Sunday, September 2, 2012

My Awesome Trail Run With Hurricane Isaac

I woke up to my alarm at 6am this morning. This pretty much happens every day unless it's an early run day at which point it goes off at 5am. I really hate those days. No matter how much I love running, I still hate having to get up at 5am to do it. But, I digress... so, I'm up, and in Dolly's words, I stumble to the kitchen to pour myself a cup of ambition. The first thing I notice is the WIND and HEAVY RAIN FALLING. Hurricane Isaac has entered Central Illinois. This wasn't a surprise but going for a 10 mile trail run in the rain sounded much better in theory at this point.

Our trail guide for the run happens to be Eric, one of the trainers of the Spartan class I'm taking. After Thursday night's class, I mentioned rescheduling to him due to the rain. He said something along the lines of, "What if it rains the day of Spartan, you not going to do it?" Just like that, the gauntlet had been thrown.

I sat with my coffee and just stared outside for a long time. I checked Facebook to see who else was up. One of the first status' I read is one of my friends saying she has come to her senses and is skipping the trail run this morning. Here is my out. Oh, I so badly wanted to take it. I probably would have too if I wouldn't have had to suffer the wrath of Fred and Eric. It's similar to the Wrath of Kahn but without those weird ear worm things that eat your brain. If you didn't get that reference, it's okay. Just my geek showing.

Then my phone rings and it's my mom. She's wanting to double check that my sanity is still lost and inform me that there are reports of tornadoes. Awesome. I assure her that everything is still a go.  She informs me that I'm crazy but she will watch my children while I go and be crazy. Moms are great like that.

This is me, my mom in the middle, my sister Dannette on the right, and my sister Kari doing her Nixon impression in the back. This was taken the other night at my mom's birthday party. We are a very serious group... you can get an idea as to why my mom is unruffled by her daughter hiking during a hurricane. 
Fred and I met up with our group in McNaughton Park. This beautiful 700 acre park is right by my house and since I live in the house I grew up in, I'm pretty familiar with the park. At least I thought I was. This park is so much bigger than I ever realized. I hiked some of the trails a lot as a kid but never knew how extensive they were. I had no idea how much I missed. It's HUGE. Trail Map Here

The reason for this trail run was to run the 10 mile loop that is the course for a trail race called McNotAgain. I mentioned in a previous post that I was going to sign up for a 30 mile ultra trail run... this is it. It's this loop three times. Most of the course runs along the Potawatomi Trail. This trail is riddled with HILLS. One of the hills actually has a rope come race day to help participants get up and over. There are also a lot of creek crossings, bridge crossings, and today a snake crossing. (not kidding, it was right on the trail... shudder) Basically, this is a pretty challenging course. Even more so today in the rain and mud.

The first couple of downhills were a bit slippery. One member of our group fell almost right away and it wasn't long after that I went down too. Fred was nearly harpooned by a falling branch, he fell at least once, and cut his finger on a thorn tree. There may have been a beaver attack in there somewhere too. Another member went down a few miles in and our guide even slipped and went down one time. It was fantastic. I think I spent more time laughing than anything else.  

This is the largest bridge that we crossed. It was a beautiful view on either side! 
The rain was intermittent. It was incredibly humid and around 75 degrees out. Every time it stopped raining we were wishing it would start again. Funny since it was the rain that almost kept me from going. I had my phone with me in case my mom needed to get in touch with me about my kiddos so I was able to use it to take some pictures along the way. I wish I could have taken more but the rain didn't allow it.

Our friend, Teisha, twisted her ankle about 3 miles in but she stuck it out and finished another 3.7 miles before calling it a day. We took a detour to get back to the parking lot so she could get home and take care of her ankle. To get back to the parking lot though, even with the detour, we had to climb some serious hills and cross the creek a few more times. She hung in there and did it all without complaint. Yeah, she's awesome like that. However, when our guide suggested we "use this log to get across" or go up the rope hill sans rope, we all looked at him like he was nuts. Personally, I would have taken the log, adventure seeker that I am, but I felt like I should keep the groups best interest in mind... yeah, okay, no way was I crossing on that log. As it turned out, there was a third option, another place to cross just up a little further. We lucked out.

The tree we didn't cross. Which, by the way, also was without a path/trail anywhere on the other side. 

Option number 3, easy creek crossing. 

 We crossed the field right by the parking lot and the rain really started coming down. It felt so refreshing. I found a patch of four-leaf clovers and everyone got to pick one. I have an uncanny knack for finding them, Fred says that's the reason he married me. I thought it was my charming wit.

Fred, Bekah, Renee, Teisha, Eric
At the parking lot, we met up with Eric's dad, Rich. He took a group picture of us, we all chatted a bit, Teisha departed, and the rest of us, including Eric's dad, took off to finish the last few miles. I was definitely feeling the loss of energy at this point. Now I know to pack some GU or something because this trail took a lot out of me. The last few miles seemed a bit more challenging to me than any other part of the course. Maybe because I was getting worn out or maybe because it was constant hills both up and down. This part of the course had very little flat terrain. Some parts were muddier, slicker than any of the previous parts we'd already trekked. I slipped and almost fell a few more times.

When we made it back to the parking lot, I was beat. I was so glad that I braved the weather and did this run. It was challenging, exciting, muddy, drenched, and most of all fun! Snakes and all. Oh, and this run convinced Fred that it's time to invest in some trail shoes... yesss!!!

I have to give a HUGE thank you to Eric for being a most excellent guide! We really lucked out since Eric knows the trails so well. He and his dad are two of the people responsible for making the ultra races happen at McNaughton park from organizing to maintaining and marking trails.

The ultra trail race I'm doing in November offers a 10 mile and a 30 mile. I am planning to do the 30 and if I only end up doing two loops which would be 20 miles, I'm good with that too. This race is directed by Paul Wilkerson and Kirby Woods. If you would like more info and to register for McNotAgain 2012, you can go to the Central Illinois Trail Running Alliance website by clicking here: CITRA

They also have an ultra race, directed by Eric and Rich, in April that offers a 30, 50, 100, and 150 mile race. The 30 mile is called a 'Fun Run'... this makes me giggle. There are aid stations set up at start/finish, and one at the halfway point of the loop. If you are looking for a challenging trail race, I guarantee this will deliver. They are also always in need of volunteers at these races, which I plan to do in April. For more information on the April races you can go to their website:

Peace, Love, Happiness!


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