Sunday, August 30, 2015

Race Report: Moebius-Green Monster Trail 50K

I had to let this race soak in for much of yesterday before writing this morning. For 99% of my race reports, they have a "happy ending" and a finishing time to report. Spoiler Alert! Not this time. Call it quitting or whatever, I pulled the plug early and headed home without the awesome, handmade finishers "medal" made from a tree limb. But since I did enter the race and paid the entry fee, I thought it was the only right thing to do and write a race report.

If you read my blog regularly, you'll know that no race has been spoken about or forecast on my calendar. This race, however, has been on my radar and penciled in only in my mind. I did back in 2013 and dubbed it as a great first-timers 50K. (here's that race report) The Moebius-Green Monster Trail 50K is held within Sunny Lake Park in northern Portage County in Aurora, OH. It really is a perfect "easy" 50K. It's five 10K loops on a trail that has rooty trail, some pavement, grassy meadow and hardly a "hill" to speak of. When there is a hill, most 50Ks would chuckle at them and say "that's not a hill!" and I would agree. It's scenic and highly predictable given the 5 loop design. For aid, it's perfect as well. An aid station is at the start/finish as well as exactly halfway so if you're analytical like me, every aid station is 10% of the race so that's how I carved it up in my head. In a marathon or more, it's always wise to break the event into small pieces to make them more manageable targets.

It was a gorgeous, perfect morning. Upper 50s and partly cloudy with zero rain in the forecast. In fact, we've had pretty much no rain for weeks in Ohio so the trail couldn't have been more bone dry. Here is sunrise over Sunny Lake and the ONLY (I know...shocking!) photo I took of the day.


I felt good waking up yesterday. I took Friday off from CrossFit simply so I would feel no soreness on Saturday morning and would feel refreshed and ready. I did. Taking Friday off was smart. Thursday was a heavy squat day at CrossFit and 2 hours in the gym. Eventually, I would come to feel Thursday on the trail. As 7am approached, I made my way to the start in just my trail shoes and shorts. I wanted the minimum on for clothing because the forecast called for rising humidity and the low 80s for a high.

Everything went very well in that first loop. I ran as smart as I could with a goal of just maintaining it throughout the day. As expected, the course was bone dry and beautiful. At the end of the first loop as I came across the start/finish, I was smack dab on 1hr which is a fast pace for a 50K. I ran this in 2013 in 5:37 so I knew I was ahead of that but like I said, the pace felt right so I continued on. I felt great, too. In that 2nd loop, I started to feel my hamstrings and more towards my butt where they connect. I have been doing a LOT of squat work in the gym and this has been normal, especially this past week. Well, they were letting me know they were there! Yowsers! Still, though, I kept the pace and clearly, the temperature was rising as my shorts went from a light Navy blue to a "completely soaked through blue" by the time I finished lap 2...again, right at the 1hr point or 2 hours into the race. Still...at the 40% complete point, I felt good!

Oh, Loop 3. Well, this is where the wheels fell off and walking was introduced sporadically. All the runners I had passed previously got me and the infamous Ron Ross caught me and passed me up, running strong and kicking butt as usual. I think I need to mention something at this point. I have not been running...like at all when it comes to distance running. My prescription for running for several months now has only included the short 200m/400m runs at CrossFit or the occasional 5 or 6 miler on a Sunday morning from home. Other than that...nada. I bet I haven't even averaged 20-25 miles a month. That's a stark contrast to 2014 when I was averaging over 200 miles a month through September. The question as I approached this race was "Can I do it? No training but a long resume of races and wisdom in distance running and ultra running...would that be enough?" I posted on Facebook with that photo above "Time for #33." This would've been my 33rd ultra-marathon finish. Well, I got another full dose of wisdom on that third loop and really faced my mortality. I suppose I could blame it on the rising humidity (my arch rival) but it's simply this: I wasn't prepared or trained. While I have become the fittest in my life from head to toe, my endurance to go long has been vanquished. Back in January of this year, I did run a frozen 50K in West Virginia but I had only been out of distance running a few months. Come November 4th this year, my CrossFit "lifestyle" will be one year old so a lot of time has passed now...and I have not given running it's due time.

