Monday, December 8, 2014

Race Report-Alternate Chili 10 Miler

I had been looking for a race that would be an adventure. My husband Joel treats his training as an adventure, when he heads out on his bike he goes exploring and takes neat pictures, and excitedly tells me about his adventure when he gets back home. Inspired and encouraged by him I wanted to step outside my comfort zone and go on my own adventure. I found the Alternate Chili 10 miler in Kansas City, a trail race on a hilly and technical bridal trail, was just the adventure I was looking for. 

The drive to the race site went by quick, the speed limit here in Kansas is 75 so the long rides on the highway don't seem as monotonous. Joel was accompanying me to the race. An almost two hour drive and we were there at the state park. The race didn't start until 9 a.m. so we didn't have to wake up as ridiculously early. Temperature was in the low 30, but it didn't seem too bad, I must be getting used to the cold. After running in single digit and teen temperatures, 30s is manageable. Picked up my race packet and was given a Sweatvac cold weather cap, and a coffee mug with the race production company's logo on it, great swag!

It had rained all day prior to the race, so rumor had it the course was to be very muddy. I was concerned about this only because I am a total klutz and I was worried I might seriously hurt myself falling down, or rip my clothes, this cold weather running gear isn't cheap. From doing my research I knew how challenging this course was and I knew it would most likely take me over 2 hours to finish. On the road I can run 10 miles in around 1:18, but today it wasn't about going fast or PRs, today was about going on an adventure.

Lined up for the start of the race a few minutes before 9 a.m. and had no idea what to expect. Air horn sounds and we were off.

Only part of the course not covered in mud
Time for the adventure to start
Less than a mile in and already we hit some deep mud. Everyone was sliding all over the place, this mud was slick! Not even a mile in and my shoes we already caked in mud and heavy. I can confess that at this moment I thought about turning around and taking a DNF, I was having that tough of a time in the mud and we were barely 10 minutes in to the race. I was getting frustrated already. The course approached a steep climb that was un-runable for me because of the mud so I has a moment to walk up it and collect my thoughts. I told myself to be patient and give it time, the race just started, and I wasn't the only one having a tough time in the mud, that everyone at this race had to the same course and everyone else was probably struggling in the same way I was.

Somewhere in the first mile
At the top of this climb it was flat so I was able to pick it up to a run again. Because of the mud and my short legs I was running with high knees, this allowed me to stay upright. A brief stream crossing I wasn't careful enough on completely submerged my right foot, but since I was wearing my trail shoes, my Newton BOCO ATs, my foot didn't get that wet. Around mile 2.5 we got a break, a section of the course where the mud wasn't as thick. It was still muddy, but it was packed mud and not as gunky. This section of the course was very technical, a mile of twists and turns, and lots of downed trees to jump or climb over. On this section I was having a lot of fun. Without the thick slippery mud, for the first time all day I got a chance to look around and take in the beauty of being in the woods, so far this was turning in to more of an adventure than I expected.

At the aid station at mile 3.3, I drank some full strength Gatorade for electrolytes and calories. I was wearing my 2 liter Nathan Hydration vest filled up so I was covered water wise. I stepped aside before taking back off to send Joel a text. At this point I was 45 minutes in to the race. In the text I wrote "3.3 miles in, the s**t is hard".

Heading back on to the course, I was once again in the thick slippery mud. Joel responded to my text "You got this babe, I love you". Going downhill was scary, so many times I almost fell, it was a real balancing act. Some of the downhills I didn't even run or walk, I just honed my skateboarding and surfing skills from my youth and slid down them. Going up the hills was difficult and required some problem solving skills. On some hills I would start to go up, only to slide backwards back down them. At times all I could do was laugh. I slipped and fell somewhere around mile 4.4. Not even halfway through and I knew I was going to have lots of good stories to tell later.

Made it to the mile 5 aid station, and since I wasn't concerned about my time, I took a porta potty break so I could be comfortable the second half of the race. A few more cups of Gatorade and I headed back out on the course. I was already at the over an hour mark, my body felt tired, my feet and legs were heavy from being covered in mud, but I had the motivational spark I get from being halfway done with a race. The night before, I had received my purple Swim Bike Mom shirt with the mantra "Just Keep Moving Forward" across the chest. So many times during the race I looked down and took those words to heart. Sure the conditions were miserable and I was hurting, but I wanted an adventure, I was committed, and I was already halfway through, so all I could do was just keep moving forward.

Another muddy climb
Roughly around mile 5.7 we got another break on the course, more of the mud like the mud at mile 2.5. I was picking up a good rhythm and getting some time back on the course. I was mostly alone at this point, I saw an occasional fellow competitor, but for the most part I was alone and had time to think. I did the race music free, so it was just my breathing and the sounds of nature. The climbs in this section were un-runable for me so I hikes up those. Walking in the mud, I got flashbacks of being in Iraq in 2003-2004, walking around during the rainy season, deep sticky mud wearing an armored vest and carrying a machine gun, my boots and uniform pants getting covered in mud. This was much needed alone time in the woods to think, to think of my time in the Army, think about my family, my friends, the challenges that await me in the next year.

At this point, as rough of a time as I was having on this course, I was grateful I signed up for this race, not only did it give me alone time in a beautiful place to think, I was also having fun going up and down the hills. Two of the hills were so steep there were rope assists to help us get up them. This was like nothing I have ever ran on before. Around mile 7.2 I heard a loud, proud squawk and realized it was coming from an American Bald Eagle. The state of Kansas is full of Bald Eagles, especially around the lakes (for obvious reasons) and this was a one loop course around a lake. I slowed my paced so I could look up and see if I could spot the magnificent bird. I couldn't see it, but it was squawking continuously. I made a mental note to tell Joel about it.

Joel had asked me to text him once I reached mile 8 so he could be ready. I made it to mile 8 feeling great since I just went through 2 miles in manageable mud, but shortly after that, we were back to the thick, deep, slippery mud. I waited until I got to another hill and texted Joel to let him know where I was on the course. Another long, winding muddy climb and I got the excitement that the end was in sight. Mile 9, almost there. I had been at a 13-14 minute pace thus far the entire race, so where I typically tell myself in the last mile of say, a half marathon, that I just have to hang on for 8 more minutes, I had to tell myself to just keep moving forward instead of putting a time stamp on it.

The last difficult climb
Just keep moving forward
Around mile 9.3 there was one last climb, at the top of the climb I could hear the music coming from the finish line. That was the last hill and my Garmin read 1739 feet of climbing for the whole 10 miles. Down the hill I emerged from the woods and crossed the finish line.

The finish arch right out of the woods was neat
Finishing time was 2:15:20

Got my finisher's medal and oval sticker, I have to say, this is now one of my favorite finisher's medals

Sweet bling
What an adventure!
Joel was right there and I got my congratulations hug and kiss. Then we looked down at my legs and feet, it was quite a sight.

Took a lot of scrubbing to get these clean again

I am writing this 2 days later. My shoes came clean and none of my winter running clothes were ripped. I smiled several times typing this because the memories I have from this race are great. Joel and I have been together almost 10 years, and have been in this lifestyle together the past 4 years. Listening to his perspectives of training and how he picks races he wants to do inspired me to try something new. My heart is still in triathlon and I will continue working hard to meet my goals of getting faster, but it was fun to step outside my comfort zone and do a race "Joel style". I have an even greater understanding and appreciation of what he gets out of this lifestyle.

Official Stats:
Finishing time: 2:15:20
Overall place 98/165
Gender place 13/46
Age Group 3/15

Garmin file

Thanks for reading!

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