The Kal-Haven 33.5 mile trail run with Rachel went so well that I don’t have much for a mile by mile recap – it’s one happy blur in my head. It felt like any other long run with my favorite long-distance running buddy – the miles fly by, and only specific incidents and conversations stand out. Before you know it, you’ve run over 33 miles and you’re done!
Ha ha! Just kidding! I was totally watching the mileage at the end! But a lot of the race did fly by.
The Kal-Haven Trail Run is a point-to-point (my favorite kind of) race that started in Kalamazoo, MI and ended in South Haven, MI.
The route was a crushed limestone rail trail. It had a net decline, and any incline or decline on the trail was very gradual. The trail was in fantastic condition – dry, and minus a few holes, not very technical. At all. I think you could run it with your eyes closed and not trip, as long as you ran in a straight line and missed those few holes and any critters that crossed the path or tree debris.
The trail was mostly surrounded by trees. There were a few prairie openings, town crossings and homes passed as well, but it was mostly trees, trees, trees. Which was fantastic for shading, even though the leaves aren’t out yet. I’d love to see the trail in the summer or fall!
We really lucked out with the weather. It was in high 30s to start with a 7 mph wind, and high 40s to end, with a 7 mph wind (in to our faces from the WNW). There was not a single cloud in the sky. It was a beautiful day to be out, doing something we both love so much. Some times the sun gets to me, but the breeze and cooler temps left me feeling great!
We estimated that our finish time would be around 6 hours, with an average pace of 10:45 minute miles. We were very close to that. We finished in 6:17:31 with an average moving pace around 10:53 (and 11:10 overall pace). We gained time for necessary stops, but when we were running, we kept up such a great pace. We were both astonished to be at the end of the race and still hitting our goal running pace (again, when not taking a walk break or stopping at an aid station).
The race had aid stations every 3-4 miles, and they also had bag drop around mile 13 and 27. This was a first time using bag drop for both of us. Typically, we rely on the aid station smorgasbord to get our fuel, but these aid stations had less than we were used to. Still plenty, and it was well indicated on the website what would be there, but just less.
So Rachel grabbed some of our favorite long run fuel – pickles, chips and Swedish Fish – and we packed those things in our drop bags, along with gels, our electrolyte drinks, gum, socks, and Vaseline. We shared a bag for the first and second drop, and had our own bags for the finish.
The drop bags worked out well (but took quite some time to put together the night before!). The volunteers had them sitting out and they were easy to find. Before getting to them, Rachel and I would discuss what we wanted from them (or to put in them) and we’d get the things out and help each other. We tried to be efficient at our stops, and felt like we definitely were, compared to other races we’ve done together before (*cough* Psycho Psummer Trail Run 10 Miler *cough*).
The race started at 8:00 am for solo entrants, 8:30 am for two-person teams, and 9:00 am for three-six person teams. Based on the amount of finishers in 2014 (when the race was covered in ice and snow – nope nope nope, no thanks), I figured we’d be pretty alone on the course, maybe with a few relayers passing us here and there.
But that wasn’t the case! We often had people in our sights ahead of us, and people behind us. We only got passed a few times. We were very middle of the pack, which was great – it’s fun to talk to people on the course. I should have had a notepad to write down all of the great races other runners were telling us about!
When we arrived at the race, two men were just coming in who had run from the finish of the race, and planned to run back out! Talk about inspiring – 67 miles for the day! That got me pumped up to start the race!
We took off at 8:00 and easily settled in to a mid 10:00 minute mile pace. We chatted with some people from a Chicagoland running club who know people I know. What are the odds of that? (And after talking to someone in my strength training class Monday night, I found out they know that person, as well).
Rachel and I chatted away. We talked to two women who said they thought we looked “experienced” because we had on shoe gaiters and hydration vests. We liked their compliment, and laughed about our duct taped gaiters, which got a lot of comments throughout the day. We both wore brand new shoes for the race (which worked out great) and didn’t have any velcro on them to attach our gaiters to, so we just used duct tape. Ha!
We’d speed up a bit when we’d talk to some people, and we’d remind each other to keep the pace slow. I asked Rachel to keep my form in check. I asked Rachel to get my honey stinger waffles out of my pack for me. I asked Rachel to help me look for a bathroom, right before the first bag drop location. Hee hee, I asked a lot of Rachel!
We saw four eagles together. Four! Here is an awesome (<— sarcasm) pic of two of them:
We talked to the two guys who were running 67 miles that day. They told us about the 100 mile races they’ve done. Yeah. After running this, I am not sure I will ever make it to a 50 mile race. But all the power to those people!
We’d run through hot pockets of air, but mostly, the breeze kept us cool and feeling fresh – I hardly had any sweat on me, although I had ton of salt all over me when I was done. That’s something I need to figure out. My hands got so swollen, it hurt to bend them (I was taking an electrolyte tab every 30 minutes, when I ate something).
