Monday, July 16, 2012

Great Spillway Classic Trail Run: The 2012 Recap

The past couple months have found me neglecting my weekend racing. As a result, I forgot what it’s like to go to bed early on a Saturday night to allow for an early wake up on race day Sunday. This past Saturday was no different, with last minute calls to action for social obligations keeping me out way past my bedtime. However, I had the foresight to register for the 2012 Great Spillway Classic Trail Run weeks ago because I knew I wanted to run this race. All I choose to remember is that 6:45am came very early Sunday morning, and my alarm (along with the requested text message reminders from early rising friends) was not a welcome interruption to my slumber.

After making the drive to Norco, parking in the mud pit that is the spillway caused concern that I’d be riding shotgun with a tow truck driver named Bubba before the end of the day. I figured I’d be in the same boat as countless other people if that should happen, so I set off for pre-race rituals. T-shirt and number pickup was really smooth, which was a welcome surprise. The Spillway Classic is a New Orleans Track Club Race, and because of recent growing pains the organization has been through, the setup has suffered at several previous races I participated in (Turkey Day Race, Ole Man River Half, etc). This year’s installment of the Great Spillway Classic gave me renewed faith in the organization and they seem to have worked out some of the kinks in event production.

The race start was smooth, with a quick ascent on to the levee. The first stretch is a mile and a half out along the levee top, and I attempted to start fast to bank some time for the impending single form line that would occur once on the Spillway trail. I realized quickly how out of shape I am, with the humidity taking a toll on my breathing. Having decided to do this run sans iPod, I could hear my labored breath and it was pretty discouraging. After the levee, a quick decent in to the Spillway is the first challenge on the aptly named “gauntlet.” I knew I was going to slip and fall on my arse as I attempted to traverse damp ankle high grass, but I managed to stay upright and moving the entire way down. As soon as you enter the spillway jungle, the actual race fun begins.

Pre-race announcements informed runners that the gauntlet quality was a “10 out of 12” and the entire race course was an “8 out of 10.” I couldn’t figure out why two different scale ranges were being used, but after entering the gauntlet … I no longer cared. The first obstacle was a mud pit that came up to about thigh high on the average person. At my diminutive height, that’s waist deep. I skirted the edge of the puddles and never submerged below my knee. No shoes were lost as I trampled through muck, and I came out the other side of the gauntlet wet and gross, but fully intact.

The second half of the course is a trail through the spillway back to the staging area. Runners form a single file line and fall in to step along the trail. You run the shore of the spillway for most of the course, and it was well marked to prevent injury and wrong turns. This part of the course is why I ran without musical accompaniment, and I’m glad I did. The sounds of other runners around me giving alerts as to what laid in our path ahead helped prepare me for downed trees or mud pit obstacles, and also allowed me to interact with other runners as I passed (or was being passed). Thanks to this experience I’ve decided that I am going to attempt music-less running during shorter distance races in the future, and see how this affects my pace and how it works for me in my training.

The conclusion of the race is an emersion in to an open field and running under the NOTC finish-line arch. I was pleased to see that NOTC now chip times all of their races, which is a great addition that allows for quicker and more accurate results. They also produced a commemorative medal for the 25th anniversary of the Great Spillway Classic Trail Run (see below) that was presented to the first thousand finishers. It was a really nice addition to the race, and made me even more pleased that I signed up to participate.

The Great Spillway Classic Trail run was a lot of fun, and I’m pretty happy with my time of just over 28 and a half minutes. It was a great kickoff to my fall marathon training, which gets underway today. Also, NOTC stepped up their game for this race. I can’t wait to see what they have in store next for NOLA runners. I’ve already looked at their upcoming race schedule to see what I need to sign up for.

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