Center, which had a parking lot. There were bathrooms, but at 7am, the building was still locked. We made sure to utilize a nearby gas station. The weather was perfect for running this distance in mid July, 60’s and low humidity. (It would warm up)

Gear: Badass Running tank, Magenta Sparkle Athletic skirt, neon green Pro Compression Socks, Brooks Ghost 8, Orange Mud Endurance Pack, Bibrave Tech Hat, Garmin Fenix, 2 Toms, XX2i USA1 sunglasses

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My pack was loaded with food and water. Josh stood by with his phone and sounded a “Gong” and the race was on! Joel started near me and biked ahead. He was getting in some miles for the upcoming RAGBRAI. Josh got back in the car and planned to meet me in about 6 miles, at Urbana, where there is a bathroom.

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I was really enjoying the trail, I also had a new audiobook to listen too, which was drowning out the sloshing noise from the water in my pack. I was about 4 miles in, when Joel came riding back towards me on his bike.

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He notified me there was a dog up ahead. When I reached the home with the dog, it was barking at me, but appeared to have a collar on that was hooked to an invisible fence. It was nice to get the warning. Thanks Joel!

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I kept on trucking and met Josh on the trail. Not only was he crewing, he was going to run some miles. We ran into Urbana, where we met Joel. We stopped and used the bathroom and I had some snacks and Gatorade, it was about 6 miles into the run. Josh continued to run a little further with me.

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He turned back to get the car, to meet me again along the way. It was getting warmer and there were spots without shade. The next stop I met Josh, he ran a little more, but when we came to the car I drank more G2 and we put on some sunscreen.

After I parted ways again with Josh, the next meeting point was going to be Brandon, IA. There was a bathroom there. When I was about 2 miles away, Joel came riding back towards me. He said he was going to ride further to La Porte City, and he would catch up later.

I trotted into Urbana and spotted Josh. We had talked via phone (hell0 bluetooth headphones) and told him how I would love a cold orange Gatorade (heavy). My Garmin had 15.42 miles, but I thought since I had made it to Brandon, we needed a picture at the giant skillet, so I hopped into the car and we made it the few blocks to grab a photo. After chugging more Orange Gatorade and eating a bag of trail mix, I was now half way done and on my walk back to the start.

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It was about 80 degrees, and I was enjoying listening to my audiobook. However I was starting to slow, had to start walking a bit. I just kept moving though. The parts in the shade were great!

Some bikers passed by, some shouting they liked my skirt and my socks.

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I met up with Josh again. I was having an issue with chaffing, and I was out of 2Toms (GASP!) As the water drained from the pack, the fit became looser and I didn’t tighten it, causing an issue around my sports bra. I tried rolling more 2Toms, had Josh try to put it on too, but with the sweat and empty feeling of the bottle, I can tell you it didn’t help. (Review of the pack coming soon)

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I remember checking my watch around mile 21 when I saw Josh, I slowly ran until about mile 26, when I was back in Urbana. I was proud, I made it about a marathon distance and was still moving. I was also out of water.

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When I got to Urbana, I stopped at the bathroom again, and this time (thanks to a phone call via bluetooth) Josh had Orange Gatorade with ICE!!! It was the best ever!! He also filled my bladder with water, which made the pack fit lots better.I ate some more snacks and kept walking towards Center Point, I was on the home stretch.

Josh said he had a text from Joel. He made it to La Porte City, and said it was a good thing we changed the route as parts of the trail were closed to the north. He also realized he had been out for a while and enjoyed a hamburger and ice cream, and would try to meet us back in Center Point.

I developed a weird pain in my right calf at this time. However if I slowed down it felt worse, so I shuffled along. There was also an issue with time… I was close to setting a PR in the 50k…however I didn’t think I could push it…also we had 2 dogs at home that needed to be let out (Thank you neighbors for taking them out last minute.)

Joel came riding up behind me with about 2 miles to go. Josh had also parked in Center Point and ran back to find me, we had all met again on the trail. I think I remember Josh walking as fast as I was running (but he does have longer legs.)

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I remember looking at my watch when my 50k PR time passed, I had .40 miles to go….Then there it was the Center Point Welcome Center.

I looked at my watch and I still needed to run a few more tenths of a mile, so I made sure to get 31 miles by running a little past the center and back.

DONE!!! 7:14…5 minutes from my PR. With a last minute decision to run this far, I was ecstatic. I received some high fives from Josh (and some stares from the people at the Welcome center)

Josh had run about 17 miles and Joel had biked 60.

I attempted my post race jump photo, it was tough. My calf was in pain, felt like a giant knot and bruise at the same time.

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I needed a beer! We went to the Center Point Travel Plaza, it also had a McDonald’s. I got a chicken sandwich and the best, most saltiest fries ever!!!! We snagged some Summer Shandy tall boys and popped a squat in the parking lot. Joel joined as well. The best post race party ever! We had fun catching up and discussing the day.

