Getting in some final camping for the season this weekend. Had a chance to spend some time birding with my brother Ron and Linda even caught a local agility show to make sure Raven stays in practice. Dog shows mean I have extra time to get some to-dos off the list and one that always bubbles to the top is my blog quota. Always good to get ahead of the curve seeing how the end of the month usually comes faster than expected. Plus, we are creeping up on the witching hour which sucks up every available minute getting ready for the Trail of Tears (link here).
A few posts back I relayed the strenuous running activities that I once again have subject myself to – at some point I will learn. As a quick reminder I scheduled 4 half marathons (not to mention a 5K) in little over a month. This started with the 13.Wine race (link here), then the IVS Half Marathon (link here) and most recently the Oak Ridge Cemetery Moonlight Half Marathon in Springfield. Keeping with the theme, thought I would give a recount of that latest hell, I mean race.
Unlike last year (link here), this time Sung and Ryan were able to go down to Springfield IL with me and take part in this year’s activities. They were both familiar with the course having teamed up with me to do the prediction race Marathon two years back (link here). That year we took third … thanks to two cheaters but hey, that is water under the bridge now (or not hehehe). The prediction aspect of the race is gone now along with the team Marathon. In its place are individual races – 5K, Quarter Marathon and the Half Marathon. Choose your poison at this point. We had them all covered this year. Sung opted for the 5K, Ryan the Quarter and your’s truly decided to punish himself with the Half variety. There is a theme to the first three races of the 4 ‘peat. HILLS. The 13.Wine was a grueling battle through long rolling hills that seem to last forever trying to get to the crests. IVS is well known in these parts to be one of the toughest courses you can take on due to their 6 shorter but much steeper hills. Then there is Oak Ridge which combines the length of the Wine hills with the steepness of IVS. Basically pure hell. This double loop that beat me last year – my find an exit, throw up, continue the drive home, find an exit throw up cycle that plagued me the entire way home. Time for redemption this year! If nothing else, I had friends with me that could help me get home so had to be better than last year… well, I thought.
I was scheduled to go off at 6:30 due to having two loops on my course. Ryan went off at 6:45 to cover his one loop and then Sung launched at 7 for his shortened loop. Sung took my finisher picture below.
Worth noting the genius of taking the finisher picture before I even started the race – look how relaxed and refreshed I looked! A far cry from the reality over 2 hours later. Seems this year the race coordinators thought the previous course was just too easy for us – that we might be getting soft. To remedy that situation some masochist decided to move the starting line to the top of a big hill. I remember seeing that and turning to Sung going “WTF!?!”. Seriously people, that course through the Oak Ridge Cemetery would already make a normal guy sink to his knees. It would be bad enough having to negotiate that hill at the halfway point, repeating that again at the end when the legs are jelly is just plain rude. Time to worry about that later, one mile at a time, one foot in front of another.
Hit the jump to read how this race turned out – foreshadowing … not good
The participants lined up for the start of the half. Guessing by a quick count there were only 30-40 brave souls willing to take on the half this year. I was not there for the start of the other two, so no sure if those had a greater entry number – will have to ask Sung and Ryan the next time I see them. Looking at the course map you would think it was a bowl of spaghetti. We always snap a shot of it as a reference just in case things go wrong. Note, both Sung and Ryan did go off course. Thankfully they were able to right that without too much trouble. Tri-Harder Productions deserves a lot of credit for how they mark the course – if you remember to keep the blue reflectors on your left and keep track of the arrows they put on the ground you should make it to the end with little trouble – the problem is when you are fatigued those little rules are hard to keep straight. The first look went pretty well for me. A bit slower than I usually prefer to go, but felt pretty good. Others around me were not doing so well with many of them having to stop on the constant hill onslaught. Surprisingly, many of the younger races were bailing as well. This I attribute to the fact that it was really hot and humid that night. We had been experiencing a nice cool down over the previous weeks that probably worked against us. Most of the training runs leading up to this were in the cooler temps allowing the body to take it easy. To put it in perspective, when we left Peoria it was 90 out. Got to Springfield about 5 or so and it was 91. Thought it would get cooler when the sun went down – no luck, the black top had absorbed a day’s worth of heat only to release it over the course of the race. Heat and hills is not a good combination regardless of the shape you happen to be in. Having experienced this last year with unwanted results, it was hard not to think about that as each mile passed by. Eventually the starting line signaling the halfway point came into view – yes, ON TOP OF THE HILL. Suckage even on the first traversal – this was going to be bad at the end.
