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Sunday, April 03, 2016

Race Recap: Iron Furnace Trail Run (4.5 Miler)

The Iron Furnace Trail Run took place Saturday, April 2 at Lake Hope State Park. The race included a 13.1 ("Ohio's hardest half") or 4.5 option. Alex and I chose the 4.5 miler. [Race Information]

Before dinner on Friday
Packet Pickup + Camping 
Alex had a storm call Friday, so we left late. With traffic, we weren't sure we'd make packet pickup. Luckily, we arrived at Lake Hope Lodge at 7:01pm and the table wasn't quite torn down. We grabbed our packets and ate dinner at the lodge. The restaurant was fantastic and featured tasty local foods and beers.

After dinner we went to the campground and found a walk-in spot. Since it was chilly, there weren't too many people camping. We didn't get there until after sunset and had to put the tent together in the dark, but at least we had our headlamps. Somewhere around 10:30pm Alex was ready for bed. I sleep pretty well when we camp, but maybe because we usually hike a ton. I couldn't fall asleep forever because I had to pee. I tried to forget about it, but it never happened and I finally left the tent at 3am. Blargh. After that I slept well until our 6:45 wake up.

Camping was pretty cool and we were only 2 miles from the start. The event was sold out and non-shuttle parking was limited, so we left around 7:15 to secure a spot by the lodge. We stayed in the car for a while then I used the lodge bathroom about six times (not lying). I guess last year they didn't have access AND no potties, so it was, interesting... :/

It was 42 degrees and very windy. I really wanted to wear shorts, but I gave in and put on capris. We sat inside to stay warm, then headed out around 8:45 for announcements. The race director went over vital parts of the course. (He also posted videos of these directions on the IF Facebook event, which was a good idea.)

First off, look at the elevation chart below. Alex said he was going to go all out for the entire race, but I wanted to keep it conservative and not risk injury before next week's half. I looked at last year's results and decided I'd like to finish somewhere in the middle with a 12-something pace. In lieu of normal A, B, and C goals I made two mini goals:
1. Finish under 55 minutes or in the middle of the pack
2. Run the whole thing


The Race
We lined up at 9am. Alex went to the front and I stood in the middle. When the race started and we went downhill for the first half mile, I tried to keep my pace conservative. I could have sprinted, but what was the point if I needed to save energy? I saw someone I knew (running the half), so I kept my pace slow, watched my footing, and stayed tucked behind her until we hit mile 1 and the halves turned off.
Mile 1: 11:32

There was a guy behind me for a few minutes and I could see a dude in green up ahead. Just as I could tell I was gaining on the guy in green, the dude behind me stopped to walk. I don't like running alone during trail races because I concentrate on my footing so much and don't want to focus on the trail markers and directions. During mile 2 and part of mile 3 I joined a pack: green shirt guy, an older gentleman, and a lady. I stuck with them during a fairly technical section along the lake. The view was absolutely gorgeous and the trail was up and down and only wide enough for one person. I didn't think about passing because I knew I needed to keep myself in check to avoid walking. They did walk uphill a few times, but that was ok. The pace was very consistent and I felt like I was covering a lot of ground.
Mile 2: 12:15

This doesn't belong here, but I'm not sure when race photos will be posted
Somewhere in here we passed a woman and her husband (who kept looking back at her in a way that made me really mad. Like, dude, if you want to win or something, run your own damn race. Otherwise, support your wife!!). Anyway, I also passed the lady in our group on a muddy gulch and all of the sudden I realized I was running too slow. Sometimes when I get too slow it makes me want to walk, so I knew I had to go for the pass. Luckily the trail widened a bit and the older gentleman took a wide right and I zoomed by him and green shirt. I never pass people in trail runs, and here I was passing two dudes at once! They said, "go ahead!" and I said, "this might be a mistake!" as I ran off. I left them around mile 2.4 and my pace for the rest of the mile was pretty steady. I passed another woman just before the water stop.
Mile 3: 11:09

