Land Between the Lakes Trail Marathon
Grand Rivers, KY
26 mile lollipop course
~3,689 ft. elevation gain
single track, 4 miles of pavement
12 hour time limit
I always sign up for the 60K well in advance just in case I put in enough running over the ski season to do it. As is usually the case, I didn’t have much in the way of training miles to go that distance (29 in Jan, 29 in Feb), but opted for the marathon instead. At LBL, you can drop down to a shorter distance on race day which is a nice feature at a race that for most will be the first of the season.
So, I was undertrained as usual, but skiing does build a great deal of strength - especially in the quads - making downhills a lot of fun, and I took full advantage of this.
I started the race without much in the way of expectations figuring I’d just move along at my ‘forever’ pace and just keep pounding to the finish line. I had a major ski trip planned for the following week and mainly just didn’t want to overdo anything that would affect my skiing.
The race is on a lollipop course that begins with 2 miles of road which is great for spreading out runners across different paces. The race is always extremely well organized and attracts a really good crowd. Once off the pavement, it’s two loops for the marathon on single track that runs around a peninsula courtesy of Kentucky Lake on one side and Lake Barkley on the other.
The single track trails here are outstanding to run. There are plenty of rolling ups and downs, but exactly zero soul-crushing climbs. It’s a trail running delight to be sure.
As the day started, it was cloudy with intermittent drizzle. The forecast called for strong storms to roll in later in the day, but rain held off for a good while until the latter part of the day. I was running just fine and enjoying the trails when the wind picked up and the skies darkened. Soon after, the rain started in earnest.
The trails held up really well compared to many others I’ve traveled, but eventually they succumbed to the persistent rain and became mini streams.
As the trail conditions deteriorated, I tested the unsubmerged portions of the trail and found them to be very slick and angled such that my feet would find the center of the mini stream. So, I decided to simply run the center with all the splashing and sloshing that comes with it.
This made for better traction overall, and it was a lot of fun.
The first 20 miles went by pretty smoothly, and then I took a good old fashioned fall. I was on a downhill switchback at the elbow, and I felt my foot plant on a submerged rock that was on another rock. The top rock slipped out, and I went down.
It was a hard, twisting fall, and my immediate pain points were my right breast (water bottle location on my vest), left wrist, and shoulder. I was covered in mud head to toe, and it took a lot of time to get back on pace.
A few miles later, I decided I was no worse for wear and continued on to the finish line. My final time was 3 minutes faster than my previous trail marathon best - and I was happy to be en route to a shower.
I smashed my face too. After taking a shower and getting all the mud off, I looked in the mirror and discovered I smashed my face somewhere in that fall. The bruise was just starting to become visible, and I had to think back to figure out what happened. See, I run with trekking poles, and it became clear that as I went down, my face bounced off the top of one. Smooth move, right?
I’ll always look to run this race. This was the third year for me at LBL - two marathons, one 23K. I’ll run this event year after year to kickoff my running season because the trails are fun, the people are great, and the race is so well put together. Unfortunately, I’ll miss it next year, but I’m sure I’ll be back in 2021.
Downhill running on muddy trails. On slick, muddy trails, it’s best to lean forward and quicken your turnover rate to maintain balance. I saw literally dozens of falls that were just like beginner skier falls - lean back, feet come out, ass smacks ground. It’s a slick surface and to some degree, you just have to go with it. I fell too, so take that advice for what it’s worth:-)