Last night was the 27th annual Moonlight Run 6km and 10km. This is the largest race in Lethbridge, Alberta, and is held every year in March. Approximately 2500 runners stormed the streets of downtown Lethbridge and headed down into the dark river bottom. It didn’t matter which event you participated in, because you could not avoid the crazy hill back up to 3rd Avenue. I had written about my goals for this race in my last post, so now I will briefly recap the event and let you know if I achieved what I set out to get!
The weather the past two weeks has been, in lack of a better phrase, “bat shit crazy.” It has been at polar vortex levels, with icy, sandy snow blowing, and really what looked to be no end in sight. When I went down to do the course one more time on Wednesday, I went to check out all the icy spots. TONS of black ice, and this would become exponentially more dangerous as it got darker out. I knew everyone would have to be going a lot slower in the curves of huge trail system in Indian Battle Park.
But then a weird thing happened…we got above freezing on Friday! I don’t know the exact stats, but since Friday afternoon when that Chinook wind blew through, we have been steadily above freezing and everything has melted. Looking out my back window right now, I see no snow, and it is currently 52 degrees Fahrenheit. This balmy breakthrough helped “break the ice”, yet then turned the course into a Spartan Race. (More on that in a bit.)
My husband Dan and I got down to the race start at CASA early, and I was able to say hi to some of my students who were volunteering. The music department has students volunteer every year at Moonlight, so I saw tons of familiar faces. I even found time to snap a photo with the one and only Susie Staples before the race! She is our music instructor at WCHS and was responsible for getting all the student volunteers!
Race started at 8:00 pm for the 10 km and 8:15 pm for the 6 km. There were 539 runners in the 10 km this evening (this is the number I am getting from the official results). The 6km had three times the number of participants, with 1646! I positioned myself about two rows back from the front and was ready to go. The fun thing, for me at least, at this race is that they sing the national anthems for both the United States and Canada. I believe this is because of participants coming in from Montana for the race. No other race would take the time to care about something like that, so I find it very cool!
A cannon started us off immediately following “Oh Canada.” Stampede! Dan tried to get a shot of me flying by…really you can kind of make me out as the purple blur in the right corner of the photo. We turned onto 3rd Avenue and started our slow descent. There is a natural downhill as you head west on 3rd Avenue and this natural downhill turns into a steep drop as you hit Wendy’s hill. I was booking it! The roads were clear and visibility was great for this first straightaway so I figured I’d take advantage of it. I saw fellow colleague Amie S. with her dog Roscoe at the beginning of the downhill stretch–she was there to cheer on her husband Morgan! Her “GO ANDREA!” got me smiling! Halfway down the hill the Lethbridge Firefighter’s Pipe & Drum Band was pumping out some fanatic music. I soon hit mile 1 at record time-6:21.39. Wowsa.
When I approached what I would consider a 120 degree clockwise turn in the river bottom, my vision and depth perception almost went blank. Even though I had my headlamp on, the sudden change from being on a road lit with street lamps to now being on a trail with nothing was huge. I stumbled and slowed a tad, but regained my composure. We headed towards the newly refurbished Helen Schuler Nature Centre, and an aboriginal drumming group was helping keep the tempo. Heading towards the Highway 3 overpass was when everyone first encountered what I would end up calling “ice puddles.” It was the lesser of two evils, because these puddles were black ice on Wednesday…but this is where my experience in Spartan Races helped me. Well…not really. But I can say that since I have ran through mud and crap and water before in those races, I decided to just commit to running straight through these ocean of icebergs. I first tried going around the puddle and off the trail, but that was pure deep mud and a mix of iced up snow, which was more dangerous. Wet feet and calves it would have to be.
My second mile clocked in at 7:05.02. I was happy with my second mile because I knew it would be tough after the sharp turnaround to keep mile 3 near this pace. After the turnaround runners had to share the already narrow path with the 10km runners who were heading towards Highway 3. Most oncoming runners were good at sharing the path; I only encountered one pairing of people coming towards me that seemed to think they could take up the whole width. We were guided off the path near the nature centre and met disgusting mud. I am glad I got through this before a bunch of people, because I’m sure it just got more mucked up later on. As we turned parallel to the train bridge, I hit mile 3 at 7:25.79.
