With the Ultra Gnarly Bandit series as my 2012 goal and the first 100 in April, I hoped to find a few aided races to take the place of solo long runs on snowy trail.
My friend Maria was heading to Kansas City for the Psycho Wyco 50K so I asked if I could tag along. Yippee! She offered me a ride with herself and Doug. Doug was going to run the 10 mile race.
I began to watch the weather forecast. KC was basking in 50-60s. Wow, I couldn’t believe it. Pretty soon the 10 day forecast was showing 20-30, without any snow or ice on the trail. Conditions were looking great.
After dropping Troy off at school on Friday I made my way over to Maria’s. Maria, Doug and son Justin were all aboard and we headed down south. On the way down Maria told me that the temperatures had really taken a dive. The start temperature was now 6F with a high of 28F. Brrrr! I didn’t bring a pair of wind mittens to wear over my gloves nor did I bring a neck gaiter. Hmm. Luckily I couldn’t decide between tights or pants so I brought both. I’d be wearing both! I only packed one thin shirt so I was hoping we were going to get a race shirt at packet pickup so I would have another layer to wear for the cold start.
Our trip to Kansas City was uneventful, thankfully. Our first stop was packet pickup in Overland Park, KS. We pulled into a running store and collected our wares. Number, nice coffee mug and a technical long sleeve shirt. Yay! Our number had a timing strip on the back of it. Cool.
I mentioned that I was hoping to find a Godiva nearby. Valentine’s Day was near and I hadn’t made my trip over to Ridgedale. I wasn’t sure we would be home in time on Sunday. Maria looked up Godiva on her iPhone and before we knew it I was buying chocolate for my Valentine's !
Our next stop was the hotel. We were staying only 1 mile from the start! Awesome. The Comfort Suites Speedway was very nice. Clean, awesome king bed, very comfy. I was staying by myself and greatly enjoyed the quiet time alone.
We checked in, got ourselves settled and went to check out the course. It was cold and windy!! Brrr. 13F with a 40 mph wind and it was 4 PM. I was worried about being cold. The trail was frozen solid. There were many horse hoof prints that were very deep. The mud kind of came up in frozen spikes, it would be difficult footing. Hey, it wasn’t going to be very muddy though.
After looking at the course we headed over to the Legends area. We had a great dinner at Yard House; a sirloin steak salad for me.
Back to the hotel to prepare for the morning run. I was a little bit worried about the cold. I knew my bottle would freeze but could deal with that. My frozen chin and neck I wasn’t so sure about. Maria had a spare pair of mittens that I could put over my gloves.
With an 800 race start I had plenty of time in the morning to get ready. I brought along my French press, my coffee grinder and favorite beans. I brewed coffee, ate a sweet potato and a few hard boiled eggs. I was ready!
We arrived to the race start an hour before start time. The lot was already almost full! The 50K was a 10 mile loop course so I would be able to come back to the car, hopefully, to remove a second pair of pants. I felt like a frickin’ Michelin man wearing tights and pants.
Someone must have said GO! We were running across the grass and up onto the trail. The course was made up of many steep hills-some short, some long. Lots of up and downs. I was glad that I hadn’t lifted legs during the week! They were well rested, having only run 15 miles race week.
The first part of the trail was this spikey bad frozen mud stuff. Thankfully it was frozen or it would be a shoe sucking mud. It was horrific! There were craters 4-6” deep, it was solid, there was no give, just perfect for twisting ankles. On the downhill I would stop myself, get control and navigate down slowly. I was here to finish a long training run, this race had nothing to do with racing!
Even with Maria’s second pair of mittens over my fingers, they were cold. Holding my bottle of now slushy water was not fun. The nozzle of the bottle was frozen so I would stop and unscrew the top, gulp down the water and spit out the ice. I couldn’t remember the last time I needed to do this. Probably one of the Northwoods Snowshoe Marathons. It had been a while!
