Run For The Bridges Trail Marathon Race Report...

I've found an interesting trend in my running.  I don't know if it's true for all runners, but it has definitely been true for me; this race was a shinning example.  A good run (especially in a race) reminds me of why I love running while a bad run (especially in a race) reminds me of why I love being a runner.  Sounds like the same thing?  It isn't.  I'll explain what I mean as this report goes on.  As most of you know, I've had Ultras on my brain the last couple months.  That's my focus; working my way toward that 50 miler in September.  Ron told me about a little trail marathon up in Lincoln and I decided it would be nice to go up there and run as a training run.

It's a race called the Wilderness Park Run For The Bridges Marathon.  Wilderness Park is a beautiful park on the southwest corner of Lincoln and it has some very nice running/hiking/biking trails.  They are non-technical, mostly single track dirt trails with very few hills.  The trail also features a number of very cool bridge crossings.  That's what this race was all about.  They need to raise money to help fund restoration efforts for these bridges.  It was a small event, only 34 finishers in the marathon, but $7,897 (a full 78% of registration fees and donations) is going directly to protect these bridges.  It really is a nice park and I'm very glad I was able to help raise funds to get these bridges up to date.

As I said earlier, I've really been focused on Ultra training; possibly too focused on it.  In the four weeks prior to this race I'd been increasing my weekly miles; in fact the last two of those weeks set new highest mileage records for me.  The week before the race I'd run my first 50 mile week.  That's a lot of wear & tear; I should have taken a step back week.  I'll admit I got a little over excited about hitting that 50 mile target.  I hoped my legs would cooperate for one more tough week (including this race) then I'd take a step back week.  Just get me through this week.  My legs were tight and tired every run during the week and I went to my chiropractor, Jared Wisner, on Friday.  I felt great after my appointment with him, but I was still worried about the amount of miles I'd run over the last month.

Kristy and I drove up to Blair, NE (north of Omaha) were we would be staying with our good friends Ron & Bobbie Ruhs and meeting up with Lindsy.  The drive went fine, but we got on the road a little later than we would have liked since Kristy got stuck at work a little late.  We got to their house around 10 or 10:30, spend a little time chatting then headed off to bed.  We got at 6:00 the next morning to get ready, eat breakfast and drive down to Lincoln.  We got to the park about 30 min before race time, picket up our packets, met up with Jay Murphy (fellow Trail Nerd/Trail Hawk/ORC member) and waited in line at the porta-potties.  It was only about 63 degrees at the start but the Sun was already up and warm; it was clear that very soon this would be a warm day.  Ron & I were both running in kilts since it was St. Patrick's Day and we got lots of comments from fellow runners; good fun just follows when you're at a race in a kilt!

Ron, Jay and I headed to the back of the small pack of marathoners.  The plan was to treat this as a training run and finish with about a 12:00-12:30/miles avg pace.  Also at the back of the pack was the inspiring fellow Marathon Maniac Larry Macon.  If you're not familiar with Larry check out this article from the July 2009 issue of Runner's World magazine.  It was awesome to meet and run with such an impressive guy.  You'll be hard pressed to find another runner both as humble and as accomplished as Larry.  Anyway, the race got started and we were off on our run/walk training marathon.  How did I get to the point that I was literally entered in a marathon as a training run??

At first it was mostly going okay.  My legs didn't really want to loosen up, but Ron mostly felt good, Jay's knee that he's been fighting wasn't bothering him too badly and Bobbie was well out in front of us doing quite well.  We laughed and joked with Larry for a bit as we mostly stayed together for a while.  The trail was amazing.  It's not the fun, challenging, technical trail that Clinton is; nor is it as flat and simple as the Sand Rat River Trails.  It's somewhere in between.  However you want to classify it, it is beautiful; there can be little debate on that fact.  We were having fun, joking around, taking walk breaks when we felt like it and running when we felt like it.  We were holding right around our planned 12:00 overall pace.

