Monday, July 30, 2012

Sugar Bottom Trail Run

This blog title alone is going to mess with some people when they Google search for sugar, sugar bottom, trail run, etc. If you one of those reading this right now, um, Hi! I'm not going to do exactly a great job of describing every detail of the course or run for you. This is going to be my personal account of my run. I'd love if you kept reading but if you don't, I understand. You may want to pop over to for better trail info. In fact, if the rest of you want to see pics of the trail, take a look on that blog as I didn't get any pics. I was running.

Now to the story...
After running the Living History Farms race last November, I was hooked on trail running. So after some searching and more searching, I found the Xterra Sugar Bottom Trail Run. The Sugar Bottom Trail is located on Coralville lake. It's a mountain bike trail but last year they started a trail run to go along with a triathlon that has been there. So, I set my sights on the 10K. I started a training plan. I watched YouTube videos of the trail. I analyzed previous year race times. I ran gravel roads, hills, bike paths, hiking trails, motocross trails and as little paved road as possible. I studied the race course map. And I ran.

About three weeks before the race, Bill and I were able to run the trail because we were in the area. (Yes, we've now become the people who stop for a quick run.) It turned out that my little trail run was quite a big bite for me. I left that initial run with a good set of new blisters, slight dehydration, a dejected perspective and oh, some nice tender pain under my left foot index toe. I just thought it was because I've suddenly become tender-footed after having to take too many days off, going to Seattle and whatnot. The pain was not too bad and after a few more days of very light to little running my foot felt okay. But my spirit did not. I cried.

Two weeks before the race, I follow my training plan and have a good hard run at higher miles. I came home, showered up, plopped on the couch and secured an ice pack to the bottom of my foot. I was in pain. Walking on it felt like I had tape a marble to the ball of my foot. A little research brought me to the conclusion that I had developed metatarsalgia. Don't worry if you have no idea how to say it or what it mean. Basically one of the joints in my foot had sort of been compressed and wasn't springing back and now was getting callused. Yay. I made an appointment with my chiro, limped into his office, and slumped into the exam room. I was exhausted. My run had me beat for the day and my body hurt. This was to Dr. Kurt's advantage because I didn't resist my adjustments until he took hold of my foot. I said what was up with it and please make it better because I AM running in two weeks. He knew what to do. He started flexing my toes, etc and I started gripping the sides of my chair. I closed my eyes and grimaced not wanting to cry. Limp back home, ice some more, call it a day. No running. My mom called and said I could take her massage appointment scheduled for the next day, her birthday gift to me. I was in pain, my cousin, the massage therapist could do wonders. I didn't resist. An hour and a half later, Sandra discovered some very tight calf muscles and a stuck in one spot IT band and worked them out. I sort of melted my way out the door, picked up the kids from Mom and went home. No running. I also cried that day but not for running reasons.

That was Friday. On Monday of race week I felt really good. In fact, it was a little difficult to believe I felt as well as I did. I took a nice easy run. Lots of rolling with a foam roller and a rolling pin and hand massaging my leg and foot and I was coming out okay. So I kept running. I tried to recognize that the injury and the multiple missed days, mostly my long run days, were going to keep me from upping my race goal and struggled to be content with a moderate goal. Remember, I had been training and planning for this one race. I knew what pace I needed to be to place according to last years results. It's hard to adjust. All week I had butterflies every time I ran.

Race day. Saturday. Up early to drive two hours to the race. Not many people there. Get a little snippy with Bill when he cracks a joke. Warm-up a bit but not long enough to get the jitters out. Wake Bill sleeping in the backseat. Turn to him at the race line and ask him what he's going to do- go out on his own or stay with me. He asks what do I want? I... I, I don't know!! Wah! I'm crying!! I'm pretty sure at this point I cannot run this all the way through; I will have to stop and walk. I don't want to walk. He says he'll stay with me. I say no, go because I know he can do really well and have lots of fun and I'm Miss Pokey Butt. I can't really answer him because I'm crying.

The start gun is malfunctioning so a guy counts down from 5. I take off like a shot, almost getting elbowed in the face by a guy. It's a hazard being 5'4". People zing around me before we even get to the trail, making me mad. I smell body odor. It's a hazard of running with others, especially men in tank tops or no top as one guy did all day long. I smell bad breath. That has never happened to me before. I worry that it could be mine. I did just jam two Shot Bloks in my  mouth and I brushed my teeth hours ago. As the breath smell fades away, I conclude it couldn't have been me and am actually glad that that person is gone from my personal breathing space. I'm running.

