Saturday, August 11, 2012

A Cold Day in Hell : Run Thru Hell Race Report

Today was the Run Thru Hell 10 miler in, you guessed it, Hell, Michigan.
Photo credit to Irina
I think the name is normally very fitting, because being an August race, the weather is usually hot.  Hot as balls, to be precise.  Plus, it is a very hilly course.  And you know how I feel about heat and hills.  But we got so effing lucky today!  It was cloudy, cold, and drizzling.  I actually had goosebumps at the start!  I was so very happy.

The other great thing about the start?  The porta-john marshals.  There was one line for all the bathrooms (vs larger races where there is one line for approximately every 5 doors).  They had these guys standing in the middle of "porta-john alley" routing people into the bathrooms.  They were on the lookout for people coming out and calling one "one here, two over here" and keeping all the bathrooms full and the line moving fast.  This probably sounds unnecessary or like no big deal, but trust me, it was AMAZING.  When I got in line (the second time!) I was at the back of an ENORMOUS line and was afraid I wasn't going to make it in time (in time for the race start that is!).  It took less than 5 minutes.  It was a miracle.  Best pre-race bathroom experience of my life.  If they're reading this: Thank you porta-john marshals.  Your efforts did not go unnoticed.

I wasn't planning on "racing" this, it was just going to spice up my long run for me a bit.  The registration was so cheap (only $20 for a 10 mile race if you registered by last Friday), and I figured a "Run Thru Hell" T-shirt would be neat to have.  This seems to be how I treat all my 10 mile races, because my current 10 mile "PR" is (was!) 1:44 or 10:24 per mile.  Or that could just be because all my 10 milers have been in heat prior to today.  Anyway, in case you didn't figure it out, I did much better than that today.  I'd say I gave it pretty close to race effort, after a nice easy start.

I ran at a comfortably hard cruise on the flats and downhills, and tried to maintain about the same effort on the uphills, which was of course a much slower pace.  There were a lot of uphills.  I found the course to be challenging.  I liked it, because it mixed up the muscles you were using and added variety, but if I was running for a specific time goal or if it was normal August temperatures I definitely would not be saying that.  Here's the elevation profile:

I didn't wear my Garmin, so I don't have splits.  I did wear my iPod, but as soon as I turned it on at about mile 1, I got the "Battery Low" voice warning.  Shit.  I briefly debated turning it off and saving the motivation for later in the race, but ultimately decided to leave it on and hope that it would last the whole race.  I've been surprised before at how long it lasts after it says "low".  It's just the shuffle.  It's pretty easy on gas.  Well it didn't make it.  I thought I was at about mile 8 when it died and I was really cruising and in a great groove.  (Turns out I was a lot further from the finish than I thought, probably more like mile 6).  I started counting steps as soon as it died, to try to keep my mind on something, and so I would notice if my cadence started to drop.  I guess it worked, because I did notice that I was passing people after that point, which I really hadn't been before.  I set a goal to not get passed after that point, as a way of keeping myself focused and motivated without the energy of the music.  (Actually I would have been okay with getting passed on a hill or at a water stop).  And I kept counting steps.  I made it up to about 2800 (I think, I may have repeated some 100s, especially between 2400 and 2800, and may have skipped some others).  Then I lost track and just starting doing 100 at a time and then starting over. I kept thinking the finish was coming in the next mile, and working on maintaining my pace just a bit longer.  It never came.  Like I said, I was way further away than I thought.  But this is the great thing about not running with a GPS. If I had had my watch I would have seen how far I had left and probably would backed off the pace out of fear.  (I didn't see any mile markers on the course, but I heard from some people that they existed).

I did end up getting passed by one guy in the last mile.  There was no way to prevent it, he had saved a lot for the last mile I guess, because he was flying by everybody.  Other than that though, I was successful.  I don't think I even got passed on the hills or water stops, at least not by anyone that I didn't quickly overtake after the hill or stop.  (After the ipod dying that is, I got passed plenty the first half of the race).

Irina and Chris (my ride to the race; a fellow runner from the A2Runners meetup group) were cheering me on near the top of the final hill.  They really gave me a huge boost of energy and speed to come in for a fast finish.  Then Josh (from and his wife (and baby-to-be!) were standing and cheering at the last turn before the finish too.  Did I look as fast as I felt at the end Josh??  Probably not.  Oh well, it felt fast!  I saw Josh before the race too, and we passed each other on the out & back portions of the course twice (he was on the "back" while I was just heading "out").  Even got a high-five in once.

I had no idea what to expect for a finish time.  And I didn't have a watch on.  Before the race I had told Irina to expect me between 1:30 and 1:40 (9:00 to 10:00 mpm).  She ran the 4.8 mile weenie run (hahahaha!) so she finished before me.  I would have said even longer than 1:40 if the temps were warmer, because my long run pace is usually about 10:30 by myself this summer.  I figured with the cooler temps though, and the race atmosphere, I shouldn't have a problem coming in under 10:00.  At the end though, I felt like I put in a good race, and thought I could be coming in around 9:00 mpm, but I guess I wasn't factoring in the slow time on the uphills in that estimate.  Final finish time was 1:34:16 or 9:26 pace.  I am definitely happy with that on that course.  And of course it was a 10 mile PR by a whole 10 minutes.  Haha.

I didn't get any awards with that time, but I actually wasn't too far off.  They award the top 7 in each age group and I was 9th (out of 18.  Middle of the pack, represent!) It looked like they gave out trophies to all the age group award winners.  At 7-deep in each category that's a lot of trophies!  Irina lamented the lack of finisher's medals and the non-tech shirts, but at $20 a pop I don't think I'll complain.  I like that the shirts were pink, and say "I ran thru hell" on the back.  I didn't try it on yet so I can't comment on the fit.  Oh, and I like the bottom.  (10 mile "runners" vs. 4.8 mile "weenies".  Haha.)

Here's Irina modeling for you:

After the race, Chris, Irina, Josh, Amy (Josh's wife), and I went in to the Pinckney Diner for brunch.  I really liked the restaurant.  Better than the usual Coney Island options we usually go for post-race.  I had a veggie skillet with pancakes (offered as an option instead of toast!).  Yum.  Irina ordered that greek flaming cheese (OPA!!!) because she was amazed that Chris had never had it, so we all shared some of that as a weird brunch appetizer.  It was really freaking good though.

It sounded like everybody had fun and had a good race (negative splits, didn't feel like shit, happy with our times, etc). Yay us.

Love me some racin'.

I came home and talked with Jeff about going to see a matinee tomorrow.  Then I looked at the calendar and realized a have to work tomorrow.  Major downer.  Oh well.

Oh I forgot the one bad thing about today.  I got some chafing on my right inner thigh.  Ouch.  Which prompted me to get on Amazon and buy some body glide.  I ended up getting this, because it was cheaper.  I'm sure it will work just fine.  Hopefully I remember to put it on at the rest of the races coming up.  (Crim in 2 weeks, Milford 30K the week after that).


  1. You did a great job! I was glad to see you on the 2nd turnaround. I was thinking that I should see you any minute and "bam!", you were there. You and Chris both almost won something! Did you end up going back to check?

    I was great to meet you, Irina and Chris and go out for a good brunch after the race. Hopefully we'll see each other at the Crim and both do even better (a repeat of cool race time weather would be nice).

    As for the chafing, I hear ya, but one gets no sympathy complaining to a pregnant woman about sore nipples. :)


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