(Note: I am not a runner, but on this day I played one in real life.)
Psycho Wyco 10 Was Not Easy.
What can I say? I started off 2014 right, with my first DNF at Psycho Wyco 10. It felt good to feel so bad that I had to check out half way through the ordeal, and judging by how I feel today it would have been a pretty poor decision to continue past the half way point. I can barely walk today, the trail conditions gave my ankles a crazy workout, and my right m. adductor longus (inside quad, stabilizer) was jerked around into submission. Getting home and walking up the stairs was painful, if not agonizing. Enough about that whining though, on to other whinings!
I should start this next section off with a few facts. The #1 fact is that I have not really run much since I left the Army 18 years ago. When I was straight out of BCT and AIT I was a really strong runner. I was 19. In 2006 I went sober for a few years and got bored with things, so I took up running again, doing a few 2-4 mile runs from my home in Sherman Hill down to and around Gray’s Lake and back. I recently decided to start running again as cross training for some of the tougher gravel races on the schedule for this year. I have run very little, then jumped right into a very punishing, snowy course. #2 Fact is that I have not run on trails since that Army 10 Miler in 1992 (?). That was during the spring, on a fairly level course, and had no single track. Easy Peasy. Fact #3: I really enjoy not having fun.
The Race Notes
I secured a hot tub room close to the course for the night before, and after packet pickup went for a little bubbly soak. It was just what I needed after being on the road for hours, and after a frustrating GPS glitch. I need to put my map book back in the car, evidently. Craig and Greta showed up around 8 and we headed over to some brew pub thing for a bite to eat and some beers. An observation about KC: not really into “snow plow” culture evidently. We returned to the hotel and did the “shoe screw” (literally drilled screws into the soles of our shoes for traction on snow/ice), then parted ways. I had a hard time sleeping, as I do the night before any race, and since it is the norm I don’t think the lack of sleep really affected my performance.
I awoke and decided to lay in bed for an extra hour or so, gathering my thoughts. I missed the ride in with Greta, who was running the 50k which started an hour before the 10mile. Grabbed some breakfast, suited up, attempted to figure out how to use gaiters, then packed up the car.
I found the shuttle meeting point, and hopped a ride to the starting location, Wyandotte County Lake Park. There was a DJ spinning, support trailers, and a few hundred people gathered around the park shelter stretching, talking, and getting some fluids. Lots of dogs on this race. I have to say, any race that allows dogs to run with you is pretty darn cool, and the people who ran, supported, and worked the race were some of the nicest people I have ever met. Very cool. Reminded me of the gravel scene a bit, albeit with a little less machismo. As I was standing around pretending to be anonymous I heard “Oh, it’s starting.” I pushed record on my GPS and we were off. over 200 people entering single track is a bit of a clusterfuck, but everyone was using great trail etiquette and being mindful of others. The snow was pretty deep and very powdery, probably better for snowboarding than running, and what lay beneath it was a very rocky, and at times very technical course. I pulled off the side about a half mile in and assessed my condition. All limbs still attached, back to running.
Groups were splitting off, and at about mile 1.5 I settled in behind a couple (pretty cool, it looked like it may have been her first event of this kind, and he was helping her through and encouraging her all the way. She also had on penguin print tights. Extra credit for her.) and in front of a couple women whom I met up with at the aid stations. My back was killing me, my left ankle was sore already, and I couldn’t really get a grip with that left shoe. I DID do two different screw patterns, and will have to review which one worked the best. Allegedly the best. The course reminded me of this, for any of you familiar with MacRae park on the South Side of Des Moines: Dump a foot of snow on the side of MacRae’s grassy hill. Extend the hill by another hundred feet. Now, run up and down the hill for the equivalent of ten miles (or in my case, 5 miles). Holy. F.
I mentally prepared myself with two lines of reasoning prior to the race:
1. “It’s only ten miles, like riding my old commute” which I had walked a few times due to bike and ex failure.
2. “If I start getting tired, think of Jason Voorhees and how fast/far he can run in the woods” Horror movie villains have incredible speed and stamina when it comes down to it. And I’m sure they aren’t out there with their HRM doing zone training. Especially the dead ones.
