Thonnica Khills Race Report

For those of you who are concerned…….. I survived.  But not without a few mud slides and charley horses along the way.

I had a few goals going into this race and none of them involved me winning or breaking any sound or light barriers.  My goals were to get some much needed miles on the trails, to test my current training regime, and to see how I stand with the Leatherwood Ultra a mere 12 weeks away. And I accomplished all of my goals.

Christine and I got there early and got checked in at 8:00. This was the first race I have ever done where I had no clue where I would be going. The plan was just to follow other people and if alone then follow the orange flags.  Simple enough.

Christine was my race photographer.  This is how happy I was before the race.

At 9:00 and in usual ultra/trail running tradition, the race started without much fanfare. A simple go and everyone kind of meandered on their way.

I really did not want to start off fast. I just wanted to find my “pace” and enjoy the trails. But I can never seem to do that even in a race that I don’t care where I finish! (Except last….don’t want to finish last). But I started running with a group who I found out later were running the 6 mile race (1 loop). This genius signed up for the 12 mile race!

For the first mile of the race, it was pretty much regular trail running. It had some uphills, a little mud, some random bushwhacking.  But all in all, I was feeling pretty confident.  And then the next 3.5 miles jumped up and smacked me upside my head and screamed “YOU SUCK!

Let me try to explain what was going on in my body as translated by my engineer brain. We turned the corner and started climbing up a steep slippery slope. As my body poured fuel to my legs to climb, my heart rate increased to match the need. I finally reached the top at max heart rate only to immediately begin a descent that was so treacherous (mud, etc.) that my heart rate stayed elevated. I would then start another climb already at max hear rate! Rinse and repeat for about 2.5 to 3 miles.

Oh….. and throw in the 6-8 foot drop down into a creek bed followed by an immediate climb of about 6-8 feet straight up. Couple that with the snow ski descent (imagine sliding down a muddy hill on your shoes) and I was having serious doubts about my ability to survive much less finish this first loop.

I was struggling physically and mentally and seriously planning my exit after one loop.  And then we reached a runnable section of the course.  That was followed by a few more nice climbs and then multiple calf deep creek crossings before arriving back at the finish line. One hour and 18 or so minutes so far.

You can see from the video that I was anticipating a very long time on loop 2. But I was here to get some miles in and test myself.  So I headed back out and soon hooked up with 3 other real men of genius guys doing 2 loops.  And I felt pretty good.  I was moving slower and walking more hills to keep my heart rate down, but I could do this!

At about 7-8 miles in I got a second wind (or 3rd or 4th) and I started moving pretty well. I was handling the climbs and descents better that the first loop. I was mainly by myself, but I could “feel” people in front and behind me so I knew I was on course.

And then the first twinge rippled through my left hamstring. Um….excuse me?  We are 3 to 4 miles from the finish line and I don’t have time for any bullshit from you! It twinged harder. Oh shit. I ran/walked the next 5 or 6 minutes with a vice grip on my hamstring attempting to keep it at bay. And it eased up.

And then my calves decided to join the party!  Woo-hoo! I love me some calf cramps!  For most of the day one of my climbing techniques to defeat the slippery slopes has been to drive my toe in the edge of the gully.  Of course this meant that I was doing a whole lot of climbing on my toes. My calves decided to protest.  But it was manageable.  So far.

With about 2 miles to go and starting down a 75 yard descent, both calves locked up on me. I hit the ground and tried to grab them both with equal ferocity. They were having none of that. I managed to make it back onto my feet and was contemplating doing a superman dive and sliding down head first. I came to my senses as another runner came upon me.

We had a short discussion about how he had them last year, they suck on this course, and there was nothing he could do.  Another runner came by and offered her condolences and any nutrition she had, but I was good on fluids and fuel.  My muscles were just done with this race.

BUT I WASN’T.  I figured out that if I pigeon toed down the hill, I could recruit other muscles and give my whiny ass calves a break. It seemed to work, so I pressed on. I would struggle uphill trying not to engage my calves or hamstrings (try that one at home kids!) and then I would pigeon toe down the hill.

I was never so happy to make it back to the creek bed and the last 0.60 miles of slogging through the creek and sand/mud bars.  With about 150 yards to go I attempted a run. The calves were going along with me so I kept running.  Of course, then I was close enough to the finish line that I had to keep running. But I did it. I don’t have my official time, but it was under 3 hours (didn’t stop my watch).

Based on the other people running the race, the distance was about 10.8 miles with about 1800 feet of climbing.  I’ll take that.

All in all, it was a good day. I definitely had some physical breakdowns that I need to work on before Leatherwood.  My mental issues were more short lived and I overcame them.  I just need it to all work together in October.

Now for the rest of the story……. as we were driving home from St. Francisville, I was driving.  All was going pretty well until we got on the interstate in Scotlandville to head home.  My entire right leg locked up!  Now I am doing 65 mph on interstate in my Expedition and I have no control over my right leg!  Somehow I was able to get the car off the road (and stopped) so Christine could take over.  I am foreshadowing a lovely night of blood curdling screams tonight.  Wear your earplugs.



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