Picture Alert!!! When I first saw the description for Run Toto Run, I wondered why am I even looking at this? I’ve never even run on snow and its likely to be either snowy or icy and muddy! What am I thinking?? BUT then of course you never until you try right?! And Try I did at last Saturday’s Run Toto Run 10miler. I figured since I’m in training for a trail full marathon and my plan calls for 10miles that weekend, What better way to see how I’m doing than try this very challenging and tough course made even more complicated by the winter weather. Wyco is known for its hills areas…instead of trying to explain them, let me share the course map with you. Its a lot more descriptive!
Run Toto Run…my first winter trail race did not disappoint!! We’ve had quite a bit of snow here in Kansas this last month, the biggest storm bringing us about a foot of snow in the KC area. That was about a week and a half before the race..then the week of we had about maybe another 2-3” of fresh snow followed by above freezing temps during the day and below freezing at night which all combined made for completely snow covered trails with a layer of ice at the bottom! In preparation for the race I did run this course once two weeks prior to race day, but we had half the amount of snow at that time.
Race day started in the mid 20s and then peaked around the mid 40s. I was helping out at the race day packet pickup, so got there around 7am before my race started at 9am. 2hrs filled with last minute craziness and great volunteers flew by!
At 8am, the 50k and 20mile racers started. I waited while (Screen left to Right,) Mudbabe Hayley, who added a 50k feather to her cap, Lisa who chopped off an hour plus on her 20miler from last year, Pacer and Lentil Soup Wonder maker Allison who brought in Danny on his second 50k got started. Read his report here.
The 20mi and 50k runners ready to blaze the snowy trails!
An hour later, the 10miler started. The first few hundred yards was tough work. I was really hoping the rest would not be the same. Red arrow points to me! I had my shoes screwed and was as ready as I could be.
I started off with a friend of Danny’s, but we got separated, so for the most part I ran with my thoughts to keep me company and the occasional chatter of other runners. With the 20mi and 50k runners well ahead of us, the bridle trails were fairly well packed when we got going. So far traction was pretty good as we headed in to infamous ‘Wyco Triangle’. This is a crazy section full of single track trails that zigzag every which way you can imagine across the hillside. Its a few steps this way, then a few that way, duck under a low hanging branch and then run out at the same point you entered in :) Key thing is to keep eyes on the trail and not fall down. Grabbed a cookie at the aid station and some Gatorade and kept moving. Legs were still feeling pretty good. No pains! Here I am headed out of the Triangle and some pictures of runners crisscrossing in there.
Awesome Triangle Aid station manned by awesome volunteers!!
At this point I meet up with Mel, who I ran with for the Half Marathon at Blue Springs with. We keep chatting and move through the trails and then get into what’s lovingly known as ‘’Fall-Down Hill’ leading to the base of the Dam. One of two down hills that made me very nervous!! And as the name implies, there were several that fell down this hill, including the guy directly in front of me who fell 3 different times going down it. This is a series of insane cut-backs which are steep and I swear keep getting more and more slippery as you keep moving down. I try to use some ‘trees’ more like larger branches to keep my momentum going while letting gravity do some work for me! And all this time watching and stepping aside for faster runners who need to keep their momentum going. We now had 20milers and 50k’ers on their second loop. I manage to not fall down on my butt and came out of it and started heading up the steady incline to ‘Dam Hill’ where we had the 5mi Aid Station. At this point, I was doing good and ahead of my time when I ran this during my training run.
We continue to run on pavement all uphill for maybe another half a mile and and then re-enter the trails. I finished off the last half of my GU Chomps packet since I knew some serious hills were waiting for me in the last 5miles.
I head down the crazy as hell ‘Speed Demon Ridge’ to the ‘Nicely Broken Leg Turn’. This is the second downhill I was nervous for. It is apparently named after Chris Nicely who fell and broke his leg here a few years back. The first time I tried this in training, I attempted to shuffle down and realized that was no good…so took a wider stance and gunned it down. I knew it was going to slicker with over 250 runners already gone down and the rocks getting in prime shape for slip sliding away. So I simply let go..come what may and gunned it down the hill!! Ok…yes the thought that I may not be able to stop and make the turn did cross my mind..but I tried to simply push it away and think light, but steady thoughts :) And got through it with no falls!! Whew!!
Next up was the barrage of hills Wyco is famous for. First up ‘Misery Ridge’, one tough climb. There was a lot of grabbing onto trees, branches or whatever happened to be there to get up and not fall down.
More single track snow packed trails, then into an open field by the archery range and back into the trails. A few inclines here and there and then hit the aid station at Mile 8 spearheaded by RUNNERFREAK Darin S. who is awesome and encouraging to a trail newbie like me. Gotta love trail running aid stations where they put in longer hours than some runners! I knew I needed some salt and grabbed a few Pringles and munched on them as I headed towards the trail again.The last 2miles of this loop hold the most challenging hills! The ‘Three Hills’ section aptly named for the three very steep..and I mean very steep hills that will zap your legs to a pulp and really test your resolve to keep moving. The day I can run at least halfway up one of these hills will be a day to celebrate! These hills were made for walking..well at least for me :) After the final fourth smaller steep hill I hear cowbell and cheering!! Ahhh..finish line here I come. I knew I could come under 3 which was almost 15mins under training time. I muster it all and run up the little hill with a weird out of nowhere iron post sticking out of the ground and downhill towards the finish!! 2:58:36!!
What an amazing feeling that was! Compared to most that ran the 10miles, it is a slow time, BUT to me these races are so much more than running against other runners, and so much of running against myself. There are so many places where you could just give up..but you have to keep moving. Sophia who finished the 10miler at Rocky said its a matter of putting one foot in front of the other and I tried to simply keep doing that. And again, yes it was only 10miles, but it was a huge boost for me to do this race and do it faster than when I ran it in training as I know I’m on the right track with training for my Trail Marathon in 10 weeks.
One thing I did realize is that I need to be better with getting more electrolytes in, especially when its this hilly. I could feel my calf twinge as I was tacking the ‘Three Hills’ , but would keep moving. I also need to maybe position myself not all the way at the back so I’m not falling too far behind and maybe use the pace of other runners to keep me moving at times. I think I did very well in using the down hills to gain some speed. I knew I’d have to walk up the steep hills, so the typical trail running strategy of running flats and down hills and hiking uphill seem to work…just need to walk uphill faster!
Post race I downed some Hammer Recoverite, then got warm with some yummy Chicken Noodle soup. Soup station was manned by Ultra Runner Tony C. from Wichita who ran a mind boggling 224miles this past summer for the Wounded Warrior Project. We chatted a little and who knew I could get so awe struck by an Ultra Runner :) The KC Trails Nerds and MudBabes have some runners with amazing ultra running accomplishments!! I changed into dry clothes and then helped out at the aid station and waited around for some other friends to come in.
It was a long day, but a great day of personal accomplishment and of being inspired by the accomplishment and toughness of others! I LOVE, LOVE the trail running community that I’ve gotten so close to. That day I walked away that day with this… and of course this…
But most of all with so much admiration for what people can accomplish, tons of inspiration for what I could do if I train right and set my mind to, a heart full of thanks for all the great volunteers and hard work that make these events run so well and the utmost respect and love for two awesome race directors and trail runners!! Sophia and Ben you guys totally Rock!!
I absolutely cannot wait to see what my trail running future holds!!!