Friday, June 22, 2018

Armadillo 25k Trail Race

Last year I heard about the Armadillo Ultra Race event because the leader of our race team puts it on each year. We talked about doing it last year but it was on Father's Day and Ty was iffy on whether he wanted to do it so we decided against it. This year Ty said for Father's Day he wanted to run the race so we signed up. I was a little naïve in thinking since my long run was built up to 14 miles, I'd be fine signing up for the 25k which is 15.5 miles. All my long runs have been on the road and my longest trail run has been 6 miles. I heard different reports on the race course but was confident that the course was not as challenging as Turkey Mountain, where I do most of my trail running. After doing the race I'd have to say that's not necessarily the case. While this course had fewer hills and most the hills were not as steep, the terrain for a large section of the race was far more difficult. There were some sections that were so rocky I was continuously twisting my ankle and other spots were nearly unrunable.
I thought it was cute they put armadillo stickers on the bibs to fancy them up.
Now that I've run a trail race I know to respect the distance and the difficulty! I was in no way prepared to run that long of a trail race and I had set myself up terribly. I was considering the race as more of just a long run and not a race. I planned to just run conservatively and not worry about pace at all. So I ended up running at Turkey Mountain on Tuesday, running a really hilly route with 700 feet of elevation gain on Thursday, strength training Thursday night, and then running at Turkey Mountain again on Friday. Going into the race on Sunday I had already run over 2,000 feet of elevation in my runs that week! My legs were definitely feeling it on Friday and I struggled quite a bit on the hills. That evening I was so sore I ended up icing most of my left leg and multiple times on my hip. Saturday I woke up feeling decent and ran 3 miles really easy which felt great. I was a little nervous for Sunday but hoped that easy day would help me out.

Sunday morning Ty and I got up at 5:15 and were out the door by 5:45. I ate a hard boiled egg and drank 2 scoops of protein powder mixed with water on the drive. My race was supposed to start at 7:15 but once we got there we found out they were delaying the start by 15 minutes because lots of people had gotten lost on their way by following directions the race director sent out. I had plenty of time to use the restroom, drink some water, put on bug spray, and chat with some friends I've made in the Tuesday trail running group. The race started at 7:30 and it was already 80 degrees and pretty humid. It didn't feel bad at the start of the race though. I've only been to Osage Hills State Park once and we didn't go on a very long hike so I wasn't sure what the trails would be like. We started and the trails were wonderful, they were mostly just dirt with a few rocks and easy to navigate. We did run down by the water where we ran across large rocks but nothing too tricky. I felt great and was excited that I'd moved into the first female position by the half mile mark. We came up on the water and I started to go the wrong way so I had to turn around and follow the group ahead of me. The girl in 2nd had also followed me so we figured it out together. I felt like the guys I normally run with at Turkey Mountain took out a little fast and I wanted to be conservative because I'd never run the course before and because I'd run hills so much that week. I went through the first mile in 8:27 and then miles 2 and 3 were 7:51 and 8:04. Those miles were all relatively easy with simple trails and just a few hills.
Running early on in the race with the 2nd place female right behind me.
Ty's race started 15 minutes after mine.
The first aid station was between miles 3 and 4. I grabbed a cup of water and drank it as I continued to run. I was running with my fuel belt since the aid stations were every 3-4 miles and the weather was very hot and humid. Up until that point I hadn't drank much of the water I had on me. During mile 4 we hit some bigger hills and some trickier terrain which led to a 9:32 mile but then mile 5 was a pretty easy mile again (as far as trail running goes) and I went through it in 8:31. During mile 6 we came to a section where we weren't sure which way to go and we didn't see any ribbons on the trees. The course was marked really well with yellow ribbons tied to trees for the 25k and 50k and orange ribbons for the 10k. All we had to do was follow the ribbons. In places where you could turn and go the wrong way there typically were signs saying wrong way, but in this spot there wasn't. We went down to the trail closer to the water and didn't see any ribbons after walking a ways down the trail so we went back up top and found the ribbons there so we continued on that way. Out of habit I almost stopped my watch as we wandered around looking for the trail markers but then I remembered I was in a race and left it running. The trail search added some time to our mile and I went through that mile in 10:00.

