It is rarely what I worried about (or: one reason I suck at trails)

Today: I attempted the Cactus Classic marathon; at least that is what I signed up for. Yesterday, it was confirmed that the trails were mostly (not completely) snowed under:

Screen shot 2013-03-08 at 9.29.17 PM

“I’m f**ked” I thought….then I thought that it might not be that bad to run on snow that the faster folks had packed down. After all “” had predicted dry weather (ROTFLMAO). I should have remembered that is about as useful as a horoscope.

This morning I woke up to my weather radio alarm: “rain all morning long; possibly ending in the afternoon”. It was in the high 30’s-low 40’s F (3-4 C) and yes, it rained…except when it sleeted. I knew that there would be no way in Hades that I’d finish a marathon under these conditions.

I thought about just rolling over and going back to sleep; instead I made myself show up.

The Cactus Classic bills itself as a tough race on mostly sandy trails. It isn’t really hilly; there are a few rollers.
I’d say that it is tougher than beach sand as there is not much of a “hard pack” to it; it is loose, deep sand that just sucks the life out of you. There WAS some of that…but today’s challenge was mostly long stretches of very wet, very loose, slushy snow.

I’ll have nightmares about this scene.

Anyway, this is what I said yesterday:

I am worried about the piriformis or being too slow to continue the second loop. Then again, a 15 mpm pace might be enough to allow me to continue. We’ll just have to see.

The good news:
1. The faster runners might pack it down for the rest of us. And I’ve had good luck with packed snow with these shoes.
2. If I get in even one loop, that will be a decent training run.

Hopefully one of my favorite milf/gilf’s will wear her tightest, shiniest spandex without that dreaded “long shirt” that covers what I want to look at.

What happened:
I was out there for 3:45 (not a misprint). That included the course, plus an extra .7-.8 miles or so.

My piriformis didn’t bother me at all. Not a peep; it, and my knee, were non-issues. That IS good news. And no, I took no pain killers or medicine of any kind.

This snow: not capable of being “packed”; this was like trying to run in a “slushie”.

Spandex: yep, there were pretty ladies in spandex but, well, read on. I wish I had stayed a bit closer to a couple of them (it would have saved me 15-20 minutes, at least.)


I was supposed to follow the green/blue dot (part shared with the 10K course) plus the solid blue. I did, but I also added the arrow (and back) toward the end of the loop. %$#$!!!! Yes, that turn was well marked…I’ll tell you why I missed it.

The race
My trail shoes with screws plus gaiters did the job ok; I was maintaining what I thought was an easy lope plus planned walking. I still had dreams (ha ha ha ha) of doing the two loop marathon so I was holding back. As I had to work harder and harder, I eased up on the effort and subsequently many of those who were around me early got away. I didn’t care at that stage; I my mind…was “saving it”. Near mile 2 (27:30) we had some runnable trail; that kept me from just following the 10K course and calling it a day early. I was to later realize that this runnable trail was to be the exception; most of the course was like the photo.

I more or less settled into what positon I was to be in (for a while) at around mile 5. That came at 1:11, which was 4 minutes off of goal pace. I knew that I wasn’t going to be doing two loops then, but I didn’t care to push it at all.

A lady in black tights and five finger shoes had passed me earlier; then I saw her walking around with her head down, on the side of the trail. I asked if she was ok; it turns out she had made a pit stop but then had dropped her car keys. Fortunately she found them about 30 seconds after talking to me; she remarked that we were near mile 6 as she disappeared into the distance. I caught a glimpse of her later but only a glimpse.

As I trudged toward mile 9 a woman in a bright jacket and black tights yelled at me; she was wearing headphones and had the tunes turned up a bit. I was a bit startled but she looked energetic. We were to pass each other back and forth for the next 4 miles or so; another lady in a blue jacket, water back pack and black tights (obvious vpls) caught us and I traded with her too. She was much quieter.

And so it went over the next few miles; Mile 9 came at about 2:10 and 11.4 came at about 2:50. It was sloppy and my mood was falling. The last I saw of the last two ladies was at the 11.4 station; they were getting ahead of me and so I wanted to catch them. I wish I had made more of an effort:

the constant snow/slush was really breaking me mentally but as I went further, a turn came and there was a long clear shot with little snow. I figured that I’d make up time (while dodging the puddles), but I couldn’t find my ladies! Hey, they had gotten a bit ahead of me but this trail was straight and I could see in the distance….did I slow that much???

Then after slopping around for seemingly 10-15 minutes (perhaps it was less time than that?) I came to an intersection; there were 3 trails and NO markings telling us which one.

I knew that the RD’s were competent; this meant…..there was a reason I didn’t see those ladies.
Then I noticed: no foot prints other than mine….and so I slowly walked back to backtrack. Sure enough…EVENTUALLY I saw the trail markers. But…which way to turn? I didn’t want to backtrack!

Fortunately Beth was moving along; she stopped when she saw me and I yelled “you are going the right way; I got off of the trail”. And so, it was close to 3:25 and we kept each other company for most of the way; she’d jog and get ahead, and I’d do the same. Finally, finally, I got slightly ahead of her, took a turn….AND SAW THE FINISH LINE. I stopped and yelled at her; a couple of seconds she got to me and we jogged to the finish line side by side.

Afterward, I got to chat with some of the other runners; only the marathoners were still out there.

Oh well.

One thing I learned: I think that one of the reasons I suck at trails is because I don’t train on them much. For me, trail running is a type of cross training; I just don’t get the turn over on the trails that I need to run well on the roads.

Also, weather is a wild card. I had a streak of good luck with weather on the trails (2002 to 2005) but I now have a “miserable weather” streak of 3 trail events in a row. I’ll probably still do these, but NOT as “goal events”, and I’ll probably stick to the 10K to half marathon range (mostly).

After I finished, I went home, showered, immediately put my dirty clothes in the wash and caught the second half of a women’s basketball game. Bradley trailed 33-18 at the half, rallied to cut the lead to 1 a couple of times, but fell short 58-53. Like me: they put themselves in too deep of a hole early.


March 9, 2013 - Posted by | basketball, running | ,


  1. Nice description of your run yesterday. I posted my race report on Facebook. Glad to hang with you for a bit!

    Comment by Beth McDaniel | March 10, 2013 | Reply

  2. I did the 10k and it took me an hour and 34 minutes. So slow, and that was with running, no walking. .07 miles in and my feet were already wet. Shortly after, I decided that I could get much wetter than wet, so I just ran through the slush. About 3 miles in, it started to feel good, in that my arches were sore and the cold numbed them. I was a little worried, as my right foot felt like a solid block and I wasn’t sure I had much feeling in my toes. But, what to do? I just kept running. I actually really enjoyed the run, despite being soaked. I really think the worst part was my lack of vision (glasses wet and fogged up.)

    Comment by jenjw4 | March 10, 2013 | Reply

  3. get much wetter than wet is what it should read.

    Comment by jenjw4 | March 10, 2013 | Reply

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