Sunday, March 31, 2013

What’s FIVE more miles?

Famous last words, right?  It all started with a trail 25k last September.  The Epic Ultras Flat Rock event in Independence, Kansas was a truly ‘Epic’ day.  I had a blast killing my quads on the rocks and trails.  I met another runner as she was falling down a hill and we ended up running the last half together and it all made for a great day.  My trouble started the next week when the promised “heads up” email and early registration for the 2013 event came out.  Then the messages started…if you sign up for the 50k, I will…I have to admit, I’m a sucker for a challenge and promptly signed up for the 50k.

Fast forward to early 2013 and I’m starting to think about my upcoming races and looking into good training events for Justin as he was preparing for his first 100 mile race.  I found a little jewel in Iowa called the Hawkeye 50k and I was in luck because there was a 25k option too.  Perfect, Justin could run the 50k and I’d run the 25K.  The course also looked to be really good for me for easing into more trail running, part was on the road, part on crushed gravel trail and then the last third was hardcore trail.  Then comes the ‘sucker’ part again as Justin calls me to say he’s signing up for the 50k and asked if I was doing the 50k too.  I said, “No, I’m running the 25k”.  And he says again, “The 50k right?”…finally I relented; I’ve run a couple marathons and thought really, what’s five more miles??

Training leading up to the event went well.  I had a good 16 mile run in very cold, windy weather and then two 20 mile runs in decent weather (a little snow, a little wind) and felt ready for the race.  Then, the week before the race the freak of winter storm comes through and dumps snow across Kansas and Iowa.  I admit, that got me a little nervous, but I was hoping for it to melt off and be gone come race day.

We drove in to North Liberty, Iowa late the Friday night before the event.  We even made a drive out to the MacBride Nature/Recreation Area to make sure we knew where to go Saturday morning.  Next thing we know, it’s race morning and it’s only 12 degrees out!  Cold and snowy weather, what a great race day combination.  After the typical pre-race milling around, we were off and into the snow!  No chance to keep the feet dry for even a little while because the race starts off in about a 1 mile trail section before getting to the road.  Once the road got us to Solon, the course headed out on a crushed gravel (or on this day, I’ll say ‘ice’) trail.  All was going well until I misjudged a section as far as the gravel coming all the way through the ice.  One misstep and I was landing on my backside.  I gingerly got back up…sore knee, sore ankle, sore toe, but I was walking and then running again.  Not doing too bad either, maybe it was too cold to feel anything, but I was moving and that’s what mattered.  Through about the first 10 miles, the course is relatively flat, then it switches over to cross county ski trail which was a wide trail, but full of 6 inches of powdery snow.  I had to slow down a bit at that point because I was having a hard time making it up hill through the snow, but still managed to make it around and to the last section which is single-track trail.  Once I was back almost to the finish line, I had to stop at the vehicle to change out my hydration pack for a hand-held bottle.  Then, when I got to the finish line, I stopped to change out my shoes and socks.  At this point was the big decision because through the single-track, I had spent a lot of time trying to decide if I was going to make the second loop, it’s a daunting thought after trudging 5 -6 miles through deep snow.   Finally, with dry shoes laced up and a bottle full of Gatorade, I tossed the bag with my wet shoes back by the wall and told myself to get moving.  The second loop wasn’t any better than the first, some of the ice was now mud, but the snow was still there and still took some trudging to get through.  The second loop was pretty lonely, other than the two aid stations, I had exactly one person pass me in the first 3rd of the course and I passed one person on the last 3rd.  The single-track area was packed and slick which made navigating it a little tougher.  I even fell again there, although the way my feet slowly slid out from under me and then I slid several feet down the hill, I would be hard pressed to call that a ‘fall’.  Finally, I could see the opening that leads to the last 200 yards to the finish line…I was going to make it!

So, what did I learn on this first go at the 50k distance?  Busting your backside on ice at mile 6 of a 50k is not fun, a Camelback is just a cold, heavy weight on your back if you let the tubing freeze in 12 degree weather, running downhill in 6 inches of snow is fun, trying to run uphill in 6 inches of snow is not fun, and crossing the finish line in a 50k is priceless! 

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