As you know, I've been sick all week with...I dunno. Sickness. Sore throat, congestion, major fatigue. So, my expectations going into this race were low, as in, FINISH.
We drove to Bloomington Friday evening and picked up our packets just a few moments before 8pm. We checked into our hotel, discussed race strategy, visited friends, debated over what to wear in the morning and went to bed.
And awoke Saturday morning to three inches of snow!!! I had coffee, a pumpkin pancake with honey and an apple and we cleaned off the car and headed to the race.
This is supposed to be a point to point marathon in which you park at the end and take a 50 min bus ride to the start. Well, due to road conditions, they announced that it was to be an out and back course, starting at the finish, turning and returning the way we came. This meant lots of traffic on single track course.
Four of us piled in a big SUV to stay warm and at about 5 til 10, we piled out to the start line. The first 3/4 mile or so is on fire road, so that was all about gaining position going into the woods. My goal was to just take it easy for the first half and if I felt good at the turnaround, take it in strong. i settled in with a nice group, including a few first timers, and my buddy, Grafton. the first few miles were full of laughs. And I think that's when I took my first and only spill in the snow. Before I knew it, we could hear the first aid station BLARING Christmas songs. I ran through that station since I was sportin' my camelback. (I figured it was better to be safe than sorry with as much fluid i would lose through snot, spit and sweat).
We then entered a beautiful pine forest. It looked like someone dimmed the lights and there were lots of roots, but it was beautifuL!!! The second aid station came quick. I stopped there, told Grafton I was feeling nauseas and thought "oh dear. this is gonna be a long day if I'm already feeling sick". But, I took off to catch Grafton and the gang. We went pretty easy for the long stretch to the next aid station, which proved very beneficial. And I knew it would. We walked the steeper uphills. I knew it wasn't worth the seconds of time compared to the energy output required.
Somewhere in there, I chewed a couple shot blocks. And I perked up again. I hit the third aid station and didn't stop. This is where we hit some fire road and I found some footing and took advantage to find a new group to run with. This section was a blur as I was starting to feel good. I hit the fourth aid station and grabbed a Gu. It was then that some guy mentioned that we were 11 miles in. WHAT??! I thought we were about 8 in, so I was relieved.
It was in this final little section that the leaders started coming back toward us. They were flying! We hit the turnaround and for the first time, my hammies started feeling kinda tight. i bent over to stretch and eek! BUT, there was downhill ahead, so I trudged on.
I hit that aid station and went right through, traveled on fire road again and cheered everyone on that was going the opposite way. People kept telling me I was sitting in 5th female position.
Aid station #6, I stopped and took a pee behind a tarp, ate a chocolate chip cookie, wanted to throw up, heard someone say we were 18.5 miles in and took off running again. At this point, I could tell the affect of sugar on my mood and run feel. When blood sugar was low, I'd wonder if I would finish, every body part screaming at me. i would focus on the pain in my toes, quads, the bouncing of my camelback creating hicky-looking chafe on my neck, the tightness of my hanstrings...uhhhh....
After a mile or two, I stopped, bent over, cheered another girl as she passed me, regained my composure, and went trucking along again, alone.
The second to last aid station, I stopped, got some gatorade, chatted with the volunteers and heard the first place person had just come through in 3:23!!! Another girl came up from behind me, looks me in the eye and says "This shit is HARD!! I've done 8 Ironmans and this tops them all." We exchanged (un)pleasantries for a moment and i took off again. Just 4.5 miles left. And the Christmas song aid station was coming up quick. I flew, solo, to that one, grabbed a water, a cookie, said thanks and headed to the finish.
I'd been told that last three miles was tough. And would feel like five. So, I just kept telling myself it would take longer than expected. I passed a few guys walking, I focused on the beauty of the lake we were rounding, the snow, and tried to block out the building nausea.
Suddenly, I was back on the uphill fire road. A guy came flying by, obviously feeling spry and said he couldn't wait to get some hot chocolate, which made me gag.
I saw the flags for the finish and was almost never more happy to finish a race. One of the biggest things that kept me running was fear of getting cold. I knew I was sweaty. And stopping would make me freeze. Plus, I hurt less running than walking. go figure.
My official time is 4:14.02. WAY better than I expected, even without being sick. It's a tough course. And that snow didn't exactly make things faster.
Afterward, I felt like throwing up. All night! And even today, I'm not feeling quite right. Thankfully, after hacking up pieces of lung the first few miles, my sinuses cleared out pretty well. I'm sore today, but I've felt worse. The tummy is what's more annoying.
Overall, amazing experience!!!! Beautiful, challenging course. And trail runners are tough ass people, I gotta tell ya that.