I would love to make this an annual event. The trail is flat, and a great place to run. You can run as far as you want, bathrooms and towns to use or buy things as needed. There are roads to cross, but just make sure to look both ways and should have no problems with traffic. There are other users on the trail, but it’s long enough for everyone to share.

*Note on my health. I had been having some weird low blood sugar kind of issues. My stomach would feel super hungry, then coincidentally on my last long run effort I felt light headed like I needed to pass out. Well leading up to this, I cut out drinking so much sparkling water, see I don’t drink carbonated beverages regularly… I feel like I was filling myself full of bubbles and causing some weird gas feeling.  I also improved my snacking and protein intake. I was trying to eat something about every 2 hours, string cheese, nuts, and apple, peanut butter, etc. I ran this and had no ill effects, never felt hungry, or light headed. I had plenty of snacks with me, and drank a butt load of liquids. I am also writing this a week later… I have had a sparkling water or 2, and I noticed if I drink too much at once, I feel weird… so I will just not drink a lot of them. I also have not been super ravenous or felt light headed…this is after running 31 miles.  I will continue to monitor this situation.

I do not currently have an August 26.2 or longer on the calendar, I am still looking, but leaning towards the Wausau marathon. I wish there were some trail races that weren’t on tough technical trail, I am not trained for elevation at this time.

Stay tuned for my next adventure…..

 

 

 

 

Governor’s Run 2015 – review

Sunday November 1, 2015. Scott Co Park, Long Grove, IA (Park View) 1pm. Sunny 65 degrees.(probably the best weather ever for this race)

I enjoy this race and always try to run it, if it fits in my schedule. This year is my 5th time participating. I have recapped it the last 2 years, nothing much changes, but it’s always a great time. This year I was running with Laura.

Registration: This is available in a few different ways. You can pre-register online, send in a form, or register on race day. The fee is never steep, and they have an option to not purchase a shirt. On race day I paid $17 without the shirt. If you wanted a long sleeve unisex cotton shirt it was an additional $15. Included was a bib, post race drinks, and admittance to run through the park trails. (not sure if there is a fee for this)

Pre Race: There is no expo or packet pick up event. You can register on race day and get your packet an hour or so before the race. Also available for only $4 were past years race shirts. There is plenty of free parking near the shelter where the race starts. Once that lot fills, there are other lots with shuttles provided. The park bathrooms are closed for the season, but there were 6 port-o-potties brought in.

There was music playing on a speaker, and with about 10 minutes before the race start, participants were encouraged to gather at the start. No need for pace lineups, unless you were a super speedy trail runner, you could get to the front easily.

One change from last year, there were no shortcuts on the race this year. The National Anthem was sung live, and a gun started the race.

Race/Course: The course is advertised as a European Cross Country Trail race. Well if you have no clue what this is, you should do your research, or you will be pleasantly surprised. While the course is in the park, it is truly through the park, on all trail surfaces.

There were also 2 races, a 2 mile and a 4+ mile race. The removal of shortcuts had me worried. A short cut is usually a shorter route on the course, but more difficult like crossing a creek. Since there were none, all racers had one course. It had also been rainy the week leading up to the race

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  • all trail – some marked trail, some single track, some flagged routes through the woods, prairie trail
  • creek crossings – you find your way across, through the creek, climb a log, go off course
  • MUD – slippery, squishy and dirty
  • Hilly
  • leaf covered – keep eyes out for twigs, roots, rocks, mud
  • some spectators on marked trail
  • some photographers
  • different colored flags (blue or red) marked each course
  • 2 water stops, in paper cups. no food on course
  • some hay jump obstacles, and a culvert; otherwise all “obstacles” w  ere made by nature
  • Mile markers by orange flags
  • Prizes on course – there were ribbon/flags hanging on tree limbs with numbers, you could grab these to redeem at the finish for a prize. They were different colors, which represented different prizes. There were also items in the woods that didn’t belong, if you returned them at the finish you also got a prize.

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I think the course is why I love this so much, it just makes you feel badass for climbing through the woods, splashing through creeks and slipping through the mud. Maybe I am just a trail runner at heart.

Laura and I ran the 4+ mile route. In all the years I have done this, it has always been near 6 miles. This year it was 6.2 ish miles long.

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With this being said, I was ready to slap a woman just about a a quarter mile in, at the first water crossing. She was like, “we all have to go through that?” I rolled my eyes, and jumped into the water, leaving her behind, who knows if she finished the race.  

Also there was another part I was frustrated with. This is not an easy course, and running trail is slower than running pavement. (DUH!) However we were behind a guy running with a kid (his kid?) He kept nagging on the kid to keep up, and saying he was holding him back, he could run 5 miles faster than this.  There was also a point where Laura and I helped others out of a creek at a steep bank, this guy stood by and watched, even as we helped the kid up. UGH! 

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Finish/Post Race: The end of the race was at the shelter, where it started, and there was a finishing chute with a clock. It had you go into the shelter as part of the finish. This is where there was water, ice cups, soda in cans, draft beer, and cold cider. There was hot food available for purchase, but no post race food for free.