We're on the trail now. It's a single track dirt path. It is fun. But as this is a small trail race, maybe 90 runners total between 5K and 10K, and not a wide swarm of people like LHF, there is not much room to pass. So I try to figure out where to do this. Cut corners shorter, speed up and pull out. I look at my watch and I'm flying. The runners thin out but you still can get stuck in a group. Bill, it turns out, is behind me, keeping right with me. I didn't know for a while. A mile in, with some good elevation change (meaning uphill) and I'm sucking wind. I probably should have consumed my gel cubes a little sooner or eaten more or less breakfast or done something because I'm pretty sure I'm going to spew and I'm not even to the black diamond cyclocross hill, which is just under two miles in. I keep going. I realize I need to slow down but that's harder than one thinks. It feels like changing from Interstate speed to highway speed. You might as well get out and walk! I gut my way up the cyclocross hill, grab some water at the top and stop. And cry. I cannot do this. Not four plus more miles. Bill assures me I can if I just slow down.

I fear the gravel. The last time I ran here it hurt. It hadn't been driven on much so it felt just like fresh gravel. When a gravel road has been much travelled the big chunks get spit out to the side with a smooth part left where the tires have road. We emerge onto the 5K/10K split. I'm going on. I make a mental note that the gravel does not hurt like last time and it has been smashed down a bit more than before. But I also can't tell how many are turning back towards the finish line and how many are forging ahead. After a not nice, why does this part also have to be uphill ascent to the next trail section, I grab more water. I stop. I cry and cry some more. Bill says its my nerves. They are eating me up and spitting me out. I take off running, crying. This time I cry for a while. I'm running and crying.

But my favorite part is in this section. The pine forest. The shade is restorative. No heat penetrates the tree tops. The fallen brown needles blanket the sides of the trail. All the runners are fairly spread out so there's no jostling for position. When I run, I'm quiet. My feet are literally quiet. Except for my breathing, it's just me and my running. I feel like an Indian. I would like to run in a pine forest forever. I find my pace and the tears stop.
Bill says I look good when I ask for reassurance. I told him he would say that as he's running behind me. My first joke of the run. After a good stretch in the pine forest, we run on regular hardwood trail. It's fine but not my fave and we only get a dip back into the pines here and there as we weave our way through. Bill acts as my guide, helping me to know which way to turn. It's amazing, but just keeping your feet up and clear of roots and good foot placements is work. When I ran through a long straight stretch (there aren't many), I almost stopped, thinking I was not in the right spot.
We run some off camber type trail and I think of Ben. He would love that little section. I start crying again. I think of Mr. Bean and his wonderful performance and dream from the night before's opening ceremonies of the Olympics. I don't laugh. I can't talk or I'll cry. I just think. And run. And keep putting one foot in front of the other.
I could spot runners ahead as the trails winds back on itself sometimes. If you wanted to, you could cut the course. In fact, though I'm not positive, a few runners did as they were trailing us, thumping and banging their way like some elephants for a while and then all of a sudden they were gone. I would like to say, not fair. But more than that, I would like to say I RAN THE WHOLE THING, EVERY STEP!! and that's what counts.
I'm almost done. Some lady is behind us. Where did she come from? I'm not going to let her pass me. I never voice this but somehow Bill knows and lets me know that unless she's got a kick she's saving for the end, I'm in the clear. The very last stretch is park like grass- which isn't quite so easy to run- and then gravel. And then the finish line. And then we are done. And a few people clap. I have to ask for Gatorade. And then within five minutes they start the awards. I've come in near last I feel. I notice four people finish behind me. I am not happy. I cry. I bury my head into Bill's sweaty shoulder and sweat and tears sting my eyes. I listen to the awards. I missed a place by a minute or so. I don't know how many more came after the third place runner, maybe more, maybe just me, but I don't like it. It's hard to swallow my gigantic pride.

It takes a while for me to settle down (20 miles down the road). To realize this is the hardest race I've ever done. This is the first time I've run a 10K. I did meet both of my goals. This is my first trail race and it's totally different than a road race and that this is a step up in difficulty. That my foot did not seize up in total rebellion- no pain. That my right knee willingly bent itself over and over. That I dropped my course pace by almost two minutes. That I ran every step. That I did it.

Thanks for reading all the way to the end of my very long race re-cap.


  1. You did great hun. Next one will be easy;)

  2. Great write up. Thanks for coming to the race and hope to see you again next year.

    -Pasha (the guy that counted down from 5)


Thanks for reading. Kind comments are always welcomed!