Event: The Snake
Date: July 9, 2016
Location: Clinton Lake, Lawrence, KS
The Snake is a 10 mile trail race that slithers it’s way around the Clinton Lake North Shore trails. The race directors wanted to make it a sneaky snake, so they had us running the loop in the reverse of that we are used to. In addition, they threw in some connector trails and had us hit Lake Henry as well. So, essentially, we went out on blue, hit Lake Henry, out to Land’s End, then back on white, hitting Lake Henry again to the finish line.
Packet pick-up the night before at Ad Astra Running was easy-peasy. I was in and out without even needing to plug the meter. The shirts were really cool, and along with our bib, we got a Guide to Kansas Snakes. (That was Bowie’s favorite part).
With all the rain we have had, there was some concern over whether we would get to run the planned course. A back-up plan had us running two loops of an extended Skyline Shuffle course. Thankfully, the trails soaked up the rain and we were able to stick to the original route.
One of the race directors, Gary “Storyhawk,” gave the race briefing. As part of the race fun, during registration, each runner was given a “snake name.” (Which Gary “Ukulele Snake” assured us would be our password in the event we ran into any snakes on the trail.) The other race director, was Benita “Black Mamba.” I was “Hip Hop Snake” since I used to dance with a team in KC, and Bowie was “Pennywise Snake” as he loves scary clowns. So during the race briefing, we all shouted out our snake names before heading out for the race.
Good race rule: Gary advised us not to get any blood on the trail as that would be construed as littering. And trail runners never litter.
Before the race, I spoke with Gary about Bowie racing. I had not been having Bowie run over the last few weeks as the temps have been over 100 with the heat index. I just felt it was too dangerous for a 9 year old to run in that. His long run before all the heat was 7 miles, but we just didn’t feel comfortable sending him out to run 10 – especially since it was hot and humid on race day. Gary worked out a plan for Bowie to run the course but to turn back after Marina Road instead of going all the way out to Land’s End. If he beat all the grown-ups back, he would get a special prize. Bowie was stoked. In fact, Bowie was so stoked he ditched me early in the race.
I ended up finding my friends LaRisa and Gretchen on the trail and followed along behind them. A few miles in, I commented on a particularly slippery technical section that I worry about Bowie running by himself. And just like that – Bowie was standing on the side of the trail. He had a restroom emergency and needed to quit. I called Steven, who was waiting at the finish, to meet us up on Marina Road to pick Bowie up. So Bowie and I walked a half mile or so to the road. There were volunteers working the road crossing, so I left Bowie there and Steven picked him up right after I left.
Originally, my plan was to just pace Bowie, but I was feeling pretty good and decided to see how far I could get. I hadn’t fueled for 10 miles, and my hydration pack was only half-filled with water… but I wanted to give it a go.
I picked up the pace to catch up to LaRisa and Gretchen at the Lake Henry aid station. (That was a mistake, by the way. I went too fast.) When I got to Lake Henry, I took a quick drink of water and pressed on because I felt good….but as I neared Land’s End, everything caught up with me. I was over-heating and getting tired.
I made it to Land’s End and had an orange slice while volunteers refilled my hydration pack. I waited there for a bit to cool down (didn’t happen, even standing around was hot) and to wait for my friends. I chose a green snake out of a pail of small rubber snakes to prove I had made the checkpoint. I chose a green one. We all headed back out together and started run / walk intervals. We hiked the up-hills and anything really technical, and ran what our tired legs deemed runnable.
At some point, my hands turned to Hamburger Helper hands again and I felt unbalanced. I told them I needed to slow down just a bit so the last 3 miles or so, I did alone. I ran the flats as best I could. Since I was disoriented with the backwards course, I couldn’t get a good feel for where I was or how much further I had to go. I would hear people talking and think I was done, but when I would round a corner, I would just find more trail to run. Very frustrating!
Finally, I reached the trailhead and followed the flags through the park to the finish line. I fished my green rubber snake out of the front pocket on my hydration vest and held him up (per Gary’s instructions) as I crossed the finish.
I was so happy to be see my family. My legs were just shot. I wandered into the finish line aid station and was given Pringles and Gatorade, and it was fantastic.
Benita found Bowie as we were about to leave, congratulating him on his gutsy run, and presented him with a Lawrence Trail Hawks up and a big rubber snake. This really made this day.
The next day, Bowie painted Benita a picture of a scary clown holding a snake in each hand. He told her it was a “First Place Race Director Award.” Not too shabby for directing her first race. 🙂