Thursday, December 27, 2012

Emma Carlin, snowy trails... all smiles

Finally got back on the trails! Jodie and I hit the snow covered trails of the Southern Kettle a couple of days after our part of WI got slammed by a decent snowstorm. We both knew the scenery would be awesome in the woods, and although my longest run during the last 2 months was 7 miles, I managed 14 on that day...just couldn't help myself!

Hopefully get back down there this weekend. I had a slight back injury that was slowing me down quite a bit on the distance stuff, but now that it is feeling better I want to soak up as much time on the trails as I can before I leave for Kansas next week for the Mike Lin Graphic Workshop (9 days of learning techniques and different media representations for architectural design, including interiors and site planning stuff. The guy is amazing! check his site out

It is a 2 day or 7 day seminar, but if you register for the 7 day you can attend the 2 day for free, so it then COULD become a 9 day, of course which I happily signed up for lol... classes are from 8:30 am 'till midnight (no joke) so you definitely get your money's worth!

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Merry Christmas, and thank God that semester is over...

Happy days are back again! Sunny and snow covered, today looks like a story time Christmas morning! A decent snow storm last week left about a foot of snow on Waterloo WI, and since it was the wet sticky variety there have been snowmen springing up and branches hanging low. The semester ended FINALLY last week on the 19th with a grueling Art History final that was done online under a time limit. I was praying for my Charter connection to do me justice and stay strong...managed to keep an A in all of my classes. Toughest semester yet. The next one  is my last before I make the jump to Milwaukee, and I am taking just under 20 credits, again. So this should be interesting. Many of the GER classes I am trying to knock out the majority of them before I transfer to Milwaukee, so that will give me more time in studio to work. Of course then I want to join the sailing club as let's see how that 'light load' progresses.
I got out for a trail run a couple of days after the snow storm, down in the Kettle. It was just amazing! The forest looked like a winter wonderland! I took plenty of pics, and ended up running from Emma Carlin to Bald Bluff and back, about 14 miles. Farther than I had initially anticipated, but it was so scenic I could not help myself. Plus I felt incredible so I just went for it, left it all out there lol
Couple of projects in the coals, scheduled to go out to Michigan to pick up this really neat drafting table I found online, the architect doesn't use it anymore and although it is rather large it would be perfect for doing drafting and hand renderings on (thinking marker, pastels, watercolors, etc.) so I am excited to pick that up. Then on the morning of the 3rd it is off to Kansas, where I will get fully saturated in graphic design under the tutelage of Mike Lin who is hosting a 2 day and 7 day seminar right outside of Kansas City. Of course I signed up for both, so I will be there for 10 days. The seminar runs from 8:30 am until midnight everyday (seriously?) so it will be pretty intense. For those of you who are not familiar with Mike Lin, he is a world renowned  rendering artist. He does amazing sketches/renderings/presentation pieces using pencil, marker, watercolors, pastels, charcoal, etc. I currently own two of his books, the one called Drawing and Designing with Confidence  is a must have for anyone looking to sharpen their sketching and hand rendering abilities. I am really looking forward to this seminar, and start the spring semester the day after I get back ha. Talk about launching into the New Year!
Had Christmas at my grandmothers house last night, it was wonderful to see everyone! My brother was unable to make it due to his entire family coming down with the flu. Bummer. Everyone else seems to be doing well.
Today I am going to my cousins house for a brunch, should be fun visiting at a slower pace. I really look forward to these little breaks in school, to catch up with family and unwind a little. Of course there is another side of me that is already chomping at the bit, but for now hitting the trails is satisfying my never ending desire to push forward. Guess I better get is getting cold.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Training has begun for Hellgate 2012

