Sunday, September 7, 2008

DWD- Hell 50 Miles

Bill and I afterwards.

Well all I have to say is that this race was awesome. It took me 11:18 to do it. I have decided that I love the Dances With Dirt series. After I finished DWD- Gnawbone I was hesitant about running the Hell event. I liked the Gnawbone course but I was really frustrated getting lost for 3+ hours and I didn't want it to happen again. Somehow I forgot about that and I decided to add another race on and run Hell.

I wish I would have had a video camera, picture camera, or even just a voice recorder with me the whole time so that I could have remembered everything about the race and all of the funny/crazy moments of it. All that to say that this blog won't be able to capture each leg of the race but I'll try my best.

The race started at 6:15am and I don't remember the temperature but it was somewhere around 55-65 degrees. It was pretty chilly beforehand but I decided to still wear t-shirt/shorts for the race. It turned out to be PERFECT running weather.

The race started in the dark and of course everyone had their little professional headlamps and looked all prepared. I didn't have any kind of headlamp or nice flashlight to run with and I didn't feel like buying one since I hardly run in the dark. Buttt since I knew I needed one for the first 30+ minutes of the race, I brought my 1980 12 pound yellow flashlight that had a dimmed light you could barely see.

We started out running close together and the runner in front of me and the runner behind me shun more light on my path than my piddly little light did. Soo...luckily I didn't fall or anything and I could see good enough until the sun came up.

Since I didn't finish the last race and I ran a little too hard in the beginning, I made sure I started out very conservative this time. I was running at a nice, slower pace and I kept telling myself that I can always go faster later on if need be. I'll have 10+ more hours to do so. However it was so hard for me mentally when people would pass us early on. I hoped they were just running the 50k and I tried not to worry about it.

Chris and I surprisingly ran the first 10 miles together so it was nice to have familiar conversation. We weren't wet or nasty from this section yet. It was mainly on a trail path, some sand, some gravel road paths and only some little hills.

One guy said the whole course we were running through was covered in poison ivy and that he gets it every year after this race, and then another guy said he doesn't get it from this race. I've never gotten it before (knock on wood) so I reallllly hope it doesn't show up in the next 1-2 days. It would suck if I did because our whole bodies were covered in brush and junk the whole day and my legs are all cut up from the thorns.

The aid stations were nicely planned apart. Some were 2.8 miles away and some were 8 miles away. I tried really hard to eat different foods that I normally don't. I had some oranges, twizzlers, a couple small potatoes, and whatever else. Luckily they didn't upset my stomach. I tried to keep my CamelPak continually full so I wouldn't notice the extra weight of it if I filled it up after being empty for awhile. It seemed to help.

So before the first drop zone, maybe around mile 15 or something, we had to cross a little creek that was maybe 1.5 feet deep. It felt nice to get in but then our shoes were of course heavy and full of nasty gravel and crap.

Afterwards we had to seriously climb up this big, tall section. I didn't use my hands but it wasn't just a steep incline, it was like a tall mud wall you had to climb up. My knees were lifted so high and I realized my thigh muscles aren't as strong as I thought they were. (Chris seemed to have no problem during this section...he's unique)

We then had to get into a big creek and go through it for .25 miles. The water was up to my knees and even though I had my bag of salt in my hands to not get wet, they got wet and all melted together. So I had this nasty, stinky water in my bag but I didn't want to get rid of them because it was all I had. The salt leaked outside the pill and it was so gross to eat them later on. I prayed I wouldn't get some disease from them saturated in crap.

So about the was really nice to get in and I just loved having the course be different than your typical loop and it was just fun to get cooled off like that. I guess last year the water was a lot higher, up to people's armpits.

Soon after the water came the first drop bag zone- mile 19. There was a man dressed up like a devil at the top of hill, welcoming us to Hell. I changed my socks and shoes and it felt so much better afterwards- like a new start.

Speaking of drop bags, it was so hard to determine which one to put different shoes in. There were three drop bag locations and I only had 3 half-way-runnable shoes to bring. Two of the shoes I brought were ones I hadn't run in in over 5-10 months but I knew I'd need something dry. Luckily I made the good decision to put shoes in the 1st and 3rd drop bags. We didn't get wet during the second part.

Up to this point I hadn't gotten lost yet and the course was better marked than I expected. There were a couple of close calls where we had to call runners back the other way. Everyone kept saying that the race director loves to throw you off a perfectly nice trail when you least expect it, so I was trying to be extra cautious.

Now here's the awesome part: Right after I was leaving the drop zone area, I made small talk with this guy, Bill. He asked me what I do for a living and as we were talking I told him I spoke Spanish and he told me he did Peace Core for 3 years in Ecuador. From there I started speaking in Spanish with him and we continued it for the next 6+ hours.

