Simulation, Spiders, Skunks, Screaming

I am trying to learn from my mistakes.  With that in mind, I planned my weekend training to try to simulate the race conditions I will face in October.  Of course,  92 degrees with 1000% humidity is not what I am expecting in the mountains of North Carolina.  But it was just an exciting bonus to cap off my day.

A few of the things I wanted to simulate were the sleeping conditions, food choices, trails and loops.  For the race, we will be flying to North Carolina and then camping in a tent for the race weekend.  So Friday night, after a half day at work and another half day on a carpentry project for my sister, Christine and I set up our new 2 man tent in the back yard.  We broke out the little jet boil burner and had some chicken fettuccine stuff from a freeze dried bag.  It was actually pretty tasty.  Somewhere around 9:30 or so, we crawled in the tent for a good nights sleep.  And I slept until about 1:00 when the little inflatable pillow and I disagreed with each other.

I did my usual sleep for 5 minutes/awake for 15 minutes routine until about 4:30 and then got up.  I had my coffee, loaded my gear and make the trip to St. Francisville to visit The Beast.  For those who don’t know, The Beast is a trail used by mountain bikers and runners and it has a lot of ups and downs.  The loops are about 6 miles long, so it would be good practice for the 8.5 mile loops in North Carolina.

I arrived at the Beast and it was still pretty dark outside.  Hmm.  And I was the only vehicle there as well. So I got all my stuff on, minus the headlamp I did not bring, and I slowly started running to the trail head.  The dawn was slowly breaking through, so I figured I could handle it.  I hit the trail on my first of three loops and was ready for a great day.  And then I ran into my first spider web.

Note to self:  Never be the first runner on the trail.  I spent the next 1.5 hours running/scrambling down the trail holding a branch in front of me in an attempt to take out the webs.  The little ones could be knocked down easily.  The big ones wrapped around the stick and ended up on my face, ears, hat, etc. I’m pretty sure I had enough web on me to make my own human size web.  By the way, the spiders never just jump to safety.  They stick around to see what they caught.  Oh well, once I cleared them out I could run easily and I did my service of the day for the later runners. It should be smooth sailing from here out.

And then I smelled the skunk.  Not in the “I think there is a skunk somewhere about a mile from here” way.  It was more in the, “Oh shit nobody move” kind of way.  I finally located it about 20 yards away.  I was hoping that it had just fired a little scent across my bow to let me know who was boss.  I was not in the mood for the 45 minute drive home covered in skunk junk.  Fortunately for me, it went one way while I went the other.

As I finished each loop, I would run back to the truck, report in to Christine that I was still alive, and refill my water bottle.  I also ate half a peanut butter and honey sandwich or a banana.  But the drink I was carrying was only water.  As the miles ticked by and the heat intensified, my bottle was emptying faster and my pace was slowing. By the time I reached the truck at the end, I was done.  Unfortunately in more ways than one.

It didn’t take long for the cramps to start saying hello.  Another note to self: you have ALWAYS needed a lot of electrolytes.  (See this post.)  Evidently the water alone did not do the trick.  While taking off my trail shoes for the drive home, my left hamstring locked up.  By now, I am in rough shape overall. I managed to get in the truck with the seat laid back so I could crank the air conditioner.  I was pretty overheated.  After about 10 minutes, I started the 45 minute drive back home.

That sucked.  Thankfully I am good with cruise control because my right leg was cramping as well! I made it home and hobbled into the house where I went quickly from standing to a bench to the floor.  And there was no position I could put my legs without some muscle cramping.  From my lower back down to my toes (yes they cramped), I was in bad shape.  Christine started bringing me glasses of pickle juice to drink while I just lay there and winced.  After a long time, I managed to get back up and hit the shower.  Yay! No crying in the shower from chafing (one of the few successes of the day).

So what did I accomplish:

  • Pre-race simulation:  I need a new pillow.
  • Food choices:  Food was okay the night before.  Epic Fail for during workout nutrition.
  • Trails: My body did okay on the trails until the nutrition problem kicked in.
  • Loops:  This is the extreme mental part.  Knowing you have to go out and do it again messes with your brain.  But I did it.  And I will have Christine out there for some tough love motivation on race day.

Bottom line is that I did 18 miles on some tough terrain. And I re-learned some old lessons.  Now to rinse and repeat until October 27th!  Also,  donate to my fundraiser for the Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation if you can!

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