23 October 2018

Fall 50 Report

Already kinda cold...and it's only the Start Line!

"Okay...20 miles done.  Let's just get through another 20 miles just like that...and then you'll have 10 miles to go."

That's what I said to myself at Mile 20 of the Fall 50, which I participated in last Saturday.  Immediately upon finishing that thought, I laughed at myself. What a crazy statement.  What a crazy idea...run 50 miles...in this weather.

You see, the forecast for Saturday hadn't been all that great, but as I woke up on Saturday morning, it was 44 degrees and wasn't raining.  I could definitely handle that.
Unfortunately, by the time I reached Gills Rock at the northern tip of Door County, it was about 15 degrees colder, windy, and raining.  

Well, time to make the best of it!  I kept on the windbreaker I was planning on ditching at the start.  I overheard that the rain was supposed to be done for the day within about 2 hours, so I was optimistic the weather would turn around a bit!
With the blast of a shotgun, I was off and on my way to Sturgeon Bay, via 50 miles of scenic Door County roads.  These first couple miles are always filled with some excitement, a pace that is probably a bit too fast, and all kinds of emotions.  The 'big day' is finally here!  I had thoughts of Kim going through my mind--at my previous 50 Miler in May, she was able to surprise me at the finish line.  This time I knew that wouldn't be the case due to increased pain and fatigue recently.  Fortuanately, I did have my kids and family along for this crazy day of running.  Ellie would be maintaining some semblence of order with the kids while I made my way South, my parents acting as my 'crew' and helping out at aid stations.
Despite the constant rain and wind, the first 5-10 miles pretty much went smoothly.  I was far from too hot in my windbreaker, and while my feet, shoes, and socks were getting soaked, nothing else seemed all that uncomfortable.  At Mile 11 I made my way through Sister Bay and dared to take out my phone and take a picture--the rain had subsided!  While I was pretty soaked, I was drying out with each step, and it had stopped raining!  Dare I say the sun even peeked out a bit.

Then, not more than 2 miles later, it started to sleet.  Then snow.  Welcome to Wisconsin.

Working my way through Ephraim now, that snow had passed.  I worked my way past a fellow runner named Kevin, and we shared some "good lucks" and "yep it's cold and WET" as we made our way south.

Next up was a beautiful 5 miles through Peninsula State Park.  My stomach wasn't doing so great at this point.  It didn't seem to want to process the food and water I was putting in to it.  While I had never actually done this in previous races, I decided that at the next aid station I was going to STOP, sit down, change my socks, regroup, and then get going again.  I really don't like doing this because it's obviously just idle time where I'm not taking any steps (literally) toward the finish line, but in this case, I was mentally tired, my tummy wasn't happy, and my body was cold.

It was a great idea, and leaving the aid station at Nicolet Bay (Mile 19), I felt so much better.  It's truly amazing what the little things--like a dry pair of socks--can do!  I remember reading once to "not sweat the little stuff, and it's all little stuff."  This came in to my mind at this point.

Just a couple minutes later and I was thinking to myself the quote that I started this column with.  I had 20 miles done.  I could focus on taking care of myself as much as I could over the next 20 miles...and then I'd only have single digit miles remaining!  The State Park really was beautiful as well.  I guess, in a way, the wet pavement made the colors of the leaves shine a bit more.  Don't get me wrong, I prefer the sun, but sometimes one has to play some mind games!

Leaving the state park and entering Fish Creek put me at the half way point.  Seeing my family at the Mile 24 aid station was a boost to the spirits as well.  I went through the half-way point in 3 hours and 12 minutes.  I had about 300 calories of gels on me and I was planning on taking those calories in while I hiked up the biggest climb of the entire course.  It's "Cottage Row" Road, just south of Fish Creek right on the water.  The road goes so steep that it actually has a "switchback" in it!

Upon arriving at the base of the steep hill, I started to hike up the road and pulled out my bottle of Tailwind Nutrition--sort of like gatorade.  At this point I was pretty disappointed to see that the cap of the bottle wasn't on quite right and the majority of the bottle's contents had spilled out over my shorts (and the pocket my phone was in) and my legs.  Yuck.  Also, no more calories.
And then, right on cue, the wind picked up and it started to snow.  So now I'm cold, low on calories, and soaked.  I decided to just 'get through' it and keep moving forward.  That's what Kim would say.  So, one step at a time.

Finally, I reached the next aid station in Juddville.  Just under 30 miles done.  I restocked my supplies and had some warm soup, and switched out gloves with my dad (thanks Dad!).  My mom actually offered her gloves to me initially, but my soaked hands were not fitting in those leather gloves.  Insert the OJ Simpson joke here...

Leaving Juddville, I also told them that I wanted to change clothes--completely--at the next aid station.  I've never done that at an race, but I was thinking back to how wonderful some dry socks felt, so let's go with dry everything (not my underpants...I didn't have a spare pair of them packed, or I would have changed that too!).

About 30 minutes later, I'm arriving at the next aid station and can't wait for some warm clothes.  During this leg of the route it once again snowed and sleeted, and the shirts I'm wearing under my windbreaker feel like they're 10 pounds heavy.  I walk in to the aid station, and my mom points me in the direction of a porta-potty.  By this time, however, I have very little modesty left, and decide to just sit down right there on that nice folding chair next to the tables with the cups of water and Coke and Gatorade and get busy.  First are the shoes, which isn't easy with frozen hands.  Then come the socks, which are pretty much a science project by now.  Then the shorts, and the windbreaker, and the undershirt.  Turns out that undershirt really was close to 10 pounds! 
After getting dressed again, I head out.  It's mile 41.  I've reached single digits remaining!  I actually feel pretty darn good in new clothes as well.  And...it's not raining.  And...wait, is the wind at my back?!  And...look ahead--there's the 5th place runner.  I'm catching him!

It's amazing how the little things can make a difference.  Wait, I already said that.  It's also amazing how quickly things can change.  You see, about 2 miles after leaving that aid station, blizzard-like conditions commenced.  I wish I had a hat, as I could have used the visor to keep the snow out of my eyes.  The snow was thick, was blowing in pretty much every direction, and the wind was approaching 40 mph gusts.  In the span of less than 1 mile, I went from feeling great and actually passing that other runner and taking over 5th place, to walking.  Frozen.  Drenched.  And my shoe was untied.  Good grief.  

This was a truly low point.  I had a packet of gel on me, but my hands didn't work.  I could not even manage to get the soaked gloves off of my hands to try to open it.  I had entered a slog of a walk and I was quickly overtaken again by the other runner.  This was a low point, to say the least.

My overall pace for the entire 50 miles was 8 minutes and 38 seconds per mile.  My 43rd mile took me just under 18 minutes.  And the 44th mile was 11 minutes.  Yikes!

I finally made my way to the Mile 45 aid station where my family was waiting.  Ellie had passed me in the truck with the kids and gave me a hat.  My parents had passed me also along the road and my mom gave me a very stylish vest to wear too.  As I entered that aid station I was quite the site to behold, and a very enthusiastic 8-year-old Estelle almost knocked me over as she ran up to me!

5 Miles to go.  It couldn't possibly start to snow again.  I'll dry out and I'll finish.  I literally have no dry clothes left to change in to, so I might as well just get move.  One step at a time.  A couple hugs and I was on my way.

Those last 5 miles featured a stronger and more noticeable tailwind.  My legs desperately wanted me to walk, so it was a nonstop battle between my legs complaining "we are tired!" and my brain telling them to "Shut Up and do your job, Legs."  

I took a couple glances over my shoulder in the last 2 miles to see another runner gaining on me.  That was all them motivation I needed to just keep running, no matter how slowly or awkardly it looked.  So I did.  As I turned in to the finishing area I noted that the tent where the after-party is looked really odd.  It was an odd angle and was really blowing around.  I didn't really think anything of it and just focused on taking the most DIRECT route through the last couple pathways to the finish line...and a CHAIR.  It turns out that the heavy gusts had actually knocked the tent over, closing it to all participants until the wind calmed down several hours later.  

After 7 hours, 11 minutes, and 22 seconds, I was across the finish line in 6th place, and 3rd in my age group.  I promptly fell into a pile of blankets at the finish.   Then the kids piled on top.  It was a wonderful feeling!

Looking back, I don't believe I have run in such extremes of changing weather conditions.  It was by far the worst weather the Fall 50 has had in its 13 years, and I can say now that I'm glad I was there to witness it first hand.  Next time, though, I'm bringing more extra pairs of socks.  And underwear.

I can't thank my family enough for the help and can't thank my staff at the office enough for putting up with a kind-of cranky and distracted running chiroprctor.  Most of all I can't thank Kim enough for the motivation, the friendship, and the spirit that she shares daily!  

4 pairs of socks.
2 pairs of shorts.
4 shirts.
2 pairs of shoes.
2 pairs of gloves.
4 Gu's
4 Tailwind Packets
8 SCaps
1 Patagonia Airshed Pullover
1 Womens Vest from Talbots

Strava Sez.

Photo from "zyia.momma.runs" on IG 

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