Laingsburg, MI Jul-Aug 2015
Dates: July 31 - August 1, 2015
FRIDAY JULY 31
The Legend Trail Half Marathon is part 3 of the Serious Series. This is a trail racing series put on by Running Fit with three of the classic trail runs in southern Michigan. The first was the Trail Half at Pinckney State Recreation Area (a marathon was also offered). The second race was a 5K and/or 10K combo called “Flirt with Dirt” at Bayshore Park in Novi. I ran both of those races this year and each park and trail was a pleasant experience. For me, The Legend up at Sleepy Hollow State Park near Laingsburg, MI offered an extra appeal as I would have an excuse to camp out the night before. The drive for me was just over 2 hours and camping at the State Park the night before would make a lot of sense.
Leading into The Legend my training was thrown for a loop this year. Its not that this was unexpected, but the way my summer schedule played out I found myself not quite as ready for this race as I would have liked. Up to early July my training was going fantastic. Ultimately, I was getting ready for the North Country Run, a trail marathon, in late August. I was running a good program to prepare for that and I was staying on track rather well. Interrupting all of this, and for good reasons, was our family hiking trip out to Colorado. That trip amounted to pretty much 9 days of zero running and in its place 50+ miles of hiking at high elevation. Don’t get me wrong, I loved the Colorado trip and in fact probably put a higher emphasis on it than my running program. On that trip my father, brother and I finished hiking the 54 14ers of Colorado and that was a momentous occasion for it. I wasn’t going to let anything in my control jeopardize it. This meant the running program suffered.
When I returned home just three days before The Legend I snuck in a morning 4-mile run just to see where I was at. I ran it with good speed but I could tell the legs weren’t quite normal. I took the 2nd day off and then day 3 was the day before the race and I planned only a little shake-up run. I left my house just after 3pm to head up to Laingsburg and was quickly up to Ann Arbor. I saw on the maps that the traffic on US23 heading up to I96 was awful so I decided to give some back roads a try. I headed west on I94 to Chelsea where I picked up M52 heading north. This seemed to provide a direct line to where I wanted to head. After getting through the Chelsea traffic and stoplights M52 turned out to be a pleasant drive and I followed it all the way up to Perry, Michigan where it runs into I69. I grabbed some supper at a Taco Bell there, which in hindsight, probably wasn’t the best meal for me the night before a race.
In Perry I decided I wanted to drive through Laingsburg itself on my way to Sleepy Hollow and so this meant more back roads. I followed Britton Rd to Fenner Rd to Grand River Rd which took me through Laingsburg. It was pretty much what I expected: very small town, just a few things along the main drive. This whole area however was beautiful to drive through. Wonderful forests and groves mixed in with open fields and the skies were amazing. It was a beautiful day. From there Sleepy Hollow was just a short drive away. I drove the main road into the park and stopped at the entrance booth. I pointed them to my State Parks Rec Pass tag and they let me through. I headed on up to the campground check-in. I stopped and headed into their office where they got me a campground pass for my vehicle and pointed me where to go.
I camped in site 98 this time and I had chosen it because of proximity to the drinking water. It was a nice location up front and I was glad I had chosen north campground as that was closer to the beach and the race start. Ironically, I never used the water spigot once. A quick whiff of the water at the outdoor spigot as well as the waters in the bathroom revealed they were a stinky well water. Note to self: bring your own drinking water for camping and running! Thankfully I had. For the way I used the site, picking one of the sites in the 20s or 70s next time that would shorten the walk to the beach/race area may be preferable. I made a handful of trips that way. Second note to self: This campground does have electrical boxes that even tent campers can hook up to. Luckily I had caught wind of this and brought a long extension cord and used it.
As I checked out my site and got my Half Dome 4 tent put up it brought some nostalgia of old days of car camping. It has been awhile since I car camped. The smells of the campground and the proximity of the neighbors and their activities were actually quite nice. I wouldn’t say I’ve missed car camping over all the backpacking I’ve done, but the appeal of the simplicity and convenience of it certainly is alluring. To always have a place to sit or a car to place things into is quite nice. I will say this however, having walked a lot of the campground I was probably by far the most primitive camper there that night. Some folks had some major setups with fifth wheels or even just humongous tents with lights and other amenities. I had my backpacking tent and a backpacking chair. I travelled light for sure.
With my camp in place I had time to walk on down to the beach for packet pickup for the race. The trail heading to the beach is back by the sites in the 20’s in the North Campground and a small sign marks it. Perhaps a quarter mile walk. Running Fit had their tents and the race start all ready to go and I headed up to the table with my bib # and they hooked me up with my bib, a race t-shirt, and the race mini magnet.