Awards were held, but before everyone finished. There were overall male and female winners. An award for being injured, a hedge ball award, and an award for muddiest. Then the big prizes found on the trail were turned in: a sled, a bed pan and a skeleton with a Cubs shirt.

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Laura and I hung around for the awards and redeemed our ribbons we found on the course. I was able to snag a pair of Nike winter running gloves and Laura got a short sleeve tech shirt. I enjoyed a beer, it was cold, but we were both starving. This race being at 1pm, and about an hour drive made eating lunch a problem. So we left the park and hit up a local bar and grill for a post race meal. We also left the race without major injury, Laura got stuck with a thorn, and left her with a splinter.

Overall: You can’t beat a race with a fun challenge for a great price. Ok so the course is tough, but I always have a great time.

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North Face Endurance Challenge – 50k – Wisconsin

“Disclaimer: I received entry into The North Face Endurance Challenge Series to review as part of being a BibRave Pro. Learn more about becoming a BibRave Pro (ambassador), and check out BibRave.com to review find and write race reviews!”

Saturday, October 3, 2015. Cloudy 50 degrees, windy. 7 am. Kettle Moraine State Forest, Wisconsin.

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Saturday Races: 50 mile, 50k, Marathon, Marathon Relay, kids run. Sunday Races: Half Marathon, 10k, 5k, Kids 1k run. I ran the 50k and will be reviewing the events leading up to the race, the race, and post race.

Registration: This was available for quite a while online. Price started at $80 and increased to $115 on race day. The race was capped, and if it wasn’t sold out you could register on race day. You could transfer your registration to another distanceIncluded with registration was a bib with timing chip, a short sleeve gender specific tech shirt, finisher’s medal, post race hot food and a post race beer.

I registered with 183 days before the race, online. The race never capped and there was a tent with registration on site, shirts were still available, but may have to wait until end of race to claim, as they printed them on site. The shirts are nice tech shirts, but not race specific, so if you ran the 5k you got the same as the 50 mile.

Expo/ Packet Pick up: There was no expo. Instead participants were given a virtual race bag, and encouraged to pick up their bibs and shirts at three different area North Face Stores the Thursday and Friday before the race. To pick up your packet you had to have an ID, and you could pick up someone else’s with a copy of their ID. The store closest to the race (Brookfield, WI) had a speaker event on Friday night with North Face Athletes and the Race Director.

A group of us BibRave Pros attended the Speaker Event. There was standing room only, Each race has a different set of speakers, we were treated to Dean Karnazes, Dylan Bowman & Timothy Olson and a member of the Challenged Athletes Foundation, Sarah; along with Race Director Nick Moore. Each was given a different question, and we were told about the course. Then it was opened to questions from the audience. Followed up by pictures or book signings.

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IMG_3036[1]photo courtesy of Jeremy. The Pros with RD Nick Moore.

I do like the virtual race bag, no paper waste, however this bag I had no use for, I think there was one race discount and the rest advertisements. The 3 location event pickup was easy, you grabbed a bib in order of pick up and it was assigned to your name in a computer. 

*For this event I had met up with fellow pros Laura, Jeremy, Heather, and Kim. We said our goodbyes to Kim (she was doing real work) and all went out to dinner. I needed something bland, yet carbo-licious for a 50k. Laura (a local) suggested Marty’s Pizza. What a fun time! I ordered my plain pasta and the rest split a pizza. I’ve said it before but running or meeting running friends at a race is the best. We then said goodbye to Laura, and headed to our plush accommodations at a local hotel, as Jeremy and I were running the next day.*

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Pre-Race: The race start/finish was at a Park. Parking was available, but had to pass through the park entrance and get a piece of paper for free parking. Closer parking was first come, first served. Car pooling was encouraged. There were park bathrooms (real) and many port-o-potties. There was no security or law enforcement that I saw. The area had tents with many stations: packet pickup / registration, bag drop, giveaway tents, beer tents, medical tents, food tents. In the center there were fire pits as it was a bit cool. Each day there were multiple races, and they all had different start times, with waves. The waves were to just get people to start so they weren’t in a clump as most running areas weren’t that wide. The announcer kept his high energy throughout the entire event, announcing each start and what was happening.

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When I started there was no National Anthem, but it could have been played before the very first event.

*As I mentioned, I was surround by friends at this event. Jeremy wasn’t starting his race (marathon relay with Julia and Dylan) until 10 am, and Heather wasn’t even running that day, however they woke up early, even ordered a box of coffee, and went to the race start with me. We were at the nearest hotel, about 12 miles away, we made the mistake of just glancing at the race map on the website and driving to the wrong location, after a remembering there was a not about parking, we redirected to that address. We met up with fellow pro Brad, before the race too, he would be running the 50k as well.*

Race/Course: All courses were on the trails through the Kettle Moraine State Forest.

