January 19th, 2019
Ice Age 50, a dark and stormy night...
Saturday May 9th, 2009
I was in a boat, violently pushed around the waters by rain and wind. No matter how hard I paddled, I couldn't get the boat to turn toward shore. Waves were whipping me in the face. I was tired, freezing and wishing I had just stayed in bed that day.
And then I woke up.
Beating against the windows of the bedroom I heard what inspired the dream -- a violent thunderstorm was working its fury over Milwaukee. It was 2 a.m. and I really wished I could stay in bed for more than the next hour-and-a-half. The stormy weather reflected the clouds that were already in my head. After a busy week I was yearning for a lazy day of lounging. But the Ice Age 50 was on the calendar, so instead of lounging, I got up pre-dawn, made a pot of coffee and the Li'l Mister and I headed to the Kettle Moraine.
One of my favorite ultra quotes is "It never always gets worse." The rain sounded horrible when we woke but by the time we headed out the door there were just a few raindrops left to find their way to the ground. Winds had picked up (and for a moment I thought that they might pick up our car as well!) but according to Kris Hinrichs' iPhone weather forecast, the worst of the storms were headed north.
However, even less-than-the-worst can be chilly when you are are standing around in shorts with the wind whipping your legs. Runners were shivering as they huddled together, listening to RD Glenn Wargolet's pre-race announcements. To blow a little steam I quietly dropped a small F-bomb. My good friend Barb Fagan, doing her first Ice Age 50, was there to catch it for me.
Anthem sung and we were off!
The first loop on the Nordic Trails was still a bit chilly, but by the time we made our way back to the start-finish, about nine miles into the race, most runners were shedding a layer. Fulfilling my desire to be like the other kids, I tossed my jacket but kept the gloves and sleeves (thanks to Beth Simpson Hall I was sporting some gorgeous, multi-colored Mobens with my McNaughton shirt).
Barb and I hung together for much of the first half. Our buddy Tom Chopp traveled around the course to serve as our personal cheering section and the Li'l Mister camped out at the major aid stations to help us dig through our drop bags. Winds died down and the sun even made brief (very brief) visits periodically. Temperatures remained in the mid-50s. It was perfect running weather and a great day in the woods.
But what was that? I heard whining. Darn it, where was that whining coming from? I looked around and realized that it was coming from below. My cranky lower leg, so well behaved in recent months that I had forgotten what a brat it had been, started to whine.
"What is your problem?" I said as I looked down at it. "It's a gorgeous day, why can't you just enjoy it and be happy?"
It was a familiar whine, one that I'd had at an Ice Age race several years earlier. What then seemed like a minor shin splint left me with a purple, creaking lower leg that banished me from the roads and trails to an eliptical trainer for three weeks. Gosh darn it, I wasn't in the mood for an injury. I'd just signed up for Burning River 100 and was looking forward to some nice build-up weeks of running.
"Whine, whine, whine!!!!!!!"
Like a frazzled mother trying to calm her melt-down child in the store I started bargaining with the cranky leg. "Look, mommy will give you a nice ice treat after the race if you behave now. Won't that be nice? And you can sleep late tomorrow too! Let's show mommy what a good girl you can be..."
The crabby lower leg never had a full-blown melt-down but she wasn't giving in either. I waved good-bye to Barb somewhere around 30+ miles and backed off to give the brat some attention.
Coming up to Horseman's –– a major aid station at about 37 miles –– I decided to muzzle the crabby brat. Treated like a princess coming into an infirmary, I had a pair of Toms (Bunk and Chopp), Barb Meyers and the Li'l Mister at my assistance. As I tightly wrapped the lower leg and foot in vet wrap (to match the horses at the horse park) my lovely assistants switched my timing chip from one set of shoes to another (I figured that I'd try changing all the variables and see if perhaps the new toys would make the brat happy).
Wow! The muzzle worked!!! Things really don't always get worse. The whining had subsided and the crabby brat seemed to be taking a nap. So euphoric to be feeling like myself again I flew through the woods to the turn-around at Emma Carlin. Seeing Barb a few minutes ahead of me she asked how it was going. "Better, MUCH better" and I kept on flying.
Back at Horseman's I let the Li'l Mister know that things were going well and that I'd see him at the end. Still filled with euphoria I ran out of Horseman's thinking that I was going to hang on to my high-octane energy for the rest of the run. But then my body suddenly remembered, "Hey, that cranky kid isn't whining anymore but we've still been on our feet all day! We're tired! We want to walk! We want to NAP!"
Well, I didn't nap, but I did take it easy, grateful that I was running without discomfort. "Don't be greedy!" I thought that I'd be walking to the finish. A light jog was something to be darn happy about. And so I was.
I came into the margarita aid station where Jeff and Joe tended to my nutritional needs with a virgin margarita (lime Gatorade with salt around the cup edges) and a peanut butter covered banana with M&Ms. Up a hill, down a hill and through Confusion Corner. I wasn't flying, but I wasn't dying either. It would be a darn good finish.
I made my last turn in the woods and heard the low hum of people gabbing at the finish line. The hum turned to cheers and I was at the end.
It never always gets worse. Usually, it gets better; even bratty shins and ankles. And yes, I did give that little brat a nice ice treat when we got home. It seems to have pacified her well. She didn't hold her breath until she turned blue. She actually seems like she will be well-behaved today now that she got her attention.
Many congrats to my friend Barb, who not only caught my pre-race F-bomb, but went on to win her age group in her first Ice Age 50. Congrats too to the 50-mile winners, Christine Crawford and Zach Gingrich; and the 50K leaders, Matt Zak and Anne Ruffcom. Full results are at:
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