Monday, March 17, 2014

Another LBL Adventure

Enjoying some trail miles (WKRC photo)
I first met the LBL Canal Loop in January of 2008 when I circumnavigated the frozen trail in preparation for that year's event. It was love at first sight. I was captivated by the way the 11.3-mile loop trail meandered up and down and back and forth, by the scenic views of both lakes, and by the fact that the loop was conveniently broken into four segments with road crossings. Running the canal loop was like running a mile in that I was lured into a fast pace early, challenged by the 120-130 foot high hills of the third "lap" and then pulled toward the finish after climbing to and rounding the radio/cell tower midway through the fourth segment.

My chosen race that year was the 60K, though, so I was practicing to cover the loop three times - a "12 lap" race which I thought of as a 5K. I ended up running there four times that winter. The weather was always cold, with temperatures at or below freezing. I covered more than a marathon on three occasions as I followed two loops with an out/back beyond the radio tower. I was SO ready to break five hours in the 60K!

A note of interest here is that I did not slip, stumble, trip, or crash one time during any of those runs. The scars on my hands and knees serve as proof that my crash landing skill set has seen much development since those early days.

The 2014 crash impact zone
Race day arrived in 2008 with a big surprise. The one-hundred-mile drive took well over two hours due to falling snow. I doubted that the race would even take place after I passed two overturned salt trucks on the Kentucky parkways. And I was loving my all-wheel drive Matrix as its spoiler plowed my pathway.

Arriving twenty minutes before the 6 a.m. start, I was anxious to begin a race of that distance with 6-8 inches of snow on the ground. Steve Durbin, the indefatigable LBL Trail Run race directer, assured the assembly of lunatics that a weighted sled had been pulled along the hidden trail through the 12-20 inch drifts on the Lake Barkley side of the loop.

The Polar RC3 GPS map of the LBL Trail Runs
Running in third place after leaving the road at 1.9 miles, I followed deep footprints in a shallow indentation made by the sled. I was quite thankful for that sled path since the trail was rarely obvious.

The first lap involved a lot of post-holing in drifts and then sliding on the hills. It was ten minutes slower (1:38) than I had planned to run - and it wore me out! During the second loop (1:40) I ran in a narrow snow ditch formed by the field of runners. Then, the third loop (1:43) was run in the same ditch, but the warm ground had melted the packed snow, creating an icy mud bath. A trip in a cluster of rocks and roots minutes after starting that third lap caused me to slide and bounce head first as if going for home plate. My feet later became encased in the icy mud which made them hurt like hell as I tried to make the 1.7 road miles back to Grand Rivers. I finished in 5:26 and couldn't feel my feet for another two hours.

Just before leaving the roadway this year (WKRC photo)
Because of that 2008 experience I was not intimidated by the snow and ice of 2014. Not at the start, anyway. As soon I entered the trail (in third place again) I realized that I was not breaking through the hard snow/ice. I slipped over and over, but that seemed to energize me as I tried to drop the two guys behind me (Sorry, Greg :) Then, as I took a sharp turn when the trail reached Lake Barkley, I went down hard. My right foot slid left under me and I crashed onto my right knee before my temple hit. It nearly knocked me out. I staggered to my feet just as the two pursuers caught up.

I noticed that my right groin was sore soon after, but figured it would work itself out. It only worsened as I climbed the taller hills on the second side of the loop. I had entered the 50M, though I never intended to go that far. That meant I could pick my race as I ran. I really wanted to run the 60K again, but I soon realized that I would be limited to one loop as I was not about to cause myself serious injury after what I went through last year. My 2014 LBL turned into a relaxed, long tempo run. I wore a recently acquired RC3 GPS and had not personalized the HR zones, so the plot below does not accurately show that I spent half of the event below my tempo zone, causing the average HR to be at the lower limit of that zone.

Polarpersonaltrainer.com heart rate and altitude data from the RC3 GPS
I had my number changed from a 4 to a 1 when I reached the end of the loop. I later learned that I was one of a record number of 167 drop downs. And I was actually relieved to be running back to town with fresh legs. Now, a week later, I am even more elated, as I have just completed a solid week of run and bike training that would not have been possible if I were nursing throbbing legs or a groin injury. The strained groin was mostly healed before my short follow-up Tuesday run.

Four Reduced to One
In the end, that lap of slipping on ice was only a 1:23:20, which was three minutes slower than the first lap of my 2013 marathon and about a minute faster than my training laps in recent months. My finishing time of 1:45 was a full ten minutes slower than I anticipated running, but it was good enough for third overall in those conditions. For comparison, last year's record setter was about eleven minutes slower than his record and five minutes ahead of me as he won again.

Pictures and videos taken later in the day show shoes submerged in frosty mud bogs that formed after the temperature climbed to 60 degrees. Seeing those images left me with mixed emotions. I am relieved that my feet didn't have to go through that again. I am also glad that I didn't offer myself more opportunities to fall (many others came in bloody and head to toe muddy).  I am also bummed that I didn't add more challenge to my adventure. No problem. I'll go back. And now the only distance I haven't run is the 50M.  That seems like a good reason to return!

Greg and I seem to know how to have fun!

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