Monday, July 11, 2011

Dances With Dirt 50 miler

the race started off just like any.  i wasn't even going to do the Dances With Dirt 50 miler this year b/c it was only a week away from Ironman Racine.  i knew i'd be focusing hard on triathlon at this point in the year.  but i couldn't let an ultra that's so close to home go w/out having a crack at it.  besides, 50 miles is doable at this point.  i don't really give it much thought.  i've gone further.  i've never DNF'd (knock on wood).  the less i think about it and the less i worry about it, the easier it becomes. 

i got to meet Nick M. at the start of the race.  he's one of my longtime DM buddies.  i started out in the middle of the pack.  got stuck in the trafic jams of people as we all went uphill right off the bat.  i didn't talk to many people.  i just saved my energy and tried to find a comfortable pace.  took a header at about mile three.  the people behind me gasped.  two people passed me w/out thinking about it.  i got up.  the scrape that was on my hand from wiping out a few weeks ago was now open and gushing again.  nice.  dirty and bloody by mile three.  perfect start to the day...

i had a hard time getting comfortable and finding a decent pace for the first 18 miles or so.  but when i finally did, everything made sense.  we were going to be circling Devil's Lake twice, going up and down both bluffs two times each.  there's a large portion of the course where there's no trail at all.  you just have to bushwhack your way through.  and of course at the very end of the race, they send you up and down a bunch of ski slopes to see exactly what you're made of.

i passed a couple of strong runners at mile 20 that i've seen at other ultras.  they were struggling w/ the heat a bit.  i didn't know at that point that i was taking the lead of the race.  i didn't realize i was in the front until i made it to the aid station at mile 23 or so.  they told me i was the first 50 miler to come through.  i didn't believe her--i was convinced that there must be some kind of mistake.  i refused to believe it and refused to let it go to my head.  but at the next check point, they told me the same thing.  i was leading this race.  the next few miles was a little out and back on a gravel road so i knew i'd be able to see how far ahead i was.  right after the turn around i saw 2nd, 3rd and 4th place all w/in a mile or so behind me.  i didn't have near enough of a lead to be comfortable.  the next 20 miles or so was going to be hell and they would be hunting me down.  i took off hard and spent entirely too much time thinking about leading the race.  i'd never led a race b/f.  it stressed me out.  by mile 38, i was so stressed out i wondered how i was going to finish at all.  my legs were jacked and my heart rate was not coming down at all.  it was simply too hot and i was pushing it too hard.  there was no ice anywhere on the course so all day i'm drinking warm liquids.  no ice to put in my hat or shirt.  no ice for the camelbak.  brutal, brutal day...


i finally calmed down a bit by mile 41.  i accepted the fact that i was in the lead and i may or may not win.  i just needed to keep moving.  i was walking a lot of uphills by this point.  there were a lot of people walking the trails around Devil's Lake and they were all in my way.  but i'm sure they didn't know there was a race going on.  i think i sounded pretty rude and urgent as i let people know i was coming up behind them and i needed them to move out of my way.  i felt a lot of dirty looks.  i thanked them all after they had moved for me though.  at this point, i'm walking the uphills and sprinting the downhills to make up lost time.  every aid station i come to i slam down two drinks of Mt. Dew or Gatorade and take two gels for the road.  i fill up my camelbak every other check point.  i was suddenly on a mission and i became focused on getting to the finish line as quickly and efficiently as possible.  i was constantly looking over my shoulder, yet i was fine and relaxed w/ however the day turned out.  after all, i don't come to these races to win.  i just come to have a nice, long relaxing day where i'm completely leveled out afterwards.  my quads felt like they were going to blow up from all the downhill.  then at mile 45, they bring you right by the finish line.  right by where your truck is parked.  right where the spectators are lounging around and cheering and drinking beer and eating food in the shade.  they let you get a good smell of the food that's cooking...and then they send you up the ski slopes.  now my legs were gone by this point, so this was torture.  it was a death march to the top.  no protection from the sun and uphill slopes that never ever end.  it was awful.  i learned a lot about myself in those five miles.  i charged the downhills, still convinced that someone was going to come up behind me, looking more fresh than i felt.  somehow, i made it to the finish line.  i survived the fastest, as Dean Karnazes likes to say.  i took my ear phones out and the crowd was cheering.  they gave me an armload of prizes even though i could barely stand up.  i asked them if i'd won and they assured me that i did.  everyone wanted to know my name and everyone wanted to get me a beer.  i used the little makeshift shower they had outside to clean off 8 hours and 41 minutes worth of grime.  a guy named Mike crossed the finish line 20 minutes after me, taking 2nd place.  he's from Thailand where he works as a teacher and gets summers off.  i had run about four miles w/ him earlier in the day.  my sis and bro in law came to see me finish but were about 20 minutes late.  they nor i had any idea i'd be winning the race.  but i'm glad they came up nonetheless.  they helped me celebrate the hardest day of my life.  it was perfect...


6 comments:

  1. thx! good to see you Leadbelly...

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  2. Great write-up! I'll crew for you when you do Badwater!! :-))) Awesome job my friend!

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  3. i enjoyed reading this. mad props! i took 7th. those last 5 miles were about the toughest hour i've ever had...

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  4. well done, mcgoofenstein. i saw you out there. BRUTAL!!!

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