I wrote one race report and then thanks to gross user error, I accidentally deleted most of it. Trust me when I say, it was the most eloquent and magnificent piece of writing ever composed while drunk during a six-hour layover in Seattle. But you’ll just have to take my word for it.
Second time’s a charm.
This is a story about a guy named Sherpa, the undies in running shorts, blood and guts, some anger-crying, and visiting the tanning salon. But mostly it’s about guts. And blood. And if you read the whole thing, I promise to give you a cookie.
2015 has been a whole lotta, “Hey Rachel, do you want to do this-that-or-the-other ridiculously distanced and overwhelmingly challenging run in two weeks?”
Yes, of course I do!
They all have their challenges, but the Indian Creek Fifties 50K one would be among the toughest.
This is more or less what I was expecting to deal with: 7,600ish feet in gain over 33 miles (note the 2 bonus miles) in the wilderness boonies. I love the boonies.
(Note: The 2 bonus miles actually turned out to be more like 4 bonus miles, so for 2016, the Indian Creek 50K has been upgraded to a 55K).
For those of you who don’t know, 7,600 feet is like climbing from the ocean to the top of one of the flatirons above Boulder, or climbing from Red Rocks to the top of a 14er, only within many fewer miles.
I left my phone on airplane mode in the car, double-layered, and shivered my way to the start/finish line.
“Did you just come from the tanning salon?”
Sherpa John, Race Director, knows just what to say to a goosebumpy gal first thing in the morning.
A few minutes later, off we went as one big herd of chilled uphill runners willing our legs and fingers to warm-up fast.
I couldn’t help but to appreciate the trail, the views, and the fall colors. This was gonna be a good day.
Then, three miles in, a tree root jumped up from nowhere and grabbed onto my shoe.
You know how Mighty Mouse flies to one side with one arm raised? Yeah, I like to think that’s what I looked like careening into the ground.
My right knee, right hip, right wrist, right elbow ever so gracefully dragged along dirt and rocks until I finally stopped and let out some choice words. I ripped a hole in my favorite race shirt and my bib hung by only two of its four safety pins.
Next, I did the panicked who-saw-that review of the trail ahead and behind me.
At which point the guy behind me said something like, “It’s not a worthwhile fall if you don’t use some colorful language.”
You got that right, bud.
All the same, it wasn’t my first bloody rodeo. And was certainly not my worst.
And I still had all my teeth in my head and no broken bones.
Fast-forward five miles or so.
This is the run that changed my mind about the running shorts I buy. Until that day, I was a die-hard Nike-with-the-liners kind of gal.
You know what? Fuck that. The longer the distance, the higher risk of chafing. Why add to the risk with built-in undies?
They had to go.
So I started searching for a sharp rock.
Mind you, one of Sherpa John’s race day games involves searching for and then carrying a rock, so I guess there were actually two special rocks on the Indian Creek short loop.
That’s right, when I was clear of other runners and had found a knife-shaped rock, I ripped a hole in my shorts liners, and then I tore those bastards right in half.
I felt very much like an empowered cavelady at that moment.
Fast-forward another six miles when I finished the first of two loops and arrived back at the start/finish line. Sherpa John welcomed me by asking me if all I’d done all morning was to go back to the tanning salon.
“No! But I did do this around Mile 3,” I said as I lifted my shirt and made a Vanna White gesture toward all the now dry and blackened right-side blood. It was then that I became a contender for the Best Blood Award.
(Let it be known that while I have been to a tanning salon, I hated it and haven’t been back since 2011. I just spend a lot of time outside.)
Mr. Volunteer Man filling up my water: This [<1L] is all you’ve had to drink? What color is your pee?
Mr. Volunteer Man: Have you been peeing?
Me: *Shrug* Nope.
Endurance racing: the only acceptable place (besides the hospital) to discuss your peeing habits with a perfect stranger without batting an eye.
I promised Mr. Volunteer Man I’d drink 2L of water before the next aid station to catch up, we high-ten’d, and off I went again.
