Sunday, March 12, 2017

Winter Psycho Wyco

Two days before the winter Psycho Wyco 50k, I thought I was dying. I stayed in bed most of the day with aches and a cough and other miseries. I had gone from tired but still healthy on Tuesday to sore and chilled on Wednesday to all out dying on Thursday. My friends know that I invest myself fully in whatever I do and a cold is no exception. 

I contemplated what was in store for in two days- three trips around a trail near Kansas City with over 3,000 feet elevation gain. I knew this trail from last summer as I chose to celebrate my birthday by doing two loops on it in near 100 degree heat. I finished that race stinky from sweat, dripping from all the ice I tucked in all over my body and spent the trip back to Iowa dry-heaving from a bit of heat exhaustion. If those aren't reasons to come back, I don't know what is.

I chose this race as part of my training for my upcoming 50 mile race at McNaughton as a supported long run. A supported run means you have volunteers wearing flannel shirts and fake beards cheering you on. A supported run mean there is more to eat than your humble fig newtons and pretzels. There are quesadillas and broth and potatoes and Coke and pumpkin chip cookies. Some have made posters that make you smile and someone else has decided to wear Viking horns and beat on a drum at the top of a long climb although I suppose these things could happen during an unsupported run. I'll keep you posted. 

you have no idea, sign
The morning of the race, I rolled out of bed and bleakly looked at myself in the mirror. The temporary surge of wellness felt the day before had waned away and I found myself with a good size cough and that whole watery eye, runny nose bit. The hotel coffee was not the best part of waking up but to be honest, nothing was going to be that morning. Dressed in clothes appropriate for low 40 degree temps, I made my way to the start area. I found Susanne, Justin and Shannon and we all exchanged well wishes for the day. 

guy in back didn't want to smile so we kicked him out of our group
I knew I was in for a day of work when by a mile in I was far back in the pack and I didn’t care. I stopped at the first aid station only a few miles in and asked for broth- they would have it for me when I came back around. I tried to talk started coughing; every breath went down with jagged edges. I was sick and now had to finish this somehow without completely destroying myself.

The reasons one chooses to keep going despite being miserable are interesting. For one, I had nothing but time provided I start my last loop by the sixth hour. I called Bill at the beginning of my second loop to get encouragement and some help with pacing math. He assured me I had the endurance to do this race and that as long as I kept moving, I would be fine. Today was testing my mental stores. I chose to run when I could and walk all the rest. Anybody who could, passed me on the second loop. Secondly, this course has many areas that mimic the McNaughton race and to have to go over those again and again was good training. Thirdly, I couldn’t get this day back. I could have stopped at two loops and no one would have faulted me but I knew I wouldn’t get another shot at having this kind of support and time during this training block. I also felt like I was finally getting a real glimpse of what kind of work and suffering I will be getting myself into in a month or so. 

The winter course is similar to but not the same as the summer course. The winter course goes from the backside of the dam up the dam hill and continues up the dam road whereas the summer course goes across the dam bridge only, i.e. not as much dam. There are plenty of loose rocks and technical areas but much of it is runnable trail. Not easy and you must pay attention but still quite a nice. I found many sections of the bridle trail to be tough on the ankles because of the hoof prints left and then hardened into the trail. Days after the race was done, my lower legs were still sore. 

dam hill, in case you don't know what one looks like 
homophone with bridal
Friends cheered me on via text and I took the time to read them all even though I usually don't. I opened myself up to the entire experience and everything I was feeling. Amazed that I wasn't quitting. Quiet because I couldn't do anything more. Tired because I haven't figure out how to run with my eyes closed yet. Humbled because it would be this plus two more loops for 50 miles. Sad because I missed my boys. Encouraged because my friends and family believe in me. I may not have been sprite and cheery but I would not complain. Twice, spectators yelled from the roadside "Go get it!" and "Good job, young lady!" and who am I to correct them? 
totally works
My stubbornness prevailed and I started the third loop but it wasn’t without another call to Bill and another round of tears, which lead to a disaster of a runny nose. I learned fairly early on in the race that I could not wipe my nose on my sleeves every 5 minutes and my fingers were frozen so I was in no mood to manipulate tissues. Thus, I learned the art of snot rockets. Listen, in this training cycle I have had at least one thing in each long run bring me to a new, humbling low. Some of my friends (who are now in the best friends club) have been witness to these and others have heard my confessions. I have never been able to execute a successful snot rocket and all my previous attempts have left me almost wrenching at the grossness. I was so proud of myself and my new skill I considered titling this post "The Race I Perfected the Snot Rocket".

did you expect a picture of my snot rocket?
I wish I could have exchanged banter with the volunteers. They go out of their way to help everyone and bring smiles and positive energy to us. But since talking was a no go for the race, I just moved through every aid station and kept going. At the end of the loop are three hills or climbs. If you don’t know about them when you start, you will know about them by the end. At first I dreaded these hills. The whole section is a bunch of work. Both the ascents and descents are technical. Momentum is your friend on the way up and awareness is key on the way down. After the first loop, I adjusted my outlook when I got to them because the finish line was literally just around the corner. I finished the last loop and the last of the climbs and crossed the finish line. Someone stuck a finisher’s medal around my neck; Susanne placed a 50k finishers hat on my head and after a few brief conversations, Aaron drove us home.

rocks more unstable than they appear
Two days later I found myself piled up in bed again, despondent of life itself. I would get up from time to time to take care of a little thing or two but mostly the tissues wore raw my nose, coughing chaffed my esophagus, and various bowls and mugs overflowed my bedside stand. My contemplation complete, I don't really want to go back to this race in either its winter or summer editions at this point. It has kicked my butt both times although not because of the race itself but because of my physical condition. That being said, both times it has been the perfect training course for me for other races which what I signed up for.     

the tornado spins


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