Hitchcock? Again? Seriously?Yes, seriously. Like the fourth Thursday of November, the last Monday of May, or first Monday of September.........early December means Hitchcock to me.
|Sunrise over the Loess Hills of Western Iowa.|
And, I've been doing quite a bit of 'choking' at Hitchcock. In 2016, I could only muster 75 miles before pains from a swollen tendon in my right knee had me quit. In 2017, I managed to finish all 100 miles. So, in 2018, I went in with the motto that this was gonna be "Best 2-out-of-3"!
Like usual, if I sign up for a race....the weather isn't going to be "sunny and 75". A week prior to race day, about 7-10" of snow fell on the Omaha area. Temperatures were expected to be highs in the 20s and lows near zero. Thankfully, I love cold weather and in particular...snow. This was playing into my hands.
Go!I really don't like early race starts, especially for 100-milers. Like....why the !@#$% do we need to start at 4am or 5am? Can't we all agree to start at 10am? I mean, most of us are still gonna be out here tomorrow at 10am.....let's not get up early when we have to stay up for longer than a day! But, that 5am start at Hitchcock is perfect. You get a lap in before the sun comes up (or atleast make it to the final ridge just as the sun is rising...see pic above), which is a great start to your day! You get a taste of how cold it will be overnight so you can think on it during the day and plan accordingly. But still....that 3:30am alarm....SUUUUUUUCKS.
|Beardcicles during the first loop!|
My plan was simple enough this time around. I was gonna start in the back of the pack. I was going to let the half marathoners catch & pass me (they have a short out-and-back half-mile loop at the beginning). I wanted everyone else on course to stomp down the snow for me and I was happy to let them do so. I think my plan worked well enough as I blazed thru lap #1 in 2:49:13 in 7th place. Night running in the snow.....is pretty damn awesome....
The course, for having so much snow, really wasn't bad. You just had to be patient and careful on the downhills....this wasn't a day for bombing down them. But....if you started to slip....just go with it and let gravity run it's course....which meant flying down the hills sometimes. One hill in particular, at about mile 5.5 was really steep. My first loop, I slipped...both poles flew outta my hands and slid down the hill as I fell on my arse and started to slide, too. I slid about 60 feet, grabbed my poles, stood up and continued running. I realized, almost immediately, that the best way down that hill was to slide like a kid on a sled. So, that's exactly what I did the rest of the day......
During loop #1, it might have been me, but the Campground Aid Station (Mile 3.5-ish) wasn't open. Everyone just turned right and kept going...so I followed. The Oasis Aid Station (mile 6.5-ish) didn't seem to have food ready either, so I refilled water and left. The Ski Patrol station only had water. By about mile 11, it dawned on me that I hadn't eaten. In a half marathon, this wouldn't be a big deal to me. But, 11 miles into 100 miles, I should have been eating....and drinking more. At some point during lap #2, I was greeted with a slight twitch in my right groin, right hammy, and right quad. The cramps were about to start. Cramps are debilitating to me and the end of my day. I swore at myself and promised that I'd intake more calories and nutrition for the rest of the day. I think the jury is still out on the EXACT cause of cramps and every day I am more convinced it is mostly a neurological condition. From that point on, every single aid station was Oreos, M&M bars, ramen noodles, pickles, granola bars, and coke for me. I tried to drink my handheld water bottle (20oz) down between each aid station and refill with my Shaklee Hydration mix. By loop #3, the cramps had subsided and all was under control again. This was a HUGE win for me. Usually, when the cramps begin...they don't go away. Man, I was knocking out the laps, controlling my nutrition....I was just killin' it! I managed to make my first Facebook Live video during lap #3....
I will pause here to say that ultrarunning is the best sport because the elites run with the newbies. There is no division. We are all out there to conquer some demons and get thru the same race. I talked to Cory and his pacer for about 2 minutes. I've chatted with him in races past -- both during the race and afterwards. What an amazing athlete he is and what a great and seemingly humble guy, too! Speaking of running with elites, I ran into Kaci Lickteig in the main aid station and she gave me some quick tips on keeping my toes warm. She had won the half marathon and I congratulated her. She stuck around and started the 50-milers off later that night. I mean, how cool is that? You think LeBron James will be on the same court as me this week shooting hoops? Yeah, no chance. The G.O.A.T.z runners are so incredibly lucky to have Cory & Kaci. Top notch athletes, but more importantly, just top notch people.
