Hanging out at the start with my homeboys, Calvin and Bobby!
4 weeks ago, I ran my solo 50 miler. One week later, I ran Leon’s Fat Ass 50K. Now, two weeks after Leon’s race, I ran Wilson Creek Frozen 50k (which, as it turns out, would be the hardest race of them all, yet I enjoyed every minute of it!) So, in less than one month, I did all of that!!!! And, I feel FINE! I think that says a couple of things about me right now.
1. I am learning to race more conservatively, so that I don’t bonk, but give a steady, strong effort the entire time and then recover better. 2. That I am getting more experienced at these ultra distances! 3. That I am well on the right track for my training for my first 100 mile race at Antelope Island Buffalo Run in March!
My husband, Wayne, my 11 year old son, Wayne Jr, my best friend, Bertha and I all arrived together at the race start at about 6 am. Seeing the flood lights on the road, the people already directing traffic, the ambulance and fire department vehicles there in case of emergency, the covered tent for the packet pickup, the cozy fire-pit to get warm around, all the volunteers, etc just had me in total awe of my two friends, Emily and Davina who had chosen this big endeavor as their first venture into race directing! It was obvious upon arrival that they had thought and rethought out the details, down to the very last item and had done an amazing job setting this race up and doing it well! I knew all of the racers (more than 200) were in for a great day, with the two of them in charge!
Now race directors can control many things, but they cannot control the weather (try as they might!) The race is called the Wilson Creek Frozen 50k. In the past week, the Melba Idaho area has had snow, then several days of rain. The temperature on race morning was about 35 or so and a little humid. We had all been warned that we would not be finding any part of the course frozen, but would encounter more than our fair share of mud. And, we weren’t disappointed!
Now, when I raced Big Horn in 2011, I encountered insane amounts of mud that slowed everyone down! This was like Big Horn but WORSE! The mud was slippery, thick, clay. The kind that sucks your shoes right off. One of my pals, named Robbie told me he lost a shoe 8 times and even ran in his socks for a couple of miles before giving up and quitting the race, since it was so difficult! I would say at least 20 of the 31 miles were muddy, maybe a bit more. The 20 mile loop is a very challenging section, with or without any mud. The mud just turned it into a slog-fest! I looked down at my feet around mile 10 or so and almost laughed. They looked twice as large as usual. The mud was so thick, it just clung to the shoe and made it look like I was wearing snow shoes — snow shoes made of MUD! I teased some of the other runners (I use that term very loosely since I honestly saw everyone near me walking, slowly, looking exhausted from the effort, through the mud for miles) that I should have trained for this race by strapping two concrete blocks to my feet and then trying to run, since that’s pretty much how it felt. I didn’t let it get to me, though! I have learned to roll with the punches at these ultras! The weather will bring you what it does. Same with the course. You can’t control it, so don’t fight it! Put a smile on your face, adjust your expectations and pace accordingly and keep moving forward!
It was like a big reunion of all my running buddies as we milled around waiting to start! I think I got about fifty hugs and “good lucks!” before we even hit the starting line! I have the best running friends in the whole world! I have never met a more loving, fun, kind-hearted group of people in my life and I was excited to get to share the trails with them at this race! The Daily Miler gang came out and truly represented, too, all giving me hugs before the start! Ben B., Calvin , Bobby H. , Emily B. (as awesome race director), Andrea S. , Rachel C. , Mike C., my husband Wayne (doing his first trail race EVER!), Otto , Randy and my goofball running buddy, Ryan A. , who totally made my day when I saw him wearing shorts and these crazy, orange and pink striped knee socks he’d borrowed from his 8 year old daughter!!! That was hilarious! I’d also later on that day, get to hug Les A.! It was like a big Daily Mile PARTY!
Ryan working the socks!
Just before they called us to the start, I wished my son and husband “Good luck” in their 10 mile race that would start two hours after ours. I had them both on my mind that first 20 miles, hoping they were having a fantastic time!