We ran on a road a little during mile 7 as we headed out toward a different trail. It was nice to have a section where I could see the people in front of me and I could look up instead of down at my feet. But that mile also had a lot of hills in it. We'd go off the road to run down a trail for a bit and then come back onto the road to head to the next trail so it was a mixture of trail and road that was mostly trail, but this was the only section of the race that included some road running. I went through mile 7 in 9:37. I wasn't feeling hungry but knew I'd need to get some calories in so I ate a Gu at around 7.5 miles. I was afraid it wouldn't sit well since I had to force myself to eat it, but it stayed down just fine and I felt a lot better after I ate it. I had packed 2 Gus in my fuel belt just in case but ended up only eating one. When I came up on the next aid station I had finished off one of my water bottles. The volunteers asked me what I needed and I asked if I could refill my water. They said yes and even took my bottle, refilling it for me. I was still feeling really good at this point and was excited when I saw I had a substantial lead on the woman running in 2nd place. The heat was starting to get to me and I was drinking water a lot more at this point. After the aid station we turned to the left and started out on a loop which we would do twice but the second time through we'd run a shorter loop through it. The loop was brutal and by far my least favorite part of the race. There were some really nice sections that were packed dirt with few rocks which were great and I'd cruise along but the majority of the loop was so rocky it was almost un-runnable. It had also gotten a lot hotter and I was sweating profusely but my sweat wasn't doing much to cool me since it was insanely humid and my sweat wasn't evaporating. I looked down at one point and realized my shorts were soaked all the way through with sweat. I ate a Gu sometime before mile 8. I noticed I hadn't seen one of my friends I run trails with and worried he'd taken a wrong turn at some point or was hurt somewhere. I worried about him off and on the rest of the race until I got so tired I wasn't thinking much of anything. As I came up on the aid station before starting my first loop I saw my friend, Morgan, coming up out of the loop and got a little pick me up seeing her.