Seemed like bulletproof motivation.
I reached aid station 1, at 2.4 miles. “Hey, great job out of you, can we get you anything?” says the very nice aid station attendant. I mumble, “yeah, a beer.” She informs me there is no beer. Probably for the best. Someone asks how it’s going, I answer “fuck this.” I have a long war ahead of me if I want to be a nice guy/runner. hahaha. I topped off my water and hit the Elete. I notice aid station 3 is directly behind 2. Interesting. “It’s about 1.1 miles that way, then we will see you again!” huh?
What I then entered was the “Wyco Triangle,” or a part of the course that, as I understand, was plotted out by the organizer, Ben, putting a GPS on his pup’s collar and going for a run. It certainly seemed dog-like in its switch back, all-over-the-place, spastic layout. Ironically I felt that I did my best running on this part of the course, you could really get some momentum rolling and ducking under branches and hopping logs was pretty fun. Dogs may have this running through the woods thing down a little better than me. The mile went by quickly, but during that stage I pulled my quad trying to stabilize myself on a few rocky turns. I reached checkpoint 3, hit the Elete again, and prepared to take down a gel pack. Then things started deteriorating quickly. My back had finally loosened up, my breathing was good, my ankles had numbed a bit, but that quad was howling at me on every climb. I was really pissed at this point, when I finally got the rest of my body to agree to what we were doing together (oddly, it also takes about 3-4 miles on the bike before my body and mind get it together and I can really start pedaling). It was decided that I would run it out, no matter how many times I already wanted to quit, because I came all this way in and to the race. I would change my mind in a few short miles.
I entered a really technical, climby part of the course. This is about where the 50k runners started lapping me, and the really fast ones. (again, the 50k and 20mile run started an hour earlier than mine) This is also where my sore quad really started to become a nuisance. I had lost sight of the Penguin Pants Crew about a half mile back, and as the motivation and energy were fading, the pain and doubt were rising. We came out of the woods to a long, flat open section (which I learned later was the back side of a dam) which was basically a slog to the dam hill. More like Damn Hill. Fuck. at the top of the hill was a point where you literally had to climb up to the road because of the snow, and there sat my little Island Oasis, checkpoint 3. I had a lot of fun during my stay at checkpoint 3. The people were nice, they had food and soup and smiles, and a concern for the well being of the runners. They offered me broth and a warm spot to sit, I cleared the snow off the top of a large stone and sat down for a minute to ponder my
condition. I have DNF’d before, enough times that it’s never a matter of mortified pride, only of matter of logic. Will I make the next checkpoint? Doubtful, I can barely climb with my leg jacked up. Will I make the end? LOL. Is there a sag back to the start/finish? Yes. Score. In hindsight, had I brought along some ibuprofen or some other pain killer I may have been able to make it to the end, but my main concern was really my post-race fitness, and with CIRREM looming 2 weeks away, it would be a shame to go above my ability (which I assure you was already the case) and hurt myself during this run enough to have to cancel a bike race. I chatted with the checkpoint folk, and the two young ladies who had been right behind me caught up again. One of them knew my name. I’m not sure how (it was printed in small letters on my race number?), and if you are that person and reading this, holla. I did some marketing for my business, as it is my job to be the taco guy at all times, and entered my limo. Goodbye, fair course. And also go f yourself.
I arrived back at the start, had some really amazing vegan chili, talked to a few people, and enjoyed the DJ spinning some Sir Mix A Lot. That was hard. The race, not the Mix A Lot. I hopped on the first shuttle I saw, where I was informed I was on the wrong shuttle, but could hang out and warm up while waiting for the proper ride to my car. I talked with a woman who was running the 20, but stopped at 10 and was VERY adamant that she only stopped because she had to be somewhere. I’m thinking to myself “oh, she one of those probably-never-DNF-types,” the kind that have never had to accept any sort of self defeat in sports, and that is awesome on her part! She did bring up that the course was slower than ever, which is what put her outside her time constraint. THERE’S MY SHUTTLE! I’ve never been this happy to catch a bus ride to a church parking lot in my life. I got to the Jetta and did some wardrobe change, sat in the car as it heated up and reflected upon the day. I didn’t beat myself up too bad, I had not finished, but if you look at my notes about training, I should have never gotten as far as I did. Relying solely on your biking fitness (or lack thereof) to do a punishing trail run in the snow at about 10 degrees is dicey at best. I’m both proud of my accomplishment and disappointed in my failings at the same time. Speaking of those two things, here is a bit about that.
