This weekend was the Race Directors Race for the 2nd Annual Forget the PR 50k Trail Race. This race would be my first ultra since my defeat last year at the Mohican 50 Mile Trail Race. I was not well trained for this race at all, but knew I could do it if I put my mind to it; which I did. The biggest difference in this race from every other race that I've ever ran is that it was going to be my first race as a minimalist runner. I wore my Vibram Five Finger shoes for the 30+ mile run through the woods.
This was a special event, not only for me, but also for my good buddy, Dan. This would be Dan's first Ultra Marathon, and he did it surprisingly well... almost effortlessly at times. Way to go Dan!!
Here is an overview of the journey I'll be talking about:
Alarm Clock - 3:30AM
The alarm goes off and I get up and cook myself an egg sandwich and fill my thermos full of piping hot coffee. I get out the door by 4:15am and make it up to Mohican State park by 5:25am. The plan was to meet Dan at the covered bridge so that we could park his car there to be our own personal aid station throughout the race. Rob had actually planned to have a rolling aid station for all of us runners, compliments of Mike and Jen Patton and company. However, Dan and I would be starting earlier than everybody else, because I'm (what some call) "slow". Therefore, Dan and I would be starting 2 hours before everybody else.
Oh yeah, Dan got a $100+ ticket on his way to the Covered Bridge this morning. He was going 80+ MPH in a 55 MPH zone. Funny thing was that I was on the phone with him when he got pulled over. He showed up in good spirits and it gave us a good story to laugh about at such an early hour. Again, "Way to go, Dan!". :P
Dan and I scurried around and tried to get everything ready for our own personal start. We started at 6:03 AM, sharp. :) It was pitch black outside still, so I had my headlamp. However, I only had one (but not two) headlamps for our trek through the wilderness. We had some good laughs before we even got started and we were pretty excited for our full day of running. The first part of the race was all uphill, so we did a lot of slow jogging and walking for the first few miles...
Miles 1 - 5
As I said it was very dark, and we only had one headlamp. Therefore we tried numerous ways to figure out the best system so that we could both see the treacherous terrain up this big hill. I realize now that minimalist footwear and rough terrain don't mix well with darkness. I beat up my toes in the first 2 miles of our race pretty bad. I got both pinky toes (right foot and left foot), and then around mile 2 I kicked a rock with my big toe REALLY hard, and it went numb for a while. I knew I got it good as soon as I did it, but there was no stopping now (in my book). We were on course for 29 more miles, and the sun was starting to come up. :)
About 2 miles after the toe cruncher, Dan and I made a wrong turn and went about 3/4 of a mile out of our way due to bad navigation on my part. There was a section where I thought we had to turn and head to the Hickory Ridge aid station, but after we got on the path for so long, I realized we screwed up and we had to turn around. This mistake tacked on an extra 1.5 miles to our total mileage, but we were still in good spirits. I'm glad I caught it when I did!
Miles 6 - 10
Hickory Ridge was right around the 6 mile marker, and we saw where the other runners had setup water for their rolling aid station. We both had enough water and gels to last us, so we just pushed on through. Nothing too adventurous happened through here. The sun was out and the other runners would be starting their race very soon. We had some beautiful scenery that kept us occupied through this section of the Orange loop, and we just enjoyed the quiet forest. Plus, there were some very nice downhills coming up soon and then we would be at the Covered Bridge.
Miles 11 - 15
The Covered Bridge is the main aid station and runners visit it 3 times during the race. This was our first stop, and we stocked up real good. As we were approaching it, Dan ran ahead and got it unlocked so that he could get all the drinks and food ready. We refilled our water bottles, ate some PB & J sandwich slices, some chips, some cookies, and off we went...
The next section was the difficult, yet fun and extremely beautiful, Purple loop. This section winds through some technical roots and up a little stream over big logs and muddy puddles to a nice little water fall deep in the woods. My foot was kind of throbbing through here, but I just focused on left foot, right foot. For once I wasn't looking forward to climbing the cool root system at Little Lyon Falls. It's my absolute favorite part of the Purple loop, but I knew that I was going to have to really flex my right foot to make it up the root system, and I wasn't sure how that was going to feel... As we approached it, I just went for it and it wasn't as bad as I thought it was going to be. It was a lot of fun, like it always is. :)
From the root system, we jogged up the road past the dam and made our way to the Blue loop. The blue loop is nothing more than a bad joke from Rob. :) It's a muddy horse path that winds through the woods, brings you close to a beautiful lake, sling shots you around the Lodge, and then puts you back on the same muddy horse path back to the Purple loop. It wasn't bad at all, actually and I really enjoyed it. I remember last year, it had just rained or something and there was no escaping the mud. However this time, it was not as muddy, but enough to remind me how funny it was last year. :)
Miles 16 - 20
Around this time, we were waiting to see the front runners from the 8am start group. As we were coming off of the Blue loop back on to the Purple loop we ran into two runners named Steve and Dave. They were looking very strong, and we exchanged greetings as they were just making their way up to the Lodge. Once we got back onto the Purple loop, we saw a bigger group of runners and I yelled out a WOO-HOO to them as they were making their way up the road. We exchanged some encouragement and then Dan and I headed down to the Big Lyon falls.