Here’s a photo by Michael LeBowitz from the LongRun Picture Company of my two guys finishing up their race with smiles! I love it!
With so many runners at the start (the 20 milers and the 50kers started together), it was like a slow-moving human train on the single track trail up the first big climb, a steady stream of headlamps as far as the eye could see. I enjoyed hearing the chatter from excited runners all around me. I’d passed my buddy, Jon just before the climb started, as he high-fived us, while he waited to jump in at the tail end and serve as one of the sweepers of the race, making sure those in the back are well looked after. Jon is known in my group as the “fun guy!” – always doing crazy stuff like running in the winter without a shirt and this day he didn’t disappoint – nearly blinding me with his alabaster skin! hehe!
I caught up to my friends, Otto and Randy after a mile or so and felt so proud of myself for being near them already! In the past, they were both always pretty far ahead on the climbs, so I felt really happy to see that all the hard work I’ve been doing has improved my climbing ability a bit! The three of us were in silly moods and the conversation was light-hearted and fun. I would teasingly pull ahead just a bit and say, “And Christie pulls ahead, CHICKING both men and the crowd goes wild!!” throwing my hands up in the air!!!! Otto, pushed me on the head as he bolted by and said, “Not so fast, there, Missy!” The three of us were like a bunch of little kids at recess and it was a nice way to start the race.
Otto took this picture of me during the race. It’s one of my faves from yesterday! The scenery was beautiful out there!
I never looked at my heart rate during this race. Instead, I just focused on how I was feeling and kept my effort consistent, steady and strong! I made sure to eat about 50 calories or more every half an hour to keep my energy up. I carried my two hand bottles with 22 oz each and made sure to keep drinking every few minutes. It was quite a workout packing all that mud for miles and miles (many of those miles UPHILL!) so I was very thirsty and kept sipping throughout the race.
I’ve definitely had more than my fair share of experiences with bonking in the past. I have gotten much better at avoiding it these days and for that I’m thankful! I never struggled at all with the bonk at this race and believe my constant fueling paid off keeping me physically and mentally in the game — even if it was a very slow pace with the added effort of the mud.
The weather had other surprises for us on the course, too! Crazy winds, hail, sleet, snow, and believe it or not — a little sunshine and blue skies by the time I finished, too, just to keep things fresh and interesting! I had one wardrobe malfunction on the course! Don’t worry! It was just a windbreaker incident! I’d just bought a new windbreaker at Old Navy the night before and about 6 miles into the race, I looked down and the zipper seemed broken! The top of the jacket was open and the bottom was too, whipping in the breeze, but the zipper held steady right in the center. Argh! I pulled to the side, trying to fix the problem, the winds and the cold getting fiercer as I worked. Maybe 15 people passed me here, but I knew I had a long day ahead of me of nasty weather and that I really needed my coat to work, so I tried not to think about it. After a few minutes, I looked up and my friend, Conner was passing by, too. He saw my predicament and likely the frustrated look on my face and came to my rescue! He had me grab the jacket from the bottom, holding it tight together, while he worked the zipper and he got it unstuck!!!! Then I was able to actually zip up my coat again! I gave him a big hug and thanked him and would later tell him, “Every time the cold winds blew and I was warm I said a silent, “Thank you, Conner” during the race!!!! I also told him that I had definitely chosen the right person to pace me at my 100 mile race, since he helped me out when I really needed it and he could be counted on as a friend. He said, “You just wait! I’m like that! I’ll take good care of you!” Yay for awesome friends!!!!!!
After the jacket was zipped, Conner and I stayed together for a few miles, chatting. It was lots of fun catching up and knocking out a few, slow miles together heading up the mountain in the storm. Conner is part of Team in Training and had come to the race with some of his friends from that group, so at the first aid station at about mile 8, he waited for them to catch up, so he could offer them some encouragement and run with them (what a good guy!)
