Leading up to the race, it seemed like I found infinitely many things to worry about. I paced Nick for 25 mi the week before and wasn’t used to doing long runs consecutive weekends. What else? I had what I assumed was a bone spur on the back of my left heel which had become inflamed over the past few weeks. Also my knee was kind of sore. And finally, the warm weather and rain had me freaked out about the mud. I realize know that I was just reliving the terror of my first 50k, Psycho Wyco 2008.
I was extremely undertrained for the event, but I finished, nonetheless, in 8:30-something. My longest run before I undertook the infamous Psycho-ness was maybe 12 miles. I was also plagued by an unhappy IT band. The race ended in me walking and crying the last 5 miles of the race.
Back to the more recent past…I was really whiny leading up to the race. And Gabe Bevan put me in my place. I told him I could tell he had kids, because I felt like he had put me in a corner. So from then on, I just directed my whining at Nick. He told me to stop worrying and that I was gonna do great.
So, the morning of the race I was super nervous. An inspection of my heel showed that the big bump on the back was blue and bruised. I had Nick fix me up with moleskin and tape hoping to relieve some of the current pain and prevent a lot of future pain. It still hurt when I put my shoe on. I was imagining the shoe sucking mud at Wyco grabbing my shoe and continuously trying to wrench it over my heel.
Danny Miller asked me how fast I would be running the first loop. I told him maybe 2.5 hours. He said he would run with me the first loop. That lasted for about 10 yards. Thanks Danny! I started off nice and slow, letting a herd of people pass me. The first few miles are notoriously difficult when muddy. Fortunately it was somewhat firm—not yet the shoe-ripping-off mud pit. I ran on past the WyCo triangle aid station the first loop. I think I heard people cheering at me, but I didn’t stop to see who it was. I completed the approximate 1 mile loop and ran on past the station again.
I hooked up (not "hooked up") with Gary Henry after the WyCo triangle. I’m used to seeing him from time to time during the beginning of a race. He usually starts behind then runs ahead to take pictures. He stayed true to form this time.
Getting close to the north side of the lake, we all discovered the course was covered in a thin layer of ice, which became problematic on hills. It took me a while to realize the extent of the slipperiness. I’m not used to tiptoeing down hills, but after my first fall I found it was a necessity. Fortunately, I landed on my ample behind, so I was fine! My only injury was a bruise to the hand.
Gary and I engaged in nerdy banter until we reached the surprise! aid station around mile 5. This was a new and welcome addition to this year’s race. I didn’t stop long, but I grabbed some pretzels. I was surprised to find them filled with peanut butter. I didn’t know such a thing existed! Gary and I began our walk up the short stretch of road to the next section of trail. We discussed academic pursuits. When we got back to the trail, Gary told me to go on ahead. He’s usually much faster than me, but he ran 100 miles the week before, so I wasn’t totally surprised he wasn’t a speed demon today. Actually, I was darn impressed he was running the challenging course that day.
The first part of this trail is a gradual downhill which was nice, followed by a steep downhill. The steep part was pretty scary with the ice. We all went very slowly down the steep hill, which is run in reverse in the summer. We tried to tread on the leaves as much as possible and grab onto small trees for support. I learned I was STILL not being careful enough, when I slipped and landed on my behind for the second time. Now I was wishing my shoes were screwed. I didn’t expect the ice at all.
The next section is a series of short steep climbs. I had a bit of trouble with the climbs because of the ice, and my bruised hand was making it difficult to grab hand holds to help me. After the climbing, I was at the Amos family aid station in no time. A bunch of my friends were there so I was really excited. I ate a cookie and maybe some Pringles (they ARE my favorite after all), and headed back to the starting line to finish my first loop. Of course, still walking up the hills and tearing like a crazy person down the other side of them. I KNEW there wasn’t any ice on this side of the lake. And, miraculously, I managed to avoid falling on my rear for a third time in a single loop. That’s pretty good for me! Dick Ross was taking photos on the way down the hill to the start/finish line and commented on my race number, number one! I was pretty psyched about it. It wasn’t one of those deals where you get number one if you won the race the year before, OBVIOUSLY. I was just the first to register! But it was fun to show off anyway. I remember Bad Ben being there and saying something like, “You’re number one in our book!” That’s the kind of support you get from trail nerds. I ran down to the shelter to check with my crew (Nick) and to grab some food. I told him everything was feeling fine, grabbed some snacks to go, maybe snuck a kiss and was off on my second loop.