When I got back to camp it finally felt like supper had sufficiently settled in and so I changed up clothes and shoes and decided to get a light run in to prep for the morning. I scouted out some of the race flags that were already in place to mark the course and I figured out that I could pickup the race course not far from the first mile marker and then run east towards the “T” junction where the 5-mile course goes north and the half marathon goes south. I ran there and then back and then on towards the beach and got a mile in. I walked back more of the initial part of the course to see what the start would look like.
The rest of the evening was relaxing as I had plenty of time to read and enjoy the evening at camp. The mosquitos weren’t nearly as bad as I would have expected. I sat outside in my camp chair til close to dark when the bugs started to pick up a little bit and then setup my chair in my tent to work for awhile longer. It was past 11p when I decided it was time to call it a night.
SATURDAY AUGUST 1
It was wonderful camping as it meant I could really take it easy in the morning in getting ready for the race. I was up around 7:15am to get a bite to eat and start moving around. I had my clothes and race food all laid out so I didn’t have too many decisions to make in the morning. After downing some breakfast and hitting the bathroom building to get readied up I started to walk over to the race start by the beach.
I was going to run with my Osprey Rev6 today for water as well to help carry snacks. I had GU along as well as my usual pre-race CLIF Shot Bloks. I was also using Hammer Endurolytes to aid as well for the first time in a race. It was a few minutes after 8am when I made it to the start area. It was just before they sent the 5-mile racers off at 8:15am. Having also picked up my packet/big the night before I really just had to show up and be ready.
About 5 minutes til start at 8:30am they started lining us up in the start corral. They attempted to put us into a few waves loosely based on predicted pace. Since much of the early trail was single-track this would help to get us where we “should be.” The race started on time and we were hopping through the parking lot to get onto the trail. The first section of trail was about 4 tenths of a mile and we exited into the south campground to run through it. This took us up to the campground entry road and then on a thin trail around the playground. From there we went east out of the campground and onto the loop trail that heads around the park.
I was feeling pretty good early on and was running these early miles at a 7:30 pace, perhaps a bit too fast. As we headed south on the loop it was narrow enough single track that passing wasn’t too easy. It was also mostly grass. Thankfully the trail was mostly dry this year. Word was in past years it could get a bit muddy.
Around mile 5 my legs started to get a slightly sluggish feel. I popped a GU and that appeared to help. I actually had GU at 5 miles, 8 miles and 10 miles to keep the fuel ahead of the game. As the race progressed my legs never did overcome this sluggish feel. I think there may have been several contributing factors. One was that I really should not have had a big Taco Bell meal for supper last night as I drove over. Oops. I also never felt like I had hit good training form since the Colorado vacation. The 8 or so days I took off from running, though I did hike 50 miles, seemed to have affected my run upon return. I also felt the humidity and the warming sun as the race progressed.
As I ran by the aid station at mile I heard one of the volunteers say something about only 8 or so people ahead. This surprised me at the time as I doubted I was that close to the front. Of course, I’m also suspect I may have misunderstood them. It was shortly after this aid station that I could tell I was slowing up a bit and I just didn’t have the energy I wanted out of the legs. At just past mile 10 I think I had all but hit the wall and was forced to walk a minute or two. From that point on I had a handful of walking bits seeking to keep them to 30 seconds or under and I was getting passed by a number of people. I was frustrated not thinking I could finish this Half without having any fatigue issues.
The one saving grace I had near the finish is that as the trail hits the parking lots at about 12.65. I was surprised that as I hit the pavement and had just been passed by about 4 people that my pace easily picked up and I felt strengthened to move. I was able to regain a handful of people that had passed me and finished the last half mile fairly strong. My finishing time was a respectable 1:48:14, which actually beat my April time from Pinckney, but I knew I could have easily shaved another 4-5 minutes if I were closer to 100%.
Post-race I received the race medal, as well as the Serious Series medal and finisher’s pint glass. I grabbed water and some of their snacks and with hands full dragged all of this back to the campsite. I figured I had time to spare until they did the awards and so I dropped most of this off at the car. I hiked on back to the beach with a few minutes to spare. I found I had finished 3rd of 17 in my age group so I would get an award for that. It turned out to be another coffee-style mug, same style as what I had received at Flirt with Dirt in June. After getting my award I headed on back to camp again.
Though the race didn’t quite finish as well as I had hoped, and I say that based more on feeling than on actual results, I was pleased with The Legend race as a whole. The course is a nice change of pace and easier than the one at Pinckney.
I took my time tearing down camp as check-out wasn't until 1pm (if I recall correctly) and I had made plans to meet up with Mom and Dad in the Kalamazoo area to get the boys. The boys were still with them from our Colorado trip and this was our "half-and-half" meet-up to get the boys back. I took my time packing things up and sat and read to kill some time as well. Check-out was pretty much nothing but driving by the check-in area and waving at them.