15 Stronger (LLTH)

February 17th, 2007

Is it possible to finish a very strenuous 15 mile trail run on a base of zero miles?


I won’t recommend that anyone employ my training schedule, but after several months of not running at all for various reasons, I completed the 15 mile version of the Louisville’s Lovin the Hills trail run this morning.

I was definitely BOTP (back of the pack), but I was not DFL (dead fill-in-the-blank last).

I’m actually very satisfied with my performance, given the circumstances. This is an extremely challenging course. They don’t call it “Louisville’s Lovin the Hills” because it’s flat like one of Jupiter’s plains. The elevation map Cherokee Road Runners has posted, even with its striking peaks and valleys, can’t do this event justice.

Imagine 15 miles of steep grades, as if some sadistic coach with a bad toupee and high-school teacher pay were forcing you to run stairs. Now, imagine that those stairs are covered with loose gravel, rocks, roots, fallen tree limbs, horse droppings, snow, and ice. That’s about what the conditions were like this morning.

It was brutal. It was awesome.

Several 50K runners dropped out. I don’t know how it went among the leaders, but I spoke to one woman who slipped on ice at 8 miles and decided not to finish.

I also met a woman from the UP, who decided to bail with the 15 milers. That a runner used to measuring snow in feet rather than inches dropped out at the halfway point should give you an idea of how tough the conditions were, eh. (Yes, I made “eh” jokes and asked her about trolls and fudgies, Michigander for people under Mackinac bridge.)

I took only one spill. I’m not sure if I slipped on ice or loose gravel, but the hard earth kissed my backside like a concrete lover.

It was a very tough run for me, but I will definitely run it next year if I’m able. The mood among the runners was fantastic. There’s just a great deal more camaraderie among trail runners than I find among road runners, which is saying an awful lot because runners are generally very friendly. Everyone was chatty and smiling. Really: everyone, without exception, no hyperbole.

The post race included massages, chili, bagels, coffee, conversation, and smiles. I sat down to put my shoes on, and one organizer asked where I was going so fast. I love that.

I met a woman from Barrington, IL (near Hoffman Estates and what we used to call Arlington Whites growing up) who gave me excellent advice regarding the Ice Age Trail Run in the Kettle Moraine Forest near Whitewater, WI. That’s home for me in many ways, and I’ve always wanted to run the 50K. She said it would make the perfect first trail ultra, some hills but not too hard. I guess Ice Age is going on the list.

This was my first trail run event of any length. I was slow, and running 15 miles without training might be a little nutty, but I loved it.

I even feel a little stronger.