Posts Tagged ‘DWD’

This past weekend, I once again headed out to Hell, Michigan to run DWD.  This year was certainly an interesting year, running-wise – I spent 6 months over the winter sitting on my butt and letting my thoroughly pissed off foot heal; the past month of my training (which was conservative to begin with to avoid re-angering The Foot) was totally derailed by an awful cold, an engagement and finals; and last, but certainly not least, I was on vacation the week before the race.  While I had good intentions to get some good running in during that week, the truth is I sat on my butt while I tried desperately to sleep in and ate a whole bunch of crap.  It was tasty and delicious crap that I can’t get in Seattle and thusly don’t eat all the time, but crap nonetheless.  My only run?  A 5-miler on Thursday night with a friend from high school, during which I wound up insanely dehydrated and felt like ass.  When I got home after my run on Thursday night, it was all I could do not to e-mail the rest of the team and tell them that I wouldn’t be running this year, but I’d come and hang out.

However, I didn’t do such a thing.  I’d signed up to run, so run I would, even if it was going to be pathetically slow.  On the plus side, I wasn’t too worried – I don’t run on a competitive team, so, really, as long as we could finish before dark, no one was going to care.  Besides, that’s what the cheating bastard card was for – worst case scenario we could start overlapping runners if we needed to.  My lack of training wouldn’t slow us down too much in the grand scheme of things.  In fact, it didn’t really slow us down at all – we picked up two extra runners as replacements in the weeks before the race and they were speedy.  We finished the race about an hour and a half faster than usual, which meant all day long we were hanging out with a totally different crowd than we were used to.  When we got to the second exchange at Silver Lake, it was eerily quiet because no one was there yet.  Normally when we get there, the party is in full swing.

It was strange, but in a good way.  (Especially when we had actual choices for our post-race pizza and soda, instead of the usual, “We only have mushroom pizzas and regular Coke left, so enjoy.”)

As for the actual running?  It wound up being quite the adventure.  My first leg was the third leg of the race and this would be my third time running it, so I knew exactly what to expect.  It’s a great run along single-track trail through the woods with a wide assortment of hills.  I started off way too fast, but once I got into a rhythm (and stopped feeling like I was going to die) I really enjoyed it.  They moved the exchange at the end of the leg to the top of a small but incredibly steep hill, which, dudes: NOT COOL, but other than that it was the same run I’ve done before.  I was amazed when I got out of the trees and discovered that I’d come in about a minute and a half faster than last year – not exactly ground breaking, but certainly much, much better than I was expecting.  Maybe I wasn’t in such bad shape after all?

Except my next leg would prove me so very, very wrong.  When the leg assignments were figured out, it looked like I was going to have three clean and dry legs.  On one hand, I was mildly disappointed – running through swamps and lakes and streams is sort of fun in its own sick way – but on the other?  I haven’t done enough running to have 2 or 3 extra pairs of running shoes that I could sacrifice to the dirt gods.  I had the one pair I was running in on a daily basis (which, despite being a year old, only had about 100 miles on them), the pair I was wearing to the gym, and the pair of Nikes that I hated running in but made good general wear-around shoes.  When I packed, I left my gym shoes at home and packed the Nikes as a second pair of running shoes (that I could also wear as shoes during the week), figuring I’d never need to use them as such.  I had three dry legs!  This would be the first year that all of my shoes would come home!

Not so much.  Apparently Michigan has had quite the wet summer, and as a result the middle of my second leg (the ninth of the race) had turned into a swamp, complete with silty, black, shoe-sucking mud.  At first I thought it would be just a little slick coating on the trail, but I soon found myself ankle-deep in it.  Then I was knee-deep in it.  Then I was ankle-deep in it again, but when I pulled my right foot forward my shoe remained in the mud.  Crap.  I turned around and attempted to get the shoe out while keeping my socked foot off the ground, but soon realized that was just not going to happen.  So I put the socked foot down, rescued my shoe (and the custom orthotic within – had I known that leg was going to look like that, I totally would have run in the shoe’s regular old insoles) and then looked for drier, more stable ground where I could attempt to get it back on my feet.  I figured I was about 3/4 of the way through the thing (I was actually only about halfway through it), but I still wanted my shoe on.  I looked at the inside of my shoe and at the mud-caked sock on my foot and quickly realized those two were not going together nicely.  I could either try and clean off the sock or I could just take it off and put the shoe on my bare foot.  So take it off I did, and I ran the rest of that leg with an inside-out sweaty muddy sock in my hand.  When I made it to the next exchange point, I was exhausted, winded, and generally feeling horrible.  I was not in shape for this kind of running, and I still had three more miles to go.  Ugh.

As I set out for my last leg, I was beat but trying to stay positive.  It was only 3 miles!  I could bang that out in no time!  Except it was three miles of either insanely technical trail (narrow, hilly, windy, and littered with fallen branches and tree roots) or barely-person-wide paths through open sunny fields.  Neither of these things were what I wanted to see.  I couldn’t get into a pace on the technical trail, and the open sunny fields left me feeling overheated.  It was only 80 degrees, but you just don’t see that kind of weather running in the mornings in Seattle which means I wasn’t at all acclimatized to running in the sun.  Even if I had been, I still would have been suffering because I just do not do sun well at all.  (Shocking, I know.)  It took me nearly 45 minutes to get through those 3 miles and I spent most of that time just wanting to go home.  What made it worse was that the winding nature of the path meant I could hear cheers at the exchange when I still had a mile or so of running to go, so I kept thinking I was closer to the end than I was.  I resisted the urge to walk and ran as much as I could, telling myself that the faster I moved the faster I’d be done, but the ugly truth was this: I was toast.

At that point in time, I never wanted to run again.  I was pathetically out of shape and spent most of my run time that day feeling like shit.  We made our way to the finish line to wait for our runner, and as I sprawled out on the grass I just wanted to lie down and take a nap.  As I sat there though, I gained a little perspective.  Sure, I wasn’t even remotely in shape for this race this year, but at least I had one good leg.  Plus, I’d survived.  I’d been slow, but I’d made it through every inch of my assigned 10 miles, which was the most I’d run in a single day in over a year.  Most importantly, despite the ankle-rolling terrain…. my foot didn’t hurt.  It felt fine.  There were no twinges or soreness or anything.  It was perfectly happy to have made it through the woods and never once bothered me while I was out there.  In fact, it felt so OK that I didn’t even notice it until someone asked me about it, which is better than I ever would have hoped for 6 months ago.

So, yeah, I’m still slow.  I’m still pretty out of shape.  But to go from barely being able to run at all to 10+ miles of pain free trail running in 6 months?  That’s some pretty good progress right there.  I’ll totally take it.  And next year?  I’ll actually be trained for it again.

The rest of the weekend was, as usual, a blast.  The same group of about 30-40 people runs this every year and, for the most part, it’s the only time I see any of them.  It’s a great group of people and the chance to spend some time with them again was totally worth the pain of being horribly undertrained.  I even managed to stay up past 10 p.m. this year, which I was pretty proud of.  Sure, I was in bed by 12:30, but that was a choice I made as I was sitting at the table playing speed quarters.  My beer was empty, and I knew that I could either go to bed now, or I could get another one and end up stumbling back to my room at 4 a.m. in a state that would best be described as “not even remotely sober.”  I opted for bed and the hangover-free flight, and I can’t even tell you how glad I am to have done that.  I am, officially, old.


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