Today I am nursing my sore muscles and achy tendons as I begin to recover from last nights 30 mile training run down in the Southern Kettle Moraine. The weather was perfect, little to no wind, clear sky, and the smell of leaves as we all trotted through the woods-then the prairie, then some more prairie, and finally back into the woods to the parking lot where our cars were waiting. The group started as five, a good strong number. By Bald Bluff we quickly grew to six, then just as quickly two dropped back- and then there was four...
The sounds of feet shuffling through the leaves continued, headlamps bobbing onward.
In the prairie two of us wanted to slow down a bit, so then there was two...
Thank goodness, since thats a long stretch by yourself. It was my first night since last winter. I am training for Hellgate again this year, which is coming up quickly on December 9th. All I know is that I want to be better prepared than last year, and its hard to know at what point you are ready. 70 miles is a long way to go through the mountains on foot, in December, in West Virginia.
I really wasn't even planning on signing up this year, I have been so swamped with school and trying to squeeze in work and spend enough time with family so they don't forget about you or think that you just don't care. Its a juggling act, no way around it. So why throw a 70 mile race on top of all that? Who knows. Its just something I feel like I need to do, again.
There is a certain clarity that comes with pushing yourself way beyond where you should stop. It brings you to this place that doesnt exist all the time, but must be there, just beyond the comfort zone. Just beyond what is practical, and logical, and maybe even healthy. I think this place transcends all of that. It is a clear understanding of what it feels like to be alive, to hurt, to feel joy, anger, sadness, all of it. There are some races and events that not only have paths that lead to an eventual finish line, but also can take you to this place. You live your whole life again, memories coming and going, thoughts rising and falling like your breath in the mountain air. You have to face it all as it comes, good or bad. It doesn't matter how fast or hard you run, your thoughts are right there. You have to resolve any questions you have, or have had and buried. Because it all comes out in the mountains...

And I am looking forward to it.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Fall is upon us! Where did the chickadee go?

How quickly it appears, like the sun rising over the horizon- one minute its not there, and then the next its all around you. Trail running has helped keep me in touch more with the seasons. I notice changes sooner since you see all the little things happening in the woods. Its a wonderful time of year, when the fall transition comes. I love the cooler mornings and dew covered grasses. The golds and oranges start to take precedence, and everything smells like earth and leaves... until you leave the countryside that it. Then who knows...
This semester is going well at school. I am learning a ton and the reality that I will be heading into the 'fray' in less than 10 months is both exciting and a little nerve wracking. I have been finding it hard to find time to get my long runs in, and just get out and run when I can. It is important to me to really do well scholastically, not only because I am really hoping for some grants to come to fruition due to the extra effort but because this is my future, and it is all relevant. I try to really soak in as much as possible, until I am overflowing with not hard to do these days.
I miss attending Aikido classes with my dad- the feeling of the mat and just practicing with him. Reflecting on that makes me realize it is really the only thing we have shared, besides a love for reading and collecting books. I hope that I can get a class in soon, as I do not want to let too much time go if it is up to me, right? lol "Whoa, too much time going by...better hold some back..."
It seems to avalanche on you, the passing of time. First we chase after things, some are practical goals and others as elusive as a chickadee in flight through the trees. Our lives are a collection of goals and setbacks, of stumbles and stellar finishes. I am grateful to have the resources and ambition to continue going after what I am passionate about, learning and growing while I go through the motions that bring me ever closer.  Grateful and thankful-especially to be chasing the chickadee, who, through a quick glimpse here and there, leads me on...

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Fall semester 2012...

Ah, to wake up to pre-calculus every day of the week...brings me such joy. It is that time of year again, and I am back at school pursuing the never ending path of Architecture. One of the blessings here at Madison College is that they brew their own coffee in the cafeteria, all sorts of flavors for all sorts of it. All 21 credits this semester...whew!
I will FINALLY be applying to UWM this Wednesday, so excited to be getting the ball rolling on that! I have this semester and one more in Spring and then it is time to make the move to Milwaukee! That will be such a big change in my life, looking forward to all the adventure it will bring...
Timeline wise, after the big move I will probably be looking at about 2.5 more years to finish up the Bachelors, and then I will be applying to the Masters program (or dual Masters, rather) for Architecture and Urban Planning. Fast forward an additional 3 years for that- then what?

