Running and completing the Zumbro 17 mile race was such a thrill for me! It was my longest and hardest distance yet. I fought new challenges physically and mentally and came out on top. I learned a tremendous amount about myself, my running, my mental strength and more. It is said that the training or journey is really what is important and while that's true, toeing the line to this race and seeing how it would play out was just as important.
Saturday, April 12, 5:30 am: I wake to hear what I believe to be rain on the roof of our camper. "Nooo!", I silently scream and then force myself back to sleep.
6:30 am: My alarm goes off but I'm already awake. I stay huddled in bed and stare forlornly out the window. Maybe it will only be a light sprinkle and the trail won't get soaked. I poke around, getting ready, eating some yogurt. I've got to get things digesting so they will be done before starting.
7:00 am: Packet pick-up for the 17's opens. I head over to the shelter where everything is set up. I see Jessica, a Des Moines Capitol Turkey runner, helping out. I'm sure my face is similar to deer in the headlights. She assures me I can do this. Bill is volunteering as well, but I force him away from his duties to hug me and help me decide how to layer up. There is no cell/signal reception on the bottom and no one seems to be able to give me any other kind of weather report other than it will probably stay the same as now which is overcast and rainy. I grab a cup of coffee and head back to the camper. It's still only sprinkling.
8:35 am: I make a mad dash in the driving rain to the shelter. I look down and there seems to be hail covering the ground. My feet have been soaked splashing through the unavoidable puddles. It's lightening and thundering. Bill hugs my shivering body as my mind is pretty much blank. I only wonder if I have the right socks on.
|I'm smiling but it's forced. Plus, what looks like snow in the background is actually driving rain.|
8:50ish am: Beyond bad. That's how the announcer describes the course conditions. Alrightly.
9:00 am: As we saunter over to the starting line our feet become increasingly wet. I guess I was in the general vicinity of the start line when I barely hear him shout "Go!". We are all light-hearted. We head into the trail and pretty soon things log-jam. The mud is making slow going as we haven't come up with our plan of action for mud yet. Fairly quickly we start climbing except this isn't a regular trail climb. This is a single track slippery mud fest going up and coming down. It takes a while for the trail to widen and for us to be able to loosen up and run.
Start to Aid Station 1: I'm laughing at the ridiculousness of the rain and mud. My layers consist of a short sleeve tee and arm sleeves, a light long-sleeve and my green rain jacket. I've got a hat on with the hood of my jacket pulled over top. Lightweight capris since the forecast did have it warming up by afternoon. I chose my Injinji socks because they are a proven water warrior for me, lightweight and wicking and the water will flow through them better than my warmer but thicker Smartwool socks. I'm wearing my Altra Superiors because the wide toe box still works great for me. Plus, I have worn holes in the sides, so I'm thinking the extra drainage will be helpful.
|Snapped this to show how muddy it was. Hah! Keep reading.|
The climb in this section came right away and it didn't seem too bad, aside from the mud. Since I haven't run this course before, with Bill's help and the information from a day of hill running at Ledges, we put together a guess as to how each climb would possibly feel. At this point, I felt like each climb was going to be doable and was cautiously optimistic. I got to the top of the first climb and it overlooked the campground and river bottom. It was beautiful. But it was still lightening and I decided one pic would have to do since I didn't feel like getting zapped.
I had divided the race into five sections and given each section a word to go by. My word for this section was Pace. I had to remember to keep myself in check- don't go out too fast or climb too hard or get too anxious.
The first A.S. had assorted foods and water and a portable (Hurray!) plus very friendly, helpful volunteers.
|Overlook to campground|
1 to 2: Although the storming had ceased, it was still raining and the trail was either a giant puddle, a mud trap or in some parts a small stream. In the latter instance, the best way to navigate it was to run through the middle of it and get it over with. Later as I pondered this strategy, I wondered how the 50's and 100's would have dealt with it since the condition of one's feet by several loops in makes all the difference. I felt so good during this section. I would run with the course let me and work to be Patient, my second word, when I couldn't run. This was a longer section of little ups and downs before getting to the main climb. That's what I remember taking so long to get to the main climb. I had rehearsed the main ascents as beginning, end, beginning, beginning, which helped me keep track of when they would come in relation to the aid stations. But before I could get to the second aid station where I knew Bill would be waiting for me, I had to navigate this downhill mud slick. Ladies and gentleman, running uphill seems daunting and it is (though I power hiked most of them) but going downhill is much more difficult. You have momentum and gravity and unsure footing to contend with. Add to that mud slicker than a pig grease and you've got yourself a hoot of a time. How I did not completely fall and wipe out is beyond me! I got to aid station two and declared that was the most mud I've ever had in my entire life! The aid station was pretty upbeat which is such a good thing. I ate some banana and a small Slim Jim before taking off again. Bill said it was just a small 3 mile loop and I knew the climb was at the beginning so off I went.
|Now this is more like it!|
2 to 3: I would loop back to the same aid station for this one. My word was Persistent. I was feeling so good. I hadn't looked at my watch for my time or the time of day or how many miles I had done or even my heart rate. It was on my wrist collecting all the data and that was it. It was funny to get to the top of an overlook because my phone would start dinging with all the texts from family and friends. After going up and then coming down, we reached the sandy bottom. There had been sand before but it wasn't as deep and with the rain and runners pounding it, it was sort of compact. But this wasn't the same. This was much deeper and sucked your energy. As I started getting a feel for how to navigate this section, I opened up the throttle a bit. It also had this little whoop section which consisted of about two steps up, two steps down, two steps in between. It wasn't all that fun; it was more annoying. I finished this section strong even though my right IT band was start to tweak a little. A quick little stop at the aid station and off again.
