Bells at 4am on this particular Saturday morning. Race morning is like Christmas morning. It’s NOT like getting up for work. Race morning is full of excitement and anticipation. Race mornings give you a reason to jump out of bed!
I had everything packed the night b/f. Ate my usual pre-race breakfast, tortillas, peanut butter, honey and bananas. Thought about coffee. Wanted coffee. But you know what coffee does to you later on during the race. You know. So I passed on the coffee.
I had everything packed in my over-sized hiking rucksack so I could just run down to the store where I was to meet Chris and Jessica. I clicked on my headlamp and wondered / What’s an extra mile and a half b/f running a 50k?
We loaded up Chris’s car and we were off. Neither of them were planning on running the full 50k. They were along for the ride and the experience. They planned to run a few laps and enjoy the day. The race was only $15, so even if they didn’t finish, they weren’t losing much. Jessica planned on shooting some photos. Either way, it sounded like a fun day.
I don’t have much nervousness leading up to a race. I got over all of that while fighting MMA. Stripping down to a pair of shorts and getting locked in a cage w/ another well trained man to try and kill each other w/ gloves on for 15 minutes, w/ a ref. Now THAT will wake you up. A 50K? No worries. Just show up and run hard. No pressure. A long meditation session. Easy.
The course is an out and back and then a loop. Five times. This breaks the whole thing down for me. It’s all a mental game anyway. And this just makes it easy. It’s not as pretty or as scenic as I would have liked, seeing the same things over and over again. But it’s broken down into small sections, which makes 31 miles seem more manageable. You’re just running to the next spot which is never more than 2 or 3 miles away. And anyone can do that.
The course is all ice. I had brought a pair of shoes w/ spikes and w/out. I’m glad I wore the spikes b/c this course would have been unmanageable w/out. This slowed the race down some. But it could be worse. As the day wore on, a lot of this ice turned into mud, mucking the course up pretty good. You start the race in the middle of the pack and begin picking people off. The first two loops are a warm up. The third, you begin to wake up. The fourth you really hammer it. At times you can’t believe how hard you’re hitting the little descents. Your legs are really aching but you just pound down the hills w/ fury. On the fifth lap, you are a little low on salt and electrolytes but you know you are almost done so you’re able to keep up the pace. You know you aren’t in the lead. Maybe the top ten. The winner was just incredible and on a different planet than you. His name is Zack and he was coming in off a 106 mile week. This was just an easy 30 for him. He is a middle school teacher that regularly pulls in 170 mile weeks, doing two a days. You can see the freedom and the beauty of the long runs on his face. Serene and peaceful. He wore the win like a training run. He gave him the same amount of satisfaction. He was the Zen lunatic of the trails that day.
I really love the small, local ultras. Many familiar faces. Many of my hero’s that influenced me SO much a few years back. Many I’ve run w/. Many I’ve only talked to online about running and various ultras. It always feels good to meet up and run against each other. Test each other out. Some of these guys kill me on the shorter races. And then I’m able to toot my horn a bit on some of the longer races. It’s all good fun. These are my trail brothers and sisters and I wouldn’t change them for anything.
Whenever I race the Kettles, one of my favorite places to stop afterward is the LaGrange County Store. You can get a meal and a beer or a coffee for a fair price and the ambience is great. Just a laid back place for runners, hikers, campers and bikers to sit down and take a break. I don’t know that I’ve ever been in the store w/out my legs hurting but relieved to be done for the day. One of the best feelings there is. The endorphin rush. The sense of calm. The sense of peace. The sense of / I’ve done it. I’ve come back and done it again. Today is a good day…