Running the 2011 edition of the Quivering Quads trail half marathon was a blast--slipping and sliding and splashing through the trails and water of Cuivre River State Park near Troy, Missouri--so it was an easy decision to return this year. With about six other Quincy/Hannibal-area runners who I know and a former coworker also racing, I expected even more fun this time around.
[Shout out to Kris, Lorc, and Mace: the Facebook banter leading up to the race was greatly amusing, causing anticipation of the increased fun factor]
I picked up my packet and number at a busy Fleet Feet in St Charles. The packet didn't contain much, but the shirt is a nice, bright green, long-sleeve technical one. It also contained a coupon for Great Harvest Bread Company, so we crossed the parking lot to taste and purchase some bread. I was reminded of the cinnamon rolls they provided after the race last year--certainly worth running 13.1 miles for. Then, Pat and I spent the rest of the day browsing around old St Charles and a few other shops in Town & Country before returning to the (especially nice) Super 8 in Troy for the night.
Race morning: up early, shower to wake up, free continental breakfast with so-so coffee, repeated checks of radar and temperature to finalize clothing and gear choices--mild temps, potential rain. As the caffeine kicked in and I started to get jittery, it was time to head to the park. The BriPod was rockin' en route (probably the caffeine.) There is limited parking, so racers park elsewhere in the park and are shuttled to the start. As I waited for the shuttle (being the boy scout at heart--always prepared) I was able to give a fellow runner one of my spare bags for his gear to leave at the start/finish area which, of course, made me feel good.
I arrived at the start and immediately found some Heartland Road Runners and their friends. It's nice to be able to hang out with people you know and make new acquaintances to pass the time before a race. In this instance I got a review of some shoes I was considering buying too. How fortuitous! The event starts in waves of 25, departing every 3 minutes. Since we had a couple of speedsters, our group shrunk quickly. I was set to go in the fourth wave. I was betting against the rain and sun, taking a minimalist approach to the event--no hat, glasses, rain jacket....just my Garmin, one gel, two shirts (one long-sleeve), shorts and shoes (no socks--Merrell Trail Glove minimalist shoes.) Fortunately, I knew two people in my wave to chat with as we waited. As I said, I was caffeinated and jittery. The clock reached 9:09 and we were off.
The route starts downhill on a fire road for about a half mile. Then we backtrack to near the start and enter the single-track trails. I believe the purpose is to spread out each wave a bit before we enter the single-track. I generally try to race with negative split times. My modified plan this race was to bank time whenever possible and I generally do pretty well on the hills since I include hill repeats regularly in my training. So, I took off quickly, turned around and ascended quickly, entering the single-track at around 8-minute pace. Time to slow down a bit and settle in--still twelve miles to go. The course conditions were a lot different than last year--rain came down in buckets the night before last year's race. This year it was mostly dry. I was cautiously optimistic about my goals.
Last year I finished in 2:16:33. I had previously become a bit burned out and was trying to shake up my training and racing schedule. I hadn't been pacing any of my workouts, just covering the distance. My goals were to first, finish safely and second, to finish in around 2:15. Afterward, I was pleased and had greatly enjoyed the race. This year, my training was more focused on pace as were my goals. My workouts were going very well--fast at low heart rates, economical, quick recoveries and I'm lighter than last year. Thus, my goals were to: 1, be faster than last year, hopefully break 2:10; 2, have a really good day and break 2:05 (aggressive goal); 3, kick ass and break 2:00 and/or 9-minute miles.
About four miles in, I looked at my Garmin and saw my average pace was 8:40/mile. Two thoughts: I'm too fast! And, oh yeah! I was feeling good and having a great time. It was just like I recalled from last year, only drier. I felt like a kid galloping and bouncing around in the woods. So, I kept going, but felt okay about slowing down on the more treacherous sections; there were several. The park is very rocky. Some sections had more rock than soil. With my minimalist shoes, I was stepping quite gingerly at times. At about five miles or so, a tricksy root or rock attempted to slow me down by reaching up and grabbing my foot and tripping me up. I hit the deck, but was apparently unhurt except for a mild sprain of my pride. Okay. I think I had been zoning out a bit. On the trails, you have to watch where you place every step, ever diligent. Time to refocus on the task at hand. Soon after this I doffed my second layer to cool off a bit. It felt great out: upper 40s, partly cloudy, no rain in sight.
At about 6.75 miles was a water stop and, for me, a loo break and mid-race gel. Then, back on the trails. I had been seesawing with several other runners, but at this point the group thinned out. I was still at about 8:40/mile. I was comfortable, but not having as much fun. My feet, due to the combination of rocky terrain and my minimalist shoes were getting a bit sore. However, I was over halfway done and my pace was good. I focused on that. Time to be mentally tough. We took a loop and came back to the same water stop at around 10 miles in; 5k to go and I was still around 8:50/mile. I was feeling the effects of 10 miles but still feeling strong as well. My highest goal was in sight. Right after the 10ish mile water stop was a short section of overlap of outgoing and incoming traffic. Seeing other runners on the way out was inspiring along with the decreasing miles-to-go. Here also, I saw two new acquaintances and cheered them on. Then, we entered a section of the trail through the pines that was nice and soft. Time to pick up the pace a bit. The last mile was the same as the first mile. I soon heard cheering and the PA system. Time to speed up again. I turned the corner to go down the fire road again with an average pace of around 8:50/mile. I relaxed and lengthened my stride, avoiding rocks and the muddy sections. I got to the bottom and grabbed a quick gulp of water. Half mile to go uphill. I recalled every trip up Jackson Hill in Quincy--form, economy, quick and short steps, ignore the pain 'cause it's almost over......I checked my watch: 8:4something. About fifty yards to go: 2:08:something on the official clock. Sprint.
At first look, my Garmin said 8:44/mile--woo-hoo! Goals achieved! My Garmin also said 13.7 miles. Officially, my time was 1:59:47. Overall, I was 36/369 and 6/44 in the 40-44 men age group. Ecstatic!
Other local finishers:
Kris Koeller 1:52:50
Lorc Weir 1:53:37
Lori Griffith 1:57:32
Mace Colgrove 1:57:57
Rick Shover 2:16:41
Damon Vincent 2:30:13
Nancy Colgrove 2:31:51
Mary Lynne Richards 2:35:34
Jeff Spencer 2:42:43 (there's another story here)
Paul Richards 2:54:17
Time for some more of those amazing cinnamon rolls. I've only tasted them after running 13 miles, but I think they're divine. In summary, another great race for me. Hard, but fun. Two tips: first timers should have reasonable goals for any trail race and everyone should pay constant attention to the terrain.
The day after: sore and tired, but it was worth it. I don't know if I'll return. Considering the conditions, it would be very hard for me to improve on my performance. However, I can certainly recommend the event: fun, but hard and very well organized.