Sunday, May 14, 2017

Why I Ran An Ultramarathon for Mother's Day

Minutes before race start, we lined up with a crew of equally ambitious (crazy) runners.

 The Gnaw Bone 50K, which cut through Brown County State Park, was anything but flat.

 We walked the stairs.

In our drop bags, we planted fresh shoes.  Guess which ones are fresh?  Notice the cuts and scrapes thanks to a few wipe outs on the trails.

We said our goodbyes to these shoes/socks and thanked them for their service.

Perhaps our race time would have been better if we nixed the many photo opps.  

We couldn't help capturing a few silly moments.

The recent monsoon conditions left the trails caked in gooey mud and downed trees.

Obstacles or opportunities for more adventure?  You be the judge.

We became creative on finding ways to pass through the trails and avoid mud patches.

The terrain was ever-changing.  At the end, it turned into grassy meadows with impressive vistas.

We're on the cusp of 30 miles here and still smiling!

Almost to 30 1/2 miles.  The mud would not let up.

At the very end, a river separated us from the finish line.

We didn't have any choice but to plunge into the water.

It actually was refreshing and a fun way to end the race.

 Plus, it cleaned the mud off our shoes!

Ultramarathon finishers!  31.3 miles in 7 hours and 40 minutes.  Enough to earn a 3rd and 4th page age group win and 10th and 11th overall female finishers. We'll take it.

Back to reality, I was able to celebrate Mother's Day with my boys at church.

Between church service (yes, between), I cheered Connor's team on to a championship win.

To celebrate Mother's Day, many moms want spa trips, movie dates, or special lunches.

My taste differ.

My mother's day request involved mud, but not the sort of mud you'd find in a spa mask.

For Mother's Day, I asked to have several hours alone to run an ultra marathon.  It was a bucket list item for me.  An experience that always intrigued me and left me questioning if this runner could handle the strain and demand of a few extra miles past the marathon.

My husband agreed to my wacky demand.  (Perhaps it was because the ultra marathon registration fee was much less than a trip to a jewelry store.)  And so, I signed up for the Gnaw Bone 50K (31 miler) race.

This Saturday, my alarm cut buzzed at 3:40 a.m.  I jolted awake, tossed on some clothes, and raced out the door.  A few minutes, I was sitting in my friend Nicole's driveway.  She popped out of the door at 4 a.m., and we hightailed it south.

After a 90 minute commute, we landed at Mike's Dance Bar in the tiny southern Indiana town of Gnaw Bone.  We joined a motley crew of runners congregating in the dark around the make-shift start and finish line.  We tried to squash our uneasiness.  Although neither one of us would verbalize it, a trip to the dentist seemed like a more enjoyable option at that moment.

Before we had time to capitalize on our second-guessing, the race started.  The running pack surged forward.  We fell into a comfortable pace for about a half mile.  The terrain was level and comfortable.  But not for long.

For the last several weeks, monsoon-like conditions have hit Indiana.  Gnaw Bone received its share.  The formerly dusty trails were caked in gooey, slippery mud.  Before we reached the first mile mark, we knew what we had in store: mud, mud, and more mud.

For the next 31 miles, we battled mud and downed trees along with other obstacles.  Roots and rocks made footing tricky and caused me to fall twice.  The hills were relentless.  Who said Indiana was flat?  

From this diatribe, one may assume it was a bad experience.

Just the opposite.

Running an ultra marathon through the trails in southern Indiana was one of the most amazing experiences of my life.  If you probed as to why, I'd have to think about my response.

For 31 miles, we learned things.  

We were taught how to be an ultra marathon runner from our fellow competitors.  It was a friendly group who was happy to impart their wisdom as we trailed behind an assortment of runners.  They liked to swap stories.  Many of them had racked up an incredible amount of races.  They coached us on the basics: walk the hills, run the downhill and flat.  Another runner informed me that falling was inevitable.  (I proved him right.) 

At the aid stations where the food spread resembled a Golden Corral buffet line, the more experienced runners recommended we 
"eat what sounds good."  On that advice, we feasted on pretzels, chips, candy, coke, and sprite.  (Clearly a race diet that would make most cringe.)

Nicole and I learned about each other.  Our conversation varied based on whether we were racing alone or with a group.  With a group, we discussed the fine points of racing.  (In fact, one runner identified us as "dts," defined as "designated talkers.") When alone, we dove into an assortment of light and heavy topics.  Running in the woods was a bit like sitting in a therapist chair.  Truth and emotion tumbled out the longer our feet hit the trail.

I think the most important thing we learned was about ourselves. With some degree of confidence (and not an ounce of humility), I can call us tough mothers.  We entered into the 50K race with a line of fears.  I had one too many visions about stumbling onto a snake or getting lost deep into the woods.  Perhaps my biggest fear was being unable to finish the course.

We beat our fears.  

We stayed the course.  

We finished the race.

We are ultra marathoners.

We are mothers. 

We are better because we are both.

 l loved my Mother's Day gift.

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