Monday, January 20, 2014

Winteriffic 30K Snowshoe Championship

I have entered The Winterrific Snow Show Race each year for the four that it has been held. Due to hysterectomy, herniated discs and then a cancellation due to ice, I have never been able to run the race. This year there was a different story.

I loved running the Northwoods Snow Shoe Marathon that was held for years in Lester Park, in Duluth MN. AfterI ran the race for 8 years, it was discontinued a few years ago.

Winterrific is a Minnesota State Championship and Nationals Qualifier that is held at Murphy - Hanrehan Park Reserve in Scott County, in Savage. I found it interesting that as I pulled up to the race start I recognized the trail head as the first place I had every snowshoed before with the exact same pair of snowshoes and with one of the same people that was at this race. Melancholy. Scott Wagner, Bonnie Riley and Bob Metzger introduced me to snowshoe running 13 or 14 years ago. I'll be forever grateful to this bunch for the patience they showed a newbie running/ultra runner/snowshoer!

We had a very small group. Half dozen 30K, half dozen for the 20K and maybe a dozen for the 10K. Sweet!  I have to say, I just love the small trail races. I've learned to be careful for what I wish for!  As a founding member of  UMTR, we were trying to encourage more people to run trails. We certainly  succeeded! Many (ultra) trail runs now fill well before race date in MN. FB has increased the participation of group runs ten fold on the metro trails, it's crazy busy on many trails. Good .. and not so good.

When I awoke on Saturday morning I could hear the wind and snow beating on my window. The race didn't begin until 930 but after listening to whatever was happening out there I thought it best to get on my way..taking the regularly 75 minute drive slow and easy.

I pulled out of the garage and saw roughly 7" of fresh snow!  Wow!  This was not in the forecast!  The winds were howling, causing near white out conditions as I drove ever so slowly down Highway 10. Nothing had been plowed yet but I was hoping as I drove south into the more populated areas that the road conditions would improve.

In 45 minutes I finally made it to 101. Oh boy. This was going to be long. At least 101 was plowed and  I knew 94 and 494 would be better. I crawled along, making my way, thinking about turning around and going back home once or twice.

There is nothing worse than seeing cars in the ditches, semi trucks askew and trying to stay calm. Ugh. Drive slow and safe. Much like my run: slow and steady.

I made it to the race start in 2.25 hours. I was so glad I began the drive early!  I still had 20 minutes to spare.

I shuffled out into the snowy path which led to the warm up tent. Collected my packet and headed back to my car. I visited with Paulette a bit and then needed to decide what I was going to wear. It was 11F, new deep snow, warming to 20F, wind gusts of 35mph. Hmmm. I learned not to dress to wind chill temp or I get to warm. OK. Stick with that. I wore one pair of pants-Skirt Sports with skirt. I love the extra layer that skirt has on my butt for warmth. I decided not to wear the tights underneath. If I was freezing I could swing back to the car to add them later. That made me feel better. Tank top, long sleeved top, gortex inov-8, snow shoe gaiters, gloves, wind mitts, winter Patagonia Storm jacket, neck gaiter and fleece hat. Northern Lights Snowshoes. OK then. Clothes good. 10 gels (no gels at aid stations), iPod (never did turn on), Garmin 310XT, 1 hand held. HammerHeed was on course. OK. Back down to the warm up tent/start finish.

We were going to begin a little late, due to the poor road conditions are that Mike was out on course making sure the markings were not buried in the deep snow. While waiting I realized Scott Wagner was running :) Maria stopped by after her run to say hi and give hugs, I saw E and John as they were running the 10K. Maynard was there, too.  Phillip was running the 30K. Dan was running the 30K. Good friends that go way back.

Mike returned and gave us the run down of the course. They added an aid station, there would be one at 2 miles, 4 miles and then start/finish at 6.25. We'd loop 3x for the 30K.

He led us to the start and we were off!  The snow was DEEP!  Deep, fluffy, fresh snow. It was spectacular and gorgeous. The snow had stopped falling, the sun was now shining brightly, what a day!  I didn't know what was in store for me. I popped two Aleve before starting as my recovering broken ankle is still cranky on trail. I'd do what I could and would NOT damage it further. If I felt 'that' pain, I'd stop. End of story.

I was glad that there were some speedy runners to break trail for us slower ones (Dan and Joseph)  I hung out near the end, plowing my way. The 10K started a half an hour later so only the 20K and 30K snowshoe runners were out at this time.

When I spotted the first course marking I was relieved! They weren't going to be under snow, they were just clearing the deep new fluff. I was going to be able to find my way!  We shared a portion of the trail with snowmobilers but each time I came across them, they were kind and allowed me the right of way.

The first aid station was approaching. I ran up to it and recognized Lynette!  I don't know the last time I saw her. What a treat!  She filled my bottle and sent me on my way. I was really having a good time.

Most of the race I ran solo..every once in a while I would run into another racer and exchange pleasantries, but 80% of the time I was alone and deep in thought.

I was filled with gratitude. Grateful to be healthy enough to be able to sign up for a 30K snowshoe run. Grateful that my body could carry me that far. Thankful that my ankle was feeling strong. I wasn't feeling it at all.

As I ran into the start/finish 1:25 had passed. I was feeling coherent, pain free and just content. So happy to be out in the woods, in the deep snow, feeling the sunshine upon my face. Spiritual.