The first half of the second loop was amazing. It felt twice as good as the first! I’m not one for self flattery, but I just wanted to yell, “Oh yeah! I’m the s***!!” Not because I think I’m superior to others, but because I’m in way better shape than I was a year ago, and THAT feels awesome! So, really, I was just trash talking to younger me…in my head. It was getting a little muddy on the course, but it wasn’t awful. My shoes weren’t threatening to come off yet, so I was happy.
I came to the triangle aid station and saw Coleen. She asked if I needed anything, and I said, “No, I just want a hug!” So I got my hug and ran down into the triangle. It was mildly slimy but I was still able to maintain a pretty good pace. Actually, I was running much faster than I expected I would be during my second loop. I was excited that I was feeling so good, but worried I was running too fast. I figured what the heck, I’d be forced to slow down through Fester’s Wander (it is my bane). But before I get ahead of myself, let’s go back to the triangle. It was fun. On my way out I stopped at the aid station quickly and grabbed some fruit snacks, said hi to my friends again, and took off running.
As I came closer to the north side of the lake, as expected, I found the thin layer of ice on the trail had melted. However, as I shuffled quickly down the hills this time, I pondered the validity of my “no ice” assumption. But taking my normal reactive approach toward running down hills, I decided to continue on at the same reckless speed until nature provided some evidence to the contrary. It did. I fell on my rear again, hitting my hand on a rock. I glanced at the fresh cut on my hand, stood up and resumed my run down the long, long hill at a slightly reduced speed. At the surprise! aid station I stopped to ask for some antibiotic ointment for my hand and the helpful volunteers rushed around and had me fixed up in no time. The wound wasn’t severe enough to really require a band-aid (they gave me one anyway), but I figured the antibiotic would be a good idea in case I came in contact with any pesky naturey bacteria over the next few hours, orrrrr the more likely case being…I accidentally peed on my hand (I don’t think I did!)
So I kept on going, up the road, through Fester’s Wander, all alone at this point. Just me and the iPod. I’ve been meaning to put together a list of good running music, but I never get around to it. So I sometimes end up listening to slow depressing music, which isn’t horrible if you have all day to burn. I can’t run 8 minute miles all day! I was looking forward to getting to the Amos aid station. I was still feeling good and enjoying the beautiful nature, but it’s nice to be reassured every once in a while that you’re still in the same universe as everyone else. I announced my arrival to the Amos aid station as I walked up the uneven hill toward it, “Number one is here!” Debbie filled my Nathan Pack with water and I think I grabbed a few snacks to munch on. I felt a little sick to my stomach, but I knew if I kept eating regularly and drinking plenty of water, I’d be fine.
Then I was off to finish my second loop. The mud was starting to loosen up my shoes a bit and I could feel my socks were getting stretched out. Finishing my second loop, I saw my parents at the finish line. I said a quick, “Oh hi dad and mom!” I wasn’t expecting them to show up quite so early, even though they ARE early to everything—just not typically 3 hrs early. I ran down the hill to see the Nickster. Mircea and Lisa were with him. They had already rocked the 10 mile race. I don’t recall what pleasantries were exchanged. It seemed like I was rushing around all day. Weird. Anyhow, I told Nick I wanted to change my socks, so he fished some out of my drop bag. I wasn’t expecting any help with the shoe removal and sock exchange task so was surprised to find Nick struggling with my shoelaces. It was a blur of activity. I’m not sure how it all worked out. I know I untied at least one shoe and put on a sock. And I also remember Mircea putting one of my socks on me. I commented that I was pretty sure nobody had ever put a sock on me since I was baby. It was a unique experience. So I tied my shoes nice and tight, said my farewells and took off for my final loop.
I knew this one was gonna be tough. The mud would be at its worst, and my legs would be at their worst. My goal was to run as much as I could and perhaps finish the loop in under 3 hrs. I could tell I was starting to get a bit delirious when I had been running for a while and couldn’t remember if I had crossed the street on the way up to the triangle. It turns out I hadn’t when the question first entered my head, which is good! I wasn’t losing chunks of time at least! There were only one or two muddy sections I walked, in addition to the hills. I said hi to Coleen and Christy on my way into the triangle and saw Willie Lambert leaving the aid station and heading into the triangle as well. I was surprised to see him, thinking, even on a bad day, Willie can kick my butt. Well Willie HAD run 63 or so miles the weekend before and he DID have a bum foot, so I guess it could be in the realm of possibilities. But, I’m still skeptical. I think he must have stopped for a nap.
