Well, all I can say is that the race conditions this year were completely different than 2022, and not in a good way! I knew signing up for a race at the beginning of March can be risky, but I took the risk last year and it was a great day (still in my top ‘Best Day Ever’ list! if I had a list), so I felt like it was worth the risk again. Earlier in the week when the weather forecast was showing 40/30 degree temps with rain and strong winds, I thought..uhoh. In preparation for the cold temps since my appendages (hands mostly) struggle with staying warm, I ordered 20 packages of Hot Hands off of Amazon (probably 18 more than I needed but it was the best deal), and went back through my packing list from the previous year and added in a few more long sleeved layers and gloves. I also had a waterproof/windproof Ultimate Direction jacket I had bought for the race last year that I never wore, but apparently this year it was going to get some serious use. The last ‘weapon’ I had against the weather were wind panels I bought for the tent that we were borrowing from my parents to help keep us warm/dry. I thought we were prepared.
Race morning was cold and rainy, as expected, no surprises there. I dropped Penelope off at the kennel and while out and about realized how COLD it felt with the wind/rain. I knew while we were setting the tent up and carrying our gear I needed to stay warm and dry, because starting the race cold and wet will really zap your energy. So when I got home I dug out my rain pants I had bought for a family trip to Canada… in 2012. They never got used on the trip, but was very glad I saved those after 11 years of no use! Finally the car was packed, we were decked out in rain gear and on our way. When we got to the park, but due to the rain we weren’t able to park on the lawn close to the set up area so we had to park farther away which was going to make getting all of our gear unpacked a bit tougher. It took 3 trips and some sore arms but we got everything hauled and the tent set up. The big question was, would it stay up? The winds were crazy and pulling the base of the tent out of the ground despite each leg having at least two stakes in the ground, but it was just too wet and mushy and they kept coming out. JMR tied one leg that was really getting lifted to the nearby fence which seemed to help. The wind panels were a no-go as we feared they would give the wind more leverage for relocating our tent. 😦
With about 30 minutes until the start, I fell into a stunned daze. I was cold, worn out from carrying the gear/wrestling with the tent/worrying if it would stay standing, and did not want to run in rain and strong winds. There just wasn’t any escaping the conditions even under the tent, the wind was so strong and it was cold. My parents live nearby and decided to surprise us at the start, but unfortunately due to my brain being on another planet and also trying to get out of my rain gear and figure out which shoes/socks to wear, I wasn’t able to chat too much. I was literally pinning my bib on my pants while walking to the start before the final whistle blew. I could not believe we were doing this and my head was not in the game.
Then we were off. I was cold, already getting wet and not even sure what to think. I was in survival mode, definitely not even thinking about running or the miles ahead of me! As we ran down the trails, mini streams had formed and trying to run around them was taking a lot of energy. However I thought it was worth the extra energy because at that point I thought my feet might stay a little dry (they didn’t). As I kept running, I was just stunned we were running in these conditions and if we would be running in them for… hours? Would the rain ever stop? Would the wind ever stop? If it didn’t, I wasn’t sure how long I would last.
We came to the base of a big uphill at about mile 2.75 where there usually is a little stream that runs under a cement path/bridge, but instead it had flooded over and the water came up to what looked to be much higher than our feet. There was no way around it, so we all trudged through shin deep water, and it was cold! It made me laugh because whenever I would see a race that mentioned ‘stream crossing’ I would immediately say, ‘nope, not doing that one’, and here I was, running through one, in almost freezing temps. Oh man.
The next few loops I remained in a daze. I didn’t want to be running in these conditions, but it was warmer to run than sit in the cold at the tent. So I kept going. Also around loop 3 my watch screen stopped displaying, I could feel it vibrate when I hit mile markers, but the screen was just a dimly lit blank screen. Ugh. So I grabbed JMR’s backup golf watch after loop 3 so I could at least see time of day to know how much time I had on each loop and ran with two watches.
