Indian Ladder 15k
This was the 17th running of the Indian Ladder 15k, a run that places you in the midst of the beautiful Thatcher State Park, and I mean that in a very visceral sense—the race turned out to be much more technical and challenging than either Katie or I had anticipated. The race was going to be a test of the weekend training that we had been doing (2 hour long runs), and we wanted to see exactly what our times would be on a 15k course. The day was gorgeous: clear skies, small breezes, and cool to start out with—though the temperature rose by the end of the race and both of us were glad we had hydration packs.
A brief side note this: We weren’t sure whether we should wear packs or not. Carrying your own water is a great idea, but over long periods of time you can get a bit tired and sore. So we were not sure how many other people would bring their own water with them. As it turned out there were a number of belts and hand-held bottles, though we were the only ones with packs on. (Plus, we like to bring food with us, usually homemade quinoa bars, and wearing a pack makes this quite easy.)
The race was basically two figure-8s on either side of the start/finish line at the Haile’s Cave picnic area. (Here’s a link to a map of the course.) We started out very, very congested—everyone was stop-and-go, and we continued single file around the Ledge Trail to mile 1. After crossing Rt. 157 it was a long, winding hill climb up a gravel/rocky road to mile 2. After that we headed into the forest where we hit the first water station. The trail was a mixture of long flat straight aways covered with pine needles and dirt and craggy, technical sections with roots and rocks. There were also two steep, downhills that required some slaloming to maneuver around large piles of rocks. The route eventually hooked back up with the initial hill climb, and we descended out of the woods and back across Rt. 157 at around mile 4. Miles 4-5 wound around some of the picnic areas and parking lots, and then took us along a x-c ski trail behind the Haile’s Cave picnic area where the post race picnic was being prepared. (Let me just say that, even though we don’t eat meat, the smell of charcoal will always make my stomach grumble, and having to run through that wafting aroma was almost more painful than the stubbed toes.)
Miles 5-6 mixed narrow wooded trails with open grassy areas. This proved somewhat obnoxious (at least for me), as the longer grass seemed to demand exponentially more effort to run through, which in turn required a higher knee lift and thus sapped even more energy.
Little did we know that the most difficult, and technical section was yet to come. We encountered a monster of a hill—mostly dirt and rocks, but with a few very muddy sections that required some nimble feet. After scaling it a volunteer directed us to the last loop of the race, which included miles 6, 7, and 8. The trail along this loop was seriously technical: hardly any space to run with lots of narrow switch backs; tons of roots and rocks to dance around; downhills that tapered wide-to-narrow and dirt-to-rock. After the last water station we entered a long open stretch of grassy trail that brought us by a large pond and had us run in and out of wooded thickets. The trail eventually wound back uphill, the loop ending back at the same volunteer and then requiring a tricky descent back down the hill we first came up on. After exiting the woods into the grassy section initially run around mile 6, we headed back to the Haile’s Cave picnic area, running along the ridge of the escarpment to the finish.
There were some great post race snacks (watermelon, cookies, bananas), but the picnic proved a great spread. We had veggie burgers, baked potatoes, coleslaw, a little cookie, and a juice box. It was also nice to meet up with another VFF runner who we had seen at The Running of the Green back in March. We had a great conversation with him and his wife about both barefoot running and the merits and obstacles to eating vegetarian. Hopefully we can continue to chat with people about these lifestyles and how we have adopted and integrated both of them together.