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Hi, I'm Whitney! I am a middle of the pack runner who discovered the fun of triathlons in 2009. Join me in my adventures in life and training. I run with the Rush Running team and enjoy the fun that comes with such a supportive group of friends who understand what running means to me. I'm newly discovering road biking and the fun that it entails.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

War Eagle Trail Run 25K Race Recap

For the last few years I have been out of town for the War Eagle Trail Run race weekend.  This year I was home and signed up for the 25K distance.  The War Eagle Trail Run is a race put on by local ultrarunner Jeff Genova. This race feels like a family get together since everyone within the Rush team takes part or volunteers it seems.  The race takes place at Hobbs State Park in Northwest Arkansas.  There are three distances offered...10K, 25K, or 50K.
Official race logo designed by Rush Runner and ultra runner Ryan Holler
Hobbs State Park is located about 30 minutes from my house but is someplace I have never run before.  The trails are very well maintained and there is a great visitor center with clean restrooms and interactive displays about the area and the local flora and fauna.  This race is one of the only trail race events allowed within Hobbs State Park.
Hobbs State Park Visitor Center
On race morning, I made the drive to Hobbs and visited a local historic site that in my 10 years of living in NWA I had never been to...the War Eagle Mill.  Because of the size of the race, participants park at War Eagle Mill which is about 5 minutes from the park visitor center.  From there they are shuttled to the visitor center for the pre-race amenities.  I was very lucky to get onto a shuttle quickly after parking.  We got dropped off and I quickly stashed a bag with dry clothes in the race director's truck...that's a perk of being friends with the race director! I made it into the visitor center just before a downpour began.

All morning I had been watching the weather with nervous apprehension.  Luckily there was a quick downpour and then the rain cleared up before the race started.  I was glad to be inside a warm building while the rain happened too!  I met up with friends inside and tried to relax and nibble on my Larabar while we waited for the pre-race meeting.  The pre-race meeting covered a couple very important pieces of information...the course and the course markings.  Each race distance had a different color to follow for the course markings.  I was most nervous about getting lost on the trails but found it to be so well marked and very easy to follow.
Me, Janet, Mandy, Pauline, and Theresa before the start

The race got started a few minutes late due to some delays with the shuttle during the rain.  My friend Janet and I line up toward the back of the pack and prepared for the short run around the parking lot to thin out the race before hitting the single track trails.  The 25K and 50K runners started together and it was a big pack!
There is Janet and I toward the left side of the photo at the start

The first 1/4 mile was pretty slow going as the trails were still pretty crowded.  Eventually once everyone got spread out we were able to settle into a nice easy pace.  Both Janet and I were running simply for the experience.  Neither of us had done much trail racing before and we wanted to have fun and finish!  The trails were gorgeous right off the bat.  It was a little humid but we were trying to drink and eat as we went along.  Around mile 3 I noticed that my heels were hurting.  I made a rookie mistake and wore a brand new pair of socks on race day.  I think the humidity from the last minute rain combined with the new socks to punish me!

Janet and I chatted all along the course and took walk breaks when we encountered inclines.  We enjoyed the sections of trail covered in pine needles because it felt like we were running on air...so soft and cushy! We had a little trail stress as we hit the first major turn on the course.  The turn was well marked but about 50 runners in the faster pace ahead of us had missed the turn.  Just as we hit the turn, they were all making their way back on course.  We tried to be polite since we knew that our slower pace was frustrating them and we asked multiple times to tell us if you want past so we could pull off the trail.  Finally at the next turn, we pulled off and let the group run past us.  They were all pretty cranky having run about 1 mile extra off course.   Janet's husband was unfortunately in that group and we felt bad that he had gotten mixed up and off course.
Photo by Luis Escobar
We snacked our way through the first aid station staffed by some awesome Rush Runners.  As we made our way onto the second aid station my feet were really bothering me.  We ended up walking quite a bit within that section because that felt softer on my heels than running.  When we got to the aid station I quickly asked for some help to treat my heels.  Yikes, they were scary! Luckily one of the volunteers worked quickly to take care of me and get me back on the course.

Our next aid station was staffed by another friend and Rush Runner and that was quite the motivation to make it to that aid station.  We kept chatting all through the trail and enjoying the great day.  As we came into the aid station, Luis Escobar was set up taking photos.  Luis Escobar is an amazing photographer who captures some great ultra events in beautiful images.  We are so very lucky that he includes this race in his calendar.
Photo by Luis Escobar

After getting a pep talk and update on how much further we had to go from my friend Jody, Janet and I took off for the final stretch.  We had a yucky incline left to tackle and then before we knew it we were seeing the end of the trail.  The time passed so quickly and then we hit the parking lot and the short run to the finish line.  We grabbed some water and then my first priority was to take off my shoes.  I couldn't wait to give my heels some freedom and relief from the shoes.
My left heel after the race.  The right heel was in similar shape :( 

I hung out for a little while outside waiting and cheering on friends as they finished their races.  I was happy to change into dry clothes since every ounce of clothing was dripping sweat from the humidity.  I also enjoyed laying down for a few minutes on the floor of the visitor center.  It gave my feet and back some relief to just quietly lay for a minute.  Post race food was catered by another Rush Runner and owner of Catfish Johns.  I had a hush puppy and some chicken tenders.

Overall, I was really proud of myself for finishing the distance and overcoming the blisters on my heels.  The pain from the blisters played havoc on my mind for almost the entire race but I was able to keep a positive outlook and keep moving forward.  Our finish time was 4:00:53.  We were within 60 seconds of the 4 hour mark so I'll take it.  I definitely walked more than I would have liked but now I know what it takes for a long trail race and I will prepare better next time!

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