On April 9, 2016 I ran the Kal-Haven Trail Run for the first time. The race is a 33.4 mile (although it's really 33.9 because of a revised finish line) from Kalamazoo, MI to South Haven, MI. As a reclaimed rails-to-trails route, the course is pretty much straight and flat.
A couple days before the race, the temperature dropped below freezing again and we started getting more snow, which isn't unusual for springtime in Western Michigan. I was hoping for a nice cool long run, but I ended up breaking back out the 3/4 tights and sweatshirt.
When I signed up for the race, I had already decided not to "race" it, but instead use it as a final long run before my first 50 Miler at the end of April. I would run it a sustainable 50 mile pace and hope to finish strong with the ability to do another 16 miles. This would also be mental training to dial back and go out slow and not let myself get too competitive with the other runners and just run my own race.
As a result, I started off slow and ran a sustained 9 min/mile pace and finished strong, placing 19th overall and 4th in my age group. I was happy with that. I was hoping to come in just under 5 hours, but came in just over (that could have been the extra 1/2 mile 😉).
All in all the race was well supported and well run, and I would consider running it again. I found it interesting in a couple of ways. In addition to the solo runners, the were relay teams that started about 30 after us. This meant on the second half of the course you would all of a sudden get passed by someone running super fast, which was in odd feeling. I had to remember that I was running a different race than them.
Secondly, the aid stations were set up much more like a road race than other ultras that I've run meaning that it was most water and sports drink and some gels. It didn't make much difference to me, because my plan was to run the entire thing unsupported/self-supported without the help of the aid stations. I started the race with two soft flasks in my Salomon vest and carried another two in the back, switching them out at mile 17.
At about mile 13 I started feeling like I had to pee. There were several permanent pit toilets along the trail. I thought I would stop when I changed out my water bottles so I only had to stop once. That was a mistake. The halfway point was in the town of Bloomingdale and also a spot with lots of spectators and a relay-handoff. This meant all the toilets will filled with relay racers. I switched out my water bottles and kept going.
I think I ended up stopping around mile 25 to pee and I swear it lasted for at least 60 seconds. Despite the loss of time it was definitely the right decision.
This is probably my first ultra that I paced so I finished strong and wasn't struggling to stay on pace at the end. It felt amazing to be running strong the whole race and picking off other runners in the second half of the race who were fading or had totally bonked.
Like I said, this was my first time running on the Kal-Haven trail, so I decided to make another trail poster. I used pink as the background (but you can pick your own color in the Etsy shop) because the proceeds from the race go to support the local Girls on the Run group.
Thanks to the Race Directors, the volunteers and other runners that made it such a great day!