I’d been looking forward to this year’s version of the SHivering Icy Trail Run (or SHITR, for short) since…well, since the 2013 edition. A super-fun, free race put on by my good friends and attended by a bunch of really awesome people in one of my favorite places…it doesn’t get much better than that. So why was I all out of sorts on my drive over?
Maybe it was the fact that my family apparently needs to eat every single day, a detail that always escapes me until about 20 minutes past meal time, when I realize I should feed them and start thinking about what to make, a little quirk that left me finally eating lunch about 15 minutes before I’d planned to leave. Maybe it was the fact that, despite making plans earlier in the week to follow the race with a team meeting/sleepover at Bob’s house and a gravel ride the next day, I didn’t really start packing until after the aforementioned lunch. Maybe it was that, despite my (well-founded ) “late Kate” reputation, I really like to have a lot of time before a race to get things together and (more importantly) socialize. Whatever the reason, I headed to the Mound with less than my usual excited happiness, and while I was still there 20 minutes before start time, I spent most of that time running back and forth to my car grabbing things I’d forgotten. Suboptimal, as Emily would say.
|Photo credit: Lori Vohsen|
Tons of friends from the St. Louis area and my tri club were there as well, and I started having fun in spite of my grumpy self. I even got to meet a few new friends (hi Becky, Jeff, and Stephanie!) before Chuck and Robin called us over to the start line, gave us some last-minute instructions, and sent us on our way.
Like last year, the race started with a run to the top of the Mound. This year, the evil race directors added in some motivation for the speedy runners with a “king/queen of the mountain” prize: the first man (Little Woods race director Travis) and first woman (all-around badass Emily) to the top would win custom beer carriers. Not being in contention for the prize, I took my time starting out.
The St. Louis area has had more than its share of snowfall this winter, and above-freezing temperatures had begun melting away the foot of snow that fell last Sunday. The soggy conditions had forced a course change; so as not to destroy the Lost Valley singletrack, the race was redesigned as a gravel out and back. I was concerned enough about being chilly on the less-protected doubletrack that I wore a light jacket, but the most immediate evidence of the weather was the big puddle stretching across the trail not a quarter of a mile into the race.
|Photo credit: Lori Vohsen|
I had to laugh as everyone in front of me squeezed to the sides in order to avoid the water. With all the slush and snow and general sogginess, there was no way our feet were staying dry. Thinking back to Quivering Quads, I plowed right on through and headed up the stairs, not at all sad when the bottleneck ahead of me more or less “forced” me to walk. Once we got to the top, we circled Susan, who was braving the chilly wind gusts, ran back down the stairs, and headed down the Hamburg Trail towards Lost Valley.
|Going up… (Lori again)|
The SHITR was my first run since the Little Woods race on Dec. 28, and I was feeling the lack of training. Still, the first mile or so is always tough for me until I warm up, and at least I had good company with my friends Doug and Adam. Well, I did until I first dropped my water bottle and then stopped to check on Stephanie, who wasn’t feeling well and was walking back to the start. Luckily, I picked up Jody at that point and so still had someone to hang out with as I picked my way cautiously down the snowy hill.
The relief of making it downhill uninjured was dampened by the big hill we immediately had to run UP, and by “run” I mean mostly walk. I caught up with Doug near the top, and we ran together for a while talking about racing, training, and self-sabotage (some of my favorite activities). When he waited at the bend in the road for some friends who were a little concerned about getting off track, I ran ahead, enjoying the moonlight shining through the trees onto the snow-covered trail.
|One of the few pictures I bothered to take…|
This section of the course must’ve been primarily in the shade, because there was far more snow than on the first part. In some places, the gravel was covered in ankle-deep slush; if my feet were sore, I couldn’t tell because they were numb from the cold. Whether I’m running or biking, it always surprises me how long this section of the trail is. In my head, you run up the hill, turn a corner, and run downhill. In reality, the distance between hills is about two miles.
Eventually I made it to the downhill, which was also covered in snow. It was here that I started really regretting leaving my screw shoes in the car in anticipation of the trip back up. The trip down was without incident. I passed the gate, looking forward to stopping to swing on it on my return trip and hoping to have friends in proximity who I could lure into taking a break in the race to play.
I thought about taking a gel, but my stomach was feeling really iffy. Luckily, around this point the leaders distracted me on their way back to the finish line. I always like to cheer for everybody else, especially in a race where I have so many friends running; figuring out who was who in the dark without blinding them with my headlamp was a bit of a challenge, though. I made it a game to call out as many names as I could.
As the trail leveled up, I caught up with a guy in camouflage. “Good evening,” I called out. He grunted a response, either immune to my dubious charm or irritated by all these runners disrupting his hunting (or, likely, both). I could see reflective gear in front of me and realized it was Adam as I closed the gap. We ran to the turnaround, high fived the incomparable Jim Davis, and headed back the way we’d come. Josh and Russ caught up with us on the hill, where I had to stop and walk (and walk…and walk…). I’d like to blame it on my stomach, but uphills are definitely a weak area for me.
When we reached the gate, the guys were all cool with stopping to play. Adam and I got a good start and flew around, banging into the tree at the end, and then Josh and Russ were up. I’m so glad Chuck noticed that gate this past spring…we’ve had so much fun there. :)
|Russ and Josh|
Russ dropped us pretty easily at the top of the hill, but then Jules caught up and we were four again. We stopped again when we ran into Chuck, Luke, and Bob, who were out on bikes sweeping the course. My stomach was still bothering me, and I definitely started again with a feeling of “let’s get this over with”, hoping that the race name wasn’t predicting my immediate future.
After a minute or so, we turned our lights back on. Adam and I still had to make a trip into the cemetery to get a name off of the tallest stone, and I didn’t want to miss the turn. Josh and Jules had already been there on the way out, so we split up when we reached the cemetery trail. I don’t think either Adam or I was too sad about having to slow down to crawl under a downed tree. It took some teamwork to make out the words on the stone, one of us lighting it from the side, and then we hiked back to the main trail.
Neither of us was feeling great, but with less than a mile to go we were both ready to run it in and be done. Nearing the parking lot, we heard cowbells and cheering, and we ran up to the finish line and our cool SHITR medals (woodles) and stickers. The SHITR may be a free race, but they still send you home with some nice swag.
|Coming into the finish… (another Lori picture)|
And of course high fives from friends.
|Probably more relieved than happy.
Photo credit: Mickey Boianoff
While the switch to gravel was disappointing, it was definitely the right call, and regardless of the snow and slush, the weather conditions were vastly better than last year’s finish in sleet and temps in the low 30′s. I got changed into warm, dry clothes and hung around visiting with friends and cheering for finishers until everyone was done and the course sweeps were back. Then we all headed to the afterparty at El Azteca for some delicious Mexican food and a well-earned margarita.
|We were at the SHITR…where was everybody else?|
Big thanks to ROCK Racing and the 100+ Project for their work on yet another awesome race. Not just a race, it’s turning into a can’t miss event for people with a warped (and awesome) idea of fun. Maybe next year you’ll be one of them! You won’t be sorry…and I bet if you are they’ll give you a full refund.