The past weekend proved to be a good one, as I knew it would. Anytime I am with two good friends, Keegan Rathkamp and Reece Brown, for a weekend in Louisville to run a race, it will be a great time. We left Ohio Friday night to run Louisville's Lovin' The Hills trail race the next morning. That night we stayed at a hotel and prepared our stuff for the race.
The race started promptly at 8 am. The weather was great, about 3" of snow on the trails and everything was white! Much like Frozen Sasquatch, I knew the run was going to be wet and slick. Knowing this now, I wish I would of had some shoes with a little more tread. My NB 790's just do not cut it in the snow! Though, I love these shoes and will continue to wear them on dryer courses. Reece was late to the starting line, the race did not wait for him, so it was just me up front. If anyone was going to try and lead this race, they were going to have to outrun me down the first big hill. It would have been nice to have Reece up there with me though.
So, this is how it was primarily for the entire race. Besides some hikers footprints for the first 5 miles, I was making fresh tracks! I had no clue who was behind me or how far anyone was behind me. Later I learned that the two people closest to me were Keegan and Reece. I wouldn't have it any other way. I pressed hard on the first loop and was keeping a nice pace. One of the race volunteers told me I was at 6.5 miles and my watch said 49 minutes. So, at that time I was pretty close to 7:30 pace and well on my way to a sub 2 hour run. The hills of Louisville had other plans though.
Around 7 miles I had to use the restroom, well, there were no restrooms! So, at around 59 minutes, I peeled off the trail and did my thing. This was the only time I came to a dead stop during the race and I think it played with my mind a little. I didn't want to stop. I was in a nice rhythm, continuing to keep my solid pace, then I had to stop all of that. But, this is something every trail runner will come across in a race sooner or later. It can be avoided with proper nutrition and a better understanding of my body, but nonetheless it is a realization that I came across around the halfway point. I started back up and tried to get back in the flow of things.
I did not get back into my same rhythm. Miles 7-11 were not very good. The hills in the first 7 miles caught up to me and told me that running 7:30 pace on the big boys meant running 9 minute pace on the short steep hills in the middle section of the race, or maybe even 10 minute pace. The snow caused a few "spin-outs" and slowed me down on the downhills. I definitely did not want to tumble over a steep hill at that point. Was I going to finish this race going 10 minute pace?
It wasn't until I turned onto the paved road when I finally got my legs under me again. The rhythm found myself and I really began to get back into a solid pace. I came through the finish area and had close to two miles left on the last trail loop. I pushed pretty hard on the downhill and had one more good size uphill to go. Once again I had a hard time getting up it, but the thought of finishing was keeping my legs churning. I turned onto the last gravel road and crossed the finish line 400 meters later. My official time was 2:03:41.
Before I even got to sit down, I looked towards the finish line and saw Reece come running in. He was only about 2 minutes behind me! I am sure during my slow section he was gaining on me like a mad man. So, it was a 1, 2 finish for the Bears in the 15 mile race, now how was Keegan doing. Reece told me that Keegan was a good ways ahead of everyone in the 50k and had about an 8 minute lead on Eric Grossman. A couple hours later, I headed out to find Keegan and run in with him. I ran out a good ways on to find him. I was stunned to pass Grossman before I found Keegan and he told me that he passed Keegan about 5 miles back. Eric had the lead secured and proved that he is still the master of the trails in Lousiville. I met up with Keegan and he had hit a pretty good wall. The main thing though, was that he was still running. He very well could have been walking but he finished the last 3 miles with me without walking. He ran an amazing race, going for a course record and making anyone that wanted to beat him, work very hard. Next time, Keegan will have a lot more experience at the ultra level and be a beast. He finished at 5 hours and 20 minutes.
After the day was done, everyone was happy. Reece, Keegan, and myself followed Eric Grossman and his friend to Ken Combs Running Store so I could get some shoes (I choose the Brooks Cascadia's). That was my award for winning! Everyone that set this race up did a great job. The person that derserves the most thanks is Cynthia Heady. She was the race director and she did a phenominal job at it. This was the second race I have ran with her being the RD. Last year, she was the RD at the Otter Creek 16 mile race Reece and I ran (she said there is a chance this race will get going again!). Along with marking the course and doing everything there is for a RD to do, she also made seven different types of soup ready for after the race. Thanks a lot Cynthia!
Here are the websites associated with LLTH, check it out: