Ben Wilson

Ben Wilson

ben wilson This is the blog of a one Ben Wilson, a Louisville, Kentucky native who enjoys baseball, beer, music, bikes, things that fly and good food. By day he pushes pixels and makes the Internet happen for a local advertising agency. His wife, Kelly is an Ironman, and his baby Amelia is the cutest thing ever.

ottercreek_logoThe Sunday before last (Dec 14th), Kelly and I ran the 2008 Otter Creek Trail Run. Though, in 1980′s TV parlance, one could call it “A Very Special Otter Creek Trail Run”, as Otter Creek Park is closing indefinitely on January 1st due to Louisville Metro budget constraints. The race is always well-attended by a group of trail-running nuts who ramble over the singletrack trails and up some 45-degree grades for… no awards, no t-shirts and no official times. It’s different if you run the marathon, but most people run the 8- or 16-mile routes. Kelly and I run the 8.

It’s a pretty informal sort of thing, hosted by Todd & Cynthia Heady of Headfirst Performance, a couple of swell folks who put on a lot of races around town that otherwise wouldn’t be organized. The “lodge” at OCP is crammed with people trying to stay warm in their technical fabrics and shorts – it sucks to overdress when running in the cold – and the two bathrooms are always ridiculously overwhelmed.

Roundabout the start time Cynthia Heady stands on a picnic table to give the announcements -  and in the three years I’ve attended I’ve never heard a word from her, as she does this without a megaphone. There is a five-minute gap between when the marathoners leave and the rest of us go, and the last two years Kelly and I have snuck off into the woods to relieve ourselves (I run interference for Kelly) as line into the bathrooms is usually snaking past the aging leaf showcases in the lodge, even a few minutes to the start. But… I digress.

So, nonchalantly returning back to the gaggle of and then she counts down “3… 2… 1… GO!” without a megaphone and the awaiting crowd crosses no real “start” line, through about 100 yards of scattered pines into the start of the “singletrack” (wide enough for one person) trail. In the sport of cyclocross (cycle racing over cross-country-style courses), getting the lead onto the one-person-wide track is known as “the hole shot”. In the previous two years that I ran this race, I’ve always been back with the gaggle – but not this year! I just so happened to be on the side of the group nearest the trail and we took off. And though I was running at an untenable pace, it seemed to work out pretty well as I didn’t have to do the elbowing and passing and gyrations that I normally would have. Singletrack running is a lot about positioning – especially when there is a steep hill on your left and a 30′ drop into an icy stream on your right and a 2-foot-wide track to run on (which there is, later in the course).

So I’m humming along, having kept up with some fast-looking dudes and ladies, and then as the gradient increases, my leg muscles remind me that “Hey! Jerk! We did 57 miles on the bike yesterday on a hilly course!” I take a walk up some hills that in previous years I would have been able to at least jog up. I eat a GU Roctane, I let others pass.

But that’s OK. See, in the trail running thing, you’ve got to be considerate to those behind you – otherwise you are an ass. It’s also worth noting that you are also an ass if you yell “Gotta go! Gotta go!” when impatiently passing people. It is also OK to walk sometimes, ’cause sometimes you have to hold onto the grass to keep from sliding down the hill.

Trail running also has it’s share of pitfalls… kind of like Atari Pitfall!, actually. Logs, vines, mud, water and jumping over things – but without the alligators and scorpions and mad sacks of loot. I normally almost fall once or twice in a race (I’ve only really fallen once – and it was epic! Not life-altering, but more life-affirming) – and during this race I almost fell twice… and one time RIGHT IN FRONT OF THE CAMERA!


Ben, the very image of grace

Ben in the very moment of grace.

Moments later, arms flailed. If I do have one thing, it’s decent reflexes. I righted myself and moved on. The next near fall was not in the company of others, but I was headed right for a tree which would have hurt, badly.

