Nearly a year I’ve trained for the North Face Endurance Challenge Series 50k. Injuries couldn’t stop me. My asthma couldn’t stop me. I was GOING to run this race. Right up until Mother Nature decided to into full bitch mode. Every time we checked the weather on Friday it changed. When we attended the pre-race discussion Friday night there was a discussion of the weather. The race was going to happen. Period. All we knew was the there was going to be something falling out of the sky on Saturday morning we weren’t just sure WHAT.
Saturday morning dawned and it was raining with temperatures hovering around freezing. If this were any other day I would have done anything else other than run outside. This was the perfect cocktail for my lungs to be miserable. Luckily I had packed all of my gear so I could cover my mouth and try to warm the air. I suited up for battle and we all piled into the car to the start line. As soon as we got dropped off we found out that there was an hour delay of the start. Apparently there were blizzard conditions up the mountain. Oh boy….so we waited. Then came the second new bomb.
We were NOT running the 50k course. We would be running two loops of the half marathon course. I was crushed. Not only because the distance was not actually going to be an ultra, but it was loops. I hate loops. Loops crush me mentally. The pull of the start line is always exceptionally strong for me. My inner sloth just wants to stop. “But it’s right there why can’t we stop?” I had to come up with a new game plan on the fly as my previous plan based on elevation profile and training just got toss out of the window.
Now, I completely understand safety first. We heard of snow drifts up to the thighs of the scout runners. We also heard news of aid crews being stranded at the top. Throwing runners out on a course where they could die would be bad for business. However, I had a serious beef with Mother Nature. Seriously, I mean WHY??? Last weekend it was sunny and 70. Next week, sunny and 70. GAH!!!!
When we finally left at 8 it was STILL pouring and cold. I kept my face covered in an attempt to warm the air. The first 6 miles of the half marathon course were straight up hill. Nothing like a good air and soul sucking climb right off the bat. Even better we were sharing the course with the 50 milers so around 3 miles in the elite runners came blasting past us.
Grind, grind, grind up the hill. The trail was definitely wet, sloppy, and slippery, but still gorgeous. The leaves on the trees were amazing colors. Every once in a while we’d get an amazing view. I’d use the “on your left” from on of the fast 50 milers or 50k folks passing me as an excuse to look around. I spent most of the race looking at the ground trying not to slip and fall on my face.
My first lap I did really well following the nutrition plan that Sainted Mary and I had laid out. I used the aid stations to fill my water bladder. As I finished my first lap and headed back around for another 6 miles of grind I zoned out. Like REALLY zoned out. I had to. The pull of the finish line and being done was strong. I had to block it out.
As Windchime blew past me all of a sudden there were flashing warning signs on my proverbial dashboard. We had been keeping pace with each other why was she blowing past me? I dug under the 3 layers of clothes that I had on to get to Coconut. Holy f*%& stick I hadn’t eaten in over 2 hours. It was at that moment I realized the wheels had not only come off the bus it was skidding down the road on its undercarriage on fire. Sigh. I knew that trying to recover from a deficit was going to be exceptionally hard. Crap. My feet were still moving forward this was good. I reached in for a snack of banana chips and Justin’s honey peanut butter (on of my favorite go to snacks) and made the goal of hitting the next aid station.
At the aid station I sucked back some broth to help warm me up and scanned the table for something that I could eat. In my calorie deficit those pb&j sandwiches looked amazing. I was with it enough to know that was a bad idea. Unless of course I wanted to be on the side of the trail puking my guts out. I grabbed a handful of frozen skittles and kept marching setting up my new goal; next aid station.
This continued on until I hit the final aid station. When I rolled in my fingers were so swollen I couldn’t slide my hydration bladder open. The volunteers were so sweet and did it for me. I sucked back more broth, some potato chips and grabbed another handful of frozen skittles. This was the last of it and it was all down hill. I picked up from my march to a “run”, ok it was more of a quick shuffle, but it was faster than my march. My lungs were on fire. I was barely breathing. The cold air and being out in it was starting to take its toll on me. I just had to finish. I WOULD finish.
The last .2 miles of the course is all switchbacks, but I could see the finish. There was even a trail that went straight down the hill. My inner monologue slapped my inner sloths face. NO! Do the course as marked. NO cheating. My inner sloth was not pleased.
I honestly don’t remember the finish. My lungs were on fire so bad I was barely breathing. All I remember was crossing, being in tears and repeating to my friends, “my lungs hurt”. That’s it. That’s what I remember. Next thing I know I’m at the condo, stripped, and in the shower. As you can see from the picture (that I don’t remember taking) I’m not exactly what you would call in good shape. The lack of oxygen I’m sure had nothing to do with that (sarcasm).
Results came out and the total distance run was 26.5 miles. Technically an ultra. I’ll take it. Granted it wasn’t the 50k I trained for, but perhaps the Universe threw me a bone. Wet sub-40F temperatures at elevation. Perhaps the Universe knew that if we had done the 50k course and pushed the extra 6 miles something bad would have happened. Who knows. All I know is that Mother Nature threw just about everything but the kitchen sink at me and I survived. Take that Mother Nature. Suck it. (Ha, an asthma joke!)