You know those running shoes that are too worn out to run in, but feel oh-so-good to slip into because they, like your favorite pair of jeans, are broken in just perfectly? Well, they don’t make good trail shoes – especially on a wet, muddy, messy trail.. Trust me on this one.
Robby, Bob, Christina, and I headed to Lost Valley Trail in Defiance, MO where we met up with Drew and a bunch of other crazy trail runners for Rock Racing’s SHivering Icy Trail Run (or SHITR for short). This was a half marathon in the middle of winter at night. Sounds awesome, right?
It wasn’t until I got there when I realized that I had forgotten my trail shoes… And my Garmin watch. But the Virtus Code wouldn’t allow me to sit this one out, so I ran in my crappy Nike Free’s. But oh what a run it was!
The cold and wind seemed to cut right through us as we stood around waiting for the race to start. People weren’t sure what to wear. One nut ran shirtless. Others were decked out in full winter garments. I chose to run in tights, a t-shirt with a long-sleeve shirt over it, a winter hat, and glittens (glove-mittens). Bob decided to wear this (although later he through a fleece on over the top):
Unfortunately, Bob would have to part ways with at least one piece of clothing by the end of the night. Don’t worry… I’ll get to that. Have a little patience.
We started the race by heading out to the top of “The Mound” as it was just starting to get dark. The wind at the top was ridiculous, so none of us stayed up there more than a few seconds. On the way down, I absolutely FLEW by the best runner on our team: Drew. Don’t believe me? Take a look at this video (courtesy of Robin Rongey from Rock Racing) at the 3:02 mark:
In case you couldn’t tell, the only reason I passed Drew was because of gravity. I got going a bit too fast, and I couldn’t stop. So I just went with it, and like an out of control snowball tumbling faster and faster, I flew down the stairs and almost died. It was probably the first and last time I’ll be ahead of Drew in a foot race. And don’t worry. He passed me shortly thereafter.
Before long, we had to turn on our headlamps. The rain picked up as the temperature continued to drop. Soon we were on some single-track. By the time I got there, the trails had become a slippery, muddy mess. And it was awesome! I’m not sure trail shoes would have helped much, but my shoes were worthless. I felt like I was skating more than I was running.
Somewhere in that muddy mess, Patrick from the 100+ Project and Russ (from Alabama I think) caught up to me. Their company was much appreciated as we ran together for awhile. The temps continued to drop, and the rain became more of a sleet/rain/snow mix.
It was dark. It was cold. It was raining/sleeting. It was muddy. It was slippery. It was terrible. Just terrible. And I was loving every minute of it.
Before long, we found the mystery event. We were supposed to find the name on a tombstone. Patrick and Chuck had done a good job of marking the tiny cemetery with reflective tape, so it was pretty easy to spot. Reading the name on the tombstone in the dark, however, proved to be more of a challenge. Patrick already knew the name, so he couldn’t help us. As we tried to make out the writing, Robby Brown caught up to us. Then Russ’s headlamp hit the stone sideways which provided enough shadow-relief that we could read “Caroline L.”
Even stopping at the tombstone for a few minutes caused our body temp to drop significantly. So we quickly trotted off again. I’m not sure who started it (‘Bama Russ maybe?), but someone in our group began singing “Sweeeeeet Caroliiiine.” And all of us chimed in “Bah, bah, bah!” It was a fabulous rendition that surely would have made the great Neil Diamond proud. And you’re welcome for getting that song stuck in your head.
The rain had fully converted to sleet by now, and it was VERY cold. I decided to pick up the pace a little just to keep warm. Patrick was right behind me, but Russ and Robby had fallen off the pace just a bit. This section wasn’t quite as muddy, but there was one small incline which was super-slippery. As my front foot hit the slope, it completely slipped out from under me. I was able to catch myself with my glitten-covered hands, but my foot flew up behind me and almost nailed Patrick in the face. It was a close one, but we both made it out unscathed.
Soon we found ourselves back on the double-track which meant we were getting pretty close to the finish line. I was tired and cold, but Patrick kicked it up a notch. I too picked up the pace to stay with him. Then we ran into Jim and Janie Smith from Team TOG and Monster Bicycles. They were walking the short-course… In the dark and cold and mud and wet. Very cool.
Patrick stopped to walk and chat with them. As much as I wanted to, I was just too damn cold. I said hello and good-bye and just kept running. I climbed the last hill by myself, and as I turned on the last stretch just a mile or so from the finish line, the wind just punched me in the face. It was brutal out there. Even though I was having a blast, I was glad that it was almost over.
Then I heard some weird noises. It sounded like a woman yelling. So I slowed to a walk to listen. It was indeed a woman yelling, so I ran ahead to see what was going on. No one was in sight, but there were lights through the trees to my left. After bushwhacking through a small block of brush and trees, I was on a small road. There was a woman yelling, “Jeff! Where the hell am I?!? What the hell am I going to do?!?” She seemed a little scared and quite pissed. Then I realized that it was Carrie Sona from Team Alpine Shop. She had gotten a bit turned around and off the trail, so we ran it in together until she saw her husband Jeff coming back for her.
They slowed to a walk, so I just kept running to the finish. I couldn’t believe there were still volunteers at the finish to welcome me in and hand me an awesome SHITR sticker. HUGE thanks to the volunteers out there! I finished in 2:36. Drew had finished 16 minutes ahead of me, and Robby came in a few minutes behind me with Kate coming in about 10 minutes after him.
I was really cold, but I didn’t realize how serious these conditions were until I tried to get my keys out of my pocket. It took me a several attempts and a couple of minutes before I could get my fingers to work properly. Eventually, I hopped into the Virtus Van, cranked the heat up, and changed into gloriously dry, warm clothes.
As I slowly started getting warm, I began to worry about Bob. This was his first half marathon – his longest run ever at that point I think. Temps has fallen close to freezing by now, and the sleet was unrelenting. The last thing I wanted to do was go back out in the nasty weather, but the longer I waited, the more worried I got. Fortunately, Bob made it in about a half an hour after Kate, and I didn’t have to go back out there.
It seems Bob was slowed down by some intestinal issues. Fortunately, our friends Chad and Bethany were with him to help him through this. He came over to the Virtus Van, but he wouldn’t get in. He had to be freezing his ass off, but he still wasn’t getting in. Why? Well, let me have him explain it in his own words:
For those that don’t know, Bob has some issues with pooping in the woods. He has a routine he likes to follow in the peace and quiet of his own bathroom. I, on the other hand, have no problem dropping a deuce behind a tree. So I’m always giving him hints and tips on how to shit in the woods properly, and to be more specific, how to wipe after taking care of business. So he finally followed my advice with success, but then… Well, I’ll let him explain it again:
So we had a VERY good laugh at Bob’s expense. Bob left his undergarments behind, got changed, and climbed into the Virtus Van. There were no casualties, and everyone made it out alive. We all headed to a local Mexican restaurant where we had beers, margaritas, tacos, and many, many laughs. Although none of us won the SHITR, one of us did win a prize – The highly-coveted SHITR Trophy.
It was a truly amazing night. Big thanks to Rock Racing and all of the volunteers! And don’t worry. This is happening again on January 11th, 2014! Get excited, people. And make sure you don’t miss this one!