Race #3 was a lesson in humility for me. I found myself south of Cleveland again for the second month in a row. One of the most unique aspects of that part of Ohio is that if you look at the Google Maps view of the Cuyahoga Valley National Park it looks like a giant forest, but if you removed all of the trees, you would see something that resembles the Grand Canyon...
Going into the race my goal was to not finish last and I felt so confident, I thought that I would be able to finish in under six hours...the keyword here is thought. Mother nature was up to her old tricks again and in the week leading up to the race, there was heavy rain. I was not aware of this because, in typical race day weather for me, the temperature was below freezing. This actually didn't bother me because every race I run moving forward will be warmer than the first one I ran in January.
The race consisted of four, eight mile loops and was said to be pretty smooth and well marked. I've come to a realization that every race director says the same thing because it is usually their home course, so what they say is well marked...is generally not always the case. I also had asked if I should bring trekking poles with me. I was told no because the course was in really great condition, despite all of the rain.
So the race started and it was around 30 degrees. It was supposed to warm up to the upper 40's later in the morning, so I was excited for that possibility. The first lap I did relatively fast...somewhere around 80 minutes. The ground was frozen, so it made for a smooth, hard surface. This was not going to be the case for the rest of the race.
Halfway through the second loop, the ground had begun to thaw and the other shorter distance races that had begun were clearly taking it's toll on the course. The second loop took longer than the first because the thawing course started to get soupy. I was still pretty confident that I could come in around six hours though.
Once I began the third loop, it became very clear that I should have brought the trekking poles. The course had the same consistency of cream of wheat or grits...the inclines and declines became an adventure to say the least and I wiped out about a dozen times.
Running ultras teaches you a lot about yourself. There's an inherent struggle to covering all of the miles, but when you add in mud covered inclines and declines, it adds an additional layer of torture. When you embrace the struggle you get rewarded in a lot of different ways. Sometimes it's an increased level of self-awareness or confidence and sometimes the reward is beauty of mother nature.
Loop three was brutal, but I was motivated to finish and not come in last. Fortunately for me, my oldest son had come with me and I called him from the trail and asked him to get my trekking poles from the car. So when I finished loop 3, I had time to get fueled up with some Salted Chocolate Macadamia FBombs and half of a Keto Brick.
The fourth loop was a killer, but the trekking poles helped. It was by far the hardest race I've done to date. The course conditions were brutal, but the views in the woods were breathtaking at times. It's definitely lit a fire under me to continue to train hard because I want to be more competitive in these races. I do know that in order to do so, I will need to keep losing weight...at least 50 more lbs, which would put me around the same weight as when I was in Romania playing soccer.