Quivering Quads Trail Half Marathon
It was hard, really hard. Thatís what first pops into my mind when I think about the Quivering Quads half marathon. But it was also breathtakingly beautiful. There was a grove of tall spruce trees that the trail tunneled through, and some crystal clear streams beside the path that I have tucked away in my memory.
Quivering Quads would be the longest trail run I had ever done and it was what I had worked towards during my winter training. The race took place in Cuiver River State Park which is about 50 miles northwest of St. Louis in the town of Troy. When I asked people about Quivering Quads they would tell me that it was up and down and technical. Translated that meant that there would be some challenging hill climbs along with some thrilling descents. Technical in trail terms means you are constantly scanning your path because the course is full of obstacles. There are rocks, roots, leaves and the trail is generally about a foot wide. This proved to be interesting when I found myself perched on a steep hillside where one misstep would have me careening a long way down to a stream. I quickly grabbed several peeks at the spectacular view while trying maneuver safely on the path.
Speaking of safety, as we started the race, Dave the owner of Fleet Feet requested that we use the buddy system. If someone got hurt we were asked to help the injured runner and if this delay created a problem with our race results we would be given a free admission to next yearís race. Sadly I did see a few runners helping a woman whose face was bleeding out on the course. Unfortunately there is risk involved out there on the trail. Youíre constantly making rapid decisions where to land your foot which means you must focus and keep yourself mentally sharp. As I got tired I concentrated on staying mentally alert no matter how my body felt.
On the way home Rick, Steve and I tried to calculate just how many fallen trees there were on the course. We figured that we had to jump over about 7 logs per mile. Some logs were small maybe 8 inches, others you could hop on top and spring down to the trail and then sometimes there would be two tossed down together. As I fatigued I found that I would miscalculate, sometimes the front of my shoe would bump against the log. I decided to be prudent and go slowly and carefully over those wood hurdles.
The course was marked with over 500 florescent pink plastic ribbons. There would be ribbons on hazardous little stumps protruding from the ground and pink ribbons in the trees marking the direction to go on the path. There were about 400 people out there on the 13.1 mile course and most of the time someone was within my eyesight, but the further along we got the more stretched out the runners became. For quite awhile around the 9th mile I was alone with not a soul in sight. Itís quite delightful out in the middle of the woods with nothing but the sounds of the birds chirping and the occasional gurgle of a creek. Trail running is a feast for your senses. As you focus intently on where to step all your other senses perk up and seek stimuli. Visually you snatch a look at the beauty around you along the way as your ears open to the quieter sounds which are often muffled by the noise pollution created by man. On warm days the fragrance of wild flowers, plants and the earth fill your nostrils. If itís cold out you might catch whiff of a nearby campfire. There are also multiple climates to experience because the wind and temperature change in response to the geography. Running atop a ridge you may experience wind which changes warming you up as you tuck down a sunny slope. Itís quite a treat to get to go out and run a trail. Quivering Quads was well worth the training miles I ran to get ready for it.