Well, I completed my 2nd marathon in 13 days (number 4 overall) which unofficially makes me a Marathon Maniac!! The Marathon Maniac goal was always something I had in the back of my mind as a goal that might be fun to work towards. When long time BRF Amy decided to train for Running With Scissors (her first marathon and trail at that!!), I thought why not, it would be fun and I would absolutely relish the chance to be there for Amy plus it would get me to the MM goal with plenty of time to spare.
Columbus 10/16/16 and RWS 10/29/16
To recap a bit of the two weeks leading up to the race, I ran minimally and focused on recovering as much as possible within this short time span. I kept my weekday runs short and very easy paced. I even cut two runs shorter than planned because it just didn’t feel good to run. 13 days is not enough time to gain or lose fitness, but it is enough time to injure oneself and certainly enough time to delay or impair recovery. I had a 10ish mile trail run on my one weekend in between events and while mentally I felt great during the run, my glutes did not like me very much! In fact, I really began to worry that my residual Columbus Marathon soreness would rear it’s ugly head during RWS.
This course and race could not be more different than Columbus which gave me some relief. Generally my body reacts much better to a long trail run versus a long road run. I can go much longer with less overall fatigue than on the roads where my legs eventually just reach a point of feeling pretty beaten down. I was optimistic in the days leading up to the race that the relatively soft trail would allow me to cover the distance comfortably.
The RWS course consists of a lollipop type loop. For the locals, this means heading out from Ledges to Cross Country, Wetmore, Langes and Covered Bridge, a loop and than back to the start (minus a small section). It’s about 99% trail with a mix of very rocky and completely un-runnable (any of the Ledges), to single track, grass, about 5 or 6 creek crossings (doubled because of the out and back) and a ton of mud due to recent heavy rains. I actually had my shoe sucked off of my foot at one point during the race because of all the mud which is a first for me.
Not runnable trail. Beautiful but ankle twisting highly likely
Race morning arrived and I prepped as usual with coffee and a poptart. I prepped my hydration vest with one bottle of water, one with Tailwind and some gels, salt caps and my little first aid kit I always carry with me on long trail runs. Because RWS is a trail race and a tiny one at that, we opted to carpool to the trailhead. Leighanna and Amy arrived at 6am and we headed one town south to pick up Heather.
Pre race photo- me, Leighanna, Heather and Amy
As is typical of small races, the pre race environment was relaxed and the vibe was chill in the little lodge we were using for our pre race staging area. I chatted with my friends (including fellow Cleveland Marathon Ambassador and overall awesome runner Pam) and caught up with other local trail runners. This race has 3 different distances which start at different times. The double marathoners were already off and running by the time we got there. The marathon started at 7am so headlamps were necessary for about the first hour or so. Soon it was time for the marathoners to get going. The RD gave us some final instructions and we set out into the dark woods on the Ledges Trail.
I quickly fell into a comfortable pace with a local friend Deby, who is training for the Conquer the Castle 100k and was using this race as her last long run. We ended up spending the entire race together which was unplanned and as is usual with trail runners, a great way to spend 6+ hours.
Heading up the Sound of Music Hills
Amy and Heather conquering the hills. Little did I know but they were about 4 minutes ahead of me at this point
Some of the amazing volunteers at Pine Hollow
We stopped quickly for aid at Pine Hollow, chatted with the amazing volunteers, refueled with PB&J and were on our way through to the Wetmore Trail. At mile 7 we encountered our first “checkpoint”. Because this race isn’t chip timed, we have to “prove” that we ran the whole course by cutting out a page from a book, hence the title “Run With Scissors”. Not just a cute name, we actually ran with a small pair of scissors.
Once through Wetmore, the course heads through the Langes Trail and eventually over Akron-Peninsula Road where we ran parallel to the road on a very muddy grassy section as we made our way over the Towpath and then to the Covered Bridge Aid Station, approximately mile 10. Once again, we stopped to refill water bottles, take more salt, grabbed some chips and socialize with the Aid Station volunteers. I always laugh when you ask a seasoned trail runner how long this loop is. The answers are all across the board typically and on race day we got “20 minutes, 15 if you slide down on your ass.” I knew from past experience that it was something around 5 miles and with lots of hills.
Setting out on the loop is where I first started feeling some fatigue and had my first thoughts of “oh crap, I have a long way to go.” We were about 10 miles in at that point and started the slow ascent up. Sometime around 13/14 miles I did start to feel better and ultimately never had that breakdown that I thought was imminent earlier on. The Covered Bridge loop is known for some really steep climbs and ascents. We slowly made our way through, mainly hiking the uphills and running the flats. And it really did fly by. At mile 15 we headed back to the Aid Station where I was told that because of the space time continuum, it actually WAS only 20 minutes. Ahh, ultrarunner math!
Second checkpoint-skeleton of a poor ultrarunner
Now all we had to do was head back to the start-easy right? And it actually was. This is where I began to notice a marked difference in my thinking as opposed to my last marathon. During RWS, I repeatedly had the thought “I have xx number of miles left, that’s not really that far.” Whereas at CBUS, the thought of running even one mile was incredibly daunting and felt near impossible for the last 6 or so miles. I was able to stay incredibly positive throughout RWS despite the miles piling up. So up and back through Langes and Wetmore. It definitely felt like there was much more climbing during the return trip. I was able to see a good chunk of the double marathoners on their second loop including my friend Lexi who looked great for being 38 or so miles into her race. We had to stop multiple times to allow horses to pass during this section which would have been tough had I been all out racing. Headed into the second trip through Pine Hollow Aid Station, I was recounting some funny falling on the trail stories when exactly one second after I finished a story, down I went into the deep mud. I was completely fine and laughed my ass off at the timing.
Lexi (red shirt), Deby and I-approximately 18 miles for us, and I’m guessing 38 or so for Lexi.
Once again at Pine Hollow, we quickly refueled and headed back out for the home stretch. The Pine Grove Trail felt like it took forever and I later figured out that my watch was one mile short which I think exacerbated that feeling. Heading into the last mile or so we traversed the rocks of the Ledges and quickly made it back to the big field leading to the finish line. I was the last of my friends to finish so I had quite the welcome. Chris and Liam came out for the finish line as well. I crossed feeling triumphant and proud of myself. It was so wonderful to finish surrounded by friends and quickly recap their races. Looking at a time stamp of some pictures, it appears as if I was really no more than a few minutes behind Amy for the majority of the race. Leighanna was third in her Age Group. Heather finished before her goal time. MRTT friend Sydney ran her first marathon as well and another MRTT friend Patty had a great 1/2 marathon, so all together, I can say we all raced really well and I reveled in the happy post race atmosphere. Final time was 6.33 which is A-ok with me. I had zero time goals for this race and absolutely met my A goal which was to finish and be happy. The B goal was just to finish.
Post race celebration
*some images are from the RWS facebook group- if you took it, thanks- you are a better photographer than me!