Honestly, who knows. I will of course be chasing IDP hours and internships while trying to eventually sit for the ARE exams. I am in no rush, but would like to get there eventually. Most of all I am trying to enjoy the ride, to soak up as much as I can, because to me this is fun. I am shaping my own future in a way, building a career. Every day I am moving farther into an unknown place, and that is exciting to me.
One thing that I truly love about Architecture is that there are so many options available as far as what road you take, or end up on. Personally, I plan on relocating to Portland, Oregon upon graduation...trail runners heaven up there, while the communities seem to be more environmentally minded and conscious of sustainable it a movement if you will. It is merely the direction my internal compass is pointing, a goal I have in mind.
I am going to be trying to document more of the journey so I can look back on these ramblings while sipping coffee some mornings, and see how far (or not) I have come.
Enjoy the day, I know I will~

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

BigHorn Trail Race 2012

Bighorn Trail Race 2012
By Marcel Uttech
I had been looking forward to getting back into the mountains for a trail race since Hellgate of last year. There is nothing as humbling as the ocean until you experience the mountains, and doing ultras ensures you will see a lot! Piling into Roberts van along with Jodie and Jose, I was excited to head West.
We drove all through the night and by dawn we were already spotting antelope here and there among the vast rolling hills of Wyoming. Every gas station stop there were cowboy hats and shot glasses for sale, and signs for local rodeos all over. We stopped to eat breakfast at a place called Donna’s where I got to witness this rancher pull out his .380 up on request of the table of people next to us, and promptly show off the laser sighting on the nearby wall- much to the glee of the little girl who was filling her face with pancakes…ah, the Wild West.
Sheridan is a pretty neat little mountain town. With the Bighorns looming in the distance, mountain adventures are close by and there are some neat cafes in town. The one we found online was called Lulu’s, and it had plenty of organic eats and a coffee bar- nice place to frequent!
The remainder of the day was filled with me working on homework, which I so joyously got to bring along, and the others relaxing while sounds of a nearby train filled the mountain air. (Coal train, which we found out, loved to blast its horn multiple times a day, and night. Thank God the window didn’t close all the way otherwise I would have missed this haunting wail numerous times)
On Friday it was all about Robert, and he seemed relaxed and ready to go! We went with him to the pre-race briefing, where it was nice to hear about the trail and where all the fresh water for drinking was (we found out later that some of these marked ‘pipes’ coming out of the ground were considered unmanned aid stations and those are what he was referring to) this place would also be the finish, so of course I was already envisioning myself staggering over the line…there was a good sized creek right nearby, perfect for rinsing off and soaking legs afterwards! (duly noted)
When it was time to see Robert off we went to the 100 mi start, and got a little taste of the scenic views to come…this place was just awesome. Jodie got some good pics with her nicer camera as my phone could not do the place justice…
With Roberts race underway we realized we were next and the rest of the day was spent pondering that realization, oh and me joyously working on my homework, thankful that there was internet so I could submit it before the race the following day. Last thing I wanted to do was to worry about my sociology essays for 50 miles…
Saturday morning came and we were up at 2:35 am. Awesome time to be awake, because you realize that you are heading into the mountains and all day you are going to be exploring new trails! We were all pumped and ready to go. We had to get on buses at the high school in Dayton, and then had about an 90 minute or so bus ride up the mountain. With the sky starting to lighten, it was awesome being able to see the surrounding mountainside, and in between ear pops we scanned the hills for elk…
Just about to Porcupine I spotted about 12 or so elk on the side of a hill grazing- that was pretty neat. Of course the people sitting across from us tried to see but they were on the wrong side of the bus for this so they missed it. It pays to know where to sit, or just get lucky like I did. This was now the land of snow and sage, and the temps were dropping. We got up around 8500’ to the Ranger Station and then unloaded. This was the start, and it was cold! It was strange to see snow, and frosted roofs and grass. It felt like Wisconsin in a way, except for the thin oxygen part. I didn’t really notice this much until we started running and gaining elevation to around 9000’ or so, where I could tell I was losing my breath frequently and having to slow it down. This was fine, since there were snow banks to maneuver and post hole through anyway and muddied creeks to cross. (Many shoes tried to bail out of the race at these creek crossings, good thing mine are trained to stay put)
Single track into the woods and the mountain exploration began…I kept a pretty decent pace going, walking most of the uphills and just trying to focus on good form and relaxed running. The miles went by like the clouds, mostly unnoticed and seamless. The aid stations were like little encampments set up in the woods, with horses tied nearby and fires crackling. They were hard to leave, but there was more to see! And miles to go! I met people from all over, and many times had to stop and just take it all in. There were meadows covered in sagebrush and wildflowers, and thick forests of pines and rock. Raging rivers and little mountain streams. By mile 34 I was still feeling good, and felt fortunate to be out there soaking it all in. A few miles after this I was making my way through a sagebrush meadow by myself when I saw a rather large dark colored animal ahead...”What the hell is that?” I thought and then it raised its head from where it had apparently been feeding and I saw that it was a MOOSE! The first moose I had ever seen in the wild! I would have loved to see the look on my face, perhaps something of a mix of ecstatic joy and pure terror? I looked for a way around, since he was standing RIGHT on the trail. Nothing but sage brush covering hidden rattlesnakes I presumed…and nowhere to take cover in the event of a sudden charge. Hmmm…pretty tired to play tag with the moose so I decided to just make some noises so he was aware of me being there (wouldn’t want to startle the ol’ boy) so I made some noises by clearing my throat loudly at which he perked right up and started staring. I wondered then if those noises had resembled the sounds of a challenge??? More feelings of uneasiness as the stare-down continued…My camera! I got my camera out and started taking some pics while I wondered how long this was gonna take…finally a hundred miler came up behind me. “Oh great…” he said. “ Well at least it’s not a female with calves, they get pretty aggressive”… he was from Colorado, where this is a little more common. Upon seeing my reinforcements arrive the moose wandered a bit off the trail finally (bout 20’), and we edged past talking soothing words like “We’re just going by now, take it easy now…” then once I figured he was cool with us I took off.