I was wearing my calf sleeves which I really have a love/hate relationship with.  Sometimes I can barely run a mile with them on; other times I can't run long runs without them.  Unfortunately, there seems to be no "warning sign" that tells me which way to go.  I never know if it'll be good or bad to have them until I'm off and running.  My calves have been so tight that I decided the safe bet was to assume I'd need them.  It didn't take long to see I was very wrong.  My legs would not loosen up and after about 2-2.5 miles I told Jay that at the 3 mile aid station I was going to stop and take them off in hopes that it would allow my legs to get loose.  It definitely worked.  Almost immediately upon taking them off my legs felt better.  Still tired and a little heavy but not too bad.  Unfortunately, as we went Jay's knee was bothering him more with each mile.

We moved steadily along, but finally after about 8.5 miles we ran into Jay's wife and he dropped out.  His knee was continuing to get worse and he decided the smart play was to drop and not risk his knee.  I can't speak for Jay, but I thought it was definitely a good decision.  I hit the 9 mile aid station at about 1 hour 52 min (about a 12:27 pace).  Fairly quickly I caught up with Ron & Larry.  We walked along chatting without much thought to pace or the time we were losing to walking.  It was as simple as enjoying a nice trail and the good company of two awesome people.  After a little while I realized I was starting to tighten up with all of this walking.  The first 9 miles had gone pretty nicely, but it was about to change.

I decided to start running again.  It wasn't easy after all that walking to loosen my legs up again, but it didn't take too long to get my second wind.  I moved pretty quickly and well through the half way point.  My running was fairly good and my walking paces were even staying pretty quick.  I passed a few other runners and was feeling fairly strong again for a while.  It was a nice warm afternoon and I was feeling good.  I was getting a little bored running alone and with only 34 runners left in the marathon I wasn't seeing anyone anymore.  Just running along all by myself enjoying the nice afternoon and the scenery of the nice park.  There were lots of snakes and as a snake lover, watching for them really kept my mind engaged.

At about 15.5 miles my second wind was gone.  Everything felt pretty good other than my legs.  My breathing was good, my energy level was fine, my mind was engaged, but my legs just didn't want to move anymore.  I figured a long walk break might get my legs back into this run.  It didn't.  I got slower and slower.  After a while, the couple runners I'd passed repassed me.  My legs weren't regaining strength; the were getting weaker.  Trudge, trudge, trudge.  I hit that 9 mile aid station again (17.5 miles on the out and back) at about 3 hrs 47 min (12:58 avg) and had completely lost all steam.  They gave me a bottle of water and some oranges and asked me about Ron, Larry and one other runner that were all still behind me.  The volunteers at this race were outstanding.  I knew I looked like hell, and certainly felt like hell.  It didn't matter to them.  They cheered for me, celebrated with me, encouraged me and offered to help however they could.

I left the aid station and kept walking.  It didn't take too long for Ron to catch up with me, but he was really struggling too.  He'd said all day that he was just not feeling the energy he needed and actually considered dropping down at the half marathon turn but didn't.  Neither of us wanted to run so we walked together.  Our pace got slower, slower, slower.  Have you ever wondered how competitive runners are?  I was getting to the point that I was honestly starting to wonder if I could finish.  I've never finished a race in last place before so I told Ron that there was no way I was going to let him finish behind me.  That's right; I was ready to compete with him to be D.F.L.!!

It seemed like years before we stumbled through the 3 mile aid station.  I had actually been 5 hrs 45 min since the start of the race and my avg pace was now down to about a whopping 14:41/mile.  I called my wife to tell her we were still alive.  Then she gave me the bad news.  She told me that when we first see the finish line the course turns off and we will still have another mile to go.  Could I struggle through the last 3 miles?  Sure.  Could I do it while walked by the finish line in 2 miles and still have 1 to go?  I didn't think so.  Well, once we got there my competitive side kicked in a little again.  The race director (and extremely nice lady) was there waiting when we went passed with 1 mile to go and she told us she would call it a good finish if we wanted to skip the last mile.  As tempting as that was, I do have some pride.  You're telling me you want me to go home and tell my friends that I had to cheat to finish the race and still came in dead last??  Seriously??  HELL NO!!!  Not only did I turn to continue on for the last mile, I started jogging it!  Granted, it was a slow jog, but none the less it was the fastest I'd gone in hours!