Turns out, it got bad long before that final hill. As with the running, I found myself in a big pocket – no runners in front as far as I could see and no runners behind as far as I could make out. Now that it was dark out, the headlight were out – still no beams of light could be seen. Pretty eerie being in a cemetery at night with no one around and tunnel vision from the headlight. A large animal came running across my path (looked like a black cat or maybe a skinny raccoon) around mile 7 that jolted my heart. By now the heat was taking its toll. By mile 9 the fuel cells were empty – crap, deja vu. Somewhere around mile 10, the stomach demanded a stop. Pulled back and opted for a power walk up a couple of steep hills. There was water at one of them that gave me a chance to rehydrate. Still not feeling well, but at least had some fluids and took some of my carbs I carry with me. Tried running again and that lasted for about 1.5 miles before having to revert to power walking. By now the stomach felt awful – the legs were numb, yet functional. Started running again only to come upon a lady at mile 12.1 staring right at me – I know this because here headlight was blinding me. “I’m I lost?” she said with concern. If you think about it, that is a difficult question to answer without context. You are on the course, so that is good, but at which point are you supposed to be and which race are you competing in, “Well, I am at mile 12.1 (Runkeeper had informed of that just a few seconds before the encounter), and I believe I am on the right part of the Half Marathon. She responded, “I have already ran 13 and I can’t find the finish line”. Wow, there is absolutely no need to make that race hard than it is and relayed that to her. Pointed her in the right direction and she took off slightly ahead of me. My struggling pace ended up catching her a bit later where she continued to be confused on the path. Opted to hang with her and help her through the remaining course – by now my time was way beyond my goals so no loss in that respect. Even let her go ahead in a narrow space. Then she did the unthinkable – she stopped. 2 tenths to go and she stopped. I tried to encourage her to keep going – to no avail. She was spent and I figured the thought of that final hill had demoralized her. She waved and encouraged me on. I wasn’t going to give that hill the satisfaction of beating me – drew every bit of resolve I had and beat that damn hill. I remember crossing the finish line and them asking me if I wanted to take off my timing chip or if I wanted them to do. The thought of bending over and removing the chip from my ankle seemed like a Herculean task at the moment and stared at the guy in absolute disbelief. He got the message and promptly removed it for me.
Sung and Ryan met me soon after. Guessing I looked like absolute death because that was exactly how I felt. They grabbed me some water while I tried to shake off the effects. Unfortunately, felt similar to last year and thus assumed there would be some ugly sights ahead. Did make it to the standings where I found out I had taken 2 in my age group. I was not happy with my time – apparently everyone was suffering. I started seeing times in the 3 and 3.5 hour ranges for guys and this was only a half. Improved on last year’s 3rd place finished. This meant having to stay longer to await the awards ceremony. A wait that basically consisted of me trying to keep from throwing up. Big thanks to Sung who stayed with me as I wandered around trying to shake the feeling. Eventually they gave us are awards and we headed back to our cars. Sung was gracious enough to drive back for me – that made it a lot easier to pull to the side of the road as needed.
Three down and now one to go. I did ruin my streak of 2 third place finishes in a row with that 2nd! The final race is mostly flat and therefore shouldn’t be an issue. Something about this Oak Ridge race has owned me twice. Next year will be different! Need better heat training, better fuel strategy and need to stop being a weenie. You defeated me the last two years Moonlight Marathon gods – just wait until next year (now to spend the next 350 days building confidence back with Linda – like last year, she isn’t too happy with the physical outcome). Lastly big congratulations to Sung and Ryan who each took third place in their age groups for their respective races. Sung could have gotten second but the urge to take selfies with the Abe Lincoln statue was too strong. Ryan was sure glad he opted for the Quarter – he commented there was nothing left in his engine after the first loop.
Hope you enjoyed reading about the race. There is plenty of room if you want to join us next year – recommend to start training now though hehehehe