The remainder of the race was spent with me reliving the moose encounter in my head and how cool that was to see. Coming up on the last mountainside descent I saw a guy that had been trailing me for awhile gaining on me slowly…I figured time to gain some ground so I just ignored my screaming quads and just pounded down the mountain…my next mile was a 8:02 and I passed everybody I came across on the way down. Felt great until the bottom and the trail flattened out…6.25 more miles to go on trashed legs! Run walk Run was the recipe to get me to the finish. Coming out on the road there was only 3 miles to go, all pea-gravel road. Some of the caring neighbors had hoses laid out front that you could spray yourself as you went by! So COOL! Huge thanks to them!
I managed to keep my spot those last 3 miles, averaging 13 minute miles and just keeping forward progress…upon entering the park I made one last surge and had a strong finish with a time of 11:48. Was given the finisher vest and headed straight to that cold creek – HEAVEN! I washed up and Robert found me, carrying his chair and all smiles. I was glad to hear his race went well…We plopped down and waited for the others at the finish line.
I asked Sean Meissner during our Hellgate trip last year what the most scenic race he had ever done was and he had told me Bighorn. If I were asked that same question, I would have the same answer. This is an amazing race held in a beautiful part of the country. You get a chance, get out there and do it. TOUGH course, but worth it all…

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Another semester down!

