Thursday, May 03, 2007

RR Delaware Trail Marathon

Triple Crown Trail Marathon
Newark, DE
Sat, Apr 28/07
Marathon # 285 - State # 46 (2nd loop)
4:46:12 - 1AG

The only reason I even considered running this marathon (because of its name – TRAIL) was because it was in Delaware. I have decided that I am tired of pursuing my quest to complete all 50 States + DC for a 2nd time and want to finish the quest this year! Since DE has only two marathons and the road marathon is being held on May 20 – the same day I run the Fiji Marathon - I was stuck with running the trail marathon if I wanted to finish this year. It couldn’t be that bad?

So I flew to Philadelphia on Fri and drove 45 miles south to Newark. I arrived in time to find the White Clay Creek State Park a few miles north of downtown Newark where the race was being held. It had rained the past few days and my flight was delayed because of storms so I figured that was going to impact the marathon since the course was single track trails through forests and meadows with four crossings over White Clay Creek.

The race started at 7:30 am. Because they had a large turnout for the Half they decided to start the Half at 7:30 am and delay the marathon for 10 minutes because of the narrow single track trails. I was on a tight schedule. I had booked a 4 pm flight out of Philly on the expectation of running a 4:30 marathon. The delay was cutting into my time?

The rain had stopped and the weather was nice – sunny and 52 F at the start. Unfortunately the rain had turned the meadows and trails into mud bogs and the creek was running higher than normal. Oh goody!
The course was a Half marathon loop consisting of four hiking loops within the Park. The 1st loop was 10 Km followed by three short loops of 2 miles each and there were two points where we had to cross Clay Creek – at 3 miles and again at 10 miles. At the start the race director warned us that the trails were muddy and slippery and the water a bit higher than normal.

We watched and cheered as the half marathoners took off and 10 minutes later we followed. We reached the first mud bog at mile 1. A local runner called it a ‘shoe stealer’ and sure enough a runner in front of me came out of the bog with only one shoe. He was forced to crawl back into the bog on his hands and knees to find his missing shoe! I was not looking forward to the first river crossing at mile 3. I reached the crossing in 29:31 so I was on pace – I figured that a 10-minute pace would be the best I could expect to average. I watched a few runners pick their path across Clay Creek. The crossing was about 80 m wide. The bottom was slippery and the water was knee-deep and ice-cold! I made that first crossing very slowly, carefully and safely!

After crossing the creek we reached the start of the 2nd loop and lots of rolling hills. Surprisingly my socks and shoes dried out fairly quickly. By the time I reached the start of the 4th and final loop at 5 miles and started the back half of the loops I had caught the back of the half marathon pack. As we ran the back sides of the loops I was thinking that the hills weren’t as bad as expected until we reached the back side of the 2nd loop. What a bitch as I struggled to run to the top of that loop. I figured there would be no way I could run that loop on the 2nd Half of the marathon? I reached 10 miles and the 2nd river crossing in 1:40:05. This time I was not so scared of the water and charged across the Creek. After crossing the Creek we were faced with a series of nasty hills and more mud bogs that slowed all runners down. I had passed all the runners in the back pack of the Half and now started to catch the mid-pack runners (and they had a 10-min head start!). That observation should have been enough to confirm what my legs were already telling me. I had started too fast and with the hills and mud my legs felt like they had been beaten with a 2X4 as I struggled to run the final 3 miles of the 1st Half in 32:30 and reach the start/finish line in 2:12:35!
I thought about changing my goal to become a Half marathoner – I did not want to turn around and run that half-marathon loop - AGAIN! But Maddog didn’t give me any choice as he charged off through the meadow – back to the mud bog and the river crossing! I reached the river crossing at mile 16 in 2:46:05. It had taken 33:08 (an 11-min pace) to run those 3 miles! This time the cold water felt good on my beaten-up/tired legs and I walked across the Creek! I was not looking forward to the 7 miles of hills over the next three loops back to the Creek. I struggled just to keep the old, wasted legs moving/running and was doing OK until I reached the nasty BAH (Bad Ass Hills) on the back side of the 2nd loop (the ones where I knew I would have to walk!). I tried to run the hills but my left quad started to cramp. Luckily it did not lock up and I was able to stop to stretch and massage it but I was forced to walk for about 5 minutes to get it to relax enough to start running again. (That’s my story/excuse for walking the hills and I am sticking to it!).
I was really afraid that it would cramp again on the steep decline down to the Creek but luckily it didn’t. I reached the Creek at mile 23 in 4:10:37 – 1:24:31 for 7 miles/ a 12-min pace – and I was hurting! This time I deliberately looked for a ‘fishing’ hole in the Creek where the water was deeper and covered all my legs. I stood in that hole for about 1 minute giving my wasted old legs a much needed ice-cold bath! That therapy seemed to work because my legs felt much better when I emerged from the Creek. I tried to lower the hammer for the final 3 miles but there just wasn’t any energy left in the old legs. However I managed to run the entire final loop though the nasty hills and bogs. I even enjoyed a few laughs when I caught up to a young runner who was struggling to get to the finish line. He was totally exhausted and beat up (almost delirious)and each time we would reach a hill he would scream in agony and curse the course and race director! I told him to save his energy for the hills and left him behind screaming as I pushed ahead to reach the finish line in 4:46:12.
Because I was on such a tight schedule I could not wait around for results. I only had time to take a customary finish line photo and rush back to the hotel for a quick shower and head to the airport in Philly to catch my 4 pm flight. I made it in time to enjoy a much-deserved beer before catching my flight.
In summary it wasn’t much fun but it was definitely a challenging long training run that I needed to get the old bod back in shape and ready for my next road race. Hopefully I can start some speed work next week to get ready for that race and the international races that follow shortly.
Stay tuned!

I delayed posting this race report while I waited for the race results to be posted on the race website. When that didn’t happen I attempted to contact the race director – 3 emails and 2 phone calls that he refused to answer? Thus I am forced to write a POOR evaluation for this race!
The course was tough but it was advertised to be tough. Most of the organization and logistics were OK. The negatives were:
1) The 10 min delay at the start. (I was on a tight time schedule).
2) No water station at the half mark. There was water at the finish for the Half but we did not cross that line and thus I missed the water station and had to run 6 miles (more than 1 hour) between water stops!
3) No race results for the marathon posted at the finish line (and I finished more than 1 hr behind the winners?)
4) The very rude, uncaring and unresponsive attitude of the race director
For these reasons I recommend that you AVOID this race unless you absolutely need to run it to complete the 50 states. A better alternative would be to run the Delaware road marathon in late May.

Added footnote:
I finally received the results and an apology from the race director. I won my Age Group as suspected but didn't want to declare that fact w/o the official results.

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