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Sunday, June 2, 2013

Masters of all terrain...a tail of heat, gravel road, snakes and despair

My buddy Joe texted me Friday afternoon.

"Are you doing the Mount Dora run Sat?"

"What's going on in Mount Dora Sat morning?"

Now, check this out, my response should really have been a good foreshadow to what "Sat morning" would bring. If you had no idea there was a half marathon should you, on your own free will, even consider taking up the challenge?

Oh, it's an off road half? That seals it, I'm in.

Of course I didn't into account that I did a ridiculously hard workout Friday morning and a 13 mile run on trails in June in Florida is totally sill for this yankee....

"See ya there!"

Have you ever looked back on something and thought, "What the F was I thinking?

Have you ever, as an afterthought, said to yourself, "Uhhh, yeah...I made that choice?"

This was one of those times.

In my mind "trail" half marathon meant: fields, maybe some gravel road, maybe some mud, a little single track and lots of shade. Maybe I should have researched the area just a little better. 

The ended up being a real challenge. The word travesty comes to my head for some reason. 

We woke up at 5am and was out the door by 5:40am. A quick stop to get some Muscle Fuel from my buddy Delaney Foster. (the mere fact that she had Muscle Fuel I thought was a good sign since AdvoCare hasn't had it in stock for a month.) With this liquid gold in my system I thought the day was going to be a fun filled adventure trek through the woods! Yay!

We arrived a little after 6am to discover that they were charging about $4 more for parking than I had on me. Crap. Maybe I should have just turned around...

The parking attendant let me pass with dirty look. I shrugged my shoulders and parked the car.

I paid my registration fee and had my number. While I walked over to the 2 porta potties I knew that number two was going to be an issue. I was there really early and already there was line. After 10 minutes I had my business done and I came out to a line of at least 75 people. For 2 johns with an average use time of.... yeah, the race was going to start late.

Sure enough 7am came and went and the line for the pooper was long and silly. While I was waiting I had to go again... (yeah, number 3, number 2 for the day if you are keeping track at home) so I took one for the team and did my business in the swamp while being offering up myself for breakfast for the bugs.

Honestly I am not an expert on insects. I don't know what these creepy crawly things were but man did they feast on me pre-race. The sun came up and they went to bed. Finally at about 7:40am the race went off. It was going to be a long day...

The run stared on an old abandoned airfield runway. Kinda cool. I ran on the pavement while most ran in the grass. I know, I am a wuss. I figured a couple hundred yards on hard surface would be best since the rest of the race was on soft surface....yeah...not the case. 

Shoes. So I chose to go with my Vibram 5-Finger shoes. The are great off road and fine on road as well. The only surface they don't do well on is gravel/limestone roads. I wish I know that 75% of the course was on a gravel/limestone road....

In the first few hundred yards I made yet another stupid decision. My theory (which I know now had many holes in it) was that the faster I ran the sooner I would get done. I'm in pretty good shape and from the looks of the first couple of miles the course was mostly grassy and shady. My first 3 miles were under 6:45 per mile and it felt fast but comfortable. 

I took this picture while I was running. What a dork.
Somewhere around 3 miles I came to my senses and said, "This is stupid, I can't maintain this pace."

Actually I got really tired all at once and I started to realize that there was no shade out there and never in my life have I been able to keep any kind of pace in 90 degree heat. Yes, 3 miles into a 13.1 mile race I packed it in and went into survival mode.

I am so glad that I did because some where after 3 miles the course turned from grassy and relatively interesting to the longest cinder/limestone road that I have ever seen. 

I plotted along for mile after mile in the searing heat with my feet and back aching more and more with every step.  Around 5 miles I realized that this race was no longer a race. It going to be a battle to get to the finish line. Not just for me but for everyone else as well. This race, on this day, became very dangerous. I slowed to a jog to try and survive.

Cottonmouth Snake. I hate snakes.
As the roads got harder and the sun got hotter I tried to conserve as much as I could. I ran mostly, walked a little. Put 2 cups of water in me at each water station and tried my best to stay relaxed and moving towards the finish line. I really wish that I could have been racing out there by physically I was just unable. I really don't do well in the heat. I really don't think it is in my head. My body hates the heat and it told me out there many time. I kept going...

Look at the picture above. Does that look like fun. Surely it was not.

I wish I had taken a picture of the road surface. It was like running barefoot on a gravel road.... actually that is what I was doing. I soldiered on and on...

Baby gators. Where's the mom?
Somewhere after mile 11 I made a wrong turn. Actually I should say I "missed" a turn. I just kept running on the longest road levy road ever. (I really wish I would have seen that turn.) 

Then, just as my GPS said I had run 13.1 mile I can upon a water station. I thought it was weird that they were out of water. At the time I believed I was in about 10th place. How could they be out of water. 

They shocked my when they said that I was at mile 5.

How the hell did I end up at mile 5? I was still looking for 11. Looking back now I think I was pretty out of it. I think I ran/walked for about 30 minutes and don't really member much about it. I remember mile 9 (I think) and I am certain I saw 10 (or was it 9?) but I know if didn't see 11. How could I be 13 in? Where did the last 3 miles go?

I scoffed at the volunteers and their lack of water and continued running on the course. When I saw the 5 mile marker I thought that was a little strange.

Then I heard someone yell my name. It was my buddy Joe. 

Apparently at the finish line Joe had done the 5k and was talking with Teresa. They saw people finish and thought it was strange that I was nowhere in site. Teresa got out her phone and pulled up the "Find my iPhone" app and they found where I was. All that really told them is I was somewhere out in the marsh way off course. 

Joe started running backwards on the course to see if he could find me. He came upon the race director in a Geo Tracker and Joe jumped on and they set out looking for me and several others who were unaccounted for. Fate would have it that they were picking up the water station when I came upon me disorientated and determined to run back to the finish. 

I came to my senses and realized that I had no clue where I was going. I climbed on board and enjoyed the ride to the finish. (notice my last 3 miles on my  Strava were in the 3's and 4's. Sub 13 minute 5k? I'll take it!)

When I compared my Strava to someone else who did the correct course I realized my fateful error. Somewhere in my dehydrated and suffering haze I completely missed the right turn after the 11 mile mark. The guy in front of me did the same thing. I don't know who he is. He still may be out there. 

Right after I took the left after mile 11 (near that triangle looking body of water) I should have taken a right and ran the couple of miles to the finish. Instead I did another 2 miles of death march in the block sunshine on June in Florida. Man, I wish I had made that turn.

Despite the heat and misery I am pleased with the splits that I ran. I kept going and survived to live another day. I could very well have gotten myself in a physical trouble out there. 

Obviously mile 13 was me hanging out at the water station at mile 5 trying to figure out if I was going to try to find my way back to the finish of not. The last 3 miles I kept the GPS on to see where we were going. Can I claim that as a sub 13 5k?

Most races are vanilla. You show up, get your number, you run, you finish, you take your Post Workout Recovery and you go home. This bad boy was different. For that I am grateful. Why not test yourself against the elements? Medals are cool. Doing well in a race is cool.  

Surviving in an environmental environment that sent others to the hospital? Suffering long and hard to just say you made it??

Yeah... I'll take that. This was a long hard day and I may not have finished but I ran 13.1 miles and I made it to safety and lived to take my hot wife to the Cheesecake Factory. 

I wouldn't have changed a thing. Maybe I would where different shoes....

Yeah...I took the finishers t-shirt. Sue me... ;)