A few months ago my friends Joell and Justin told me I should sign up for the Hawkeye 50K in Iowa. It sounded fun, but at the time I had been running quite a bit and gone a lot and didn't think Rick would be up for me going to Iowa to run. I didn't sign up and it sold out. Probably a month ago I was telling Justin I wish I could fine a 50K since I needed it for training. He told me there's a waiting list for Hawkeye, get on it. I emailed the RD and asked what the chances were of getting in. He said zero. The waiting list had 50 people on it and there was no chance of spots opening up. Ok, scratch that idea. A couple of weeks later I see a Facebook post saying a few spots opened up and to message the RD if you want in. I sent him a FB message and an email, pretty much begging. I hadn't talked to Rick yet but was hoping he'd say I could go. I got a message back saying I was in and talked to Rick who gave me the ok, so I was good to go.
Now it was time to start obsessing. The cutoff was 8 hours and my 50k PR was 8 hours 30 minutes. Hmmm. Justin and Joell both told me I could do it. The only thing that might mess me up was the weather. I've been training hard though and felt somewhat confident. Then we got daily updates from the RD about course conditions. They got so much snow that when it melted everything started flooding. They were going to have to change the course and even then it would be bad. The last email we got from him was late Thursday night saying part of the course was a sheet of ice so perhaps we should bring traction devices. Oh yeah, that's good for my confidence! The one thing I had going for me was that Joell had agreed to run the whole thing with me. It would mean a much slower finish for her, so it was incredibly generous of her to offer.
Friday afternoon I headed to Topeka and then we took off for Iowa. Looooong drive. We got there, checked into the motel, then went to bed. The race didn't start until 11 the next day and we were all glad we didn't have to get up early. After we got up we ate breakfast, gathered everything up and headed to the race. Picked up packets and then walked around a bit to look down the three different trails we would head down. We would do an out and back to the right, an out and back to the left, then two 3 mile loops. I took some pics, which don't really do it justice.
It was finally race time and we got lined up. The RD talked forever! I didn't realize it but my watch went into sleep mode. The race started and my watch didn't! I finally got it going after about a minute and settled in behind Joell to run. We had about a mile of trail in the beginning (maybe?). It was icy and snowy and a bit muddy, but really not too bad. The hills weren't awful either. We came out of the trail in nearly last place. We just settled in there for the next several hours. I was making great time, especially once we hit the road for a few miles. I even had a sub 11 minute mile! I was just cruising comfortably. We hit the first aid station and got some endurolytes, gatorade and m&m's and took off. That's when we hit the slop. It was really not awful, but it was muddy and wet. There was a lot of darting back and forth trying to keep our feet as dry and mud free as possible. Ha. If only we could have seen the future we'd have known that was pointless. I felt great and was eating every 30 minutes or so and taking endurolytes like I needed to. I wanted to keep my energy up and never crash. I think I did a great job of that.
Coming into Aid 1
This section was pretty unremarkable. I struggle a bit at one point but Joell kept going and I just did what I could to keep up. We had a short road section into the next aid station and I felt better. More gatorade and m&m's and we headed out to finish up this section. Probably a mile or so from the turnaround we saw Justin. He looked great. I told him I was kicking ass and we kept going. At the turnaround is a big mound we had to climb. I wish I had taken a pic. I did take one of Joell and I with the lake in the background though.
We had set a goal before the race and were well ahead of it. It felt so good to be in a race where I felt decent and was ahead of goal pace. We rolled into the aid station doing ok. I stretched a bit, drank gatorade, ate m&m's and took endurolytes. They also had vaseline so I applied that. We took off and were back on the road. We made great time for this section. I just kept running and Joell finally told me we really should take a walk break. She knew I didn't want to because I felt so good and was running so well, but we needed to. She was right. We walked the next hill, then ran again until the end of mile 21. There was a decent hill, which we walked while eating a gel, and then we entered the trail. Well, it had warmed up. A lot, The ground that was previously icy, snowy and a tiny bit muddy was now a nightmare. Thick, gooey, nasty mud, with sections of snow and ice. You have GOT to be kidding me. We knew the rest of the race would be this way. I said "This is f-ing not fair!" I was furious. I saw my goal come crashing down around me. I knew there was no way I'd make it now.
We got to the aid station, got some stuff and took off. At this point I started using my anger to fuel my race. I just took off. I took my anger out where I needed to, on the course. I was cussing and so upset. Poor Joell. As much as I said out loud to her about how I felt there was so much more I didn't say. I could not believe I had worked so hard and had such a good day and the mud was going to ruin it. It was ankle deep, shoe sucking mud. When it wasn't muddy it's only because it was icy and snowy. My feet were soaked and frozen. My mile splits were so bad I finally covered my watch with my shirt and refused to look. We got to the turnaround and I had ran out of steam. At this point I just did my best to keep up with Joell back to the start/finish. When we were coming up the last hill there was a guy there saying "all of the steep climbs are over!" That was a huge relief.
All day my calves had been cramping. The guy that had said no more steep hills asked if I was cramping. I said yes. He asked where it hurts and I told him. He squatted down and started massaging my calves. Oh.My.Goodness. It was heaven. Painful, but wow. After he was done the pain was gone. Joell said "hey, while you're massaging mine need some help too!" We took off for the first 3 mile loop with happier legs. The first little bit was pretty sloppy, but then we got a little bit of road. We took advantage of it as much as we could. To say I was shuffling was probably an exaggeration. Even our run was slow. For the record, I should say, Joell could have kicked my butt on this course. She chose to stay with me all day, for which I will forever be grateful. I could not have done this alone. We kept plugging away and my left leg was really hurting, way at the top. It had been hurting for a long time, but it got pretty bad in this section. I was having trouble lifting it. I could push off of it, and really do anything I wanted, but lifting it hurt. Umm, you kind of have to pick up your leg to run, so you can see the problem. There's a section on the loop that was so muddy and hilly we were having to use trees to pull ourselves up and to hold onto so we didn't fall going down. We were moving slow, mostly because of me. Joell just stayed ahead knowing I would do what I could to keep up. Somewhere through here I joked with Joell that I was done and dropping. I did not mean it and didn't consider it for a second. I wanted to be done though!
We got to the start finish and wanted to grab some stuff and take off on the final loop. They had taken down the aid station! What the heck? There were still 6 people out on the course. The guy that had massaged our legs asked someone to get us something. I was stretching and he asked what was hurting. I told him my leg and he massaged again. Again, so painful, but felt great! I actually ran most of the last loop pain free. We took off on the last loop and I saw the time and realized we could still make it under 8 hours and most likely under 7:40. We were running and Joell pointed at a girl ahead of us that was moving slow. It lit a fire under me and I made it my goal to catch her. When we were almost to catch up with her I told Joell I was in beast mode. I was too. I was moving better than I had in miles. We caught up with the girl, passed her and kept going. I ran as long as I could, even up hills because I knew when I stopped that might be it for my running. I kept it up for a while, then we hit the nasty part. Joell got in front again and kept me moving. We saw someone else in front of us and set about trying to catch him. We ran as much as we possibly could. I told Joell I thought we could finish in 7:35. Immediately after that I said "no, we can't really finish that fast, but lets try anyway." We did! We ran as hard as we could. We didn't catch the guy, but we got close. We also didn't finish in 7:35. We actually finished in 7 hours, 29 minutes and 27 seconds! A PR for me by a little over an hour.
I couldn't believe it! I had worked my butt off all day and it paid off. I've been training hard and I finally got to see the results. I still have a lot of work to do before Flatrock 101K, but I'll get there. I know what I need to work on and I will.