Rethink success: the good, the bad and the out-of-control Ultra

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So I entered the Psycho Wycho Run-toto-Run 50k race in Kansas City, KS. The short of it is that my 50k turned into a snowy 20 mile trot through the woods. I was not alone, over half of the 50k registrants did not finish (or didn’t even show up for) the race they registered for but dropped down to a shorter race.There may have been a point in my life where dropping down in race distances would have left me really bummed. This time I am completely satisfied.  Four days after the race and I’m just now able to walk again due to calf soreness. I don’t feel defeated one bit. I still think it was a successful run. Let me use this recap to suggest we runners sometimes need to rethink success. #rethinkrunning

The Psycho Wyco was just a mix of so many things good, bad and out-of-control.

The Good:

Trail people are great. Psycho, but great.

Trail Nerds is an amazing group that organizes top-notch trail race events. I can tell this to be true from the one event (possibly the only) that I participated in this weekend. Everything from registration, to packet-pickup to the post-race was well planned. They deserve lots of praise for making the most of a tricky day on the trail. Although the trail conditions were tough, it was beautiful out there. The day was lovely. Fresh, crisp air and the chance to poke around in the woods. Wonderful.

I’m encouraged, too, that the run helped solidify my bent towards road running. I might be a gravel road runner, but I prefer the open road. What I really enjoy about running, much like riding horses, is the speed.

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I like the relative consistency that the road provides. With a trail there are so many variables. Each race is like comparing apples to oranges. In this race, we were running on single-track trails, bridle trails, deer or bunny paths. I for one would never take a horse on any of those bridle trails, but I can see why trail people get a kick out of it. My tastes are just different. I am happy in my affinity for the roads.

The Bad:

The snow.

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The snow never packed. Days before the race, the race director had emailed everyone to suggest that the last year it snowed a lot ended up being a fast year. I’m guessing that was a snow, then melt, and refreeze sort of deal. That would have been fast. This year, all we could do was trample through the snow churning little bits of leaves into it. It was like running through 5+inches of all-purpose flour for five hours. Nah, give me skis any day. This was a snowshoe race with no snowshoes allowed. That was a problem for this road runner and mama…

At about three miles in, I was done for. Other than my calves, which were exhausted from sliding backwards and twisting each step, I felt fine. The slow slog was a drag. I even passed other runners later in the race who told me, “you don’t even look tired.” And no, I didn’t feel tired, my calves were shot, but I could have carried on all day. I just didn’t WANT to carry on all day. Mainly for this guy…

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In the morning, I had left before getting him up but planned to be back by very early afternoon. At mile three, my average pace was nearly three minutes slower than what I projected. Even if I weren’t lactating, I still was not prepared to be gone all day. No, having a baby gives a much deeper perspective to time, time management, and the value of time. Finishing the race in the top few spots would have been nice but compared to him there is very little lure in any prize.

A note on time: If you are thinking of taking up ultra marathoning (anything longer than a marathon: typical ultra distances are: 50k, 50mi, 100k, 100mi for instance. Fun huh?), do consider the great time commitment that you need to make. The year I ran my two 50-milers, I had very little going on outside of running (and waiting for my husband to get home from Iraq). Really, one of the toughest things about the ultra distance training is just getting up and staying on your feet for a long, long time. You have to have or find the time to do that. I could probably run in the middle of the night, but that also sounds pretty bad. I’ll stick to just trying to run fast.

The Out-of-control:

Trail runners are out of control. Lots of runners I spoke with were contemplating dropping down in distance and most of them sounded really defeated. Running and chatting, I tried to encourage them that stopping at 20 was not all bad. They were in pain. Maybe even agony. One guy who really wanted to finish, at one point said, “I just want my mom right now!”  His cry for his mommy, of course, struck a cord with me. But seriously, these people were out of control. They didn’t seem concerned about injury or anything. Whereas, I, the only non-trail-runner(I’m pretty sure) of the bunch, I was like, “Who cares!?” I was thinking, “This is absurd…get me out of here.” It didn’t matter to me that I was in first or second place because I knew that if I tried to make the  third lap, I would very likely have injured myself. My calves were falling apart and I was losing screws right and left from my shoes.

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My poor Intuitions 1.5, they were out of control, too. Notice how they’re relatively smooth. Right…like skis. They really gave me no control on the snow and steep grades. It’s not their fault, they were made for the roads (like me). I had tried to use the screw shoe method. Screw shoes still work, but the screws are better suited for ice or packed snow. During the race most of the screws were ripped out by all of the twisting, sliding, grinding through the snow and whatever rocks, branches, or dog poop was below it. I am amazed that I only fell twice and have no broken bones because I was seriously out of control, sliding all over the place, slipping up hills and skidding down hills. No, even with the screws, the snow was too much.

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So I felt relatively prepared and was looking forward to hitting the 31 miles hard. In hindsight, I was really quite unprepared for the trail conditions. I feel successful in that I did come away from the race in one piece and with a renewed respect for trail runners as well as a revived love for endurance running of all sorts. I am ready for this season of road racing. Ready to hit it hard and run fast.

Less than nine weeks until my first marathon of the year. Whoohoo. #Zerolimits

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