This trail race was also my first real opportunity to try out my new New Balance 840 GR trail shoes, and they are fantastic! I had worn out another pair of New Balance trail shoes and decided to step it up a bit with the 840′s – essentially a lightweight cross country shoe with some serious grippy bits on the bottom. They don’t protect you very much from big pointy rocks or water, but they are light and grip like snow tires. Mud? No problem. Slippery, leafy descents? No problem. Big, slippery rocks? Well, use some caution. They also mercifully come in EE width, and I hardly had a blister, which for my paddle-like feet is unusual. I give these shoes a big ol’ thumbs up.

The halfway point of the run is at the end of an 1/8 mile long gravel roundabout. A picnic table with cookies, Hammer Gel and HEED electrolyte drink are there. Behind, the actual “Otter Creek” burbles along.

I was feeling pretty good – if a little hungry at this point – and was buoyed by the fact that neither of my faster buddies, Lindsay or Tammy had passed me up (yet). They were likely caught back in the pack and held up on the singletrack, but I’ll take my wins where I can get ‘em. Exiting the aid station, I passed up Lindsay on the way in. She would soon pass me up on the way up the 1/2 mile climb to North Point – a simply stunning view over the Ohio River into Indiana. The traverse from the Otter Creek Trail up to North Point is at times ridiculous – like a 35-40 degree climb and then a hardy singletrack climb to the top. Roughly 200 vertical feet in maybe 1/2 a mile? Anyway, it’s pain-pain and it’s acceptable to walk it, I know I did.

After that climb, it’s a pretty fast, flat run of 2 or 3 miles back to the Nature Lodge. About 1/2 mile from the end, my fast-fast buddy Tammy caught up with me. I was totally shocked! I knew I was feeling good and running quick, but to have Tammy catch me after 7.5 miles was unheard of. I noted that “my climbing gear was gone” due to my bike ride the day before and she said “Yeah, we did 20 yesterday,” and then I realized she was talking about running. She did 20 running miles the day before! Now that is awesome. I asked her how far we had gone (she had a Dick-Tracy-style running GPS watch thing) and I didn’t believe her when she said only a 1/2 mile left, so I saved a bit in the tank and tried to keep her in sight. They changed the course from last year, though, and by the time I realized we were nearing the end, it was too late – she beat me by 20 seconds.

It’s not that we were competing for anything – but when you run a race and you have no chance of winning an award (not that this race had awards) or winning your age group (not that this race had age groups), you have to mentally pick someone out to crush under your thundering heels! So while I had my designs on sprinting to the finish and ducking in on Tammy, it didn’t work out like that.

Ben, somewhere near the end.

Ben, somewhere near the end.

I crossed the finish line at 1 hour, 28 minutes and some change. Despite my legs being spent the day before, I had beaten my personal record (PR) by some 10 minutes over last year (last year was a really sloppy track, though). In the warmth of the Nature Lodge, I ate home-made chili. It was a good day.

Ben’s Otter Creek Trail Run 8-miler Results
– 1:28:11
2007 – 1:38?
2006 – 1:50?

Funny bit about the 2007 result – Kelly and I crossed at the same time, but our scores didn’t show up in the 2007 Otter Creek Trail Results. There is a 5-minute gap you’ll notice between 1:35 and 1:40 on the clock because, I presume, the gal punching in numbers on the timing system (it’s a manual process) had to take a whiz or something. Yeah, it’s that kind of race. And I love it.

Kelly, the Ironman, decided to take things easy on this race and finished at 1:53.

2008 Otter Creek Trail Marathon, 8- and 16-mile Results

2008 Otter Creak Trail Marathon Photos!

Headfirst Performance

Dean Karnazes, the “Marathon Man”, ran the Otter Creek Trail Marathon in 2006

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Dec 23 2008 ~ 12:24 am ~ Comments (1) ~

1 Comment

  1. Ben, you have such a wonderfully descriptive style of writing. I cracked up as I pictured you and Tammy, neck and neck, trying not to break your necks as you battled for the finish. Well done…truly epic!

    Comment by Eileen — December 23, 2008 @ 3:44 pm

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