I Nailed It On Equipment!
One thing (thankfully) I have gotten very strong in over the last few years of winter biking is picking out the correct gear for the temperature and conditions. I was a little concerned as biking and running are two different beasts in sub freezing temperatures, and keeping this in mind the goal was to not go too heavy on the torso layers and avoid a sweat out situation. Sweating out on run in this setting could be dangerous. I was perfectly fine all the way through, and when I reached my early end point it was refreshing to know that I was still warm, and fairly dry. The check point marshals, again, were very concerned about my warmth (and they were fucking awesome, not just for that), but I seriously had no real issues with heat at all. My body temp felt a little off, but not as off as it would if I were putting in a long gravel ride in the same conditions.
Bike Iowa “Headband Hat” I don’t know what the fuck these are actually called, but it was perfect.
Patagonia Tech Base Layer
Hanes Base Layer (I don’t care for these, but it works pretty well and is cheap)
Tacopocalypse Primal Jersey outer layer.
Seems really light from a biking standpoint, and it was hard to talk myself down off wearing a jacket.
Adidas Tech Boxers. Essential wicking device. I wear these for bike touring also. They work.
Minus 15 Merino Wool base layer – I’ve been wearing these for 5 years and they have yet to let me down.
Specialized Heavy Winter Bibs – Another wise purchase from years ago. I have worn this pair at CIRREM, Gents Race, Trans Iowa, and a few other bike races. They work amazingly well for running, too! Score. Shit, they work better in races than the legs they protect!
Smartwool heavy duty merino wool socks, calf length. My favorite socks, and after this ordeal my vote for best sock ever, and yes, I only wore one pair of socks. (somebody doubted this earlier)
Saucony GTX goretex running shoes. They were broken-in-comfortable out of the box, never an issue, and hopefully they forgive me for what I did to them with that power drill
Galvanized Hex Screws – 8 or so in the soles of each foot, saved my life on some slippery rock areas and a frozen stream crossing
North Face Medium lightweight Gaiters – The real star of the show here, as snow in waterproof shoes can be a really really bad situation. I was proud of myself for only taking 10 minutes to figure out how to google how to put them on correctly. Also, the Saucony’s have “Gaiter Clips” built in, which helped keep the fronts down. I’m going to use these with my Lake MXZ 302’s to keep mud/snow out of the tops in two weeks at CIRREM.
Nutrition: NUUN Tab in the water bottle, Clif Gel Citrus Flavor (1), Elete drops (invaluable to avoid cramping)
Overall, I would like to say that the gear was DEFINITELY the strongest link in the equation. Without a doubt. Thanks, technology.
I Failed It On Training!
I, unfortunately, may be the king of slack training. I have gotten decent results from this method in the past, and decided that my cycling fitness would carry me to a finish at Psycho Wyco. This was clear and unintentional disrespect for this course, and of my own well being. I get that. Without beating myself up further about this, I now know that I can finish half of the course with nearly ZERO training (albeit slowly and in much pain). I also now know what to do to prepare for this race. I’m interested to see where the balance lies between training for trail running and training for gravel grinding. I’m sure that the weight loss involved in running will boost my biking ability, but I’m a very busy person and time is an issue these days. It’s going to be tough to squeeze in training for two types of events. I remember the days of working for others and just worrying about how many miles I was getting in a week… Once my legs start cooperating again, I’m going to get out and do some gravel road running with the Screw Shoes and start preparing for the Pilot Knob 15k, which should prove to be a little faster course, with more climbing, but a lot less snow (with any luck).
All in all, I had a great time. I want to thank the TrailNerd.org crew for putting on such a challenging race, and all the people I met during the day for being so rad. I also want to thank my good friend Greta for talking me into doing this race, even if it took me two extra years to finally pull the trigger. I will be back next year for a finish, and hopefully to less snow.
Cheers and stuff,