  • Trail – single track, horse trail, rocks, grass, dirt, sand
  • Hilly – nothing too steep, but overall rolling hills
  • Aid Stations – 6 stops on the course, plus the finish. Chips, pretzels, potatoes, salt, oranges, bananas, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, m & m’s, skittles, water, clif shots, clif energy drink. Medical personnel. Signs for how far the next stop was. Energetic volunteers. Had to shout bib number to person keeping track of runners.
  • Chip timing – there were no timing mats on course, but a system was in place to have updates sent via text, facebook and twitter
  • Spectators – only a few spots to view runners on the course. If you were doing the 50 mile, your crew was allowed on course at spots. The few spectators (volunteers) were very friendly with lots of pep.
  • Photographers – the were on the course in a few spots, post race photos were available for purchase the next day online.
  • Course Markings – there were no mile markers. The course was marked with plastic ribbon, the ribbon in the same color of your bib was the course you were to follow. Any tricky spots on course there was a volunteer directing traffic.
  • Bathroom – there was a port-o-potty at each aid station.
  • Scenery – nice scenic trail, views of forest and prairie, some parts of course are on the Ice Age Trail.
  • There was a 9 hour time limit for the 50k

I was setting out for 50k redemption. If you remembered I attempted my first 50k back in March, and there were just a handful of problems. I trained and was ready to conquer this distance.  I ran with a hydration vest, packed with water, snacks and an am radio.

I started the race with Brad. It had been a while since he ran 50k, but he started strong and soon pulled ahead. I was just happy to finally be doing this.

From the start, I walked the hills, and just really tried to keep a good pace. However my pace was all over the board. There were times I was on the course alone, where I had to question if I was on the right path, always checking for the ribbons. Then there were spots there were other runners. The other runners were all so friendly, everyone that passed (yes I got passed a lot) said good job or keep it up.

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When I was 4 hours in, it was time…time for some Hawkeye football. Iowa was playing in nearby Madison, and Josh was at the game. (Tracking via updates and Heather) I was advised about some stations to try, I found a good one and put in one ear bud. It was hard to listen to the Wisconsin call of the game, but I had a new push for the race. I was at mile 18 when the ball was kicked into play. It was at this moment I knew I would be able to finish this race.

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I carried on, I had tough moments, but those usually came just as I was getting ready to hit an aid station. I didn’t care for the electrolyte drink provided, and I only carried water, it could have been my problem. I made sure to eat a banana and get some salt, I felt better after each stop.

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The sections after mile 20 were really tough, seemed like the terrain started to roll more, and there was sand. I was even passed/startled by 2 horses that came up behind me, they passed but to only stop and do some circle manuevers ahead of me, which then I had to pass them, kinda made me nervous. There were also some hunters out on the trails, I was glad I was dressed in orange.

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Half time of the game came and went, and I tried to do math with game time and miles left, as to when I would finish and the game would finish. The game was close, a classic B1G game, lots of defense, with some fumbles and interceptions thrown in. 

Wisconsin had the ball, driving and they made it to the one yard line and turned it over, phew…still some time left, Iowa was leading 10-6. Iowa had the ball back, but didn’t do anything, so Wisconsin gets the ball back with around 3 minutes to go. I think I was at the last Aid Station at this point. They were not amused by the score, lol.

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After this stop, Mark from the Pleasant Creek Trail run passes me, he was doing the 50 miler…yep passed by a 50 miler. We talked a bit…all while paying attention to the game. He motored ahead, I took my time listening to the game. I didn’t want to finish too early, or push to hard with a marathon coming up.

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With the finish in sight, Wisconsin had a 4 and 2, they couldn’t convert. Iowa got the ball back, still leading 10-6… I crossed the finish line at the same time. I was handed a bottle of water and a finisher’s medal. There were 40 seconds left. I stood near the finish, before I even hit the food and listened to the Hawkeyes Buck the Badgers in Mad-town. Go Hawks!

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At this time Julia, Dylan and Jeremy had finished their relay and were waiting with Brad (who had already finished) with Heather. They stared at me while I stood listening to my AM radio. After it was over I heard some cheers from them, and proceeded through the finish.

Post Race/Finish: Finisher’s were handed a bottle of water and a finisher’s medal, the chute took a turn to the finisher’s food. When it was stocked there were chips, clif bars, bananas, oranges, & almonds. There was catered hot food for 50 milers, 50k runners and marathon runners; it was a hot sandwich (turkey, veggie burger, pork) chili, fruit, potatoes, cookie, soda. If you ran a shorter distance the food was $12.

Awards were announced, and prizes were given. There was a beer area, ID’s were checked and runners could get a free beer with their bib. Sierra Nevada had 3 choices, on draft. If you recycled your water bottle, you could get a free pair of Repreve socks. There was a tent for post race massage and chiropractor. The North Face had a rolling station and giveaways. Participants and friends could hang out as they wanted.

I talked with an AG award winner, wasn’t impressed with the prize, no actual hardware. (Josh won his AG in the 10k the next day, and received a sticker and hoo-rag head wrap) The lack of food for all participants seemed tacky. The finisher’s medal was all the same, just the ribbon was different. (Heather’s 10k ribbon didn’t have the date or location on it)

Overall: For a longer distance race, great organization, fair trails, great for first timers, this race is worth it. The generic shirts and medals aren’t enough to keep me away from doing it again. Or maybe I was clouded in my opinion as I got to hang out with friends all weekend.