Willie told me to go on ahead of him on our way into the triangle which confused me again. I said, oooookaaaaay. The triangle is very twisty-turny and it was very slimy, so I resorted to shuffling along the course. You could see the slide marks where people found that running was ineffective in certain areas. That was my shuffle indicator. *Slide marks!* *Initiate super shuffle mode…and maybe grab a tree!* I finally made it out of the triangle and decided to stop at the aid station for a snack. All I had was Gu and that didn’t sound appealing. There was Christy, waiting to cram food down my throat. I said, “Christy, I’m not gonna lie. I’m more tired this loop than the last.” I wasn’t sure what I wanted to eat, so she made the decision for me. She gave me a bunch of orange slices and sent me on my way!
Not long after I left the aid station, nature began calling. I looked behind me to see if anyone was coming. Nobody was, as far as I could see. So I made a super quick pit stop. Long story short, Willie was closer than I thought, and I suppose he got a good mooning as I stood up and scurried away. So I was back to running and before I knew it, I was eating fruit snacks and trying to get up that big hill. You know the one, the big one. The big one after the triangle. Ohhhh, figure it out! I soon realized I would not be able to propel myself up the mud slicked slope while stuffing my face with fruit snacks, so I put them in a pocket for safe keeping and continued walking like a duck up the hill. The duck walking was a useful technique for getting up muddy hills without sliding back down. I could go into a physics discussion to explain why this works, complete with free body diagrams, but...for the sake of brevity...I will return to the tedious details of my run. Soooooo, I got up the big muddy hill and down the really long hill (without falling this time). Exhaustion began to hit me as I was running across the wide open field at the base of the really big hill. I told myself I needed to run all the way across it until I got to the next hill, then I could walk. I wasn't listening to me, and decided to run about 2/3 of the way across instead. Willie passed me as I walked. Not surprising. I was tired on my uphill approach to the 5 mile aid station. I smiled weakly and said hi to the volunteers as I grabbed an orange slice and continued my walk up the road.
Shortly after I re-entered the woods, it hit me, a big wall of something! I was exHAUSted! Sure, my legs were a little tired, but that didn't bother me too much. I was "wanting to lie down in the cool mud and take a nap" exhausted. I immediately regretted not drinking coke at the last aid station. So I stumbled up the hills like I was on a death march and dreamt of the Amos aid station where I would drink a whole gallon of coke (I didn't end up doing that)! I still managed to shuffle along the flat parts. In this same location a year prior, the batteries in my MP3 player died and I began to cry, and I didn't stop crying until I finished. But there was no crying this year! At this point, I really was beginning to get delirious. I kept "seeing" people. There was a man with a yellow shirt sitting on the side of the trail. Translation: I saw a yellow sign and some tree roots. Then I saw a person crouching at the top of a hill who I assumed was waiting to take photos. Translation: I saw a large rock.
Finally I was back to the Amos station and there were my friends and Nick the crew! I was so happy to see everyone! Debbie asked what I wanted and of course I said, "I need coke!" Kyle asked if I had taken a nap in the mud since the whole left side of my body was covered in it. I told him, "No, but I wish I had!" Debbie and Stacy loaded me up with sugary treats for my last leg of the race, and I took off.
The coke and the social interaction seemed to wake me up. Plus, I knew there were only about 2 miles left in the race! My excitement was building, even with the huge hills to climb. My excitement was building with each step. Finally, I got to the road crossing and knew I was within spitting distance of the finish line. Really long spitting distance maybe. I opted to walk the relatively flat, but hopelessly mucky section leading up to the last very short hill. Once I got to the top of the hill, I sprinted like a crazy person down towards the finish line!!! I was elated when I saw the clock reading 7:28. I never imagined I would finish in under 7.5 hours. I would have been pleased with sub 8, given the conditions. Anyway, I had a huge grin on my face (in contrast to the, "I'm trying not to cry in front of everyone" look I had on my face last year) and enjoyed the plethora of finish line hugs I received. I couldn't have done it without the encouragement and help from my friends and all the volunteers!