Happy muddy birthday

 
What’s a little mud between friends?
 
On a day like this, a lot.
 
You find out who your true running friends are when you decide to run a trail race to celebrate your 50th birthday, and when the day comes, the trail turns out to be one long mud puddle, punctuated by 25 creek crossings.
 
My old running buddy, Kayleah, was a good egg. She splashed along the muddy trails, and even led other runners in a rousing verse of “Happy Birthday, Dear Trail Boy” as we trotted across a soggy meadow. 
Trail Boy and Kayleah take a break for water at about mile six.

Trail Boy and Kayleah take a break for water at about mile six.

  

This was the Run With Foxes race, a spring favorite of mine that runs deep in the Morgan Monroe State Forest in Martinsville, Ind.    

Even in good weather, the trail is pretty rugged. There are switchbacks up and down 200-foot hillsides. There are gnarly roots that want to grab your shoes and send you sprawling down a 15-foot dropoff into the lake below. There are lots and lots of creek crossings, most of which will get your socks soaking wet.    

In other words, I thought it would be a great place to have my midlife crisis. No, I don’t need a sports car or weekend in Vegas, just a trail. Remember who you’re talking to!    

Kayleah is normally a road runner.  We’ve run a lot of races together, including the Cleveland Marathon in 2007, where she qualifed for Boston.    

But every once in a while, when I ask real nice, and she’ll run trails with me. And she usually has a lot of fun.    

But this was a tough day to run trails. We’ve had weeks of rain. I knew the creeks would be high and the trail surfaces would be muddy and slippery, with a few shoe-sucking areas. So Kayleah truly went above and beyond the call of friendship.    

There were a few dry spots on the trail. This wasn't one of them.

  

Gotta love wet, muddy legs.

  

Like I said, what’s a little mud between friends?    

 The race offered four distance options: a 5K, 10K, 10-mile and a half-marathon, using several different loops. Kayleah and I signed up for the half-marathon.    

But I had a feeling I would not be able to make that distance. For the past three days, I’ve had a fever and low energy. On Thursday, I fell asleep in my clothes at 9 p.m. and woke up 10 hours later, still feeling lousy. On Friday, I rested as much as possible, drank lots of fluids and popped Advil.    

Mile markers in the woods are sometimes primitive.

  

This morning (Saturday), I woke up, still feeling a bit washed out. I took my temperature. It was 99.1, nothing to be alarmed about. Still, I knew I would have to be prepared to back off if my energy crashed or my temperature rose.    

I got dressed and made the 75-minute drive to the forest. When I got there, I could see it would be a much smaller crowd than in years past. Only a couple hundred people were there, maybe half the size of the year before.    

We got our race numbers and got ready to hit the trails.    

At 9 a.m., the race director gave the signal and we trotted down a hilly road for about 150 yards until we hit the trailhead. Then we started getting our shoes nice and muddy.    

At first, runners tried to dodge all the mud puddles. But after a mile or so, most realized it was a futile task, and plowed right through, kicking up water in all directions.    

C'mon Kayleah -- just run through it!

  

That's the way to do it. Nice job!

  

What's a trail race without a little mud?

  

 The woods were beautiful: green, lush and fresh, from all the rain. The sky was overcast, keeping the temperature in the 60s. Who wouldn’t have a great birthday at a place like this? Who needs Chuck E Cheese!    

The race was fun and low key, at least in my little cluster, near the middle of the pack. We ran for fun, knowing the course was going to be tough enough without killing ourselves.    

The toughest footwork came in navigating the steep downhill switchbacks on muddy ground. One false step, and you would sail over the edge, down the ravine, until you ran smack  into a tree or rolled 100 or 200 feet down a hillside.    

We stop for water about halfway through. The woman in the yellow shirt had regaled us with a story about how she fell during the Tecumseh Trail Marathon, requiring 22 stitches.

  

Some parts of the course were fairly dry, and it was a joy to run them, such as Jeep roads, high singletrack and some of the rolling hills. One section of the course that I normally love to run, because it traverses the beautiful forest floor for couple of miles, was a soaking wet mess.    

Still, once you got into it, you could have some fun. Kayleah made it her job to count the creek crossings. Our rule of thumb was it didn’t count if you could jump across it. You had to get your socks soaking wet. We counted 25 creek crossings.    

Believe it or not there were a few nice, dry stretches of trail, like this one near the halfway point. But look out for all the roots!

  

I ran strong for the first seven or eight miles, but eventually could feel my energy evaporating. I had to take walking breaks even on the Jeep roads.     

At the nine-mile mark, there was a splitoff between the 10-mile race and the half-marathon. Sadly, I decided I would have to take the shorter trail. Kayleah, who was running nice and strong, joined me. So did another guy who had been running with us for the past mile or two.    

We finished up in 2:03:55, not too bad for the conditions. (Last year, I ran the 10-mile course in 1:47, but the trails were nice and dry, and I wasn’t stopping every five minutes to shoot a photo. Damn blogs!)    

I got home and took my temperature, and it was up to 100.4. So I guess I did the right thing but cutting it short. Next year, I pray for slightly drier trails and healthy body.    

After a nap, I regained some strength, opened a few cards and gifts. Then we went out to dinner — Mr. and Mrs. Trail Boy and the trail kids. Fever or not, that beer sure tasted good.    

Later, I dug into my birthday cherry pie. I even had a scoop of ice cream, so it was cherry pie a la mode.    

Or perhaps in this case, a la mud.    

Can Trail Boy blow out all the candles on his birthday cherry pie? Good thing Mrs. Trail Boy only lit five candes.

Can Trail Boy blow out 50 candles? Probably not -- that's why Mrs. Trail Boy just lit one candle for each decade.

  

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7 Responses to “Happy muddy birthday”

  1. David Krahulik Says:

    Very glad I found your site. I ran with the two of you for a while – big guy with gray tank top. What a blast. David K.

    • Trail Boy Says:

      Thanks for the note. Of course I remember you. And I believe you are in one of the photos, in the background, near the rooty area. How the heck did you find my blog? Do live in the area? Interested in hitting the trails again with us?

      • David Krahulik Says:

        I googled the name of the race and the word “blog.” I live on the North side of Indy. Sure, I run at Eagle Creek and Holiday Park about once a week – sometimes with my wife and sometimes alone. I mostly ride bikes – mtb, cyclocross, time trial, road, indoors, etc. I have been running 1 to 2 times a week this last winter and spring. But, almost all of my runs have been on trails with hill repeats. I think it helps my cycling. I plan to do the Mini at Morgan Monroe in the fall. David K

        • Trail Boy Says:

          Cool. I live in the Castleton area. I often run at Fort Ben and Eagle Creek, along with some neighborhood road stuff. I’m also going to do the Knobstone Mini in the fall. See you then. In the meantime, just holler if you want to partner up for a trail run some weekend.

  2. run2boston Says:

    Yo TB!

    Happy 50th birthday. I’m only about two weeks behind you (May 29). See you at the Buckeye 50K.

    — R2B

  3. I am also glad that I found your site. Its very informative and stylistic. And oh happy birthday! ; )

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