Finally Ron & I came to the finish line.  Ron tried to slow and let me pass him and we practically stopped because we were fighting one another for last place!  Let's say I "won"; he finished just in front of me giving me my first ever D.F.L.  Again, I pretty much felt good other than my legs.  They were completely gone.  I laid down in the small patch up shade to rest my legs as the race director and Kristy offered me water, ice and oranges.  I got up and we all had a few good laughs about us being dead last.  Then, suddenly, the race director asked us, "who crossed the line last?"  I said that I did (with a strange sense of pride in having my first D.F.L.).  She came over and handed me a gift card!!  It was a $60 card to Moose's Tooth, and outdoor shop that had helped sponsor the race.  That's right, my first ever financial award for a race was for coming in dead last!  She said they wanted to celebrate the last finisher because they are just as important as the first.  My 6:42:47 finish was by no means impressive; that equates to a 15:12 overall pace; but they celebrated it anyway.

Time: 6:42:47
Pace: 15:23
Overall Place:    34 of 34
Place in Gender: 26 of 26
Division M3039 Place: 10 of 10

This brings me back to the comment I made at the start of this report.  A good run (especially in a race) reminds me of why I love running while a bad run (especially in a race) reminds me of why I love being a runner.  On a particularly good run you get that "runner's high" you hear so much about.  Pure, complete, unshakable love of the act of running.  You forget the world around you and sink into a run that feels so natural it's almost unfair to keep it to yourself.  Today was not like this at all.  Quite the opposite; this run reminded me of what I hate about the actual act of running.  It's tiring, painful, unbelievably taxing and at times not very smart.  This run did, however; remind me of why I love being a runner.  This was a long, terrible run I got pretty down on myself for a while.  The race directors and volunteers were not phased in the least.  Every time they saw me; whether I was doing well or badly, they cheered!  They celebrated, they encouraged, they treated me like I was winning the race!  It was a terrible day to run and a great day to be a runner.

In the future I will make more of an effort to not increase my miles so many weeks in a row.  This would have happened in this race or even had it been a simple 20 mile training run.  I wasn't training smart and I paid the price.  The race was well organized and well run; the train was beautiful, the trail was fun, my fellow runners were great and the volunteers were wonderful.  I hope to return and run this again next year.  After the race we loaded up and went back to Blair.  Ron's band was playing at a bar that night so we rested for a bit and headed up there.  Kristy & I left after a couple hours because we were tired and uncomfortable, but his band was very good and I was enjoying there twist on some familiar songs.  It was a fantastic day with fantastic people.

The next day, on our way back home, we stopped by the store I had the gift card for so I could spend my winnings.  I was wearing my Kansas City Trail Nerds t-shirt and the nice lady at the store asked me if I'd ever run Free State.  I told her I had not, but I run with the Nerds and have run several of their races and they are great and that I've run the Clinton Lake trails a lot.  We talked a little about the trail so I could give her some ideas of what she could expect.  She asked if I'd run the Run For The Bridges Marathon because she thought she recognized me.  I said I did and after she said that I remembered her as well.  I found a 50oz Camelbak hydration belt (Tahoe LR) that was $70 so after my gift card I got it for $10+ tax.  I've never used a belt like this, but I've talked with many people that have and they all say they're great.  I figured for that price it was worth giving it a shot.

It was a tough race that didn't go as planned, but it was a fantastic weekend.  I'm proud of the fact that as difficult as the race was I fought through and never quit.  In the end, this was intended as a training run and I got lots of quality time on my feet.  Nothing wrong with that!  I'm ready for a lighter week now, then I'll ramp up a little more again before taking another rest week before the Garmin Marathon & pacing Ron at Free State.  Marathon/Ultra #6 and State # 5 are now in the books!!


  1. I never would have guessed DFL could be so much fun!! I love reading your reports - see you out there :)

  2. You have the best attitude! I'm so glad you had fun even though you had heavy legs.


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