We made it back to the Covered Bridge and filled our water bottles once again, and chugged down some Gatorade. The next section was mostly uphill to the Fire Tower...
Miles 21 - 25
This section was mostly up hill to the Fire Tower. There isn't anything really technical about it, other than the fact that it's mostly uphill. There's a nice flat section at the beginning, but then it gets pretty grueling as the hills get longer and steeper. We made it to the Fire Tower around 12:15 PM and the sun was right above us. It turned out to be a beautiful day, and we were past half way done with this race.
After the Fire Tower, we made a wrong turn... We were supposed to turn left onto the mountain bike trail, but instead we kept going strait; mistaking the "left turn" for a left bending turn in the horse path. I spoke with Rob two days earlier on the phone, as this section was a little sketchy to me, and even after he explained it to me, I still screwed it up. We went one way for about 1/4 mile, then turned around and headed back, only to screw it up again and went an even different different left!! The good news is that I was "somewhat" familiar with where we were, so we just improvised to get back onto the Red Loop.
Around this point, my feet no longer hurt. The pain had moved up into my shins. Actually, I'm lying, my feet still hurt, but the pain in my shins were much worse. Therefore, the pain in my feet was just an inconvenience, the pain in my shins was excruciating. Not only that, but our little detour involved some pretty big rocks and I was in my big dumb VFFs. Oh well, c'est la vie!! I did a lot of hobble-walking through here...
Miles 26 - 31.1
On our way back to the Covered Bridge, I saw Mike Patton coming up the path and we stopped and talked for maybe a minute. He told me that Rob and the others were right behind me and should be coming up any minute. About 1/2 mile later we had made it back to the Covered Bridge for our last time. Dan was already there waiting on me, and so was the "rolling aid station" that Rob had told me about. Some of the girls at the aid station noticed my VFFs and it turned into a discussion. I basically told them that it's one of the dumbest things I've ever done. :) As we were leaving the aid station, I knew that the next section was going to be very slow for me. But, make note that I was still smiling, and was determined to finish this thing:
The last leg of this race was very hard. Each step seemed to get more and more painful. Dan and I walked together for a while, but I could tell that I was slowing him down. I would try to do a "shuffle jog" but whenever my foot got turned just a little bit, it sent a sharp shooting pain up my shin. Not only that but both feet were severely bruised on the bottoms. The brusing wasn't so bad because they were (border-line) numb by this point. However the shin pain was almost unbearable. I truly believe that had I gotten on all fours and crawled I would have finished faster, but I just hobbled along and paid close attention to every root and rock on the trail so that I wouldn't touch it with my right foot.
By the time I had gotten to North Rim trail, I was convinced that I was in dead last place. This kind of brought me down a bit, beings how I got a 2 hour head start of everybody else. I knew that Dan had already finished too, because I was less than a mile from the finish line, and he left me maybe half an hour ago. I sat down for a few minutes on a big log and let my feet have a break. After about 3 minutes of relaxation, I decided to just get it over with. I stood back up and started hobbling up the hill again. Almost there!! The closer I got to the finish line the higher my spirits got. I knew that all my buddies would be there and best of all, I could finally sit down and relax. :)
To spite my feet, I decided to do my hobble-jog to the finish line. Running is really the only way to finish a race in my book. I crossed the finish line after running a little bit more than needed and an amazing time of:
9 hours, 43 minutes, and 32 seconds!By far my slowest race, ever! Honestly though, all of that pain and all those bad thoughts went away once I saw the shelter with the other racers sitting and enjoying the post race meal. Once I finished, I got some food and sat down for some ice cold refreshments and "hot off the grill" barbecue ribs!! Rob gave us all our belt buckles and t-shirts, and congratulated us on a successful race.
Post Race Drama
While I was driving Dan back to his car, I got pulled over by Mohican trooper. I was going 34 MPH in a 20 MPH zone. DOH! It's pretty ironic that Dan and I both got in trouble by the law on this day. Luckily, my cop let me off with a warning. She gave me a little lecture and sent me on my way... Charm goes a long way, no matter what some of my high school teachers might have told my Mom. :)
The Day After
I had some pretty nasty chafing (sorry, it's true), but Chickweed Healing Salve is a wonder-cream!! Seriously people, buy it and use it! I'm 100% healed of all discomfort after about 10 minutes of extreme burning while it was "working". As for my feet: both feet are severely bruised, and I'm in a hospital boot with crutches. I have the boot on my right foot, but almost need a boot for both feet. My left foot is getting all of the weight now, but it hurts too.
In hind sight, maybe I probably should have worn actual running shoes. (?) No, actually I'm glad I did the barefoot approach, for I know that this race made me a lot stronger from it. Unfortunately, it came with a pretty big price tag; my mobility. I'm basically on "bed rest" until this coming weekend, when I have to volunteer at the "official" race. Lucky for me I have my beautiful wife, Jennifer, attending to my every need...
Jennifer if you reading this, I need more coffee please. :) J/K