As I said the whole weekend I was able to hang out with friends. Those still in town, Josh and T went out for dinner at a local brewery. We had a fun time, even though Josh found some strange piece of metal in his food. Must have been the great day of racing, beer and Hawkeye victory. Jeremy was also introduced to cheese curds.

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The event had 2 days of racing, on the Sunday, Heather, Josh, Laura, and Cass were running and I was able to cheer for them. It was a lot of fun seeing them all go out with a smile on their face, and finishing with a smile on their face. Once they were out I took advantage of the massage tent. We got to hang out some more after the race, visited Kim at the North Face tent again…then had to say our goodbyes.

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Or did we…Heather wasn’t in a big hurry, so we had one more hurrah at the Coyote Canyon Salon & Grille in Eagle, WI. 

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So if you made it to this point, run at least one event with a group of friends. Hang out with them, enjoy dinner together and take lots of pictures. Life is short, have a fun time and make all the memories!

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On to the next adventure, the Chicago Marathon.

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Make sure to check out my review on Bibrave.com (the other pros will have their thoughts too)

Pleasant Creek Trail Run 15k/30k – 2015 Review

30k Review, Saturday, September 19, 2015. Sunny 60 degrees. 10 am. Palo, IA

Registration: Starting at the end of August you could register online for $35, as race day approached the fee increased, and the chance of a unisex, soft cotton t-shirt, decreased. Race day registration was available for $50 and no shirt. Included with registration was a bib, (ankle style) timing chip. Registrants capped at 250.

I registered the same week of the race, and was not able to get a t-shirt. I was told I could check after the race about a shirt, I forgot to do this.

Packet Pickup / Expo: There was no race expo, but there was a packet pick up held the Friday before at a local restaurant offering a discount on your meal. You could also pick your bib up the morning before the race, up to a half hour before the race started. A friend could pick up your packet, no identification needed.

Laura’s fiance Tom grabbed our packets for us.

announce start

Pre-Race: The race is held at Pleasant Creek State Recreation area, there were signs posted in the park to direct runners to the correct parking lot. There was plenty of parking for everyone. The beach bath house was open for use of the real bathrooms. A small walk to the start/finish area through some grass. Timing chips were distributed at this time, they were an ankle bracelet style. Last minute registration was open. Runners milled about until announcements were made with about 7 minutes until the race started. Most announcements about the course, as it had rained for 2 days before the race. Also a thank you to the DNR for allowing the race. Participants could ask questions if they had concerns. Very easy to talk to the race director and organizers. No National Anthem

The 10 am race start was a struggle for me, I am ready to run by 7 or 8 am.

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Race/Course: The race was 2 loops around the lake, first loop – counterclockwise, second loop – clockwise.

  • Trail – horse trail ruts, muddy, puddles, sand, grass, uneven terrain, clean from most hazards
  • Hilly – not steep, but felt like we were always climbing or descending
  • Aid Stations – 3 on each loop, plus the one at the start/finish.  Water and Heed in jugs, paper cups available to drink from, or you could fill your own. M & M’s, bananas, gummi bears, fruit snacks, cookies, pretzels. Each station had a sign telling you the mile marker and how far to next stop.
  • Photographers – local guy taking photos as well as the spectators, all posted online for free
  • Spectators – small race, very few, if any. Only had access to certain spots on course
  • Course Markings – there were yellow flags closing off other trail entrances, signs on course with arrows, spray painted arrows on grass. No mile markers – just sign at aid station
  • Volunteers – very friendly and attentive, always a smile when you approached an aid station, and happy to answer a question. Only saw volunteers at aid stations.
  • Medical – No medical personel anywhere.
  • Bathroom – there were port-o-potties on the course, one at an aid station and one in a parking lot we ran through
  • Scenery – the trail was out in the woods, and near a lake. Many things to see, we even saw some pigs.
  • 5 hour time limit

I ran the race with Laura, at times we would meet up with others and chat with them as we ran. We took our time on the slippery mud, but when we came through on the second loop some spots had started to dry up. There was about every trail surface imaginable. The most difficult was the grass sections, hard to get even footing.

splashtrailas

Finish/ Post Race: The timing mat was strewn on half the road, a timing clock and the remaining people cheering you on. A “medal” was handed out along with a bottle of water as your chip was removed from your ankle. The awards were held before I finished the race. All medals and awards were hand made.

