So on Saturday was the 27Th annual running of the ICE AGE trail 50/50k mile ultra. Imagine that, an ultra race being around that long.
This was to be my second running of the race. So I asked my running/training partner Caroline if she wanted me to pace/crew/run with her during the 50 mile race. She just had done the McNaughton 50 miler, but was not really satisfied on how she finished that race. So to make amends she wanted to complete the Ice Age 50 miler as well.
We actually got there with lots of time to spare to get our gear and pick up our race packets. After going to the porta-john and almost loosing my wallet near the same place, with about $200 in it, I was finally ready to head to the starting line. (pic courtesy of Mary G.)
Before the race, the Race director was acknowledging some of the 1000 and 500 mile Ice Age runners. In order to do that, they would have run this race either 10 or 20 times. Imagine that? Hmm, only 8 more years for me just to reach the 500 mark.
So with the customary Ultra start, "READY, SET, GO", we were off to run around the woods for the next 10 to 12 hours.
The race consisted of three separate out-and-back loops. The first one being the easiest. Me and Caroline tried to keep an even pace, but you know, when you are with people racing we tended to go a little faster than we wanted to.
The first loop went pretty well, there was some single track running, but nothing to technical. Lots of pine needles on the ground and some open spaces in between to make it interesting. So we finished the 1st 10 miles and loop 1 in about 2 hours.
So with the 1st loop ending at the starting area, I decided to get rid of some clothing I was wearing, including my running vest. Then we went off again.. "
"Wholly crap", I just had my cell phone on me.
"Caroline, I think I just lost it on the trail".
So I back tracked to the start, not once, but twice looking for my phone. So after finally conceding I had lost it, I remembered where I put it, in the back of my hydration pack after taking it out of my running vest. So I felt like a total "ASS" for not remembering where it was.
So the next 10 miles on the second loop went pretty good as well. We were hitting more of the rocky and tree root single track sections at this point. But we both felt pretty good and was on pace to finish a little over 10 hours.
So at the 20+ mile mark we hit an aid station. We saw some of the race leaders cranking out some 3:30 trail marathon times. Wholly crap!!! How can I get that fast and still have energy to run another 25+ miles at that pace?
After a brief stop at the aid station we headed out again. So right after this Caroline was hitting the "WALL" a little bit. I just told her it was the marathon "wall" and it will pass.
So I think this was a sign of some bad things to come, but we kept on moving.
More and more, Caroline was starting to hit the "wall" every couple of miles, we were slowing down a bit and I was a little bit concerned about not making the 33 mile cutoff time.
But with a little prodding by me? Okay, threatening to "KICK her in the ASS" if she didn't start moving faster seemed to help a little bit. Even though a slap in the face might have been coming as well.
So with about 40 minutes to spare we were happy to get pass the 33 mile cut-off aid station with time to spare. But I knew we still had 17 miles to go, I told her, "it ain't over yet".
So from this point on, Caroline was having serious trouble eating anything and getting the much needed calories. Her hands were swelling up and she mentioned she felt like passing out, but I told her to keep moving and things will hopefully pass.
"It's all about getting through the WALL's in Ultra Running," I said to her..
So with things still not getting better by trying different nutritional things, I thought it was best to have her set her own pace and run in front of me. With miles and time ticking away we kept on moving somehow.
So with a little less than 4 miles to go we were only about 16 minutes ahead of the cutoff. I was trying to think of all kinds of things to say to her. Sometimes nice and sometimes direct to the point.
Words of encouragement like "suffer later", "no regrets", "I know you want this", we were able to get some more running moments in there to get closer to the finish line. It was just about putting one foot in front of the other. Either way, I was determined to see this through with her to the end.
Now less than 2 mile away, we pushed on, and I pushed her, to some painful times these last miles. It was a little bit painful to know she was suffering, but I knew it would have been more painful for us the next day to know we did not finish.
"C'mon over this hill, we are close"
"Ooops, one more hill, we are really close"
"We have to run, we will not make it if we walk"
"C'mon, they will not feed us if we don't finish on time"
"I smell some barbecue, we are really close"
Even one or two spectators thought I was being a little mean to her :0..
Then between the trees we finally saw the big tent that was setup close to the finish line.
At this point tears came down Caroline's face, and put a tear in my eye as well.
I knew we could do it and we did it with 11 minutes to spare in the 12 hour cutoff.
Finishing time of 11:49, and yes, Dead Frickin Last (D.F.L).
Hooray for that, because it really didn't matter. The people who were really last were the ones who weren't able to finish, I told her. So a D.F.L. is so much better than a D.N.F. (Did not Finish) any day.
As I sat her down after the finishline making sure she was okay, also looking over to see where the medical tent was just in case. Tears were still in both of our eyes.
I was so proud of her this day. A race I will surely remember. The struggles endured and the battles fought this day will live with us both for many years to come.
As for me, I did have some bad spots as well, a little loopy feeling once or twice out there, but I didn't fall once, and that was an improvement. Because landing on those rocks would have some major physical pain. Caroline was able to eat something after the race and felt 100% better after that.
So what is next for me, only time will tell, a triathlon perhaps, but for now enjoy the rest of the week.
Hope you all have a great week as well.