On Saturday, I ran my first marathon in the Lapham Peak Trail Marathon. In addition to the marathon, there was a half marathon and 10k. I was looking for a late summer/early fall race and I knew that I wanted to do a trail race. After searching around, I decided to run this one at the beginning of July. Since then, I started training by doing long runs in Baird’s Creek to prepare myself. Training was going really well as I gradually increased my long runs up to 21 miles two weeks before the marathon.
I debated over which shoes to wear, and as Sarah can attest I’m sort of obsessed with shoes. I had an old pair of Merrell Trail Gloves that I used when on the trails. Early in the summer, I also bought a pair of Altra Samsons, which are nice on roads and on easy trails, but didn’t offer much traction on technical trails. Then about a month before the race I got a great deal on a pair of Vivobarefoot Bretho Trails. I used the shoes on my last two long runs in Baird’s Creek and loved the feel and traction they offered.
The race was the weekend after the first week of school and in retrospect that may have not been the best choice. I was a little stressed from the start of school and didn’t get a good night’s sleep during the week leading up to it.
The race was four loops of the 6.5 mile black loop with a one time climb up the tower overlooking the park to get to 26.2 miles. The website description of the course was, “The black loop has some rolling hills along with a few very steep short hills and three longer hill climbs; there are flat spots as well.”
I would say that the description greatly understated the difficulty of the trail. My training runs didn’t fully prepare me for the challenge that the course would present. Many people described it as one of the toughest marathons in southern Wisconsin and one of the toughest races they’ve run.
My goal was to run the flats at a pace around 8:45-9:00, walk the hill climbs, and run as fast as I safely could on the downhills. I was lucky to run most of the first two loops with a guy that had the same goal time. We had nice conversations about training, family and other miscellaneous topics. He was running 12 marathons this year, including another one the following week. As a first time marathoner, it was good to get some info from a veteran. I’m not used to running with someone and the distraction of talking was a nice change of pace.
The first two loops felt great. I stuck to my plan and felt strong. I finished the first half in 2:08 and was right on pace for my goal of 4:30. During the third loop I started to develop a pain on the inside of my right knee. I think I was too aggressive on the downhills and paid the price. I was able to run most of the flats and downhills, but my overall pace was much slower.
The pain continued and I was forced to walk/slowly “run” the entire fourth loop. In addition to the knee pain, I started to cramp because I wasn’t able to eat or drink as much as I needed to due to some stomach issues that I had to deal with. During my training runs, my strategy was to drink water with HEED for the first 6-8 miles, then switch to plain water and eat a couple GU packets every half hour and then finish with GU Chomps every mile for the last 6-8 miles. That plan was great during my training runs, but my body didn’t cooperate on race day. My stomach was off as a soon as I woke up and I had no desire to eat anything all day.
It was a very well organized race, especially for being the first year. There were four aid stations on the 6.5 mile loop which were well stocked with drinks and food. The course was well marked and the volunteers were very helpful and supportive. I would highly recommend it for someone looking for a challenging trail race. Overall the race was a great experience. I had fun and learned some things that I hope will help in future races.