Miles 8 – 18 are pretty challenging. Nearly all mud. It also involved the climb right up to Wilson Peak, the highest point we reached during the entire race! The winds had picked up and were really intense and icy as we slowly climbed towards the summit. I smiled and said, “Way to go!” to everyone coming back down the hill towards me. The person behind me finally caught up and said, “Aren’t you Christie from Daily Mile?” I grinned and said, “Yeah, that’s me!” He said, I’m Matt G.!” It made me happy to meet another one of my online pals from Daily Mile! It had started to snow by the time I reached the summit. The views were amazing!!!! You could see the red rock canyons, the outcroppings of unusual rocks everywhere (some of them reminding me of those at Stonehenge!), the mountains in every direction, sagebrush and wheat-colored long grasses covering most of it. I didn’t see the wild horses, as I often do when I come to run in the Owyhee Mountains, but the natural beauty of the area, still blew my mind.
I saw Otto, just ahead of me again, crouching down at the tower on the top, looking really cold. I asked him if he was ok. He nodded, but I was a bit worried. After using the hole punch at the summit to prove I’d done this loop (and getting it STUCK to my race bib since it froze from the cold, though thankfully, a kind hearted fella helped me out. I think it might have been Matt G again! – Thank you! I’d still be up there since the hole punch was attached to a wire, hooked to a pole!), I headed back down the mountain, eager to get done with the first 20 mile loop!
It was like a miracle occurred once I got off that tough, rocky, muddy, steep, windy section, too! The next section of trail was sandier, so it was less muddy and it was less windy, too! I actually broke into a RUN for the first time in many miles and it was a great feeling to stretch the very, sore legs out! That mud was a serious workout! Unfortunately, more mud and lots of steep sections with rocks were ahead, but I was in good spirits, so I didn’t mind. It was lightly raining, I was warm and I was listening to some music, enjoying the day and excited to see my husband and son and see how their race had gone!
I was alone for much of this section. When I passed the body of the dead Raven on the trail, I thought of my friend, Tony, who had mentioned this very sighting earlier in the week. He’d said, “I was out there alone, on the eve of Edgar Allen Poe’s birthday and spotted this dead Raven. It was a bit creepy!” I said, “Nevermore! Nevermore!” as I passed the corpse!
I could hear the cowbells and the cheering of the crowds of those blessed souls out there cheering on the runners as I got closer to the start/finish area, where I would complete my first 20 mile loop (which was really closer to 20.5 I think.) A grin spread over my face and I picked up the pace. As soon as I checked in, I headed for my drop bag. My friend, Holly, who owns the local Pulse running store, quickly jumped in to help me! She was a doll, taking my hand bottle and filling it up with my Mocha Frappuccino that I’d saved for this section. I also grabbed my lunchable that I’d put into a zip lock bag and dropped off the headlamp. That’s when I turned and saw my husband and son, just glowing with pride in their new scarves (the finishing prize) waiting for hugs from me! I was so proud of them both and gave them kisses and told them, “Great job!” I also got hugs from Mike and Les, who had also finished their races and were looking pretty pleased with themselves! Then, I quickly took off to do the final 10.8 mile loop to finish up my race.
Now, I’ve ran that loop many times in training. I normally adore it and consider it a fairly fast section and had been looking forward to it all day. But, the mud monsters had gotten to that section too and that was discouraging. I just walked the first 3-4 miles since it was also really slippery and muddy. I took that time to eat and drink and will my legs to keep on going. I have gone longer distances, but after the crazy mud for so many miles, my hips, my glutes, my hamstrings and my knees were just spent! There was very little pep in my step.
Randy caught back up to me here. He’d apparently been at the aid station when I checked in and out. It was nice to see him and have some company, since it seemed I was the only person out on the course. I did find out later that many people DNF’d or chose to drop down to the 20 mile distance after they’d done the first 20, since it was so challenging. So, very few actually went on to complete the full 50k they’d signed up for. It really was THAT tough of a course! But, I was proud of myself for never even considering that. I like to finish what I start and felt that every obstacle I encountered out there was just another opportunity to improve my mental strength for the upcoming 100 miler.