Eventually I came upon a hill to the first aid station. They had an aluminum pan filled with gels, sitting over a 50 gallon drum with a fire inside, trying to thaw out the gels. The poor volunteers, they were SO cold! At least we were moving and would eventually be warming up. They were just standing around becoming more cold.
My back and neck were feeling just great. I wasn’t having any pain, no tingling or numbness. I was keeping a close eye on it.
The next section was crazy! I left the aid station, went through the woods, going back and forth every few feet. Lots of sharp corners, steep ups and downs, leaf covered trail. It was beautiful but hard on the knees! I was surprised when I came up to the same aid station but on the opposite side! I hadn’t realized that AS1 and AS2 were one in the same.
After leaving AS2 there were more steep ups and downs, beautiful deep woods, lots of leaves on the trail and not quite so crater-ish. The trail seemed to be more sandy with better footing. I came out onto a grassy area, climbing a dam or something up to a paved road. There was a train that whizzed by in back of me. I was just so happy. I was smiling ear to ear, enjoying the pure sunshine, enjoying the warmth on my face. I was looking forward to removing Maria’s mittens and my second pair of pants once I finished this loop. My bottle was still frozen, but I was warming up.
AS3 was on the paved road. The volunteers were having a good time, trying to keep fruit thawed and gels warm. I took a piece of frozen pear, it was good!
As I ran along I just couldn’t stop smiling. This was fabulous. I wasn’t in pain, I was enjoying an aided long run, just what I wanted. I had been feeling euphoria since the start but kind of tried to put it on hold, feeling I had much of the race left and I that I had better wait to celebrate this run.
I decided pushing back the euphoria was ridiculous! I realized it was good to feel euphoric, take it while it is there, breathe it in and enjoy! The euphoria never left me..it was with me the whole way .
I came into the start/finish at 220 or so. I had hoped to finish each loop in 230 roughly. Everything was great. I removed the mittens and a pair of pants. Oh thank goodness! Nor more Michelin man look. I folded them up and placed them on Jerry’s car for the duration. I was so darn happy! I didn’t hurt!!
The second loop came and went so quickly. A few people commented to me that they were glad they were only doing the 20 mile race. I thought to myself that I was glad I had another loop to go, I certainly wasn’t ready to be finished yet. I was enjoying each and every step.
My second loop finish was 228, just fine. Doug was finished with his race and offered me Diet Coke. YUM! It tasted great.
As I headed off for my final loop I heard someone jogging near me. Pretty soon he said “I think I’ll run with you for a while” “Oh, K” He began to complain about the cold, to complain about the pitted trail, to complain about 101 things. I just didn’t need this. I had been totally loving this run and this guy was totally bugging me. Pretty soon he began to suck in his snot-constantly. Every few seconds I could hear him suck through his nose, loudly. It was terrible. I mean, come on, blow it out or something. I couldn’t stand it. I was going to gag. I did gag. Ugh! Sniff sniff sniff swallow sniff swallow. Ugh.
I began to run a bit faster, I couldn’t take this. Pretty soon he was out of sight, thank goodness.
I was having fun again before I knew it. This guy wasn’t going to ruin my day. My bottle was ice free, I was now able to drink freely without ice chunks. I had no pain. NO PAIN!
I began to run along and think about this run. I thought about all of the times in the past year that I told myself it was OK that I couldn't run, it was OK if I could never run again. It was important for me to live without pain, not to run. I really really believed that, I had to believe that in order to get on to the next day. As I ran along I realized again how much I missed running. It was like losing my best friend, losing a part of me. I am so very glad to have it back. I began to cry, to sob, reliving what I had lost and what is now back. I felt such gratitude to be running again. What a great day, a great race and great volunteers . I had SO much fun! I was skipping along the final loop, passing people left and right. What a blast. Really.
I crossed the finish line in 7:30 with a big smile upon my face. I enjoyed each and every minute! I feel like I am back, definitely back to myself ! Life is good !