Sunday, February 12, 2017

Do You Still Run? - Part 6: When Nature Attacks

Having an extremely mild winter in Ohio has left plenty of time to run and practice for The Buck Fifty without having to deal with snow, ice, sleet, and slush. We have had our fair share of rain that will freeze for a short time, but we've had so many 45 degree (or higher) days that it only leaves a mess after the fact.

Lots of races, lots of mud
It was nice to see that the Rocks and Roots Winter Trail Series in February was going to be mild and not overly snowy or cold. As a matter of fact, that week we had two days of temperatures reaching 60, which is nuts for Ohio for this time of the year. We did have some snow at the beginning of the week, but it quickly melted and then we had some rain and it stayed in the mid 40s. We knew, as a result, that the trail would be less than ideal.

The trail series starts with a 50 miler, followed by a 50K, a 30K, then a 20K and finishes with a 10K - the race I planned to take part in. It did rain the night before and mist the morning of as the 50 milers took off. About two hours later the 50Kers and 30K group, fifteen minutes later the 20K group and then our 10K fifteen minutes after that. SO...a dirt trail....soaked with melted snow, and rain and mist with several runners of all types trampling the route....THEN...we get to start.

To say that it was muddy would be the equivalent of saying the ocean MIGHT be salty. SO...SO...SO..MUCH mud, about a quarter mile into the 10K it was myself and two other gentleman struggling to keep upright. I did start a little fast, but there was a large group and I didn't want to struggle getting around them on the small trail so I did take off faster than usual. WOW...footing...there wasn't any. You slipped, slid, tip-toed, hydroplaned and used trees and saplings as you passed to sway your momentum the way you wanted to go.

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The first creek was river-like, rushing and knee high. We ran through it like nothing, which was fun...until it hit us that there was well over five miles to go. As I began to slow my pace, one of those trailing close behind slides past me...and shortly thereafter, the second. But that was it, I could keep an eye on them to make sure I could see where to go...because after awhile...everything was just wet and muddy and looked all the same.

The Start
Then we began passing the slower 20Kers, dodging them and using muscles you never knew you had to keep from face planting or tumbling down a hill into Alum Creek was like no other running chore I had ever experienced. Yes, I have run in mud...but this was just stupid. No footing what so ever and even the slightest incline meant using grass, trees and an unconscionable sense of balance - while on your hands and knees - to keep from falling backward creating a tidal wave of yourself and mud.

I eventually lost sight of the first guy who passed me, but kept within my crappy eyesight of the second dude....freakishly tall Fred. Yes, I did discover his name later and it wasn't Fred...but I'm 6-3...I had to cock my head back to look him in the eye. So my nickname for him was warranted.

As we continued to dodge slower runners, hurdle downed trees (there were a lot of them), jumping over creeks and strategically sliding across mud covered wooden foot bridges, I found that I was gaining on Freakish Fred. Though, each time I got close enough to maybe challenge him we had to crawl up a hill or I simply lost footing and slid to my knees. The second half of race, this happened several times. No real crash and burn, but those just quick enough to take your momentum away.

Once we passed the water station, that signaled about two miles to go and despite my efforts I stayed in third (out of 159 competitors). Coming around the bend and crossing the finish line, I was exhausted but equally as sore.  That's what happens when you overexert some muscles in order to keep your balance and from crashing into trees, crowds of 20Kers or thorn bushes hiding just off the path. My Garmin Watch tells me my finishing time as 57:40, about 15 minutes slower than my 10K PR. I did, though, win my age group (whatever that means, I guess).

The full race results:

What the hell did I
just do?

There was no humanly way possible today to go faster than that, I would have had to have been an Olympic level swimmer to cut through the mud quicker than I had.

We had water, snacks, Gatorade, soup, bananas, granola name it...for us at the finish, along with fire pit blazing away to ward of the chill. Soaked and muddied to the bone, when you finished that slight breeze turned your entire body frigid. I had a cup of hot chocolate walking to my car, but my cold hands were shaking so much I think I spilled most of it. Also, the fire had dried the caked on mud, which I hear is good for your complexion. It isn't though, good for your car. I did bring extra clothes, but that stuff was falling off everywhere.

Warming up on the drive home - barefoot with the heat cranked up to "Solar Flares in your face" - and hitting the shower at my apartment were a godsend. I spent just as much time removing the mud from my legs as I did getting it out of the floor of my bathtub. And I'm not one to freak out about a messy car, but I did have to vacuum it out later on due to the amount of dried dirt clods that came off of my person on the way home. Apparently, swamp thing enjoys my 2015 Volkswagen Passat.

I halfway thought this is what it could be like when The Buck Fifty 150 Mile Team Relay comes around in Chillicothe in April, but alas...a team meeting of the "Traffic Panthers" (its a long story, I will explain later) earlier in the week tabbed me with three road based legs of the race. So I get to avoid Scioto Trails, Great Seal State Park and Tar Hollow - I grew up visiting these places and miss them...but if it is rainy, snowing or wet that weekend...I'm glad I'm not one of the poor saps that has to deal with it.

So....six months of training in and two short months to go....hopefully I can keep my body intact.

Finishers Medal and
mud caked legs
Step 1 - Do You Still Run? Part 1 Getting Started: COMPLETED

Step 2 - Do You Still Run? Part 2 Being Consistent, Make Progress: COMPLETED

Step 3 - Do You Still Run? Part 3 Increasing Mileage: COMPLETED

Step 4 - Do You Still Run? Part 4 Ho, Ho, Ho-ly Crap.

Step 5 - Do You Still Run? Part 5 Run (Not Bud) Wiser, Enjoy Your Craft (Beer)

Soaked socks removed,
mud demarcation line.

1 comment:

Angie Whitehouse said...

You will have to let me know which legs you are going to be running, so we can come cheer you on.