In past years, I have found that I struggle with the winters here in Wisconsin. I often tend to eat more and drink alcohol little more and also not be quite as active as I am in the spring and summer and fall months. I struggle with less daylight and sunshine and also with the kind of terrible and ugly whether that Wisconsin winters can provide. Take for example, last week's freezing rain. Not only did I have three sick kids at home, but the weather resulted in school being canceled and some alternating of my office hours due to the terrible road conditions. If yo u ask me, there are few weather patterns worse than freezing rain. I mean, visually, it's just kind of ugly, and the mess that roads are in just add stress and anxiety to all of us.
This winter I decided to try something different. Normally I would play basketball in the winter but now that we have six-month-old Emerin at home, I have a new early morning responsibility. I take the morning shift to feed her. This allows Ellie to get a little bit more sleep and gives me some quiet time with that little girl. Unfortunately, this means I can't join the crew at Kiel High for Tuesday and Friday open gyms. I needed to find something else to do to keep me busy and motivated. I came up with the idea of running a winter trail race. As I said, I've never run much in the winters, instead focusing on basketball and weightlifting and other stuff. And winter trail races are an entirely different animal. But I decided to give it a go.
Back in October I signed up for the Frozen Gnome 50k, a race held in Crystal Lake, Illinois at Veteran Acres County Park. It was fun to train for it, believe it or not, as I had to try out different layering techniques for my clothes and try to figure out a way to keep and get better traction on my feet and even had to figure out a new form of nutrition for during the run… seeing water bottles tend to freeze when it's cold out.
The training went well this winter! I spent quite a bit of time out in the woods after my kids are in bed. I only wiped out once on an icy sidewalk...although it was a doozy of a wipe out!Sometimes I was really really cold and underdressed. Other times I was shedding layers to prevent any excessive sweating that could really cause issues. Only once was I actually a bit worried when I was out in the woods. I tried to cut straight through the woods from one trail to another. The sun was setting, and I quickly was a tiny bit lost. Luckily, I had my phone along. While it's kind of like cheating and shouldn't be relied upon (plus, they freeze and lose battery life quickly in the cold!), I was very thankful for technology at that moment!
Looking to the actual race, I was hoping to finish the Frozen Gnome 50k in about 4 1/2 hours. I also had a goal of finishing in the top three… Maybe even winning the race.
On January 7, I ran the Gnome. It is a loop course, Where we repeat the same 10K loop five times. While there wasn't a lot of snow on the course there was a lot of ice--some slippery ice, some ice that I would describe and slippery and lumpy, and some crusty ice. Also, it was exactly 2° at the start of the race. As the race started, I ended up finding a decent pace and was in fourth place for the first loop. The first 3 miles had me very concerned I was absolutely freezing, from my fingertips to my face to my toes.
As that first loop concluded (it's A 10K or 6.2 mile loop that we complete 5 times), I had warmed up and eventually moved into third place. As I work through the second, third, and fourth loops the first and second place runners seemed to put some space between me. I could no longer really see them at all. I felt good for the majority of the run and just tried to keep moving forward one step at a time.
Finally, as I started the fifth loop I set a goal for myself. It seemed I was never going to catch second place, let alone first place. And I was fairly certain I had a big lead on fourth place, so there wasn't really anyone chasing me from behind. Because of these factors, I had every reason to just kind of take it easy on that last loop. I would call it "Mailing It In"...kind of just settling and quitting, so to speak. But for some reason I was motivated to keep working. So I set a goal to finish that Final loop in under 55 minutes. That goal kept me honest and kept me working. A couple times during that run and during that final loop I wanted to just walk, but instead I would keep running because I wanted to keep myself honest as I said, and as I did that it worked! And I was rewarded for it…
One part of the course is a little out-and-back section, where you see other runners who are either ahead of you by a couple minutes or behind. As I was leaving this out and back with about 2 miles left in the race, I happen to pass the runner who I thought was in second place! I had about five minutes on him. Had I lollygagged on that final loop he might've actually passed me back! I found out after the race, when talking to him, that he had stopped to go to the bathroom and that's when I passed him. Because of that, I had no idea I was in second, but I was rewarded for keeping my effort honest. I finished the race in 4 hours and 10 minutes, good for second place. It was a very rewarding run… One of the most rewarding ones I've done. Not more than 10 minutes after finishing, that's when I got cold for the first time. A change of clothes and a quick nap in my truck and I was good to go with the rest of the day and very happy that I had the opportunity to run and that I had tried a new kind of adventure.
Besides reinforcing to many of you that I'm a bit of a crazy person when it comes to running, what is the point of the story? I think there are two. The first one is that you can't be sure on how anything is going to turn out. You just need to keep working and giving it honest effort, and more often than not you'll be rewarded for it. The second point is to think about weaknesses in your day-to-day life or times of the year when you struggle with health. Address those issues-- don't ignore them. Work through them improve on them and appreciate the reward that they'll provide! Who would have thought that running 31 miles in single digit temps on a lot of ice and frozen mud could actually be fun?!
One more point. I mentioned earlier that I tried a lot of different layering options for clothing. I'll be honest...what I ended up wearing looked pretty silly, and even included male capri pants. I didn't mind, though. I was not too cold or too hot all day (until I finished), and I feel like some day my kids will see my 'outfit' and say to themselves, "Well, our dad sure looked like a goof sometimes, but he did some pretty cool stuff!"
STRAVA DATA Right This Way
- First time EVER using Tailwind. I really, really liked it. Wow!
- Their gel supply was an organic CLIF gel that was "Margarita Pizza" and it. was. HORRENDOUS.
- Not a big fan of YakTrax Runner. They didn't make it through a measley 50k without breaking down.
- I met Stormy Kies. I got all choked up. What a man. What a story. Look him up.
As for the rest of 2017...no real firm plans yet. I'd like to break 4 hours at Chippewa (yup...I said it), I will either run Superior 50k (lottery-dependent) or Ice Age 50 MILER. Then most likely Devil's Lake, then a trip to CO for some Peak Bagging...and then Marquette. As for the Fall...TBD. Maybe a 50 Mile/50k back to back? Or an NK100K? We shall see!