I rounded out Lap #4 in 3:15-ish for a very, very, very solid 50-mile effort of 12:32:42. I was aiming to finish 50 miles in the daylight and I just missed it by minutes. A 24-hour finish was a semi-goal for me, but I knew even under the best conditions that would be hard. At this point, I was just trying to keep knocking down 4 miles every hour to finish in 25 hours. I was smiling and enjoying every minute of just playing in the snow!
Lap #5 was pretty uneventful. Andy and I did plenty of catching up on everything .... course conditions, next year's aspirations and life in general. We slid down the hill and just knocked out the miles in a very "business-like" manner. About 10 miles into the lap, I noticed the pains in my muscles were getting pretty noticeable. Yeah, they were hurting earlier, but this sport is about a certain level of suffering and I didn't think much of it more than 'over use'. I told Andy my ankles were sore (I hadn't rolled them, amazingly enough), as well as my IT bands (yes, both) and hip flexors (yes, both). I think this was from all the sliding around. Every step had a little bit of slide to it. The pains really grew quickly and I told Andy we needed to walk. We hiked it into the main aid station, completing lap #5 (Mile 62.5) at 16:27:xx into my day. This was still a pretty good place for me to be.
Immediately, I told Andy there would be no running. He said we'd try. He kept saying things like "next lap, we'll be running this part". About two miles into lap #6, we came up the hill on the backside of the campground. I told Andy, "I am done and will be heading to the aid station to quit." I knew we could shortcut up the road and quit at the aid station just 200meters away. We stood up on the road and Andy said "Fine, let's quit and get outta this cold.". I didn't catch it then, but I know now, he was using that "father psychology" on me like I was a child. Fine, you whiny little shit...just quit and be a quitter your whole life! I thought for a minute and then, surprisingly, I said "No, we are gonna keep on course until we hit the aid station." We trudged along thru the cow field with a very chilly wind at our backs. The course makes a U-turn and we headed back into that wind at a snails pace. I was freezing and shivering. I tried to run, repeatedly, but to no avail. I think this was the point Andy realized I was actually trying....but it wasn't there. We reached the aid station a couple miles later and I quit.
Quitting sucks.So, that makes me 1-for-5 on 100 mile races in my lifetime. I've managed 100k+ in all of them, but that doesn't make it any easier. I keep saying, "Maybe I'm not meant to do this....". But, just like golf....you can suck really, really bad at it....but you make one chip shot from 12yds off the green....and you'll come back the next day. I keep signing up. Anyone who knows me, knows that the flames of competition burn inside me and I HATE quitting. It tears me up. You gotta get me to a really bad place to get me to quit. And, I like to live by the motto that it doesn't matter how many times you get knocked down.....it only matters how many times you get back up.
Thanks!First, and foremost, my wife Angela. She understands me and this crazy need to beat myself up and keep trying. She sacrifices time, energy, money, and sanity for my dreams and aspirations. She's there at every aid station to change socks, offer food, chide my attitude and encourage me to push through. I love that woman....and it's not just because she buys me new shoes every 6 weeks.
Next, Andy. My pacer. My friend. My co-hort. I'm glad Andy lives 3+ hours away, because if he were any closer, we'd get into some real trouble about every weekend. The last two times Andy has paced me it has been blistering, wintry conditions....and he doesn't complain. He would pace for 99 miles if you'd let him. He's a badass and a hard-ass. I was glad he was along for this adventure....I only wish we could have slid down that hill another 3 times!
Lastly, Ron Ruhs and the GOATz. Alongside my local Trail Nerds organization, the GOATz running group in Omaha, Nebraska is just fabulous, amazing, outstanding, wonderful people. I don't keep going back to Hitchcock because I like the pain (OK, maybe a little...).....but because people like Ron will greet you by name at the end of every lap. Because the aid stations are rocking and SUPER helpful. Because the Hitchcock Nature Center is an amazing secret tucked away in the hills. The Hitchcock Experience is aptly named because it's more than a race. And, to me, the race should be at the top of every ultra runner's bucket list.
I will, however, lodge one complaint with Ron. Bib #150. That bib is a steaming pile of dung. In 2016, I quit at mile 75 while wearing bib #150. This year, I quit at 66-ish while wearing bib #150. Every time I wear #150, I quit. So, next year, don't give me #150...please? Seriously...this is #science.
And yeah, you heard me right..."next year". Angie doesn't know yet (until she proofreads this). I'm making Hitchcock an annual holiday for me. There's no way I miss the 5th anniversary edition. Plus, I might have said best 2-of-3......but with this latest beating Hitchcock gave me.....let's make that best-of-seven?