Leon’s Fat Rear 50K — A Series of Unfortunate Events

It was a really tough one. It was supposed to be a 50k, but my running buddy, Bertha and I got lost several times on today’s snowy (and icy) mountain trail run. The conditions were very challenging – much of the trail was not runnable at all — more hikeable really in long uphill climbs (elevation gain today of 4882 ft) and the downhills and flats were icy and dangerous. My pal fell several times.  My screw shoes and tiny, mincy steps (and just a stroke of good luck) saved me from falling today, but I came close a few times. Several huge sections of the trail looked like skating ponds – areas sometimes 20 feet by 6 feet or so of pure, frozen swirling shades of brown and white – sheets of ice that appeared marbled below the surface of the frozen mud puddle. It seems we saw hundreds of those today on the flatter sections.

At the higher elevations, the snow was deep and a bit crunchy – but a real challenge to run. It made me think of running through tires in a boot camp drill — aiming your foot for the previous footprint of runners who’d gone before, but often missing and finding your shoe full of snow. It was an adventure, though!

Bertha and I got off track several times. We used the paper we were given and thought we followed the directions correctly – but we were off — by several miles — when a kindly biker rode by and was thoughtful enough to stop and explain that we were about 8 miles from where we thought we were – and much of it was back uphill. 

We’d both gone into this day expecting to run at least 30 miles — but by the time we slowly trudged back up the 3 miles we’d overshot and gotten back on the trail we were supposed to be on, we had 5 bonus miles to show for it – and realized with how slow the going was in the snow and ice that we were not going to be able to run the full 30 before dark.

Our wonderful families patiently waited for us at what was supposed to be the half point (about 15 miles in.) My thoughtful husband had set up a camp stove and was warming hot water for cocoa and had a pot of chicken broth to offer the runners as they hit the midpoint. My five children and Bertha’s youngest son were playing happily on the snowy hills with sleds that Bertha’s husband had brought along (thank you Joel!!) We were eager to see our families and knew they’d be eager to take us and head home (my five kids and Wayne had shown up at 9:30 am to crew and it was 2 pm before we finally came into the checkpoint.) I felt terrible that they’d patiently waited for so long for us. The soup and cocoa were delicious and hit the spot after running 6 1/2 hours in the mountains in the cold. I was also so touched to see my friend, Donna there cheering as we ran in the final section of the trail (honestly the most runnable section I saw all day – and it was only about a mile and much of it was muddy.) Thank you, Donna for being there to encourage us! It meant a lot and we were both in awe that you’d done that 30 miles on your own yesterday! Wow!

So — it wasn’t what I wanted it to be — but — oh well. Sometimes things don’t go according to plan and as my husband said on the way home, “The smart athlete knows when to adjust the plans to stay safe.” 

There were some breathtaking things to see on the trail today: a herd of elk, a hawk that took flight just as Bertha and I reached the summit of the highest hill (a magical moment where he seemed suspended in air as he soared away), miles of stream that was so frozen in spots you could only realize it was active from the bubbling sounds beneath the sheet of ice and icicles, acres and acres of snow-covered mountains, the city of Boise slowly coming to life early this morning as the sun rose and some lovely horses way up on a hill early in the run.

Maybe this particular January (non official) race is just not one I’m cut out for. That’s two years in a row I didn’t achieve what I set out to do. At least this year my stomach was happy the entire 6 1/2 hours.  That’s improvement at least!

Stats: 20 miles. 6:23 time. 4,882 feet of elevation gain. Climbing, climbing and more climbing.  Felt: Sore and fatigued by 4 hours when we realized we’d made a serious wrong turn and had 8 miles to get to the midpoint.

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