So usually my posts are all about ultra running and races, (ok so mostly races) and I have a little time on my hands this morning so I thought I would write about another big deal in my life- school. I am currently in my third year of college, still chasing the dream of Architecture. I have about a year left in Madison, then its off to UWM to finish it out. I plan on staying there through out the Masters degree, so I am looking at an additional 4-5 years. Yes, its a long road! I have been building houses and various other structures since I was 17 years old. There was always work, and you never had to worry about finding more. Nowadays since the housing bubble has burst (thanks to all the cookie cutter housing developements who flooded the market with crap houses) it has grown tough to stay busy year round. In 2009 I decided to go back to school. Originally for Project/ Construction Management, and make the transition into commercial construction and go from there. However after taking a sustainable design class at ITT being taught by an Architect, I learned that there are a lot of changes coming to the way we build buildings and how they in turn affect our environment.
This was amazing to me, and the more I learned about it and worked on projects and figured out problems the more I found myself wanting to do this even more. I though about making the jump to Architecture...but at this point in my life? Was that a wise choice? I was 33, and knew that in order to become licensed I was looking at another 7-10 years of school and internships and whatever else life through in the mix. Tough choice, and many people told me it wasn't a smart 'financial' move. However one Architect told me," You know Marcel, 40 is coming no matter what. What do you want to be doing when you get there?" I will never forget those words.  I jumped.
The more I am told that Architects will never make much money the more I realize that it wasn't a factor in my decision anyways so who cares. (Well I do CARE, but its not a game changer) Not too mention with all the options that holding a degree in Architecture brings, if there is a drive you will find different avenues. As a sub contractor I find myself always hunting down work, doing the work, then hunting down the paycheck. This is not new to me...its simply the nature of the beast!
I love the way life throws you curves. I live for the spontaneity of the seasons, the weather, the random laughter. Architecture was a fit for me, and now that I have undertaken this journey I am learning that just like in ultra running the finish line isn't the only good part, getting there is pretty fun too.
So with a little extra time on my hands this summer I took up scuba diving, which we are doing our final lake dive this Friday (hooray!) and then hopefully passing the written exam soon after. I would like to dive at Atwater Beach in Milwaukee on Lake Michigan soon, which is right down the road from the Architecture School of Milwaukee. Lots of neat places to be exploring in Milwaukee, and although it may take a little bit to adjust to the change in scenery and the population, I am sure it will be a grand adventure while I am there.
I do of course still have a couple of big races this year, with a 50 miler in the BigHorn mountains of Wyoming in a few weeks...then a possible 100 miler in November! Honestly I want to scale down the ultra running next year, just doing a few special ones and focus on some other things. I would love to learn how to sail! And kayaking around WI would be fun too.

Its truly amazing how many things there are to do with our time. We all have the same 24 hours in a day, what we decide to do with it really determines the quality of our days, years, and ultimately our lives. I feel so blessed to be healthy and able to breathe clean air and to run on beautiful trails...these simple things enable me to tackle the rest of life, with a smile.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

DWD GnawBone 50k Race Report 5-12-12

DWD: GnawBone, Indiana (Yes, that’s a real town)
 50k Race report by Marcel Uttech
For those of you not familiar with the Dances with Dirt Series, there are four races held every year. In the Ultra division is either the 50k/ 50 mi. If you complete all of them within 2 years you earn a special belt buckle, which Jodie, Jose, and I are chasing down this year. Having done the DWD at Dances with Dirt the last two years in a row I didn’t need to do it again this year, but thought what the hell. If you sign up for all four they are only 49 bucks apiece…sweet…
Having done DWD Green Swamp in March (Florida) ,  GnawBone (Indiana) was next. So  on the 11th of May I picked up Jose and the two of us headed down there. The drive down was pretty uneventful (mostly Illinois) however in Bloomington we had a hitchhiker literally bum rush my car as we were going down the interstate at like 75- who does that? Did he really think that would make me want to stop? Hell I think I floored it when he did that .-weird..haha . We made packet pick up, which is always nice since you get to scope things out in the light like the start/finish line and the Porto potties- you know, the important stuff.  After grabbing our bags we headed back to the hotel to relax and lay out our stuff for the morning start.
Thank god that most electronics automatically change when you change time zones, cause I had totally spaced it that Indiana was an hour ahead of our time! Close call…we awoke in the morning (on time luckily) and headed to the start…according to the weather it was going to be in the 70’s with an overcast all day, and a slight breeze- pretty much perfect conditions! After driving around the woods down there in Brown County the previous evening, we were both pumped to get in there, especially on new trails! Jodie Taylor had run this race as her first Ultra last year, and was always saying that it was very scenic, and an awesome race so I was excited to get started. My plan was pretty much the same as Chippewa- PR or bust. Being my first time there, the PR part should be easy…
This would be my 11th 50k, and I decided to push it but really pay more attention to how I was feeling overall, and try to pace myself more evenly. I wanted to have better splits than at Chippewa (two weeks ago) where my second half was 40 min longer than my first half, I used a waist pack carrying an extra water bottle and some goodies and then a hand held. It was dark when we got there, good amount of people milling around. Saw some familiar faces, which is always cool- right on time, it started getting light- and then the Head Goat said “GO!”
We all took off into the woods. Pretty wide trails starting out, about the width of a car. It didn’t take long and the trail turned into soup- shoe sucking soup, all uphill. Saw three guys lose a shoe just on this first climb…lol once we got through that it changed into mostly narrower trails and lots of single track. Beautiful scenery, bugs were minimal, and the trails were perfect. First half was lots of climbing, a few  switchbacks and then these roller coaster hills. It was pretty easy going, and I just hit the cruise control and went with it. Came up on mile 15 at about 2:45 or so. Everything felt good, and I was having a blast in those woods. Parts reminded me of Sawtooth, with quite a few roots. Then there were parts like Voyageur, with rocks and mud and these neat little bridges and winding single track trails through the woods. It’s an awesome trail system they got down there, for sure!