We crossed water at a couple times during the loop and I stopped and walked over the rocks to keep my shoes dry. I chuckled a little in my head about that later because I was so sweaty my shoes were squishing they were so wet with sweat. Mile 8 was 9:16 and then things got real. I was getting tired and the heat was really getting to me. On the flat sections I would cruise along but every time we hit hills I could feel in my legs all the elevation I'd run through the week and my quads would start to burn. The really rocky sections were exhausting. I wasn't wanting to pick my feet up as high since I was getting tired and the rocks were really wearing me out. I kept rolling my left ankle which was causing my IT band running up the side of my left leg to pull and feel really sore. I decided it wasn't worth risking an injury so I started walking some of the really rocky sections. I told myself I could walk some and still not get passed by the 2nd place female. Mile 9 was 12:25. I told myself I only had a 10k to go but that felt like an eternity so I tried to just focus on running a section at a time. I couldn't see anyone ahead or behind me so I kept starting to go off the path and then I'd walk for a bit to figure out where to go so I wouldn't run too far off the path. There were some sections that were so overgrown I wasn't sure I was actually on a trail at all. Then I found myself wandering around in brambles before locating the ribbons hanging in a tree and running toward them. Mile 10 was 11:26 and mile 11 was 11:02.
Some pictures of the trail taken by the race director.
Some of the easier terrain during the loop.
This gives a little bit of an idea of how rocky the trail was, but this isn't even the worst of it!
I was so excited when I saw a car through the trees because I knew I was coming up on the aid station again and was looking forward to ice cold water. I drank an entire bottle of water during the first mile of the loop and finished off my second bottle when I knew I was coming up on the aid station. As the wonderful aid station worker refilled both my bottles for me I drank a couple cups of water they had sitting out. I walked toward the loop and then started running again. I was really bummed to head back into the loop and was dreading the rocky section. At this point I was starting to get a bit out of it and my mindset really shifted. During mile 12 I fell and ended up landing on my side so my water bottle got all dirty. Every time I took a drink of water after that I got dirt in my mouth which was unpleasant. The heat was really getting to me and I just wanted to be finished. I walked more after my fall because the left side of my leg was so sore I felt like if I rolled my ankle again I might actually pull or tear the muscle. Mile 12 was definitely the low point for me in the race and you could tell with my 13:40 mile. I again had some trouble navigating the course and at one point told myself if I'd gone the wrong way I'd just drop out of the race. I was that tired! I also decided that I didn't care if the lady in 2nd passed me, I was just going to walk as much as I wanted. I walked a fair amount on the really rocky sections for sure.
At one point I was realizing Ty was probably finishing the 10k and I was wishing I'd just done the 10k!
Thankfully during mile 13 I got a huge pick me up that I had only a 5k to go and felt so much better! I think all the walking in mile 12 helped me recover a little and cool down as well. There were a couple times when I twisted my ankle and pulled that muscle again where I almost cried and really berated myself for thinking this race was a good idea. I went through mile 13 in 10:42. Mile 14 was still super technical and I had a few spots where I missed a turn again. When I was running I was averaging 9:00 pace but there were enough times where I missed a turn and walked to find the right course that I ran a 12:00 mile. Coming up out of the loop was the sweetest feeling. There was nothing more exciting than seeing that glorious aid station. I refilled both my water bottles and was so happy to have delicious, cold water to drink. I took a cup of water and poured it on my head and neck which I probably should have done the last couple times I stopped at the aid station as well. I overheard someone at the aid station talking to a worker, mentioning how good they felt and that they were having a great day. As I left the aid station and headed up the grassy hill, it was glorious to be back on trails that weren't just a rock bed! I was followed by a dog and a woman. I thought the woman may be in the 25k and I just hadn't seen her up until that point. She looked great and was super chipper. I decided when she passed me I wouldn't even attempt to go with her. I was way too done. It turned out she was a volunteer and wanted to make sure I had run 2 loops so I wasn't cutting the course. When I assured her I had she headed back to the aid station.

I was catching a guy in front of me during the last mile of the race. When I got close to him he started walking up a hill and I decided if he was walking, I'd walk too. So I walked until he started running again and then I started running again. I passed him and then a while later heard a man catching up to me moving fast. I moved over to let him pass and then continued on. I went through mile 15 in 10:39 and then finished out the last half-mile in 10:08 pace. This was one race where I was so ready to be done, I didn't want to run one extra step but when I looked at pictures I saw I had actually run through the finish line by a large amount. My finishing time was 2:37:59 and I was so glad to be done! I felt awful the moment I stopped moving. It wasn't anything comparable to a marathon with how my muscles felt but on a whole it was the most miserable I've ever felt after finishing a race. I think I was on the verge of heat exhaustion because I could barely function. All I wanted to do was lay down. Ty was at the finish with my friends, Morgan and April. April encouraged me to walk around some and I knew I needed to but I was just so freaking hot! She went and soaked some paper towels in freezing cold ice water and put one on each of my shoulders. It felt great. I walked around making sure to stay in the shade. April talked me into eating some watermelon and I was surprised that it was actually really good and went down easily. Then I heard my dad yell my name and looked up to see he and mom had arrived with the kids! I was excited to see them but also felt miserable so there wasn't much I could do. We cheered on Daniel and Peter, two of my friends from our Tuesday trail group. I joked that Peter was the top 30k finisher because he'd taken a wrong turn and run a bit extra. Ty finished the 10k in 1:20:15 which put him 15th overall. He said he had a blast!

