Last night was the first race in the Capt'n Karls series - the "All Nighter" 60k at Mule Shoe Bend. It didn't get off to a great start, as I was half way to the park when I realized I'd forgotten my headlamp - whoops. A quick call to Nancy and my amazing wife agreed to drive out to the park and hand it off to me after the first loop.
I didn't really have a plan for this race - I haven't done a long run for weeks and I'm not really in race shape, so I figured I'd just take it slow and treat it as a training run.
The race was six 10k loops along the tough and technical trails of Mule Shoe Bend park. We set off at 7pm and I settled into the "pelaton". The pace was a little slow, but that didn't worry me. On the other hand, the humidity was 100% and it was hot with no breeze - not nice. I tried to space out, but there was a really loud dude behind me who figured everyone wanted to hear his opinions. He very quickly got on my nerves, so at the first opportunity I broke away and accelerated to find my own space - much better.
I figured out that the loops were more than 10k. According to my Garmin they were 6.85 miles, which made the 60k a 41 mile race rather than 37 (update : they were actually 7.33 mile loops which made it a 44 mile race). As this was a training run, I wasn't bothered. Rather I was happy with the extra mileage.
I finished out the first loop and immediately saw Nancy, Gavin and Dylan. Gavin ran up to me with the headlamp and was so excited - he wanted to go run with me. I took some time to go over and visit, play with Gavin and show off Dylan - it was fun. Dylan needed feeding, and Joyce took them under her wing and took them over to their RV. Joe eventually shooed me 0ff up the trail and said he'd look after Gavin. That's full-service race directors right there.
As I headed back out, I realized that what I really wanted was to go home with Nancy and the boys. I wanted to cuddle up with Gavin, I wanted to rock Dylan to sleep, I wanted the fun little chats with Nancy during overnight feedings. In short, I missed my family and I so did not want to do another 5 loops.
But I also knew I would never quit - it's just not in my personality. Thank God for the good old British stiff upper lip - if you want someone to plod on through the night in a sufferfest, I'm your guy. I want to be a role model for my sons and show them they can do anything they want as long as they never ever give up.
Besides, I sure as hell wasn't going to surrender my zero DNF record on a 60k (albeit a long one).
So off I went.
Loop 2 was still humid and hot, and I started taking walk breaks. It got dark about half way through and I struggled to find motivation to run until a friend came up behind me and we ran and chatted for a while.
During loop 3 it started raining - torrential, pouring, driving "can't see more than a few inches in front of you" rain. And I loved it. It refreshed me and made me think of home. I ran hard and enjoyed the sensation of running through it. The frogs loved it too as they were partying all over the trail.
Unfortunately it also turned parts of the trail into a muddy swamp, and running soon became a risky business as I found myself slip-sliding around or sinking into it, and clumps of mud started attaching to my shoes.
On loop 4, my Garmin started playing silly buggers. At first it completely froze, then it turned off. Half an hour later it came back on and asked me if I were running, cycling or swimming. But it was still frozen. Then it turned off again. I guess it doesn't like the rain. So I had no idea how far I'd gone, how long I'd been running and what time it was. Oh well, I just shrugged my shoulders and plodded on.
The second half of the race was head down, slog through, slipping and sliding through a mudfest. I knew my time was going to be bad, and I alternated walking and running (though I have to admit there was a lot more walking than running). I got a few blisters on my heel where I missed taping, and my shoes got heavier and heavier the more mud adhered to them.
I eventually crossed the finish line in 10 hours and 40 minutes with a wry grin on my face - I've run a 50 miler two hours faster than that. But what I didn't realize was that everyone struggled. I finished in 14th place and Joe told me that the finish rate was 40% (53 started, 21 finished). I don't know if it was the rain, the mud, the humidity or all three, but that's a lot of folks dropping.
But the true highlight of the night was watching a friend finish the gutsiest run I've ever seen. Sharpie paced her for virtually the entire race, and really pushed her. She left it all out there, and watching her cross that finish line was truly inspiring.
2 hours ago