The stretch between mile 3 and 4 was honestly the toughest for me. No, not the hill! But this portion of trail. The fact that it was dark wasn’t even the main issue…it was the fact it was now around 8:30 pm and every 100 metres or so you would hit an ice bath. These slowed you down even if you tried to just pummel on through. I’m glad I was familiar with these trails because I could prepare myself for areas I thought would be iffy. This race also further supports why I don’t listen to music when racing—if I had had headphones on and music blasting, you wouldn’t be able to use all your senses to grasp what was happening around you. There was a gentleman in front of me most of this stretch that I could see due to his reflective shirt and my headlamp—I was able to see when he hit stretches of puddles and this got me prepared for every icy submersion I hit. Mile 4 was what I consider my “slowest” clocking in at 7:57.07.
Mile 5 was more of the same, but less puddles. The trail opened up after the turn around near the water treatment plant. Street lamps were now back on the gravel road and I could start to get my stride back. I finished the 5th mile at 7:51.49. And this is when we hit what separated the men from the boys……
The hill. If you aren’t from Lethbridge, the pictures from my last blog post don’t do this hill justice. And the fact that the 10km runners had to run on the trail parallel to the actual road made it even more challenging. The pitches on this trail were insane. But I knew I could tackle this—I’d done this hill twice and in the past year I have done more hill training than my previous 9 years of running! I knew I had a woman close behind me before this hill, because I could hear her breathing throughout the whole trail system, but once we hit that hill, I made a gap. I also managed to pass three men one right after another as we started our initial ascent. Sure, my pace nosedived at this point, but I went as fast as I could up this hill. I caught up to a guy around my age at one of the steepest switchbacks. These switchbacks added a new challenge versus just running straight up the road! There were even more spots to have to slow down as you did these quick turns. Back to the guy, though…we didn’t speak other than me saying “good job!” as I met up next to him. I think the fact that a girl his age had caught up to him lit a fire under his ass, because we kept up together the duration of the trail. It was good motivation for me, and I’m sure I helped him indirectly get up that hill….who wants to be beaten by a girl?!?
Mile 6 was my slowest paced mile—-I knew it would be with that hill. It was a 9:14.68. But I am so proud of how I tackled it. I did not walk, I did not let anyone pass me, and I gained some ground. The 10km and 6km runners joined forces as we head down 3rd Avenue back to CASA. It was now hard telling who was who in the race, as all runners mingled. I kept my head forward and pushed on through the the finish. As I turned towards the finish the announcers were able to read my number and announce “….another female 10km finisher was coming in…Andrea Lammers-Pottage of Lethbridge….she’s close to top 3 in females!” I finished with an official chip time of 47:27 flat. Not too shabby considering the conditions! I immediately felt overjoyed with my time! Dan got some not-so-flattering pictures of me coming back to earth, and we headed off to find some results.
I was so excited to see the results beginning to be posted….I placed 2nd in the females 25-29 category! I had achieved my goal of top 3 in my division! The big surprise was that I actually got 4th out of 304 women! And of the 539 total racers in the 10km, I placed 45th! Below is a snapshot of my results and a link to the official results on racepro.ca!
The awards started at 9:30 pm, beginning with the 6km event. They took quite a long time, but Erin from Runners Soul kept it moving as fast as possible. With age divisions being 5 years apart, and placings going 5 deep, you couldn’t move much faster! Dan joked later on that we waited twice as long for the awards than it took me to run my event. The 10km awards began sometime after 10 pm. The wait for my 2nd place medal was well worth it! It is beautiful! Honestly, this is probably one of my favorite medals. Not just because of the fact that I achieved my goal in order to earn it, but it captures the essence of Lethbridge so well!
Well. Another Moonlight Run is in the books. It was my most successful Moonlight to date and I can’t wait until next year. The race went off without a hitch! The fact that the weather Gods decided to help us out on Friday was huge! Now I want to look if there are any nearby 10 km races this spring in an hour radius, because I am determined to break 45 minutes! With every race comes a new goal! Thanks for reading my long entry! Happy Sunday everyone!
Below is the link to the main page of results for all events at the 2014 Moonlight Run! All categories are broken down in both the 6km and 10km
2014 Moonlight Run Results from Racepro.ca