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Short walk through the grass to the post race grub. Grilled hamburgers, brats and hot dogs; chips, candy, brownies. Pepsi, Mt. Dew, water, Miller Lite, Bud Light & Sam Adams. No chairs. A Chiropractor stayed for a while for post race massage & stretch, but packed up before I finished. The beach bath house bathrooms were locked up and there were no other facilities.

foodbber

Laura and I plopped down on some cement and enjoyed the post race food and drinks. It was nice to chat with the people still milling about. We were able to cheer on the last finisher before we made our way back to the car.

finishers

Overall: For the price, race organization, and unique finisher’s medal, this event is top notch. “A race for runners, put on by runners.” Despite the trail conditions, this is one of the best trail races I have been a part of. I will try to run this again if my schedule allows.

smiles

Personal: I was running this race as a “tune up” for the 50k I would be running in 2 weeks. I needed some long trail miles, this was perfect. I felt great afterwards too. I was also able to run with Laura, you never know what will happen once we get together. We have no problems running together, we take turns in the lead, or if one needs to walk a hill, we both walk. It’s nice to have a buddy on the lonely trail too. Laura was also running for redemption, after a bad fall took her out of her first trail race, she wanted to complete this, and with one stumble, she finished this one.

laura

I also ran with my new Garmin Fenix, lots of information at my fingertips as I ran. Most important to me is the battery life, as my older Garmin wouldn’t survive a 50k. Here is the information, as you can see there was rarely an area of flat:

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Maybe my great race was due to the perfect weather and hitting my time goal of 4 hours. I finished in 4:04. Official results This also meant I had plenty of time to get to the Hawkeye football game, GO HAWKS!

I also ran with my GoPro, here’s the video https://youtu.be/Q_gtuitgnQg

I will load my review to Bibrave.com to make sure others get to know about this great race.

 

Music City Trail Ultra

“If I never do this again, it will be too soon…” I told the race director as he picked up trail flags behind me

Music City Trail Ultra 50k. Pegram, TN. March 14, 2015. 3rd year for the race.

That’s right, there’s a story behind this one, it’s a long one! My short & simple race review can be found at Bibrave.com. Otherwise grab some snacks and get cozy.

Registration: This was available online through ultrasignup.com. When I registered it was around $55 with a shirt included, as race day neared the cost rose to $70.  This also included a finishers glass, and aid station help. No medals, no chip timing.

Now why did I pick this race? Laura and I were looking to up our running game, I searched races available for the date of March 14, this one popped up, and it was a days drive. So of course, we signed up. We also jumped into a training program already at week 11, as we have a good mileage base. We did not read the message on the website:

“Course Description
WARNING – The Music City Trail Ultra is hard especially for the 50k. We are not saying this to impress you, read some of the reviews from last years runners on our site under the “News” link. If you’re willing to take this challenge and still be humble, we welcome you.”
Packet pick-up / expo / pre-race email: The week of the race an email surfaced from the race director. This had information about where and when packet pick-up was located and the general race information. It was a 11 page pdf. It was harsh, but honest, and had us wondering what we were getting into. Things like “add the map to your phone” “it’s going to rain” “follow the flags, don’t get lost” “bring a positive attitude” “it’s not a 50k walk.”
There was no expo, this is a small race, maybe 200 people tops. However packet pickup was at a Fleet Feet store near Nashville, the evening before. You could also arrive early to the race and pick up your bib. We were a little early, so we browsed the store. Once the pick up was open, all we had to do was say our name (no id was asked for and you could pick up someone elses) and we got our shirt and a bib in a bag with a couple of flyers for local companies, which is great if you lived there or had time to spend to use at the chiro.
After we grabbed our things, we hit the grocery store for some breakfast, and headed to our hotel, which was about 8 miles from the race start, but nothing fancy. We were both nervous, and I had developed a weird cough.
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Race Day:
I woke up feeling feverish, chills then hot, but I laced up my shoes, took some Tylenol. We got in the car and drove to the race start. It was cloudy and 50-60 degrees. We parked in a pasture at this house.
Pre-race: plenty of parking for everyone in the grass pasture. Port-o-potties lined up. Nothing fancy. An announcement was made 10 minutes before the race was to start, saying they would wait for the port-o-pottie line to die down, then they would start.
8:05 am – race announcements were made and runners had to take an oath. Then the race started. We just wanted to finish. We were given 9 hours to attempt our feat.
start
Course: There were 3 race distances that started at the same time; 12k, 25k & 50k. The shorter distances would eventually turn around or run a different route.
Trail, single track trail, ravines, mud, creeks, leaf covered ground, and some gravel. The terrain was tough, lots of elevation change. Up and down, through creeks, slippery, sloppy and wet. Course was marked with orange flags, some were placed really far apart.The course was a giant loop through a hunting preserve.
tree terrain
There were 6 aid stations (3 out and 3 back) with plenty of water, Gatorade, chips, pretzels, gummis and candy. The volunteers were friendly, but realistic if running slow. Some of them took photos. You were on your own aside from the aid sations.
There were no bathrooms on the course, just nature. No spectators. No mile markers. No medics
My race: Laura and I started out in the back, we didn’t want to get ahead of ourselves. Also the start was crowded, everyone was forced to slow down as we left the pasture and entered the woods. It was one by one, up the first incline and the trail was single file.
 firsthill
Once the racers spread out, Laura and I stuck together through the terrain. It was tough, even one section where we had to be careful not to slide down the entire hill. The rain the area received all the days before the race did not help. We also kept pace with another couple running the shorter race distance, we would catch them on the uphills and they would pass us on the down.
 climb
We approached the first Aid Station, had some drinks, snacks and refilled our handheld bottles. This was at mile 4.5, but my Garmin was tracking all strange. However I was using it to watch our pace. We were all over the place, a 10 min mile, then an 18 minute mile. I was somewhat worried as I knew I had to maintain a 17:23 mile to finish the course in 9 hours.
 slide
We were slowly covering the course. When we got to AS2, they checked our bibs against the time and were doing fine. We grabbed some snacks and moved along. This is when things change. Laura fell. I am not sure how it happened, the trail we were following was mostly covered in leaves, hiding things like rocks and sticks.  She got up and continued. Then she fell again, this time we were heading down a slight decline, her foot gut stuck up under her, she was in tears. I asked her to make it to the next AS, which was approx 2-3 miles ahead. She was still in tears, it hurt her really bad.
 