|These weren't even the big rocks|
|Like running on a beach except in Minnesota and minus the whole warm temp and ocean thing|
3 to 4: Bill wanted to hike up a portion of this with me and it was nice to have him to chat with. I had had very brief conversations with a couple other runners but only one other runner was willing to talk it up with me. I was kind of disappointed in this aspect. Maybe 17 miles is still too short and still too competitive to get into the kind of commaraderie I had heard so much about. Anyway, we got to the first overlook and Bill took a picture of me. I told him to hurry up and take it before I started full out crying. It was such a momentous things for me to be where I was and doing what I was doing and to have only 7 more miles to go. After that, he turned around to take a short cut to aid station 4 but reminded me that this was the climb that seemed like it was done but it really wasn't and that this was the stretch of trail with rocks that Ben said were bigger than his bike!
|Me and my man! He is simply the best!|
I could see how this is easily Ben's favorite place to ride. It was really beautiful even in the last dull of Spring with overcast skies before the land bursts with newness.
I soon discovered that while my right IT band was tight and twanging my left IT band was making itself known. This has never happened to me. I've always had fits with my right side- my right knee, right shoulder, right foot. The left side was brand new and taking over the spotlight. The climbing was easy and did not hurt my knees. The descending, though, was when it hurt and I had just finished the majority of the climbing. This was a dark and slow time for me. I couldn't navigate the rocks, mud and knee in a fast manner. I kept going but it was my slowest pace.
I started pulling from my mental reservoir, which I had been stockpiling. I used my word Persevere. I came out onto the access road and knew I had to walk. Walking had always been the trick for my right side and it would have to be for my left as well. I started finding ways to challenge myself. I had finally looked at my watch and noticed my walking pace wasn't too bad and started to really power walk, which became a new challenge to conquer. I've practiced running and a little power-hiking (could use more practice on that) but not power-walking.
Friends, many of you think walking is the wimpy person's exercise. I'm here to tell you it is not. You don't have to run to be strong. You have to move to be strong. You don't have to do 17 miles. You have to do what you can and keep doing it. Stop comparing yourself. Find your own awesome!
After walking a bit, I would test out my running. It wasn't great. In fact, I think I might have been faster walking. I was passed by a couple people I knew I could beat if only I was able to run. Letting all of this go on this flatline section was difficult. One woman was the one who chatted with me the most. She cracked that one almost doesn't know what to do with when its flat and dry. I smiled. I knew what I would have done. I would have let the gas open wide and blast through it, blowing my heart rate to bits. It was a gimme and I couldn't do it! I cheered on the other woman who passed me. I had to run my own race and not be-grudge who were doing well also. I hobbled into aid station #4, used the bathroom again, fueled up and left Bill standing there.
4 to Finish: This was my battle. I wasn't going to quit. I had less than three miles to go. I wanted so bad just to run but my knee would not let me on the down hills. I made myself go. Press. Press to the finish. Press to the next tree. Press through the mud hole. I was getting a little weary of the mud but splashed through the puddles and muck just the same. I took an assessment and realized the only thing bothering me was my left knee. Where is the mind over matter thing and how do you do that? I realized I was probably doing it as long as I didn't think about how to do it. This was a huge victory for me. I didn't walk much but what I was doing barely qualified as running. It didn't matter. The finish line really would be coming up soon.
I crossed a little stream, upped a little lip in the trail and suddenly I was at the campground! I was at the campground!!!!! I ran! I ran and ran and I didn't care if I was going to hobble maybe even stumble at the finish line. I ran because I did it! I ran because I wanted to be done! I ran because I was going to run the last part! People cheered me on and told me "Nice job!" and "Way to go!" but I let it all stream past me. I was getting to the finish line. (Thank you awesome cheering people. I'm sorry I didn't acknowledge you. You stopped what you were doing and took time to cheer me and I'm so thankful you did that for me!)
I crossed the finish line and all I wanted to do was stop. I wanted to smile but the tears were coming. I wanted to cry but I was gasping. The guy who hung my wood medal around my neck asked if I was okay and I wanted to say yes but all I could do was nod because I was a mess of everything! I think everyone there would have completely understood had I broke down because they have been there before. It was surreal. Had I really just run through pouring rain, lightening, thunder, puddles, streams, mud, boulders, sand for 17 miles in the most elevation change of my life?! And my finish time was not awful?! Euphoric is the word! Unbelievable! I had done it!
|I'm due for some new shoes anyway.|
I grabbed a cup of soup and a cup of coffee and shivered back to the camper. There I jabbered away to my captive audience. Ben untied my shoes for me then watched in fascination as took off my shoes, peeled off my socks, and picked at the mud dried on my legs. Luke told me that I had done a good job and was thoroughly encouraging to me. I took a quick shower and then we were back on the road. I wish we could have stayed longer so I could have connected with other runners but we wanted to get back in time to see Audrey before Prom started.
|What the inside of our camper looks like|
I talked the whole thing out with Bill on the way home (between texting with Audrey, once we had a signal). I mentioned that for running for almost 5 hours, it went quite fast. It really did! I'm still reveling in it! Thanks for reading along and for your well wishes and encouraging words. Now its time to rest and recover and get my body healed up. I've got another race in five weeks!!
|If this guy gets any hotter, I'm going to have to carry a fire extinguisher with me!|
|The graphics for this race and the Superior Trail Race (my next race) are out of this world.|