Thanks for visiting my blog. This is where I document and share all of my running adventures with my friends and fellow runners. The good, the bad, and the unquestionably painful. All for your entertainment! Enjoy!

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Instant Classic Trail Marathon: A Long, Slow, Training Run

Jo and I made the long drive down to Chester, VA. for the Instant Classic Trail Marathon. I had planned to run the full marathon as a supported training run and Jo was running the half marathon in preparation for her marathon debut.

We drove down on Friday and planned to stay the night. We were joined by a good friend, and fellow ultra runner, Rob Goeckermann. Rob is getting ready for his first 50 miler, which is coming up soon. So, at the last minute I talked him into signing up for this event as a training run.

I'm an enabler.

This race is held at the Pocahontas State Park, a few miles outside Richmond. The park is a beautiful setting for the event. The trails are a mix of single track, double track, but mostly fire roads that are almost entirely unused, but fairly well maintained.

The full marathon started at 7:45 on Saturday and had a wave start, with 4 waves. I was in the first wave. Jo's race got underway right after the marathon runners got on the trails.

Jo and I before the race.

Me and Rob before the race...waiting for things to get started.

Over the last few months, I have been working my way into a new shoe for trail running. I had already abandoned trail shoes (almost) entirely and had been wearing lightweight, neutral trainers. I finally felt like my feet were ready for a long trail run in my Brooks T-7 Racers. If you're not familiar with them, they're essentially a racing flat for road running. I love them because they weigh almost nothing, but they subject my feet to a lot of abuse. It's taken time to work into them full time, especially on trails.

My "trail" shoes!

Like I stated earlier, this is strictly a training run. I have very few goals for 2012, but some days I feel like racing when I should just be running. It's hard to hold back and run easy when you feel like you can be competitive. So I had to have a long talk with myself before the race and I warned myself about the need to go easy and just enjoy the trail. I resigned myself to even sit mid-pack if necessary and just get some miles in. I was fully prepared for an easy run and nothing was going to mess up my plan.

Here I am leading the race right from the start.
I'm a weak, weak man who completely lacks self control!

After a half mile or so, I was able to reign myself back in and I allowed several runners to pull ahead while I backed into a more leisurely pace.

One of the coolest things about this race is the course markings. They're everywhere! Not ribbons like we usually see, but signs with directional arrows and every arrow has your current milage stated right on it.

Like this!

I was SOOOOO happy to see this sign, because I felt like I had only run .05 miles, when clearly, it was .07. I suppose that sign could have been measured in FEET, but that would have threatened consistency later on.

And after running for what felt like FOREVER, I found this sign!

I thought to myself..."So, that's what 9/100 of a mile feels like?"

These things were everywhere!

The course was mostly "flat", especially if you looked at the elevation profile over 26 miles. But what you can't tell from that profile, is that these trails are constantly rolling. The gradual up and down went on for the entire race. There were some very flat sections mixed in, but also some pretty steep, grinding hills. It had a way of wearing you down by lulling you into a sense of a flat course, but it was pretty challenging.

This particular Park really is beautiful and has a wide range of outdoor activities. Its just a very cool park.

Half marathon runners stretching and relaxing after the race.

Like most marathons, I didn't eat during the race. I did take one cup of water and one cup of sports drink from each table. The aid stations were spaced every 2-3 miles and were being operated by some truly fantastic volunteers. Everybody was extremely helpful and supportive and it was great!

As the day wore on, the temperatures rose into the mid 70's. I'm not quite acclimated to this weather in distance running yet and it began to feel a little oppressive around mile 20. But it was great to finally be running a race under blue skies. My luck with that has not been great so far this year. Every race up to this point has been a muddy, nasty, freezing mess!

The last 2 miles of the course represent a net loss of elevation, but the "rolling" terrain gets steeper and it was constant UP and DOWN. But at my pace, it was really only a minor annoyance because I wasn't concerned about my finish time.

I rolled into the finish at 4:10:08. My slowest marathon in a long time, but much needed and very enjoyable!

Wrapping it up! Very fun...

I finished feeling great! My feet were in almost perfect shape despite my experiment with the T-7's. My hips were slightly tight from the constant up and down, but that's the type of conditioning I was looking for.

My buddy Rob rolled in shortly after I did. Rob is a tough guy. He could probably run that race carrying me on his back.

Jo had a good finishing time and she really enjoyed the race. I was proud of her effort and it was a great course for her to get some miles on while training for her marathon. She was BEAMING after the race and had a ton of great things to say about her experience.

I would encourage others to come out and run this event. This was the second year for this race and I am certain this event is going to get very popular very soon and become almost impossible to gain entry into. Get in on it while you can!

I'm planning to rest and run pretty easy between now and my next ultra. Jo and I will be traveling to Albuquerque, NM so I can run the Cedro Peak 45 miler in 3 weeks. This isn't a goal race either, but I want to be rested enough to enjoy all 45 miles!

But between now and then, Jo and I will be running the beaches in Jamaica while we rest. Jamaica may not be known for its running opportunities, but it works pretty well for me!

Happy Trails!


  1. This a great article and description of this wonderful race. I ran for the first time this year and s a training run for my first ultra (50 miler) in April. I'm new to trail running and normally run the Battlefield (Fort Lee, VA) but the friendly volunteers and runners made this an even better experience.

    Thank you for running and taking the time to write about Pocahontas State Park. This is a great race and even better that all proceeds go to the Fisher House -McGuire Hospital.

  2. It has been a pleasure (I'm sure it will continue) to watch your development in trails and ultras--and good stories too. Thank you for all the places you have taken me. John M.

  3. I'm looking into doing this race for 2014 and was glad to hear such a great report. Thanks for posting this!