I told myself for the last week that I wouldn’t do a post or recap about this race. It just hurt and pissed me off way too much. However, a week later, my mind has softened and find that this is a good way for me to just clear the table, close this chapter and move on with my training. So here it is, make of it what you will. (and I’m not breaking into as much detail as in the past..so deal with it.)
Going into this race we were using it as a “litmus test” or a way to gauge where I was in my training. It would not be a race, just a long run that happened to occur during a race. Several athletes do this, and it makes the logistics of going for a REALLY long run, that much easier. I had put this on my calendar back in January, and was really excited to hit this course as it was billed as flat and fast. Compared to the hilly stuff we have a round here, it would be nice to run and really see where I was at.
The week leading up the race started getting me a little worried, every day it rained, and it rained hard. I tried to get an update on the course conditions, and everyone said “it’ll dry out”. So only working on that, my wife and I headed out Friday morning for a quick 7.5hr drive to Kendallville, IN where we would be staying. We scored a pretty nice deal for two nights via Hot-wire, and were excited to do this trip without having the kids to drag along. Plus we were pretty excited just to have our first trip in almost 10 years by ourselves. After we arrived we headed down to see what the course looked like in the daylight. As we drove the back roads, I got a sick feeling as of what to expect. There was some pretty serious flooding happening around the area. This was not upstate NY. Around Rochester we have hills, mostly because of the way drainage happens. Everything eventually flows to Lake Ontario, so drainage happens quickly once the ground has thawed.
Not in Indiana. There was no where for the water TO go.
As we pulled into the Chain O’ Lakes Park, my fears were confirmed. The place was a disaster. If this was a park in NY with this much water, it would be closed. A thought that forever stayed in my mind. We got to the packet pickup area of the main tent and got out of the car. HOLY CRAP it was cold. We left NY and 70° to snow, wind and 37° (and dropping).
Picked up my packet and then walked around for a little bit until prerace instructions. We saw a lake (mind you these “lakes” more ponds where I come from) that had a beach that was no longer there. We saw pink course markers submerged in water. We walked some of the start trail, it seemed ok, but there had to be more.
At the prerace meeting the RD went over the course section by section. The first section had a couple water crossings. That was the good news. As he went over the remainder of the course the news got worse. More water, more mud, lots of reroutes away from bad stuff, to less bad stuff. All the while the parks dept guy sat across from me chuckling. (to a degree this bothered me — more on that in a moment). At the end I felt I should have brought a boat instead of all my gear.
It is what it is.
After a good nights sleep, we woke up and got some breakfast then headed out in 25° weather back to park and the start line. At least I thought, some mud would be frozen.
We started after a few brief words and some silence for the Boston victims. Between the start and AS1, it truly was the best part of the course I would be on. Two water sections that were ice cold and knee deep, and a bridge covered in snow/ice. I kept my pace and target pretty good through to AS2. I was feeling good despite some of what I saw on the first 9 miles. I kept checking myself to not go too fast, and to “stay within myself”. I had no music on so I had to drown the voices in my head and focus on the present. As we got out of AS2 we almost immediately came in to the bad part of the course. The next 6.5 miles would be the most water I had ever seen during a run. There were a couple reroutes, but there were sections where I (5’10”) was waste deep. And it wasn’t for 4-5 feet of a crossing, it was LONG sections. And it was cold. Every time you got out of water, you would warm up just enough to put it right back in. As I approached AS3 I was in one of the waist deep points (half way thru) to have a volunteer tell me they were rerouting this section. I came into AS3 and told my wife I was getting cold and having trouble fighting it. Anyone who knows me more than 24 hours, knows I hate cold in any form. This wet cold, I was not dealing well with. my right foot was already going numb.
I only had one extra pair of shoes (but tons of socks) so I decided I’d switch over at the start/finish AS. Bad idea as I should’ve kept going. I was right on pace, coming into the loop start under 3 hours. (the splits show 3:15 because this was the only one where the AS was before the mats. It took me 15 minutes to change clothes and shoes and get warm to get back out there.
Within a mile I knew changing shoes was a bad idea. On a dry day I would’ve been fine. I had switched to my Altra Superiors and the level of mud had me flailing all over. The mud was insane. I had been near the front on the first loop so I didn’t experience most of it, but after 250+ runners went thru it was a disaster. And this was only the 2nd loop. Coming back into AS1 I was starting to feel some pain on the outside of my hips and knees. I stopped and stretched , but 1 mile later I was struggling to run and started walking. Kept trying to get back into a good rhythm and I just couldn’t, the pain every time I tried to run on the mud started to become to unbearable. When I hit the road, I knew it was over for me. The transition to pavement was painful. Walking no longer helped as I flailed helplessly to keep my balance. I made the decision to DNF. I was nearing 5 hours and wanted to get myself back on track to at least get 25 miles done at the half way mark. I did. I just couldn’t imagine trying to continue with the pain AND the course conditions.
Could I have pushed it to the 50K+ mark (2 loops)? Yes, but what was the point. Get injured more, and insufferably cold? I’d still be walking back from Indiana if I did that. So I came into the AS, pulled off my chip in disgust and quit.
I quit the race.
I quit the pain.
I quit the conditions I chose to run on.
I know the RD’s (who seemed pretty awesome guy) did the best they could with what they were given and they wanted to provide the best experience for those that had made the journey to come. It is of my opinion that in how I saw the course, and the way people were responding to it, the course with its new 35+ water crossings (appx 1 mile of 16.67 loop) and 60+ mud bogs, should not have been run on. 57/152 100 milers finished, and 78/90 50 milers finished. Billed as a fast course, on this day it wasn’t. The female winner won in 17:35,
45 minutes ahead of 1st overall male. Conditions of a Tough Mudder Ultra.
There are many that disagree with me about the conditions and whether it should have been ran or not, but there has to be a level of protecting the trails (especially established trails) that should be preserved. Several of the reroutes were just off the trail or thru the woods making new trail. Its going to take months for the trails in that area to fully heal. And that makes me sad. That said, I believe most of the money for this race goes right back into the park, so there’s that.
In the end though, the biggest thing is I failed. It was a disappointment, one I have to live with. My body despite all of its conditioning, and training was not ready to run in these conditions. And it responded and told me what I need to fix.
So, I walk away from this race, a list of pros and cons that I can take with me and move to the next race. Part of being an ultra trail runner is learning to deal with what is given to you.
The watch was not stopped when I finished.
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