Second half went well, with more silly obstacles to be found. Some pretty steep climbs up the sides of hills, some bushwacking (actually quite a bit), and then a bunch of navigating over and under fallen trees. It was tough to get into a groove here, so I just ran when I could. Coming out of one aid station I went about a quarter mile and turned into the woods, getting confronted by this guy coming back up who was yelling “ it’s a dead end! I just ran 2 miles for nothing!” Not wanting a bunch of bonus miles at this point I ran back to the aid station to confirm the turn and was told that yes,  that was the turn. SO back again and down and then I see the trail turn AGAIN kind of subtly  again, which is what the other guy must’ve missed last time…back on track I picked it up, glad it was only a half mile of extra running to erase any doubts. Wouldn’t be long, and this would be coming to a close!
We ran past people fishing at a small lake, past cabins built deep into the woods (nice architecture I might add), an awesome ancient stone fireplace/shelter in the middle of nowhere;  some cool boardwalks, and we never left the woods. I loved it! Nearing the end there was some nice stream crossings that felt right on time to splash through. (Sorry to the people walking when I came through these spots lol) Next up a muddy downhill with footprints about 4 inches deep (good times) a quick little meadow and then the best part- running the creek in for about a half mile! This was very cool, and refreshing as well! The water was cold enough (and deep enough) to really cool off the legs, and wash most of the mud off (my apologies to the people walking through this section as there was much splashing going on) just in time to fire the after burners into the finish line! Crossing the line, I was asked my name and age…turns out I took first in my age group and was 8th overall with a time of 5:39(only 9 minutes longer on my second half, so the pace worked). They handed me a finisher medal and an engraved bone ( all the AG placers got one) all this to  some blaring country music that was being put on by the DJ. DWD’s races are always a party, and down here was no exception. There were also all these relay teams, that had all these different  ‘themes’ going on…some were pretty strange but hey, whatever gets you out there, right?
I would really recommend this race as an awesome spring ultra event. These are some very cool single track trails, and the scenery is amazing. Being only a 7 hr drive its close enough to drive comfortably, and even better to ROAD TRIP IT! So put this one on your radar sometime, its worth it…

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Dances with Dirt, Green Swamp Florida 2012

