March 13, 2011

Land Between the Lakes 23K - Race Report

Land Between the Lakes - sunset evening before race

Western Kentucky’s Land Between the Lakes recreation area was an amazing setting for my first trail race of the year. The little town of Grand Rivers hosted the race and welcomed racers with open arms. The people were friendly, open and helpful. The weather was amazing – race day saw temperatures ranging from around 50 degrees to start and rose to a high in the mid-70s. The snow was long gone and the daffodils were already in bloom! Considering our drive down began on roads still slick from a mid-March snowstorm, the weather was a welcome relief. After the race, I was very reluctant to leave!

We stayed at America’s Best Value Inn which was minutes away from the race start at a price that couldn’t be beat. Our pre-race dinner was at the Yacht Club at the Green Turtle Bay Resort. Apparently they usually only allow guests and members to dine there, but made an exception for us since we came down for the race. The employees were so welcoming! The food was great!  Kentucky has not yet gone smoke-free, so that was the only mar on the evening’s dining. I couldn’t wear my sweatshirt again after that night due to the reek! Ick!

There was plenty of parking near the race start and we had no problems figuring out where to go. The community center was open already so we had someplace warm to stand around before race time. The RD got the race going right on time. Being in the shortest race, I had no trouble finding a spot to stand near the front so I could get ahead of the slower runners. The first 1.7 miles were on asphalt as we headed toward the singletrack. This part of the race took us over the canal bridge where we were treated to a beautiful sunrise over the lake. Volunteers were friendly and abundant and ushered us on to the trail head with no problems.

That's me in the bright orange crossing the canal bridge!
The beginning of the trail headed under the canal bridge we had just crossed, so I was able to see the tail end of the runners who were still crossing. It was fun to hear them cheering those of us on who had already hit the trail.

The trail itself was singletrack perfection. Many times while running I thought to myself, I’ve GOT to get my mountain bike out here! The trail was moderately technical with many log piles and other obstacles to run/ride over. It was very well maintained. Several times I had lovely views of the lakes. There were many tiny streams that caused dips in the trail, several of which were very steep and deep!  But all the water crossings themselves were narrow enough to leap over, so my feet stayed dry.

Beautiful lake views from the trail!
The first half of the run was on only slightly rolling terrain. The second half had a few challenging hills that I chose to walk up to conserve energy. But I’m getting ahead of myself… I started the race quite fast, too fast actually, but I was lucky and didn’t end up paying a price for that mistake. At the first mile marker, I was at 7:00 almost exactly. Granted much of that was downhill. I wanted my average pace to be around 7:20-7:30, so I slowed down just a bit. With no chance to warm up, my breathing was very labored for the first few fast miles. I got a little concerned, but kept pushing since I figured my lungs would settle down eventually. They did! Once my breathing became easier, I settled into a nice rhythm and really started to enjoy myself. I felt good for the majority of the race. The latter hills started taxing me a bit, but once I started walking them, I felt much better. During the last 3-4 miles, I even got a second wind and picked up the pace quite a bit. I flew on the final paved stretch back to the finish (except when going up the hill on the bridge!). I crossed the finish feeling great and quite happy! I got a fancy finisher’s key chain to add to my collection of awards.

I finished with a very strong time of 1:55 which is very close to what I was hoping for (1:52 – old course record). That time gave me a second place overall finish. The only gal who beat me was 15 minutes faster. She totally blew away the competition and crushed the old course record by 12 minutes. If I’m going to get beat, I prefer to get beat badly! ha!  :-)  Of course, if I had finished with 1:55 in any other year (except the year the old record was set), I would have won the race. Go figure. ;-)

I can’t comment on the aid stations as I did not make use of them. I carried a handheld Nathan and didn’t even finish the 20 oz of Gatorade I began the race with. I took one GU and had a spare in my pocket, which I didn’t need either. I heard from others that the aid stations were wonderful, so that is great to hear. I am not surprised since every other aspect of the race was perfect. Matt’s only complaint about the aid stations was that they didn’t put mayo on the fried egg sandwiches. lol!!

Post race chow was great! The community center had lots of grub, both hot and cold food. In the morning there was oatmeal, coffee, muffins, cinnamon rolls, lots of fruit, peanut butter and crackers, granola bars, water, Gatorade, pop, cookies, etc.  Later in the day, they discontinued the oatmeal and muffins, but added in soup and chili. I definitely didn’t go hungry. The chili was amazing… Mmmm….

Land Between the Lakes Trail Run – HIGHLY recommended!!

LBL 23k finisher's key chain

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red's 2011 race schedule