The entire run went from east to west, so the left (south) sides of our bodies got a bit more sun (which resulted in hilarious tan lines for Rachel). The sun never felt too intense though. I did get a bit crabby about having my arm warmers on and took them off a little more than half way through the race and felt better.
We kept trucking. See what I meant about nothing standing out from each mile? They really did blur together. We just kept saying how great of a day it was, how great we felt, and how great it was to be running together.
It wasn’t all sunshine and happy feelings though. I started to get sick of eating every 30 minutes, but knew I needed to to stay fueled, so I did. Our legs started to feel a bit creaky toward the end. We stopped a the last aid station, which was set up on the bed of someone’s truck. I asked “Can I put my foot on your truck?” (asking for permission) and after the guy said yes, I had to use my hand to get my foot up there. Ha ha, Rachel joked with him that I wasn’t asking for permission, but if he thought I could do it. Ha! I barely could.
It was mostly our knees that protested when we stopped moving. The fronts of mine and the sides of Rachel’s. Which was unusual for her! But one walk break after the last aid station helped her, and she felt better.
Then, we had the ultimate pick-me-up. A KITTEN!!!!!
I told Rachel I saw a cat up ahead at the trail crossing. She couldn’t see it, and thought I was hallucinating a kitten mirage, but it really was a kitten! A friendly little kitten looking for some love. After that encounter, we finished the race with huge smiles on our faces! If this is what a huge smile looks like after running nearly 34 miles (oh yeah, the course is actually longer than 33.5):
Gosh, I was so happy to finish. The race mostly flew by, with only a few spots where it felt slow, but… six+ hours of running is enough for me, right meow.
We finished this “33.5” mile run almost an hour faster than our previous (MUCH more technical) 50K, and hit the 26.2 mile mark faster than I ran Milwaukee, and only a little bit slower than Rachel’s PR! If anything, this race showed us how much we’ve grown as runners, and that made us very proud!
After we finished, we figured out where our ride was (we paid to have the race organize a ride back for us) then found the food tent. There was a massage table that looked awfully tempting, but we didn’t want to hold back the other runners waiting for a ride back, so with that, we were off to the start. In a car this time. Ha ha. It was fun to ride back with two other runners and hear how their race went, and to talk to our driver, who was a member of the local club that puts this race on.
The club does a fantastic job with the race – there were plentiful aid stations, it was always clear where to go, and the volunteers were friendly and helpful. All of the proceeds benefit Girls on the Run, so there were some young girls volunteering, as well!
I like the shirt but got the wrong size (I didn’t know it was gender specific… that’s been happening to me a lot lately – I wish RDs would be more clear about it), but they gave me a shirt from last year at the race finish, and let me keep the one from this year! Yay!
After we got back to the car, we went to Steak ‘n Shake (for Rachel) and Chipotle (for me). We ate in our hotel, took showers, then hit up the hot tub and laid in bed for a bit before heading out for the evening. We originally didn’t have a hotel with a hot tub, and I am so happy we switched to one that did – it felt so relaxing after the race!
I know I keep saying it, but I just can’t believe how well the race went. We both only trained to the high teens/low twenties for mileage. We didn’t do a lot of back-to-back long runs. But we’d had some really great long runs together in the past few months, and well, we just had that perfect day, on race day!
It’s really a blessing to have a friend that will go through the highs and lows of a race with you (and not to mention spend the weekend and a car trip with you!) and I feel so lucky to have friends like Rachel in my life. We kept saying how much we love running with one another during the race, and I love that we make the time to do things like this every once in awhile!!! We already have our next endurance race planned for the summer! And of course, I will be participating in The Longest Day, again!
Of course, a few random tidbits, since this is so short:
- The winner averaged 6:15 minute miles. Holy. Cow.
- I thought about bringing my GoPro, but didn’t. I don’t regret it. I was getting sick of my pack at the end and I bet I would have felt the same way with the GoPro. Plus, so much of the race course looked the same, anyway!
- We wore our Fellow Flowers and got a few comments on them!
- Also, I got the first ever comment on my tattoo… that they couldn’t read it. Hopefully it’s because it was partially under my vest and I was moving?
- I never felt delirious and out of it during the race, which is good for me – it means I did a good job fueling, even though I got sick of eating. I did not get sick of drinking – I went through four liters of water and three small bottles of Vitamin Water.
- This very much felt like a run through the country – we saw some horses and pigs. We smelled some cows (ewww). We heard lots of frogs. Passed by creeks and farms… it was really pretty!
- Rachel and I were disappointed by the amount of shirtless dudes and awesome trail runner beards. Ha!
- And lastly… this is a new state for me!