I planned to put a couple 50K trail runs into my race schedule as I work up to the Spartan Ultra Beast. Gnaw Bone was reputed to have the roughest trails in all of Indiana, which was just what I was hoping for. As it turned out, it would over-deliver in terms of a Spartan training run.
Note: I didn’t get any photos at this event. All photos stolen from the event Facebook page.
Arrived at 0MG early, found the bag drops, chatted with the other racers, and followed the crowd when we were all directed toward the starting line. Quick announcements and well wishes, and we were off.
We started out on gravel, crossed a paved road into the state park, and then the trails got awesome. Steep hills that seemed to go on forever, fallen trees across the path, more stream crossings than anyone can keep track of (mostly rock-to-rock jumping type of streams).
About mile 6 a thunderstorm blew through. Windy, pouring rain, reduced visibility and was soaked to the skin with water sloshing in my shoes within 5 minutes.
Keep going, walk when you have to and run when you can. I started counting off paces to make sure that I was running/shuffling at least a little more than I was walking.
I particularly enjoyed some of the structures in the park that they ran us over, log bridges and paths made out of split wood.
Less pleasant were the stairways near the end that seemed to go on forever.
When I hit the aide station just before Mile 18, I was off of my goal pace but still on track for a PR, and was informed that the bag drop where I could change into dry shoes was only 2 miles away.
Left the aide station at a good pace, covered a mile or more of trails, and was surprised to meet a group of racers walking in the opposite direction.
“We’re lost. Trail ends half a mile ahead.”
We went back the way we had come, found the turn that we had all missed, and continued on our way. Perhaps it was only 2 miles to the next station, but it was 2 miles of nearly straight up. I passed a racer from FLorida who mentioned that she had no way to describe this terrain to friends back home.
Just before the checkpoint, I met the last-place marathoner and was able to encourage her on her way (she did finish). Refill my camelback, check the condition of my feet (not good but okay) and get fresh footwear.
It was after this station that the terrain truly got Spartan-worthy. One steep slope they sent us up was so steep and slick that I was literally bear-crawling and grabbing at trees to make my way up it.
My feet and my fighting spirit went downhill badly in that last ten miles. Blisters got worse and I had trouble even pushing myself to even a slow run. What really surprised me was when they put us in the water. I didn’t know non-OCR races did that.
The memory that had an impact on me from this race came at the very end. Somehow the path to the 50K finish lead me through a staging area for the 10Kers about to take off. At this point I was feeling pretty down and embarrassed, more than an hour past my previous time, noticeably limping. All I could see in myself was how far short of my goal I had fallen today.
The 10K racers looked at me and all they saw was, given the pain I was in, I was still moving forward. They didn’t just encourage me along, they put up a cheer that could have been heard a mile away.
I came over a small rise and saw the finish line, and did the best I could to sprint the rest of the way.
This was without a doubt the ugliest piece of running I have ever done. Right and left strides uneven, posture lopsided, it felt like my left foot was hitting sideways. The cheers from the finish line hit me like and electric shock and I pushed through even faster.
Medal, banana, some very good free beer.
My girlfriend had asked me to check in when I was done. My terse message sums up how I was feeling at that point:
“Vitamin I. Waffles.”
And yes, I wore my finisher’s medal to Waffle House.
No matter how I did on time and pace this course, I learned a lot that will help with future races.
Carrying nutritional shakes to keep your energy up worked out perfectly. While my blister-prevention protocol has improved drastically since the HUFF, it still needs work. And I still need to spend less time on the pavement and more in the mud.