I finished Loop 3 much slower and honestly, I don't know the time but would assume I came in around 1:15. As I approached it, I debated whether to continue or not. "I paid the entry fee...of course I should continue." "I'm not a quitter." "Oh man, my hammies are screaming!" "This isn't fun anymore." "Why am I doing this again?" "I do love to run...it was my "first love" so go for it!" Well, I kept going. Loop 3 complete. The sun was beating down hard now as I walked onto Loop 4. The mental battle continued as I eventually broke into a run and left the asphalt for the trail. I looked forward to the short climbs as I could stretch my hamstrings. They were so sore at this point and made even a jog very uncomfortable. Besides them, this was the first time running distance in a LONG time...actually, since the Pro Football Hall of Fame Marathon in late April..on no training as well. I finished respectably back then but still suffered. So as I continued, I came upon a crossing over the asphalt path that circled Sunny Lake. I thought "Decide now. Either cross it and continue or hang a left, take your number off, and walk back and drop." I decided to drop. I was totally tanked...nothing left...and I had become miserable. I paused on the asphalt for just a second to be sure I wanted to do this and wouldn't regret it then I began the walk back...probably 3/4 of a mile to a mile. I took my bib off and enjoyed the walk while processing what I was doing. Along the way, I caught a glimpse of these 3 turtles sunning themselves on a log in the lake. They were lined up perfectly end to end and were small, medium and large...and all their heads stretched out as far as they could be. "Soak it in, turtles!!!" I thought the same about me and made the decision to not live in gloom after I spoke the words "I dropped" to the race director minutes later and think fondly of the day. Those turtles set me on the right course...simply by being who they are...out on the lake enjoying the sun.

Back at the start/finish, I walked up to Steve Godale, the race director, and spoke the words "I dropped at mile 20." He said ok, jotted down my bib number, and that was that. I grabbed my towel out of my trunk and crashed onto the ground for about 10min before going anywhere. I needed that. Honestly, that felt so good that I could've fallen asleep for hours. I texted my wife who was at CrossFit and told her not to bother coming out for the finish and I'd meet her at home.

Part of my CrossFit 881 Family
The next 4 or so hours told the tale of my physical condition and confirmed my decision to call it a day. I was a complete mess. I could hardly eat, I couldn't stay awake, and I was a comedy of positions had you had the "pleasure" of witnessing it all. After a salt-washing-down shower, I first curled up in bed, then fell asleep face down on the carpet in the living room, then face up, then curled up in a fetal position on the floor...then on the couch burying myself in the cushions. Hot one minute, freezing the next. I drank water every time I got up but not much else. Everything hurt and I couldn't keep my eyes open. "Wow...and that was only 20 miles," I thought. "I used to eat that for breakfast!" Eventually, the time came for a planned outing for last night...a planned CrossFit outing to the Cleveland Indians game. 10 of us met in Ohio City for dinner then took our right field perch for the Indians game. It was a great night but sitting in that cramped seat nearly killed me. The 7th Inning Stretch couldn't come soon enough. While I sat in right field, though, I did sign up for a CrossFit event in October, dubbed the Run Amuck 5K. Cumulatively, it's a 5K but it weaves in burpees, situps, pullups and squats into it...lots of them. While I may have lost my "long haul endurance," the running history and endurance certainly has benefits in the CrossFit world. This will be a FUN event!

Moving forward, I'm good. I'm good with where I am, where I've been and where I'm going. 61 races of a marathon or longer and 32 ultra marathon finishes is something to be proud of with humility. Yesterday was a dose of reality and I needed that. I have no regrets for backing way off running, dropping from the race or taking on CrossFit like I have. I will continue to sprinkle in running to my routine and continue to give CrossFit my 100% max effort. I'm happy for where I am "RIGHT NOW" and in my opinion, that's what is important. It's not for anyone else but me and if I'm not happy doing it, I should stop. For right now...August 2015, it's all good, but I DO love to run and I sure did love being back on the trails. The air, the birds singing, and all of God's nature surrounding me. It was worth the time spent out there. (I'm just thankful that I feel back to normal this morning!)

Do what you love, friends...and never give less than your everything.

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