This past weekend, I flew up to Indiana to run the Indiana Trail 100! It is Indiana’s first 100 mile trail race and I thought it would be a great opportunity for me to go back to my home state and earn a buckle with my parents and BFF, Lydgia, in tow!
Upon checking the weather for packing purposes, I realized it was going to be a bit chilly up there, but once I arrived in the Hoosier State, I quickly realized I had underestimated just how cold it was going to be. Originally forecasted to be in the mid to upper 50’s, the weather was actually in the 30’s and with the wind chill, the “feels like” temps were in the 20’s.
As we drove toward the race site, Chain O’ Lakes State Park, I was very hopeful that the conditions would improve as we headed north. You see, in addition to the cold temps, many regions of Indiana and it’s neighboring states had been placed in a “State of Emergency” for flooding. I continued to ignore the Facebook posts regarding local school and road closures and just figured, it can’t be that bad. Then reality struck when we saw this:
Somehow, I was still hopeful the course would remain mostly dry. We arrived at the park, dropped off all of my gear at our cute little FREEZING COLD cabin, started a fire in the wood stove to try to warm it up a bit, and then headed over for packet pickup and the pre-race meeting with pretty snow flurries falling!
At the meeting, the race director shared with us that conditions were sub optimal and that they had been forced to re-route the course in numerous spots due to flooding and standing water. He described to us a few portions of the course where bridges were submerged and an area where we would be using a rope they put out to help us cross a deeply flooded section. Again, I was still hopeful that these sections would just be minor details in a much drier story.
I slept pretty well in our cute little FREEZING COLD cabin and even woke up around 4am to restart the fire. I got all bundled up and we headed over to the startline IN THE SNOW!! For a Florida girl who prefers running in just shorts and a sports bra, 5 layers on top, 3 on the bottom plus gloves and a wool hat would certainly keep me warm during my journey!
I quickly realized all of my excitement, calmness and wishful thinking regarding the course conditions had not manifested a magically dry and fast trail. Within the first 20 mins of the race (mile 1.7 according to my Garmin) my feet were completely soaked as I crossed through my first of at least 60 ankle deep puddles on the course. And then there was THE MUD! I cannot even begin to describe the mud…perhaps think of quick sand that wishes to rob you of your shoes, then intensify that by 50 and you could begin to understand.
Certain portions of the course were flooded thigh high and in the below freezing temps, it was far from enjoyable to trudge and wade through the water. Just when I thought my feet were dry, I was wrong. The consistent part of the day was that despite my body being numb, I was in incredibly high spirits and was having a great time; just me and my iPod! My family and friends made me “surprise” playlists to listen to during the race so I was thoroughly enjoying listening to awesome music provided by my loved ones! I looked forward to seeing my mom, dad and Lydge every 4-5 miles and was taken in by the beauty of the woods!
Throughout the day, I had some random moments. The first was the lesson that Stinger Waffles and Gels can freeze. I devised a plan where I would stuff them down my shirt to warm them up 3-4 mins before attempting to consume them because I had nearly broken my teeth the first time I bit down on one that wasn’t “warmed”. I also enjoyed that despite the snow on the ground, there were flowers in bloom and I even enjoyed a moment when I bent down to tie my shoe and an earthworm crawled out from between my laces. I took Lydgia’s phone along on a short 2 mile stretch so that I could call and chat with John for a few minutes and tell him I was right on pace! I am happy I had her phone so I could snap a few pics on the trail!
I continued along, surprisingly happy given the fact that I can’t stand my feet getting wet or actually even being cold. The sun came out, but the temperature still did not rise above 36 windy degrees. At no time did I ever feel warm or that I was even sweating which was insane based upon the fact I had only removed one of my five layers. The real game changer was around mile 39 when I slipped and fell into the water where the rope crossing was…I grabbed the rope and my feet literally slid right down the slope of mud and I ended up laying on my back in the icy cold water. My gloves and torso got wet and for the next 4 miles, I was pretty close to miserable; all I could focus on was when I could finally get out of the wet gloves. I ended up taking them off because they were so soaked that they were actually making my fingers hurt and when I did, I was able to see my hand was turning bright red. All I could think about was dry gloves…the rest of me was so numb by the time I got to my crew that I assumed I had dried out when in reality I was still soaked.
Lydgia helped me strip down in the semi-warm old fashioned school house that was near the aid station and I bundled up as quickly as I could. I was reduced to wearing my “second string” of warm gear and actually took the pants that Lydgia was wearing for an additional layer of warmth. Unfortunately, I only own one pair of running tights so the majority of my new attire was not technical gear and consisted of cotton. Cotton and water crossings don’t particularly mix…just when I would start feeling warm, I would reach another water crossing and the water would absorb into my pants, weighing me down.
I began to realize that I felt great and could easily keep going, but that I was not prepared with additional clothing to sustain another 12-14 hours of these conditions. When I crossed the finish line of my 3rd and final loop, I was proud I had completed the 50 mile race and somewhat relieved that I would be able to warm up instead of running through the night for an additional 3 loops. Only 57 of the 182 participants finished the entire 100 mile distance…that left 125 of us that either switched to the 50 miler as I did or only finished 16 miles of the course.
This was an incredibly well managed and organized event. Everyone was extremely friendly (as usual with most ultras) and the race staff was not discouraged or the least bit frazzled by the crazy conditions during their inaugural running of this event. I would highly recommend it to anyone looking for an ultra in the spring…certainly Mother Nature couldn’t strike more than once. I must also add…I did not have one single hot spot or blister after running for 50 miles with soaking wet feet. I am shocked and credit this to an INCREDIBLE product: 2Toms Sport Shield. We were given a sample of this in our race packet and although it is typically taboo to try something brand new on race day, I gave it a go and was amazed!
Although I did not return to Florida with a belt buckle, I did return happy, healthy & without pneumonia so for that, I am grateful!
Below are some video clips from fellow participants of various sections of the course!