The single pair of pants was fine, I didn't need to add a layer. Often times I unzipped my jacket. I was eating a gel every 3 miles, drinking 40 oz of Heed every loop.

When I came in at 2:57 for my second loop I was surprised at how consistent my running was. Would I finish the race in 4:30? That would be as consistent as I've ever been. I was smiling brightly and so happy to carry on down the trail.

The last loop already!  Be sure to take it all in, enjoy every step. No iPod necessary. I was listening to the soft snow under my snowshoes, my breathing, the birds in the sky. I felt euphoric.  I thought about how I need running. It allows me to be in the moment, to think about the right now, the present. I need to clear my head..running does this. It lets me rid myself of any negativity, to feel the positive. The gratitude. It allows me to remember to trust myself. Not the doctors who told me I wouldn't run again. It reminds me that when I am knocked climb back up. To try hard, to fight.

This was no fight. This run was a result of the fight. I felt euphoric. I felt waves of emotion bubbling down deep in my stomach, then working their way up into my heart, feeling my heart swell with joy. Bubbling out of my mouth in large gasps. Laughter. This wasn't the anxiety and panic I have been feeling the past year. These weren't tears of sadness that were falling from my cheeks. This was true joy.   As the tears of joy were falling from my eyes  I could feel my eyelashes freeze.  I could feel my nose run. I was still two miles out from the finish. What would the finish line feel like?

I didn't want it to end. I wanted to run another lap..and another. I felt strong, my ankle felt strong!  It was a glorious day.

I was coming close to the finish line, I could see the blue tent up around the corner. I saw the clock. 4:29. I tried to compose myself but I knew better. I was feeling so much joy, it couldn't be contained. I felt the bubble down deep in my stomach, the joy into my heart as I ran into the finish and yes, it all come to the surface as Mike and Colleen congratulated on my finish. I sobbed.

"Are you OK"?  "Yes, I'm better than OK. I'm euphoric. I was told I would never run again after breaking my ankle at Superior 100. I ran joyfully and strongly and I feel amazing" . Mike and Colleen gave me big hugs and my award. I sat down as Mike removed my snow shoes, trying to compose myself, it was futile. I wear my emotions on my sleeve. My sleeve shows happiness and joy.

Polar Dash 2014

I've enjoyed bringing in the new year with the Polar Dash run for the past 4 years. The first few years there was only a 5K and 10K option. I always entered the 10K and then ran the course once again for a nice long road run. Plowed roads rock during MN winter!

For 2014 I was very excited to see a 14 mile race offered!  Awesome!  Of course I entered.  I was pretty confident that my ankle would hold up since it did very well during The 25K Donut Run. I've been finding that it keeps quiet during road runs but that trail runs are a different story. It often times aches during a trail run and then swells quite badly afterward. Never mind. Road is OK for a while. I'm just happy to be out there running.

The forecast showed bitter cold for the race day morning. No matter. I have winter weather dressing down to a fine art.

Parking was my only concern. With a 5K, 10K and 14 miler I predicted parking would be tough. Team Ortho was offering bus shuttle but I really didn't want to deal with that. I knew right where I wanted to park-next door to Shriners - the race start - on the dead end street. Yup. I know it well.

I decided to leave so that I would arrive 60 minutes early. That would give me plenty of time to find my spot, go to the bathroom, add layers and decompress.  As I pulled into the Minneapolis neighborhood the police were starting to put up the baricades. I was going through, baby. I pulled through just as he positioned the baricade into place and found my thought out parking place. Score!

It was cold.  Below zero, howling winds. I wore a pair of Hind winter tights, Skirt Sports pants w/skirt, decided to wear my regular Kayano road shoes, tank, long sleeved thin race shirt, winter Patagonia running jacket, gloves, wind mitts, fleece hat and neck gaitor. I had my iPod, Garmin 310XT and 4 gels. Lets' go.

Because I was feeling confident after running the 25K Donut Run I wasn't too worried about cranky recovering ankle. The road was plowed with a light snow covering. I'd be fine.  I didn't have any preconceived goal time. A finish was all I was looking for. Well, a finish and a few hours of fun run time.

There is just a good feeling of community as you run with 500 of your friends to bring in the New Year. A ball of humanity, running down the road. Misty eyed for sure.

As we hit the 3 mile marker I looked at my watch and realized I was running too fast. Slow down! This is 14 miles, not 5. I pulled back knew that I could run faster..might as well. So run faster I did.

I liked the course-and out and back. I enjoy being able to see everyone. I had a few friends running the 10K so it was great to hear Heidi as she ran toward me, yelling out hello!

I came to the turnaround and felt fantastic!  I couldn't believe it. I was becoming warm so pulled off my wind mitts and tucked them into my pocket. I was stopping at the aid stations to guzzle down a few 5 oz cups of water or gatorade. I was sweating profusely and could taste the salt upon my skin. I felt wonderful. It felt so good to open up my stride and actually run.  I was so thankful to be out running again.

As I came up to the half marathon mark I looked at my watch. 2:03. That's a PR for me. Crazy shit. I began to laugh and just enjoyed the moment. Enjoyed being with all of the other runners, enjoyed being able to run, enjoyed being in the moment.

I came into the finish line, blessed beyond belief.  Cheers to 2014. I got this!