Meeting Bill was seriously such a blessing. It was so awesome- we were the same pace and we both enjoyed speaking Spanish and we ended up running the last 50k together. Speaking Spanish immediately helped us get our mind off of what we were doing and we just got into a great groove. I was nervous though because we started to pay less attention to the course markings since we were talking so much- but WE NEVER GOT LOST!!! WOOHOO! We made it- I was so happy.

But anyway...that just proves how much of a race is mental. Having someone to talk to, and to have good conversation with, makes a huge difference and energizes you. So that was Bill, thanks!

I can't remember much more of the course. Hmm. It wasn't as difficult as I expected it to be. There were a few big hills but nothing we hadn't seen before, and we just walked up them. There were some sections where you didn't run on a nice trail- you had to go off into the brush and forest- but it didn't seem like it was as hard to follow as Gnawbone. I might say Gnawbone was harder, but Hell just takes you longer because of the rain/mud crossings.

So speaking of mud- this was an AWESOME/HILARIOUS part. We were running in this little meadow area and the ground just looked muddy. Bill was in front of me and he took a step and was fine, and then on his very next step his leg LITERALLY fell like 3 feet into the mud- up to his thigh. I was cracking up soo hard! I can't explain it. I just stopped moving, bent over, and kept laughing. He was stuck in this gross, thick mud.

I tried to walk carefully and on my next step, I was in the same place. My left leg was stuck in the mud up to my thigh, and I don't remember where my right leg was but it wasn't stuck. I seriously couldn't move my left leg. It was like quick sand only mud. The pressure and thickness of the mud was scary. Bill had to pull me out without trying to fall back. I just loved the whole thing- it was so fun.

So we kept on going, trying to be careful. We were like little monkeys trying to jump onto the little tree stumps that were around and to not fall in. The next part we approached was an obvious mud trap. It was a bog about 10 feet across with a rope hanging over it to pull yourself. There was a cameraman on the other side of it, just waiting to get great pictures of trapped runners.

I don't know why but Bill seemed to think there was no other way to get across but to enter the bog. He got in, up to his chest, and was putting forth so much energy and strength to pull himself through. I was just cracking up watching him.

I was determined to find another path and I somehow managed to balance across a skinny log and jump across, free from mud. Bill was still plowing through the nastiness.

Then at some point near the end of the race, there was a lake we had to go through that was about knee deep. It was maybe .4 miles long and again, it was nice to cool off there. Bill and I were still feeling energized and kept on truckin.

I was able to keep eating/drinking a lot throughout the whole race thus far but even doing that, I felt pretty tired/hungry around mile 40. We finally made it to mile 43- the third/last drop zone. I have to say that the volunteers were AWESOME! They brought me tons of food, filled up my CamelPak, got me my drop bag, threw away my trash, and walked us to the next trail. It helped a lot and was very nice to come to.

I changed my shoes/socks and it felt great. I ate 3 half-PB sandwiches, pretzals, twizzlers, and some crackers. We took off and I knew it'd be a mental battle to finish the last stretch.

We had another aid station around mile 46. I was dragging behind Bill for a little bit at the end and thankfully he waited for me and we stuck together. I kept telling myself to keep on going and we ran a good part of the last few miles.

We could hear the music from the finish line and it teased me because I knew we could still be far away. Finally we heard more people coming and a relay guy told us it was only .5 miles away. Woohoo! We sprinted in together, with people cheering on the sides, and had a great finish. We rinsed off in the lake, grabbed the free pizza/pop, and then headed on home.

Since I finished first in my age group (I was probably the only one in my age group...), I got a free dwd headlamp. Sweet, now I won't get made fun of.

I'm a little sore today, but definitely not as bad as I thought I'd be. That's good news. And, I cannot believe that I don't have any blisters on my feet! I don't know how that happened. Since my toenails were already depleted and purple, nothing worse could have happened to them.

The path was all mixed up with a random course and it was fun. I loved the whole thing. I think it's interesting how I loved my first 50M race (that happened to be dwd), I struggled on the 100k (which wasn't a crazy, mixed up path like dwd), and then I loved my 2nd 50M race (that was dwd).

I think there's a connection between a crazy, challenging course and my life. At work, for example, I have to keep active and I have to be challenged. I have to keep doing different things or else I'll get bored. That's why I like dwd- you never know what to expect and you always keep occupied.

All in all, I'm ready for the next race.


Brian said...

So, how long did it take you from start to finish? Why do they call it Hell? Is that just to be funny or does it actually mean something? And where was the race?

Clara said...

It took me 11hrs, 18 minutes to finish it.

It's called "Hell" because there's actually a tiny, tiny place in MI called "Hell". It's a town of like 2 people, probably. It's near Ann Arbor, I believe. So since we run right by that place, that's why it's called "Hell".

Arthur said...

Man, I bet it took longer to write about that race than it did to run it.

sparlingville bill said...

So Clara, I didnt see you at the North Country Trail run,(I got 10:54) but it looks like you'll be at Columbus next week. I'm walking the full marathon there, it would be great to get to see you before the race starts.