Wednesday, April 16, 2014

33 Levels of Hell

This by far was one of the most hellacious races that either Evie Ultra and I have ever ran. It was a mental exhaustion. But in reflection … I can't stop laughing. 

The Traverse City Trail Running Festival of 2014
I won't put lipstick on it or sugar coat this race in any way, but I will wear a tutu. A white virginal, puffy tutu in my first 50k. I admitted that I am one crazy mother runner, but this 50k was ridiculous! Let's make it clear that being an endurance athlete means, you gotta ENDURE baby.

10 loop course instead of the intended course we signed up for (Hello, we are living in the Ground Hog Day the Movie, there's no getting out now. Besides, everyone likes to count to 10, correct?)

•  95% of the trail made of 100% packed ice with lumps of slippery crystal snow for horrible footing (Think you found a safe spot? Think again.)

•  Rain in the last 7 miles in case it wasn't slippery enough (Even a young man with screws on his shoes said he was slipping.)

• 33 miles instead of 31 (Because 31 just isn't enough and runners always want more.)

I am sure this wouldn't have been quite so bad footing wise if I hadn't left the YakTracs out of my drop bag. That's what happens when mom is sidetracked packing and getting an 8 year old ready for a slumber party. My run buddy and I hadn't realized the course was packed ice due to the late Michigan thaw, the course mainly being a x-country ski trail that had packed down ice, and the fact that we don't live right next to the trail to know any better. This priority of traction issues was lost on us. Most of the surrounding woods outside of the course had hardly any snow left. A warning from the race directors would have been nice. Being such an over packer, I still can't believe I didn't drop those tracs in. But onward!

The one aid station had gatorade, water, Quaker granola bars and gels. I like a little more substance when running long. We were aware of what would not be there ahead of time, and had packed grilled cheese sandwiches, homemade peanut butter cookie, granola bars and coconut water in my drop bag. Food—now THAT I remembered to bring. Why don't more races have fresh cookies? It's so much more personal with fresh cookies. Look to the cookie!

We were in pretty good spirits thru most of the race—counting down laps as we went by the aid stations. People waiting for their loved ones were cheering and smiling. There were no passes (or kills) made by us on this day. Okay, we passed one walker in a shorter distance and that doesn't count. Ice shuffling is exhausting and we covered little ground at a time. Quite a few heavy breathers and people actually racing this thing passed us. One man just kept chanting, "We're crazy...We're all crazy...We're crazy..." And I was thinking, "Yes, I agree with you. Please don't die and slow down."

After our 5th lap (25k done and feeling good) we reflected on running this event a year ago and how hard the 25k seemed then (partially because I ran it with bronchitis, duh). It was after this race that I started hill repeats to prepare for the 50-miler last year. Running a 50k a year ago seemed so beyond my ability. One full year of change—physically and mentally—has completely shifted my perspective. I was even dreaming more about a 100 miler—until this dam 50k. I am going to need a breather to dream again.

At about mile 24 my knees were feeling some pain (a lot), and IT band stiffness from this hard ice tap dance of a run. My spirits got a little low thinking of an injury and I was feeling a little delirious from lack of something. We discussed what stopping would mean and I just could not come to grips with a DNF. Evie said she didn't care either way. I know it's silly, but I couldn't let go. With just two more loops left, there was no way this BAMR was going to let this course beat her. After another gel set in, I was feeling better and continued to run on edges of soft ground where I could. Maybe all that zig-zagging was also getting to me.

During that last loop of hysteria laughter and a few sailor language exchanges, Evie stated I better not bring this one up to run again next year. The answer would be "no way." Well, she blocked out all that pain and suffering a couple days later and talked about next year...Muhaaaaaa. I don't know if anything could quite compare to this lesson of mental toughness. This one will resonate as the winner of the Gold Medal of Nightmares award for some time. I don't think I want another day like this, but then again I am glad I made it through it. I am ready for some sun, warmer temps and some soft earth to run on. I can't consider another ice run for a really long time … unless there are cookies at the end.

A met a woman name Denise, who is running only new races this year. I thought that sounded like an excellent idea.

When wearing a white Tough Girl Tutu, there is one main rule that sticks to my brain: You can't quit!! From funny looks to comments, these tutus were fun and helped keep a smile on our faces and those of other runners. It seems to makes one more approachable. It is obviously not a state of total seriousness. One goal I kept in mind, was to finish this challenge with a smile on my face. If it isn't fun, why am I doing this? Just two friends embracing the struggle through a really long run with the value in just finishing it. If I could pass any advice on for an adventure like this, it would be to run with a good buddy, and you can run through hell on ice (which sounds like a great drink for this race's after party).
8 hours later (last and we don't care): THE END! Being 2 of 4 women in this icy 50k,
we were glad to be done, have a beer in this warming cabin like area, and share some cookies on the way home.

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