Sand Creek Trail Race

The euphoria of the Ironman finish has turned into aimless wandering without focus.  I decided to try and get out of my funk by targeting some late season running races.  One of those is the Allerton Park Train Run on Halloween.  In my search of the Allerton Park Train Run I happened upon the first annual Sand Creek Trail Race in support of Special Operations Warrior Foundation.  The Foundation provides full scholarship grants and education and family counseling to the surviving children of special operations personnel who die in operational or training missions and immediate financial assistance to severely wounded special operations personnel and their families.

The date, October 16, was perfectly placed to allow some time for me to start training again and to get me jump started for the Allerton Park Race.  My information was vague.  The only things I knew was that it was off-road, 7 miles, on horse trails, and just south of Decatur.

It took me about 45 minutes to get there and I was greeted with enthusiastic volunteers.  It was refreshing to attend a low-key, grass roots race where there aren’t a bunch of peacocks showing their feathers.  Parking was plentiful at the Sand Creek Conservation Area.  I got in a good warm-up and was ready to go with about 75 other runners at 10:00.  Sizing up the crowd I noticed some Ironman finishers t-shirts.  It made me smile and reminisce.  I was clad in anonymous North Face gear.

The cream immediately formed at the front of the peloton as the race filtered down to double-track.  I was sitting back in about 10th place just trying to conserve energy.  As the race progressed into the first 0.5 mile I couldn’t control myself and made my way to a pack consisting of 3rd, 4th, 5th, and 6th place.  1st and 2nd were already out of sight.  Initially I dreamed of sprinting for 3rd place but this soon evaporated when the course took its toll on me.

The course was mainly double-track but was rocky, sandy, and littered with tree roots.  Just before the 5 mile marker I did a face plant after getting my foot caught in a tree root.  No injuries just a break in rhythm.  The surface of the trail was not the problem, the constant up and down was the problem.  We had to make a total of 7 creek crossings.  I’m not talking about jumping over a creek or finding a rock to land on in the middle and get across by bounding over.  I’m talking calf deep water that splashed all over your pants and totally submerged your feet.  My shoes, pants, and socks were soaked the whole race.  Most of the crossings took about 4 strides to get across.  The worse part was that you had to climb out of the ravines in the sand after exiting the water.  It’s not called Sand Creek for nothin’.

By the time miles 5 and 6 rolled around I was hurting.   Our little group was only caught by one runner; the women’s winner who finished 4th overall.  She was really consistent.  Eventually the group I was in picked up the pace on a climb and I couldn’t hold pace.  I finished alone in 7th place with a time of 51:57 (07:26)/mile).  My place was good enough for 2nd in my age group and a lawn chair door prize.  I was happy with my time considering the tough course and less-than-stellar training.

The race was pretty cool.  If you are tired of road running try trail running, it’s refreshing.  The goal for this race is for every 2010 participant to bring another participant with them in 2011.  Please oblige.