For the next many miles, I leap-frogged with Paul Bunyon and Babe the Blue Ox (did I mention this was also a Halloween costume run?). Without them, there were a few times I was certain I’d gotten lost.
I enjoyed the nice switch-back downhill to Stevens Gulch and then heave-hoed my way up, up, up, and up some more. I even kept my promise to Mr. Volunteer Man and polished off the last of my water just in time to start getting really antsy for an aid station.
Where the fuck is the aid station?
And then I saw it…there, that glorious folding table at the top of the hill–the orange water jug silhouetted against a beautiful blue sky.
Then, to my horror, I watched as one of the volunteers shook the water jug way too easily.
It was empty.
I was out of water. They were out of water.
From somewhere, someone (a spectator, I think) produced a small bottle of water and offered it to me. I gladly took it and went on my merry way.
Nine more miles with 12 ounces of water? Psh…NBD.
As I found a second wind cruising the downhill after the aid station, I realized my insole had shifted in my shoe and was digging a hole in my heel. Meh. I’m almost done.
Then, as I enjoyed the downhill, I saw a man hiking toward me, heaving a huge jug of water up the hill on his back. You don’t see that everyday.
He offered me some, but I knew there were 60 folks still out there who would need that water more than I did. After all, I was blessed with and nursing my 12-ouncer.
A little while later, a Subaru filled with dudes and even more jugs of water drove my way. This time, I took them up on a refill. You can’t refuse a water-filled Subaru.
How many guys does it take to rehydrate 60+ parched runners? Har, har, har.
Before long, that hole growing in my foot, well, I was sure it was like Saw in there. I was sure there was blood.
What’s a little more blood? After all, I was almost done!
In order to finish this beast, one must climb some more.
Climb, climb, climb, climb. Ouch, my left foot joint hurts. I probably landed on too many pointy rocks. Oh well. It’ll stop. Keep going. Climb, climb, climb, climb. Fuck, my left foot hurts really bad. When will it stop? Keep the fuck going. Climb, climb, climb, climb, climb. FUCK my foot hurts…where the FUCK is the downhill to the finish line!? Climb, climb, climb, climb.
And finally a smidge of downhill.
Except the stabbing pain starting in my big toe joint was starting to wrap around the top of my foot, all the way to my heel, and it wouldn’t allow for any downhill running whatsoever. (I once almost broke my foot with a shovel blade in the exact same spot. I blame that.)
Now, I’m not one to bitch and whine over a little bit of pain. But this was more than a little bit of pain. This was more than a lot of pain. And because of the fact that it was slowing me down and keeping me from running the downhills,
I. Was. Pissed.
Like, anger-crying pissed.
Unsure of what to do, knowing I still had to finish, and realizing the pain wouldn’t just go away, I figured out if I kept my heel lifted, I could get going again. Just in time for the glorious downhill into the finish line.
That’s right, I finished this beast of a race running on one-and-a-half feet, with a big-ass hole in my heel, and crusty blood covering my right side.
Angriest. Finishing photo. Ever.
Luckily, I had my two favorite Leadpeople to deposit me in a camping chair, peel off my shoes and socks, and feed me chocolate milk and moonshine.
You haven’t lived until you willingly let the winner of Leadwoman peel off your filthy compression socks for you.
(This is one good thing about being the slower than most.)
There’s nothing like a finish-line camping chair and a cold chocolate milk when you’re filthy, bloody, and swollen. Thanks Steve!
Here’s what I know: the Indian Creek Fifties humbled even the strongest of its participants and therefore had the best sense of community I have ever experienced. We were all in the same boat. A boat captained by Sherpa John, who shows us he loves us with sarcasm and delivers us a swift kick in the ass when we start whining.
(I hope I didn’t whine too much in this, Sherpa.)
And from that same camping chair, when asked if I’d do it again next year, I said, “Yes, of course I will!”
After all, if you don’t get the shit kicked out of you, you’re not trying hard enough.
Oh, and yes, I did win Best Blood.