The race is finished

Good evening race fans! Here is the post-mortem race report. Thank you for your prayers.

I knew from the start that I was going to be in over my head. I just did not know how much! Yikes!

First of all…it snowed here on Friday night. We got maybe an inch of accumulation by our house. However, up in Grafton IL where the race was, at least six inches of snow had accumulated.

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The snow was absolutely beautiful at Pere Marquette State Park. It was “Norman Rockwelly” perfect. Unfortunately I did not get any pictures on my iPhone whilst there as the weather delayed our arrival to where we did not have much time to do much of anything before the race started and I wasn’t going to try and take pictures while running. The snow stuck to the branches everywhere. Perhaps an inch or two high. It was like a Christmas movie out of Hollywood. We just needed a few horse-drawn carriages!

I knew, again, that this was not going to be easy. Complicate that with the fact that since The Pinger’s birth in October and subsequent three week hospital stay, I had only gone running maybe three times AND that was just in the nice and flat city streets of my neighborhood. It was warmer and it was dry. The only off-road running I had done was up and down Art Hill a couple of times early in the summer…so essentially no practice of any kind. And this was my first ever trail race. I let my friends convince me I’d be just fine on what is referred to as one of the toughest courses in the Midwest. It’s good to have such friends🙂

The usual race jitters and adrenaline were in place at the start. Off we go! The excitement rudely wore off about 60 seconds later when the first hill appeared around the corner. Gulp! You’ve got to be kidding me! So I start trudging up the hill, only to realize some time later that I had already jettisoned the set of spikes on my right shoe. Swell! I make it, but I am already tired. I step off to the side to let the faster runners go by. That was a pretty common theme. That is fine…I don’t want to get in the way of the pros. The course rarely had more than single-file width.

Eventually i see the stick for mile marker number one. Only 6.5 to go. Ugh. Oh yeah… My longest race to date was only 4 miles and it was really flat. Sigh. I really thought about quitting at that point but I carried on.

Water was served at mile number two and that helped considerably. By then I had gone up and down a few steep hills but was managing to run a little but was mostly walking. But it was strange…by the time mile 3 or so came around, I think my body had gotten used to the terrain a little as well as the temperature so I was able to move a little more quickly with some bursts of energy along the way to kick in a decent pace…well at least for me. I had experienced this feeling in the spring when in Florida when I went on a longer run and it happened then too. Mr C., one of those I ran with yesterday, told me that happens with him as well after a few miles into one of these races. Perhaps the carb to fat energy transition happens then for me or something.

I’d say around mile 4.5 or so, I started to get cold especially in my torso. To add insult to injury, every few minutes, the Norman Rockwell snow fell down in chunks from the tree branches above. Kind of like the trees were throwing snowballs at me. Great…I’ll just pass out up here of hypothermia and then I’ll get a free ATV ride down and I won’t have to finish on my own feet.🙂

It wasn’t to be. I needed to finish what I started. Throughout the race I kept my green corded rosary in my hand. I don’t know how many times I went through it but it helped. This race was a self-inflicted cross that I had to carry. There were some points when I could barely take a stride up some relatively shallow steps up a hill. Perhaps a small bit of the Via Crucis was meant for me to share this day. I think I fell three times, too, in the process. Fortunately, there were no injuries from those slips. Just dust the snow off and move along.

I eventually see milepost 7. Alllllmost there. Stay on target… I was able to pick up the pace a little, as I was so close. Finally, one of the lookout guys said that there was only 0.2 miles to go but to be careful as a runner slipped and broke his ankle. I got past that part ok and was able to come across the finish line running. That was probably the only flat part of the course!🙂

Finally. Done.

All in an unimpressive 2:21:04 time. But I finished the race. Unbelievable. I did not think I would see the finish line.

I had no idea where my four friends were in the race….other than way ahead of me. They had all done this before. After crossing the finish line, I went to get a hot chocolate and a few cookies. They tasted really, really good. Hot chocolate was gone in about three swigs!

I started to head back toward the lodge when my friends greet me outside the door with a beer. I think it was Busch Light, but I cared not. It also tasted really, really good. I come to realize that they all of finished about an hour ahead of me. What a great showing of patience!

I grabbed another round and then we headed home.

Grueling…as advertised!

Some other thoughts and observations:

Everyone was really nice and they passed me by, periodically they’d ask if I was ok.

At least 5 or 6 people said they liked the LifeRunners message displayed on my shirt, “Remember the Unborn.”

Some people were totally nuts….just tearing down the hills like it was an alpine skiing or luge event.

The race director has a sense of humor. On the website, it said “You … that is if you are a runner looking to get off the road & try a real challenge. We accept no Wimps or Whiners. Harsh penalties exist for anyone caught looking Wimpish or acting Whiner-like. ”

So….will I do this again? I need to ponder that awhile. I want to say yes but I know that I will need to train more for it. That will partially depend on work, family life and The Pinger’s upcoming surgeries and procedures. It was certainly a unique experience? These guys will attempt to cajole me, I sure🙂

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How about you? Have you ever done something this crazy or physically/mentally demanding?

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