Green Swamp, March 24th: This day marked the beginning of the Dances with Dirt series, a 50k in Green Swamp which is located in Dade City, FL. This year Jodie, Jose and I are going after the buckle, so we have to complete the rest of the series that we haven’t done yet. You have 2 years to do all 4…yes the buckle is totally worth it, why would you even ask? Jodie and I drove the 23 hours or so down to Orlando, picked up Jose who was there for a trade show, and headed over for packet pickup. We are then informed that packet pickup was the day before…so really we only missed it by a day. This led to conversations where we had to defend why we would drive 23 hours for a race in the swamp anyways… some people just don’t get it, lol. It was good to see palm trees…
That night it stayed in the 60’s. We stayed at a Microtel Inn in Zephyrhills. Decent place, plus you got a discount if you were doing the race-bonus! Also located within 15 minutes of the start-nice. Saturday morning we got up early, watched the weather and dressed as best as we could for the predicted near 90 degree day. Adrenaline was kickin’ in (maybe it was the coffee? Probably both) and headed out to the race for packet pickup. It was dark as we navigated our way there, and as you were able to begin to make out shapes the Spanish moss in the trees gave the surrounding woods an eerie look, very cool. As we got our packets we saw the 50milers coming in out of the woods (they started at 5:30) in a line of headlamps…always a nice sight. And yes, I was a little jealous they were already in there…it was like they got to the presents first on Christmas! Not one of them complained of bugs, which was a relief! Something I had not given much thought to until Jodie brought it up. Right around 6:30 the other runners started showing up. The 50k and marathon started at the same time, 7 bells. The Head Goat gave his speech (nice and short- pink first then follow blue) while taking a call (“anyone lost yet?”) and we were off!
I was excited to get into those woods- once I was in there, it was nice and cool, and there was quite a bit of fog everywhere. I couldn’t help but keep staring at the all the palm trees! Lol It was really dry for this time of year down there, so the trails were perfect. Lots of little leaves on the ground, and palm-like vegetation all over, and super green! Huge cypress trees with the Spanish moss hanging all over them…the surroundings were so different than the woods I am used to running in here in the Midwest that I couldn’t help but start taking pictures. I wrestled with this thought prerace- on whether I should take my little camera or not, and I was glad I did. I just kept stepping off to the side to snap pics whenever I saw something I thought looked cool. One guy thought I was plotting GPS points (um-what?)After about 20 minutes of run-stop-shoot-run-stop-shoot I had already missed a turn (along with about 12 people I was following) and luckily someone ahead caught it after about a quarter mile since I had no idea! Time to start paying some more attention! So the pictures got put on hold and I decided I’d better start running. It was easy to run at a good clip, the course is pretty flat and in the woods the trails were nice and firm. Outside of the woods there were these prairie type areas where the footing turned to mostly sand, tough going in that stuff. Hard on the ankles! This race had a mix of sand, wooded trails, crushed shell roads, and a small road section. Very scenic, and the aid stations were pretty decent. Once you got over how much everything looked like scenes from Jurassic Park the race was like any other, go out too fast and hold on. Most of the first half I was averaging a 9:30 pace,  then started hurting around 19 or so and things slowed down.  Once it hit 10 it was pretty warm outside, and in those open prairies it was nothing but free sweat. Only one stream crossing, which was still fun to splash through! For the end you come into the finish at 26.2 and then the 50k runners head out for the last 5. This loop was tough, ankles were pretty beat up and hurting from the sand, and I was just ready to be done! Saw a deer fly across the trail, almost stepped on a 4 ft black snake (talk about hitting the brakes) and plenty of little lizards. Coming through the woods I finally heard music- thought “the end already? Sweet!” But it turned out to be 3 old guys playing bluegrass in a park type shelter on a picnic bench. I wanted to stop and listen but the need to be done pushed me on, so later fellas…
I came across a tower that looked so much like our LP tower that first time around I was bummed I didn’t get a pic-then we did the loop again at the finish I was thrilled to see it again and I was able to get a shot of it! I was glad to see Jose and Jodie at the finish, they both ran a terrific race! Coming in together at the end for at time of 5:22! Good enough for Jodie to take first in her age group and 4th woman,( and a PR by 1 minute I believe) and Jose took first in his age group (which is the same one I am in dammit) and 7th overall male. I came in at 5:43 which still earned me a 3rd age group award and a spot at 11 overall male (originally this was posted as 9th, guess there were some errors in paperwork at the race). So I originally thought we all posted in the top 10 overall but I was mistaken.  Jose made it in overall at 10th, Jodie took 11th, and I managed to hang on for 17th. If I were to run this one again I would definitely train differently, and treat it as a marathon type race. This is a FAST race. If you are looking for a change of scenery and a PR, this is a race worth checking out! Sadly I saw no alligators, and the only armadillos were 2 dead ones on the side of the road. Ah well, the palm trees were cool.
More race pics here: