Slider: “Crashed and burned, hey Mav?”
Maverick: (sniff, sniff) “Slider… you stink.”
This scene from Top Gun pretty much sums up my race at Glacial Trail 50 Mile this past weekend. Except in my version, I am playing both characters because I both crashed and burned AND I stank!
We drove up Friday night and stayed with my dad and Andrea. We were up late talking so we slept in on Saturday. After a late (and very lazy) start to the day, we got some food and walked around the Rotary Botanical Gardens. The gardens were beautiful and the warm sunny afternoon was good for the soul. After a delicious summery treat, we hit the road for Sheboygan Falls, WI. We checked into the hotel and asked for a dinner recommendation – they offered the Falls Firehouse Pizza and we accepted. The food was great, the service adequate, and the price was right.
After a fitful sleep, we were up and at ’em by 4AM. We got to the Greenbush Community Center in time to check in, hear some of the pre-race meeting, and greet a few CHUGs. Then it was time to roll out. The day started optimistically enough, my plan was to start slow and finish strong. The first part of the race went really well, I felt I was flying along the trails with little or no effort. Before long, I had passed several people and I was toward the front of the pack. Normally, this would indicate that I was starting too fast but today, it felt easy so I went with it. I cruised through the first aid station and before I knew it, I was at the second AS (mile 13 something) – this was where I was to see Paige for the first time.
After a quick turnaround, I was back on the trail and feeling good but in the back of my mind, I was thinking that I should back off a little bit. Around mile 18, I was starting to feel some twinges of fatigue and my stomach was not quite right so I slowed down. By the next AS (mile 20+), I was starting to feel pretty rough. I have felt this many times before and it usually passes pretty quickly so I paid little attention to it and waited for it to pass. Little did I realize, it wouldn’t pass …. not today.
Just before the turnaround, I met up with Lisa Guinta, Lisa was running her second 50 miler and is married to Dominic. Dominic is the first Chicago Ultra Runner that I met, even before the CHUGs were official, but this was my first time meeting Mrs. Guinta and she was rocking it! By the time I hit the turnaround, I figured I had paid my dues and would be feeling much better soon so I just kept moving as best I could. I was being passed frequently and kept thinking to myself that I’d be seeing them down the road (as in, I thought I’d get feeling better and then pass them all back again) but the day had other plans. When I got back to Paige at the 50K mark, I was frustrated that the fog hadn’t lifted, I was thirsty and couldn’t seem to shake the crud I was feeling. I spent a little time here, sitting down, changing my shirt, and trying to get some extra fluids down. Eventually, I stood up and got back on the trail even though I wasn’t feeling that great. About a mile down the trail, I saw my second snake of the day. Normally, this would be startling but at this stage of the race, I was too tired and grouchy to care. Another ten minutes, I saw my third snake. Another 15 minutes, my fourth. Another 20 minutes, my fifth… okay, I was tired but seriously?!?! By the time I saw Paige just seven miles later, I had seen a total of six snakes – amazing. One thing about moving as slow as I was, I had the opportunity to take in more of the surrounds… for better, or worse.
Mile 36+ put me back in Paige’s care and really wishing I was done. Everyone around was very encouraging but all I wanted was to be left alone. I sat for a few minutes, drank some ice water but failed to take in any calories. I was starting to worry about making the cutoff times and decided that I should move out. Back on the trail, I realized that I should have eaten something and I should have brought more water. As slow as I was moving and as hot as it was getting, I was certain to run out of water before I reached the next AS – I did, and it wasn’t even close. People continued to pass me and all had encouraging words but I wasn’t in the mood. I put my head down and pressed on.
The final AS was seven miles from the finish line and a welcome sight. I sat for a moment while several people tended to my needs. Paige was amazing all day long and this stop was no exception, she put up with my grouchiness and didn’t take it personally… it wasn’t. With time ticking away, I got up and moved down the trail. As soon as I crossed the road and was alone again, I realized I had made the same silly mistakes as before – I didn’t eat anything and I didn’t bring enough water with me, it was going to be a slugfest to the finish. I knew there were people behind me but I also knew that there weren’t many and I was basically by myself for the rest of the race. I ran when I could, walked when I needed to, and just tried to keep focused on finishing the race.
The last few miles felt very long. The only thing that broke them up was Paige at a random road crossing, Mr. Bill and his bells, a few odd fans waiting for their runner, and the seemingly endless number of rocks to trip on. Eventually, I hit the edge of town where Larry, the RD for Rock Cut Hobo 50K, was waiting for one of his group to come. I met Larry in Leadville and could immediately tell that I liked him. A couple of weeks ago, we went to his Hobo run to cheer on several CHUGs and my impression of Larry was further solidified – he is a good dude. Anyway, the edge of town was meaningful for two reasons, 1) no more rocks to trip over and 2) it was less than a mile to go – I picked up my pace. As I turned the final corner, I felt a little choked up which is unusual for me during a 50 miler. Paige was waiting with a big hug. Rob Wehner, the RD, was there with a finisher medal. It was finally over, the reality of that set in and I could finally relax.
I don’t know what caused me to have such a rough day but I know I have never felt that bad, for that long, while running. It was a good experience to push through the discomfort and still finish a tough race but it wasn’t much fun. Rob puts on a great race, on a gorgeous trail, with great volunteers and an awesome atmosphere both pre and post-race. We got so see several friends including a bunch of CHUGs. We also had a chance to catch up with Timo and Jason, co-RDs for the Kettle Moraine 100, they are such awesome guys and always a joy to spend time with. Despite the tough run, it was a beautiful day and a fun weekend.