"Adversity introduces a man to himself"--H.L. Mencken
February 8th, 2014 is a day that has been burned into my memory for all time. I'm not gonna lie, this post is mostly going to be me thumping my chest, hoping to give everyone a small glimmer of what today's 'adversity' was.
Today was the "Psycho Wyco 50K Run Toto Run" trail race around Wyandotte County lake. If you've never ran that trail, I HIGHLY suggest it.....just not in the conditions it was today. It's a beautiful, challenging, technical 10.3mile loop. Today's race was 3 of those loops for you non-metric folks (There was also a 10mile and 20mile race).
Without further ado, here goes:
I ran this trail last week for my birthday, and managed 1 loop (10.3miles) in about 1:45. This past week it snowed about 8". Not a nice snowman-making snow, either, but dry, powdered snow. This snow never packed down today. It would fill your shoe track the moment you picked your foot up. Every step was effort. The only good thing was that the rocks in the trail were covered in snow for the first lap atleast.
7:55 --The race director calls for everyone to line up at the start. Little did I realize I was basically standing at the starting line. So, I got a front row seat. We took off at a very conservative pace (trail runs aren't about speed, they are about conserving energy). I hung with the top 15 runners for almost 6miles. At approx. mile 2 we crossed a stream....you couldn't hurdle it...you had to navigate it. EVERYONE's shoes got wet....with 29miles to go. At first, I felt like I'd made a mistake by running with that top 15-25....as we ran the whole time. At about mile 7-8, we began to break apart into 3-somes and 4-somes and the walking of the hills began. See, in long trail races, you walk the uphills, run the downhills (at breakneck speed sometimes) and run/jog the flats. My first mistake came at mile 9....I stepped on one of the many, many, many rocks and rolled my ankle.....POOF!!....faceplant into the snow. My first fall of the day, and not my last. I got right up and by mile 10, I couldn't feel it. RUN IT OFF!
First loop complete in about 2:10.33. Now, the important thing about 'ultra' marathons is hydration and food. Aid stations. Stop at them. Stop at every, single, one. You know what the best food was at each station today? Ice-cold Coke and Peanut M&Ms. I planned for this day beyond aid stations, too. I carried with me my Shaklee performance powder to add to my drink. I carried Shaklee's energy chews. I made PB&J sandwiches. More important than running, is to keep the body fed. I finished this massive run today....with absolutely no weight loss. I worked my nutritional input to perfection most of the day.
Loop #2 starts and I noticed the trail has not improved....no packed snow....nothing. Just endless hills of powder. And, my mistake #2 came right after completing the half marathon (13.1miles). I got a cramp in my right calf muscle. DAMMIT! I was so angry with myself. I knew this has been a problem in my races in the past, and I just didn't stave it off. I don't know what the numbers are, but for me, once cramping starts....it's about 75% chance it will plague you for the rest of your race. In today's case....that would be another 18miles. :( It wasn't more than 2miles later, and mistake #3....my left calf cramped. I was beyond angry with myself. I trudged my way to the nearest aid station, and began to try to reconcile the problem. From that point on (about mile-15), I pounded bananas and S-caps (sodium replacement) at EVERY SINGLE aid station. To my amazement, my cramping never came back. This was such a huge win for me.
Unfortunately, at the same time, my mind was beginning to quit on me. You see, I think the hardest part of this 'ultra' racing is your mind. And, at mile 16 thru 20, I wanted to quit. I was noticeably slower....walking most hills...worrying about cramping up again. I made it thru loop #2 in 2:40.45...and I was emotional beaten. I was 90% sure I would drop down to the 20mile race and quit (and 38 people did just that). I sat at the aid station/start/finish line and just moped. I was torn about continuing, worried about making cut-off times, and just ..... beaten. At that point, I remembered something I read in 'Born to Run' about how ultra-runners LOVE their PB&J sandwiches during a race. I reached for my bag, withdrew one of the 3 sandwiches I had made, stood up, started walking, and dug in. I walked a full mile while eating that sandwich. Every bite was work, each step was work, it was lonely. But, after finishing that sandwich, I had really no choice.....I was 21miles in....and the start/finish was behind me. I was totally energized! I was gonna do this.
Loop #3 was the most technical for me. The snow was finally parting some, but it was still deep. I walked EVERY hill. It's amazing....you run for 10-15seconds, and then you go straight up another hill....for a 4-5minute walk. I was determined to make the half-way aid station before the cut-off. I did, with more than 3hrs to spare. That really lifted my spirits. Little did I know the race was really about to show it's bite.
At mile #26, I stopped to take a picture and pat my back for my first marathon. Less than a quarter-mile later, I passed a man who was pissing blood. Yes, blood. I stopped no more than half a mile later to do the same and make sure I wasn't bloody. At mile 27, I passed a man dry-heaving. The hills of the west side of Wyandotte Lake were breaking people left and right.
At mile 29, I could hear no one. I had left the last aid station, with 3 gargantuan hills to summit. I have never in my life been so at peace with myself. I knew I would finish. I knew I had worked the nutrition almost perfect. I could hear no one. I could see no one. It was a moment of introspection that lasted the final 2miles. I won't comment on the specifics of my thoughts, but my children were the main focus. I wanted to do something to make them proud.
DJ music! I could hear it. Cowbells! The finish had to be near. I plummeted down the final hill with reckless abandon. I crossed the finish line, arms raised, and a HUGE smile on my face.
I found out that 145~ people signed up for the 50K. Only 69 finished. I was 37th. But, place didn't matter, just finishing did. Many people were out with ankle sprains, or just beaten physically. It was truly an accomplishment to everyone who finish 1, 2 or 3 laps today. It took 7hours......36minutes....and 48seconds....but I beat everything thrown at me today. My legs are fine, my ankle is fine, only minor bumps and scratches, and most importantly, no cramping. I cannot wait for my next trail race. I cannot wait to find a race longer than 50K and push the physical limits of my body. My mind was pushed today....and I found a new me with resolve and determination.........or maybe stupidity............