Spring Racing Season, Part 3: Pilot Knob Trail Race, Forest City, IA May 3, 2014

The Pilot Knob Trail Race is a race I have really come to enjoy over the years.  When I first ran it in 2008, I had never run as far as 15K.  I remember my legs feeling like rubber toward the end and that I could hardly hold my cell phone afterwards when I called home to let my wife know I had finished!

The PKTR 15Kis a rather hilly trail race for Iowa, going up to the second highest point in the state twice in the course of its 9.3-9.5 miles.
Coming down the trestle steps to the lake in the opening miles of the 2014 PKTR 15K
I have an interesting history at the PKTR.  As I mentioned, in 2008 it was my first race longer than a 10K. As I prepared to try and better my initial time from 2008 in 2009, I came down with chicken pox 3-4 weeks before, and while able to run the race, was about a minute and a half slower.  Then, I didn't run the PKTR again until last year...but it was postponed from May until September due to a freak snowstorm the day or so before the race.  The rescheduled PKTR 2013 was one week after I ran The North Face Trail Marathon in Wisconsin.  My desire was to still go after a PR last September, but I knew it might be hard with such a tough marathon the week prior.  However, God blessed the week in between and both weekends and I ended up with two PR's over two weekends in two different states!

So now, not quite 8 months later, here I was again at PKTR and hoping to PR again if I could, but having already raced twice in the previous 7 weeks, once after being quite ill.  I wasn't sure my body could do it or not.  I also wanted to just go and enjoy the race and the day, similar to so much of what I had learned through preaching the book of Ecclesiastes last Fall.  God made us to have joy in life, as we understand that that joy must first be centered in Him.  Part of the enjoyment of trail running is getting out and enjoying the creation God has made.  Even in Iowa, amidst so much corn and soybeans, there are places of beauty, and the course at Pilot Knob is one of them.
Running around the lake in the first half of the PKTR 15K 2014.
My plan for Pilot Knob this year was to go out a little slower than in 2013 and hope to have more left in the tank for the second half of the race, trying to keep a more even pace and getting a new PR in the meantime. I was tired going into the race, so I figured this was the smartest plan.  However, this is not always as easy as it sounds, as I have a tendency to take the first hour out too quickly and then hope to hang on to the end.  

I was able to control myself and take the first 3-4 miles out a little slower than last year, but then it seemed as if it was actually a bit too slow and I was falling behind on my hopes for a PR.  The only section of road running in the race, (less than a mile), is around the 4-5 mile stretch.  I was able to pull back a good amount of time during this section, but I still had to go back up to the Knob again in the last couple of miles and then make it home.  A PR was going to be tough, but still possible


As I was running the last mile back to the start/finish area however, the time finally slipped away and I knew I wouldn't be able to PR this day, but there was still hope that I could break my second best time...but that passed too.  I did however beat my 2009 "Chicken Pox" time. So, I have four times sandwiched in between 1:39:02 and 1:41:38. Pretty consistent over four races spanning 2008-2014.  


To be honest, I was not that disappointed by failing to get a PR on May 3.  It was a beautiful day, on a great course, and a lot of us hung around afterwards enjoying the spring weather and eating hamburgers and hot dogs while we waited for the final runners.  God wants us to enjoy these types of moments and express that joy as we share it with others.  It was great to lay out on a blue tarp after lunch and then get up and cheer in the final runners and finally to celebrate with the age group winners.  Kevin, the RD, gives out rocks as prizes and tells about how this area was formed from glaciers once covering the area.  Think 8th grade earth science, but as trophies, it's actually pretty cool.  I will admit to a bit of "rock" envy come the end of every PKTR as I still have not taken one home! ;)

PKTR 2014 was a great race.  I didn't PR.  I didn't get an age group award.  A kid 11 years old beat me by around 12 minutes for that matter!  (And was extremely polite in doing so and we were all smiles as he hefted his rock winning his age group!)  It was simply an enjoyable day, and for that, I praise God.