I knew I needed to eat something so Ty and I went down to look at the food but just smelling the chicken made me nauseous so I grabbed a hamburger bun and slowly worked on that as we walked over to play with the kids at the playground. I laid down in the shade for a while and started to feel better so I got up and Ty started punching me gently in the muscle that was really sore in an attempt to loosen it up. We went back over for the 25k awards since I'd finished first female. I got a really awesome, homemade plaque with an armadillo holding a beer on it. I thought it was super cute and laughed later when Elise said to me, "Why is the monster holding a drink?" I guess it would look like a monster to a kid! I picked up a cookie for the kids and ate some of it. Then we headed over to swim a little before heading home. We had an awesome time in the water. I found a spot where I could sit and have my hips down in the cool water which felt amazing! Ty went off the rope swing once and the kids enjoyed being in the water. We didn't stay in too long because it was lunchtime and the sun was getting pretty intense. It was just absolutely gorgeous and the view was stunning. I was glad it was what Ty wanted to do for Father's Day because it was a blast. We went to a state park on Mother's Day and then a different one on Father's Day!

When we were done in the water I took Carter to the showers with me and we both rinsed off before changing. Later mom told me Elise hadn't wanted to potty in the toilets because there were so many bugs in the stalls so she had pottied in the shower. I thought that was funny. I didn't want to put my shoes back on because they were so wet from sweat but I also really wanted to wear my compression socks because my calves were sore so I ended up wearing compression socks with flip flops which I'm sure was a great look! Thankfully no one minded going to McAlister's for lunch with me in my get up! I enjoyed walking back to the car while telling mom more about the race. We also got to see a few more 50k finishers. When I first finished the race I told Ty I would never run a trail race over a 10k again. But then by the end of the day I was already considering running the 25k at this race again next year. I'm positive that knowing the course and being better prepared will result in a better experience in the future. I also now know it doesn't matter whether I plan to actually run a trail race or not, I need to take it easy the week leading up to the race because it will be more physically taxing no matter what pace I run! Honestly after my summer of trail running and adding another trail race to my belt, I'm a bit hooked and Ty is for sure hooked. We're looking at another trail race in September on a less technical but still beautiful trail! I'm actually super excited about it! And not true to my word after the race, I'm considering the half marathon distance!

When we got home it felt great to shower and get really clean. My hair was so tangled after the race, even though I'd braided it, my arms got tired from brushing it and I enlisted Ty's help to get the knots out. He obviously doesn't understand how to brush hair so it was pretty painful and after a brief break I took back over. It wasn't too bad when I laid on the bed with my hair hanging off and brushed that way so I didn't have to reach up and over my head. I am so ready to cut the entire mop off and can't wait until my appointment on July 3rd! Since I'm donating it, I'll be cutting off 10 inches no matter how short that makes it. I just want it gone at this point! At first right after I finished I was pretty miserable and wasn't sure I'd ever run a longer trail race again. But now that I've had a few days to process and recover I feel pretty bad ass about what I accomplished. It was a very challenging course not just due to the hills but also due to the technical aspect. I finished 7th overall and first female in my second trail race with only having run a 5 mile trail race before. Now that I know the course and have a better idea of what I'm up against, I think I would do the 25k again next year. My favorite part of the course was the first 7 miles before we got to the 10k loop and I don't know that I'd want to run the 10k and only run the worst part of the course! We'll see what I decide next summer because Ty has already said he'd like to make this race our Father's Day tradition. I know for sure no matter what distance I decide to run, I will not be running hills more than once during the week leading up to the race! I have learned to respect a trail race and not to think of it as just a regular run because the trails are so much more demanding than a regular run!
Ty helping me brush my hair.


  1. Trail racing is such a different beast! You’re a stud for powering through this and it sounds like you have many more fun trail experiences planned. It’s very impressive that you won in spite of having a tough day out there - I guess you’re a natural!

  2. Your shorts were more drenched than I remember!