At the beginning of the race, we made an agreement, not to leave each other behind. We started to walk, Laura couldn’t run. We kept moving as it didn’t make sense to back track. I got my phone out, I was preserving battery life on airplane mode as I knew it wouldn’t last on regular mode. I had pre-programmed the 2 contacts in my phone for emergency. I sent 2 different texts, as we were instructed to text because of spotty service.
 
We kept moving. In this time another runner, Katya, stopped. She said she was a nurse, she attended to the tearful Laura. She determined nothing was broken, just a bad sprain. She gave Laura some encouraging words, Motrin and a Kit Kat. I waited for a text response, as my battery life ticked away.
 
Finally we hit a “Jeep road”, a part of the race that is a more defined trail. I finally got a response via text. I sent our location, and they said they would send someone on their way. We stayed put in one spot. I watched the time tick away on my Garmin.  Another runner coming from the other direction passed us, he also said he would get some help.
 
Then I heard the SUV, I answered one last call from the race director. I remember making a comment about finishing the race on time, since I was now about 35 minutes behind. He said he would allow me to finish.  I then said some parting words to Laura, and the man who picked her up.
 
I was now on this journey, on my own. I had no one, no music, nothing but my thoughts, my fever, and nature.
 self
I finally made it to the next AS. It seemed like it took forever to get there, I am not sure Laura would have made it that far. When I got there a guy was just leaving, he said there were a lot of water crossings ahead, some even waist deep.  This had me ponder taking my phone with me, my one and only life source.  I left it behind along with my extra GoPro battery.  This was also the longest section of the course without aid, a 6 mile loop.  I fueled up with some more snacks and was on my way.
 up rain mud
It had also started to rain, and the scenery was all starting to look the same. I made sure to keep my eyes on the orange flags. I crossed a few creeks, and then was off to climb through the woods.  I kept moving, I even saw some wild turkeys, to which I had a quick thought, “will they attack me?” “If a tree falls in the forest, will anyone hear it?”
 
I made my way back to the AS, making it my 4th aid stop. They said I was not the last runner, this lifted my spirits. This AS was also my favorite, very positive and the gummi Life Savers were delish!  I also made it back not having to cross any creeks at waist deep, maybe that guy got lost?  I reclaimed my phone and battery, and trotted on my way. I was also 17.5 miles into the race. My Garmin was close to beeping for 19 miles.
 
Once again, more climbs, more mud, downhills, more trees, more orange flags. It was all looking the same, but I just kept one foot in front of the other, pushing forward. It was the only thing I could do.  I made it to AS5, I asked how I was doing with the cutoff time, they said I was close. I was looking for encouragement, which I did not receive., which was also very mentally hard to keep pushing alone. They were friendly, I said later and left.
 creek
I only had one more aid station, then I was going to finish. I wanted to finish! I was even visited by the guy who rescued Laura, I told him I needed some new legs, he didn’t pull me from the course. Then I heard it, beep beep – low battery! My Garmin, the one electronic device I had. I wasn’t about to turn on my phone, I might need it for an emergency.  I ignored the beeping and trotted ahead.
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By the time I had finally made it to the last AS, my Garmin was dead and I was delirious. My fever was back! I was thinking of pulling myself. I chatted with the guy at the AS, he told me I had 6 more miles to go. I was so confused as I knew the last stop was at mile 26.1. I also asked for the time, I was told “15:52” ugh, I had to do some math on a soggy brain. I had about an hour to go 6 miles in this terrain, which I knew I could not do, but I was told I could finish.
 
I popped some more Tylenol, ate some more candy, filled the handheld and was directed to cross the creek and follow the flags. I didn’t notice flags in any other directions, in fact there was a pile of flags that had been pulled. I gave myself a pep talk, “I am going to keep moving, I will do my best, I am not going to quit, I need to finish for Laura, they will have to pull me from the course!”
 
I climbed up and out of the ravine, running when I could. I was then at this familiar cross road, the spot in the pre-race emails I was warned about when I came to it at about mile 6 ish. WHAT?!?!  Was I lost, did I take a wrong turn? I thought back, I knew I wasn’t feeling well, but I was religiously following the flags.  I pulled my map out of it’s plastic bag, where the heck was I? Which was was north? All the trees look the same, brown with bark.
 
