Sunday, March 24, 2013

2013 VA Creeper Marathon

2013 VA Creeper Trail Marathon

     I've only ever ran 2 other marathons, the 2010 Richmond Marathon and the 2011 Richmond Marathon. Both times I was looking for a Boston Qualifier and I pushed myself hard in training and I ran the race hard and even though I did have respectable finish times of 3:35:xx and 3:34::xx I still came up a little short of the 3:15 goal. I skipped marathon distance races in 2012 and decided to train through the winter and run a spring 2013 marathon instead. I decided on the VA Creeper Trail Marathon because I had enjoyed the small town feel of the Iron Mountain races when I ran the 16 mile option back in Sept 2011. I also liked the fact of the nominal 100 racer limit since it would give participants plenty of room to spread out and not encounter crowded conditions while racing.
Every idiot with a toothbrush seems to be taking a self photography shot of themselves at a bathroom mirror, so I figured "What the hell, I can be as stupid as everyone else".

     The weather in Abingdon was very nice for our ride down Saturday, but that would end soon enough as a steady rain began around 4 am on race morning and lasted for the majority of the race. Rain? Not my favorite. Especially in 40 degree weather, but I knew it wouldn't be anything too hard to overcome once the adrenaline started flowing. I've actually had some rather good race times in the rain, so I just went with the flow and made the best of it.

     Waiting for the race to start in the rain was less than desirable though. 80-100 of us huddled up under two small leaking tents, cold and anxious, but otherwise in good spirits. I looked around and realized I was only 1 of just a small handful of people who had decided to race in racing shorts and sleeveless shirt. The temp was right at 40 and thats usually where I ditch cold weather gear, but I had to question my strategy when I saw how many people where trying to protect themselves from the elements. 

     The race director made some announcements while I got my headphones set up and got some music playing. I hardly ever train with music except on a treadmill, but I have done a few races with my mp3 player. This was my first time doing a trail race with tunes and I'm not likely to ever do it on a technical trail, but the VA Creeper Trail is non technical fine crushed gravel so I figured the music would not distract me in a dangerous way. As soon as I turned the tunes on I knew the rain would be much less of an issue.

     With the announcements done we quickly get the race underway and I find myself comfortably holding 7th place for about the first 8 or so miles. I wasn't working hard for it, just focusing on feeling good and not pushing the pace. I had been hitting a good string of miles in 7-7:59 range, but I knew it wouldn't be sustainable. When the 7's started getting hard I thought about fighting to hold the pace till mile 13 and calling it a half marathon training strategy, but I knew if I did that I would crash and hit the wall hard by mile 16. I decided to drop the pace to the high 8's which felt sustainable and the first few at that pace felt very comfortable.

     Somewhere around miles 12-15 some passing started and that was to be expected since I had dropped my pace. I believe it was 3 or 4 passed me, but I wasn't sure. One of them was the first place female, so I guessed I was in 10th or 11th. At this point place didn't matter my mind a marathon is a 20 mile warm up and then a 6.2 mile race...that's how I was playing it anyway...

     By mile 15 the 8's were starting to take some effort and I found myself running in surges...letting my pace drop into into the low 9's then surging for a while to pull it back down to a mid 8 and letting it climb again. I had just finished listening to a long string of Slipknot tunes and when Limp Bizkit and Megadeth started playing "Nookie" and "Peace Sells (But who's buying)" I found myself refreshingly energized by the new tempos and sounds so I started singing along as I was a few odd looks and a few interesting smiles too...

     I kept my intermittent surge strategy going all the way to mile 20. If I had anything in the tank to race on now was the time to pull it out. Disciplined runners behind me would be looking to pick up a spot or two at this point, but I wasn't sure what I was capable of since mile 20 in my previous marathons had always started a rapid collapse of pace and even the dreaded walk intervals. I looked back and didn't see anyone. I was feeling some enthusiasm for a strong finish, but I wasn't ready to hold a surge. A long string of Slayer tunes had just finished playing and I was finding the familiar sounds of Disturbed's "Down with the Sickness" and Limp Bizkits "Phenomenon" so I started singing out loud again. Holding the 8's was starting to feel easy and by mile 22 I was getting excited for a strong finish...

     I find myself looking for some 7's to finish strong with and knock out an 8:21 and an was too much...I went back to the high 8's and got passed by 1 right before mile 25. I had been thinking how great it was to have not fallen into the 9's or 10's at all this race, but I thought to soon...wham...a tiny "wall" I finish mile 25 with an 8:59 and find that I'm starting mile 26 in the 11's ...I needed the down time, I took it easy for about a 1/4 mile, but I knew I couldn't afford to be complacent if I wanted to hold my spot. I managed to progress the final full mile into the high 9's.

     I guess the guy who passed me right before mile 25 was hitting his own wall of sorts and had started walking. I passed him back in the final 2/10th and finished that 2/10ths with a pace back in the 8's. I forgot to turn my Garmin off and ended up having to delete that partial mile, but the other 26 are garminized and accessible with the link below.

     Crossing the finish line, I found myself slightly disoriented and unwilling to move much. The race director ushered me across the street where I found some friendly volunteers who gave me a nice cup of coffee. My wife. Denise, had been doing her own self timed training walk of 13 miles and she wasn't back yet, so I took a seat on the warm shuttle bus and rode around talking to the driver while he hauled finishers to their cars parked a mile away at an elementary school.

     All in all this was a great race. The volunteers will dedicated and helpful, Their was plenty of water stops, and the Creeper Trail made for a very comfortable running surface. It is a low key event with just a $10 entry fee, so the lack of an awards ceremony or awards for anything other than 1st place in 10yr age groups did nothing to take away from the race. I look forward to doing it again...hopefully on a warmer, non raining day in future years...
 2013 Va Creeper Trail Marathon
Place-11/76 Overall, 4/11 in my age group, 10/46 among men


  1. Thank you for making it look cool to do a self-portrait in a bathroom mirror. Personally, I just turn the camera around so you don't actually see the phone. ;)

    Congrats on a great race! Sounds like a lot of fun. As someone who is "sitting out" the 26.2 distance this calendar year, I think I'd much rather do something like this when the itch comes back.

    1. Thanks, David. Events held on rails-to-trails courses offer the best of both worlds in my opinion. I only know of this one and the New River Trail 50k, but I'd consider travelling if it was logistically possible.