Finally around the end of loop 4 the rain let up, the wind started to die down, and the sun sort of peeked out. I said to my friend I was running with ‘we needed this!’, and it did seem to boost my morale. After that loop I changed into a dry base layer, dry long sleeved top and a lighter wind jacket, but kept the same shoes/socks on since that stream crossing was still pretty high. The warm, dry clothes seemed to improve my mood and take me out of whatever daze I was still left in. I was back in the game.
Loop 6 the sun started to set and the headlamps came on, which I was looking forward to since it makes the course look a little different in the dark and gives a little bit of a feeling of ‘newish’ course. By loop 7 my legs were feeling a bit stiff/sore, but my quads were in better shape than they were at this time last year (I think), and was happy I stuck to more runs outside this year and really trying to get in hills. Loop 8 was going to be JMR and my friend’s last loop so I ended up running most of it solo to prepare for 7 more loops solo (I’m not sure why I did that, I think I was worried that my first loop solo I’d just quit after, so I wanted a loop solo but not solo, lol). I felt good coming in and ready to go for loop 9.
While lining up, to my surprise, I saw JMR next to me! Go JMR! With his longest run of 16 miles I wasn’t sure how he would be feeling but he was up for another loop. Loop 9 was hard, my legs were sore/stiff but I was just really really tired. I think the pre-race tent set up took more energy than I wanted to use (and worry, so much worry about the wind blowing it away) and just being in the cold, wind and rain really sucked up my energy. I had been good about eating something during each loop, so I didn’t think it was a nutrition issue, but figured I’d sip some coke before the next loop to see if that helped. JMR finally called it quits on loop 9, so loop 10 I would really be solo.
Loop 10 I was still struggling with fatigue as the sips of coke didn’t seem to help much. The first mile, which is more trail like and hilly, I really struggled but figured once I got to the flatter parts I would do better. However once I got to the flatter section I was still struggling to stay in a line and was kind of bouncing from side to side of the trail. I know, I know, I know…this is where your ‘Why’ is SUPER important, because all I had going on in my head was a solid list as to why I should quit after this loop. The biggest being ‘how the hell am I going to break down our tent and carry our gear if I keep going…I will have NOTHING left, we will never get the gear in the car’. My friend had left after loop 8 and I knew JMR was in a pretty wiped out condition too since he really pushed himself to do 9 loops, so breaking down the tent and loading up the car was going to be rough. I was also comparing to how I felt on this loop last year and had felt so much better, still sore but not this type of fatigue. Also my pace was really slowing, and at the rate I was going I was cutting it pretty close to the cutoff time for this loop. Negative thoughts rolled around in my head as I approached the finish, and when I came in sight of the clock and saw 9:56 I knew right then, nope. I was done. Those four minutes wouldn’t give me enough time to get any nutrition, and I didn’t want to run (suffer) another 4ish miles with the chance of not making the hour limit.
I came to the tent and told JMR I was done. And then proceeded to have a private tired-cry while facing away from the tent. I was upset with myself for quitting 20 miles earlier than planned, but also upset that my body was so tired and not cooperating. However I felt like it was the right call, and still do, unlike last year where I STILL regret not going out for another loop. I was sore and stiff, but in much better shape mentally and physically. JMR asked me if I was sure as the last whistle blew and I said ‘yep’. We watched the runners head out for their next loop, and then started to slowly gather and haul our stuff to the car. I was freezing, it was just as miserable as I imagined it would be, and even told JMR I would pay someone $400 to break down our tent and haul our gear. But we did it and finally headed home.
After a hot shower and putting on warm, dry clothes (unpacking the car would wait until the next day), I proceeded to eat 3 Uncrustables and Rice Krispy treat and then headed to bed. However I hardly slept that night, tossing and turning in pain and sweating through three different pairs of pajamas. My body was pissed about running in those conditions! Since the race I have been taking it easy, with just a spin, an easy swim and a short run yesterday.
The season has just started, it’s hard to believe that was my first race of 2023, hopefully it just goes up from here! 🙂 In fact my Garmin refurb arrived Tuesday, so things are looking up!