Don’t panic, think this out. I fired up my phone. Carefully looking at the map, I discovered I was sent the wrong way at the last AS. I was sent in the same direction we went when we left the AS the first time, after mile 4.5. I pulled up the Google Earth map that I loaded, it was taking a while as phone service was spotty, since I had to clue where was north, and no clue where I was in relation to Nashville, I then placed a phone call.
 
The race director was not surprised, I told him where I was, and I wasn’t going to move. He was going to have someone pick me up in 10 minutes.  So I waited, I stood, stared at the trees and mud. I then placed a call to Josh, told him the situation, he was a little confused, but it was nice to talk to someone. I kept my phone on and stood there, about 5 minutes passed, I got a phone call, my ride would be 10 more minutes, so I stood some more.
 
Finally, after what felt like another day I heard a car approaching. In reality I would guess about 25 minutes passed. As the truck got near, there was another familiar face in the cab. It was Katya, she too had been led down the wrong trail, but she had ran a lot further. So, when I called for a ride, they were out rescuing her.
 
It was time to determine what to do? We met up with the race director, John. He said he would drop us at a location that would be comparable to the distance we had already covered. This was a problem, because I had not covered as much ground as Katya. Katya also had a plane to catch in Nashville at 7pm, it was already after 5pm, and technically the race was over. We were told the last AS workers had switched, and the replacement person wasn’t familiar with the course.
 
In the voice I had left, I told them, I would really like to finish the race. In my mind it really wasn’t my fault I was so behind with the time, I would have finished the race in the allowed time, without my setbacks. I however was not feeling great, so I was happy with being dropped off at the same spot as Katya.
 
John said he would run the remainder with us. We were also worried Katya would not make her flight. She hopped out of the truck the minute it stopped and barreled through the remainder of the course. I got out of the truck and slowly picked up my pace to something people would call running.  All that standing, then sitting didn’t do anything for me.
 
John in his khaki’s and hiking boots, eventually caught up with me as I walked up an incline. He was removing the orange flags behind me.  I did my best to run when I could, but my legs were shot, I was exhausted and I was sick, however I was determined to finish the race I was given.
 
John and I made awkward small talk. I think the thing I was most amazed to learn, people actually run the entirety of this course. It’s a beast, I admit I took on more than I should, the climbing and descending really ripped apart my legs. John told me it would be easier to actually run the downhills as your body naturally wants to descend. He also mentioned he would like to move the course to more natural trail and away from the more “maintained” jeep roads. This is when I told him, “If I never run this again, it would be too soon”
 
I carried on, doing my best. I then saw the opening to the pasture from where we started the race. I had no energy to pick up my pace, but I did keep a steady run and crossed what was left of a finish line in the mud.  I HAD FINISHED AN ULTRA. Was it a 50k, no, but some where I ran about 29 miles. I was happy for myself.
 finis
Finish: There were finisher pint glasses with the race logo to fill with beer from the local Jackalope Brewing. There were also peanuts, candy, cookies and Gatorade. Pizza was available earlier in the day. The food was all spread out on the porch.  There were hand made awards given out long before I arrived.
 
At the time I finished, there was no one left except Laura, some AS volunteers, Katya, and John. There was also just snack foods left. I surprisingly was not too hungry, I did however want my beer!
I had all kinds of thoughts. Laura was supportive, but still upset. I was happy they allowed me to finish after the course had closed, but it was obvious they all would rather be some place else, and I didn’t want to hold them up. They were very accommodating though. After one of them helped us get our car out of the muddy pasture, a bag full of peanuts, and another beer, Laura and I left the property.
Overall: As I mentioned I would not run this again. This course is a BEAST!!!  I should have taken the warning more seriously, but I am not sure how you train for this crazy terrain. Yes, it’s trail, but it was also super wet and muddy, it was also steep, constantly changing elevation. If you want to prove how badass you are, do this race!
Personal: I think I have felt every emotion or feeling possible, just from one running experience.
  • Heartbreak – I really feel sad for Laura, she would have never been able to finish the race in her condition, yet she put in the miles to do her best.
  • Failure / disappointment – I didn’t complete 50k
  • Joy – I finished the race I was given, it was an ultra distance on the toughest terrain I have ever encountered. I never quit
  • Sick / worthless – the night after the race and for an entire week, I suffered from the flu. I have never been so sick
  • Redemption – I want to run a 50k
  • Accomplishment – You never know what you are capable of until you set out to do it, I learned how strong I was after my first marathon, and have been pushing myself ever since. If the challenge doesn’t scare you, it’s not the right one for you.
  • Inspired – the people who conquered this course, running, are amazing!!

So yes, I am an ultramarathonner. However I have yet to accomplish that 50k distance. I will get there! Thank you to everyone that pushed me along the way, thanks for all the kind words of encouragement.

Video of the race https://youtu.be/STWsTsjnENo

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