At the water stop I saw another dude up ahead. He was walking, so I knew it was about to get tough. I turned the corner and all I saw was a switchback trail and a constant uphill. Remember my goal not to walk? Well, I pretty much broke that at mile 3.02. Looking at my Strava data it was a 17% grade! No wonder I walked! I walked again at 3.2 (16%) and for a longer period between 3.4 and 3.5. I was beat! I tried to power hike, but settled on walking... slowly. Any forward motion. I passed the walking guy around 3.2 and I saw three ladies up ahead. One of them kept glancing back. I was still pretty far behind them until we came to an arrow sign on the trail. I recognized it from earlier and knew we were almost finished! When we came to the paved road we were on at the start, I was so happy to see asphalt. It was much easier for my shoes to grip and I started gaining on the three lady pod.
Mile 4: 12:50 (pretty awesome considering I took three walk breaks)

Finisher's medal
With a half mile to go, I kept getting closer and closer. I didn't think about passing them because they seemed far away. Okay there was a brief, "Hey, if I pass them I'll be 3 places higher! That could be the difference between 60% rank and 50%." On that paved road I thought of my running group and the final hill we have to run on Saturdays. It's killer and I hate it, but it helped me so much here. For the rest of the race my pace climbed from 10 to 9 to 8... and I finished in the mid-7s. I passed one girl who yelled encouragement and in the last .1 I was neck and neck with another. She was struggling and I said, "don't let me pass you! You were so hard to catch!" But I did pass. (And maybe that was an annoying thing to say, but after the race we talked and she was really nice.) I saw Alex at the line and he wasn't looking (he was getting a taco haha) and I yelled his name so he'd watch me finish. I felt really good crossing that line.
Mile 4-end: 8:01 pace

Post Race
I liked the shirt a lot. And the lake.
I crossed the line, got my ceramic medal, and asked Alex how he did. Actually I said, "I assume you did really well because there's no one here!" He won!! He's so crazy! He said he ran up the hills, but at a snail's pace. He then said I finished 5th or 6th! What?! A top 10 finish on a trail race? I'll take it! Yes, most of the fasties were in the half, but I'm still happy. I ran a strong race on giant (for me) hills. And you know what? I was not tired after. So, I probably should have trotted up those hills... Next time. ;)

We stuck around for a few hours cheering on the rest of the 4.5 milers, eating our free tacos, and watching the top 3 half finishers and the first female half finisher (she broke the female course record, too!). We went back into the lodge for beers and snacks, then headed home around noon.

It was a fantastic day and I would highly recommend the event. We will be back next year!
Final time: 49:44
Overall: 6/52
Gender: 5/37

Next Up: The Scarlet Sprint 5k was the next day and the ORRRC Half is next weekend. Yikes. 


  1. Congratulations on your top 10 finish! That's great. This sounds like a fun day all around (minus the having to get up at 3 AM to pee while camping - I hate when that happens!). Your 'no walking' goal was really ambitious given the elevation profile for the final full mile. That's a big climb at a steep grade! You still ran an awesome split for mile 4. I hardly ever pass people during a trail race, either. When it comes down to it you have to run your own race, but I always worry that the second I pass them I'm going to unexpectedly slow down and just be in their way.

    The race shirt is really cute, too! I love trail races. For the most part, they are harder than any road race I have ever done. But the atmosphere at them is so different - much more relaxed and friendly.

    1. I agree about passing -- I have that worry that I'll be in the way. This is the first time I've passed people that weren't stopped, so it was a new experience. I've only worked myself up to a 10k trail run and I thought it was more tiring than a road 13.1, but maybe because it requires more concentration (I trip a lot). I really love the atmosphere of trail runs; the people really are so friendly! I would love to keep running them. If I ever raced farther than 13.1, for some reason a trail 50k sounds way more appealing than a road marathon.

      Good luck this weekend!! :)

    2. I have had the same thought about the 50K distance in general. When I missed my second peak week, I did have thoughts of dropping to the marathon distance for my race. But for some reason a trail 50K sounds much more appealing than a trail marathon!

  2. Congrats on your top 10. Ughh...maybe I change my mind about hilly....I guess the views are worth it. Such a cute medal.

    1. Thanks! Yeah, the hills were kind of nuts... but at least everyone was in the same boat (and all the really fast people were running the half haha). I don't know how California trail runners handle gains of 1,000-2,000 ft over one race!


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