A Siberian New Year
Nothing will clear out your sinuses like a trail race in 8-degree weather.
Inhale. Exhale. Repeat. Feel that frigid air in your lungs? Great! It will help you forget the frostbite in your fingers and toes.
Yep, a long run in January, with single-digit temps, sure will wake you up — and make you wish you had worn thicker gloves.
That’s what I did this morning, kicking off the weekend at something called the Siberian Express Trail Run. It’s a 7.6-mile wooded romp through Kickapoo State Park in Danville, Illinois, about two hours west of my house.
The course had plenty of ice and snow, along with two frozen creek crossings (more like ice rinks) and lots of arctic wind.
The race director wasn’t fooling around when he named this event Siberian Express.
But the chilly weather didn’t stop more than 300 trail runners, who bundled in scarves and fur hats and become one with the frozen trails.
This was my first time running this race, although I had heard about it many times. It’s just far enough from my house (110 miles) to make it a nearly full-day affair. But lots of people turn out year after year, coming from all over. So I finally decided to check it out.
I found it to be a friendly, low-key affair. I ran into a few people I know and made a few new friends during the run.
This was a low-budget production: no aid stations or volunteers the course. But everything was well-marked with caution tape and orange arrows painted on the snowy ground.
The trail ran on a mix of singletrack, wide path and fire roads. The hills were gentle, with the exception of a couple of steep, 50-foot climbs.
I wondered how well I would run, since I’ve been eating like a horse for two weeks, with minimal exercise. But I ran fine, keeping a decent pace throughout. I idn’t have much problem with traction, except on one downhill and on the ice rinks.
I decided to enjoy myself, running often at an easy trot. Several times, I stepped off the course for a few seconds to take photos and enjoy the scenery.
I was having such a good time that the race ended before I realized it. I crossed the finish line in 1:16. A volunteer handed me a ski hat with the name of the race stitched on the front.
Afterwards, many people went to a nearby bar and grill for the awards ceremony, sandwiches, beer and door prizes. I decided to head home to relieve Mrs. Trail Boy, who had been supervising the kids single-handedly for several hours.
Next race up: a moonlight run on Town Run Trail Park in two weeks.
By then, I should have the feeling back in my fingers.
(UPDATE: According to the official race results, I finished 1:15:57, for an average pace of 10:03 a mile. That means I was 202nd out of 402 finishers. Another 45 starters did not finish. )
It’s been a good year for Jim Halsey, a hard-core ultrarunner from Indy. He was one of the first trail runners I met when I moved here four years ago. Back then, I didn’t know where to find good trails, but I was lucky enough to run into Jim, and he introduced me to the Morgan Monroe State Forest and few other cool places.
Today, I ran into Jim at the Siberian Express race. He’s a longtime member of the running club that organizes the race, the Kennekuk Road Runners. Jim and I ran a few miles together, giving me a chance to catch up. I found out that Jim had a busy year, running 23 races, including eight ultras and three marathons.
His next big outing is the Rocky Raccoon 100-miler in Huntsville, Texas, next month. It will be Jim’s first 100-miler, although he has run many 50K’s and 50-milers in the past. He also has run a 24-miler endurance race, logging over 80 miles in that race.
Good luck in Texas, Jim!