Randy said his hips hurt. I told him about my aches and pains and together we slowly slogged along. Somewhere in here we started talking about how awesome hot baths are when you’re sore (despite the fact that everyone advises ice baths.) Clearly, we were both eager to be done and looking forward to rewarding ourselves back at home with some rest and relaxation!
Randy and I came into an aid station. I have to say each and every aid station and every volunteer was way above average!!!! We were treated well, by smiling friends. I enjoyed the warm soups, the peanut m and ms and the orange slices at the aid stations, then quickly got out. I’d say, on average, I spent between 1 – 5 min max at any aid station — usually 2-3 min. I didn’t dilly dally! I got right back into the race. That’s how I ended up without Randy, when he saw his pal, Jenny, at her aid station and they started chatting. Jenny’s my pal, too, but I had a race to run!
My favorite part of the 10 mile loop is along Wilson Creek, through the red rock canyons and up on the ridge, on single track, looking way down at the creek as you climb high up. It’s breathtakingly beautiful! I’d been running about 8 hours when I hit this section and it was finally warm and sunny! That was the first time all day I took my gloves off. I closed my eyes and just smiled, listening to the gurgling of the rushing waters. It was so peaceful and I was happy.
I caught up to a lone, male runner here. Wished him well and passed him. I was running strong again and just enjoying the moment. About 3 miles from the finish, I heard croaking. I looked all around the trail expecting to see a toad or frog, but I didn’t see one. I kept hearing the sound, though and finally I looked UP! It was a black bird soaring in the baby blue sky above me and sure enough — he was CROAKING! I burst out laughing!!! I have since googled and learned that black birds can sound like that, but I didn’t know that before! It was about here, that the runner I’d passed got a second wind. I’d slowed down to a steady, brisk walk and he was feeling good, so he passed me. I could make out 3 other runners way up ahead and watched as one by one this guy passed them all! Impressive! It inspired me to pick up the pace and get back into a run again, too, though my pace was much slower than this guy’s had been. And, one-by-one, I, too, ended up passed those three ahead of me, who were finishing up the 20 mile loop.
Once I heard the cowbells and the crowds again, joy just flooded my body again. I always get a second wind when I see the finish line and the crowds!!! That’s when my legs get renewed energy and I feel them churning faster and faster! I saw my friends, my husband and I saw Ryan taking pictures and I just threw my arms in the air and ran like a lunatic across that finish line, laughing and smiling, enjoying the moment! My Garmin says I reached a 5:38 pace at the finish!
Michael Lebowitz from Longrun Picture Company took this final kick photo of me! I love it!
My overall time was 8:55. I had done both loops in training and, based on those (done without crazy mud), I’d expected to come in around 7 – 7:30 hours, but given the circumstances of the course, I felt that sub 9 was a great accomplishment, even if it was quite a bit slower than I had expected to do. I was given an adorable light cheetah-print scarf and got a ton of hugs from all my friends! When Ryan ran up to say good job, he was sporting the same snazzy scarf and called us twins! His wife, Michelle cracked me up and took me aside and told me she’d told the race director earlier that that particular print wasn’t very manly and that when Ryan finished he’d begged for one. hehehe!!!!
I finished 4th female overall and 1st in the 30-39 age group! My trophy is totally freaking adorable! It’s a wood block with an empty shotgun shell casing stapled to it! Out at Wilson Creek, there are always tons of those on the side of the trail, so I thought that was a perfectly fitting award and I’m going to display it proudly!
I love my sweet new animal print scarf and 1st place AG award from the race!! Sweet BLING for sure!!!
My shoes AFTER most of the mud was cleaned off!! You should have seen them earlier!!!!!
It was an awesome day and I’m so happy I got to take part of the first official Wilson Creek Frozen 50k!
Elevation Gain: 6,037 feet of climb. Average Heart rate: 158. Max Heart rate: 203