LPTRunner Mary Gorski's 2012 Ice Age 50 mile race report...
Last year was to be my tenth Ice Age 50; I would finally join the “500 Mile Club.” I’d be doing so the same year as one of my running partners, Kathryn Dunn. “Perhaps,” I thought, “we would come across the finish line together, high-fiving it as we made our way in.”
Sniffle, wheeze, shiver and cough… three days out from the race I came down with the flu. And not just a take a Sudafed and a nap sort of flu, but a nasty, “I can’t get out of bed” sort of bug. I even made the ghost in our attic sick; which is another story with which I do not want to tax your precious attention.
Race morning 2011 I decided to give it a shot, thinking that perhaps once I got going the adrenaline of the event would take the place of the snot that was filling my head.
However, a few miles into it I realized that was not to be the case, handed in my number, and went back to the bed that I had spent the last several days in.
I did run that course, but not for another two weeks. Several friends met me to run “Mary’s ‘It’s My Very Own’ Ice Age 50.” I ran the distance, but didn’t actually run the race. There would be no entrance into the 500 Mile Club in 2011.
So here we are in 2012. I had been having some nice runs, was basically injury free and feeling good in the weeks leading up to my tenth OFFICIAL Ice Age.
And then Unlucky Wednesday rolled around again. Three days out from the race I went to a morning yoga class. I’d started yoga several years ago to address a few injuries from running and usually left it feeling loose and relaxed. As far as I can remember, I got in the car feeling the same as always. But something happened in that five-minute ride from the class to home.
When I opened the door to get out of the car I could barely move my leg without pain shooting through my back. Grabbing at everything –– the car, the fence, the garbage cans (and almost a pile of dog poop) I made my way into the house and the shower.
“I’ve tweaked something, it will calm as the day goes on,” I thought. But instead of calming, the clouds in my back just got darker.
I never had my back “go out” but it seemed that it had done so. “Where did it go?” I wondered. “And why didn’t it take me with it?”
I called my chiropractor and asked if I could get in. This is the same guy I saw two years ago, informing him on my initial visit that “I don’t believe in chiropractic medicine but I’ve tried everything else so what the hell.” My first visit was for a hip problem that seemingly wouldn’t heal.
After I went to him it did heal. If I didn’t believe in chiropractic medicine, at least he did and I was able to run again.
“So what happened?” he said when he saw me.
“I threw out my back.”
“No, you haven’t thrown it out, you are just feeling pain.”
I think that this was meant to be reassuring.
Over three days he tossed the whole chiropractic toolbox at me: manipulations, electric stim and even lasers (without the Mike Myers/Dr. Evil quotation marks around them). By Friday afternoon I was better but still couldn’t imagine running 50 miles, much less one. However, being the kind of doc who is adamant about getting his patients back to their normal activities ASAP he was set on me getting back to mine, which in this case was to run my tenth Ice Age 50.
“Get up early, take a hot shower, and give it a try,” he said. “You’ll know in a mile or two whether it is getting worse; it may actually loosen up and feel better.”
I followed the doctor’s orders and had some cautious optimism when I woke. I was walking normally with only minor discomfort.
But then I entered the enemy of every back injury: the car. There was something about sitting in that car that seemed to negate any progress that I made with my back. However, since the Li’l Mister would be driving I figured I could just put the passenger seat back and relax.
Yet there is no hiding from the evil powers of the car. We got to the race site in Wisconsin’s Southern Kettle Moraine and I could barely move. I kept willing myself to walk normally but it felt like a strong fist was grabbing hold of everything in my lower back preventing me from putting my legs forward.
I like to think that I am a good patient so I decided to follow the doctor’s prescription to the letter. I toed the line and when RD Jeff Mallach yelled “go” I headed down the trail surrounded by friends. “Give it a mile or two” I remembered the doc saying. I wasn’t sure if I could give it more than a few feet. What was I thinking? The tenth would have to wait another year. This is not going to work.
But then I noticed that my back wasn’t getting any worse. And except for the odd twist when catching a root or other trail obstacle there wasn’t any sharp pain. I wasn’t necessarily comfortable but with a short stride I was able to – dare I say it? – RUN!
Just as with last year’s aborted attempt I decided to do the nine-mile loop and reassess my situation. To the Li’l Mister’s surprise I came to aid station and told him that I was going to give the race a try. Curiously, I felt no discomfort jogging uphill. I knew we’d be hitting some hilly sections ahead; I could jog those and then walk the rest if I needed to.
It was a gorgeous day for running. Generally overcast with a few breaks of sun, temperatures in the 50s and 60s. The humidity got to some but thankfully it wasn’t one of my concerns.
At the Highway 12 aid station I saw the Li’l Mister and our friend Tom Chopp. I needed a little help changing shoes (my first choice was giving me a blister) but otherwise my back wasn’t a significant concern. I could feel it, but it was more of a mild annoyance rather than a screaming tantrum-filled brat.
I continued to muddle along, pretty much at the same pace for the rest of the day. Tom and the Li’l Mister would check up on me at various points. I waved and kept going. Coming into the aid station at 37.5 miles I saw Kathryn heading out. Maybe I could catch her?
A few miles down the trail I did. And then we were caught by Craig Swartwout, who was running Ice Age as the first leg of his 500-mile personal odyssey. When Kathryn and I collapsed with our finisher’s buckles at the end of the race, Craig was going to refuel and head out to do it again. And then run the Kettle Moraine 100 course three times.
Just as I hoped we would do the year before, Kathryn and I crossed the finish line. Sandwiched between us was Craig. We came in about 11:20 into the race, a good 40 minutes or so to spare before the 12-hour cut-off.
Lounging around for hours before our finish was 50-mile race winner Zach Bitter who blew through the course in 6:05:45 and Denise Bourassa, the women’s winner in 7:12:20. Darn impressive feats on the feet.
They got their winners trophies and I got my 500 Mile Club plaque. It was engraved with my name and the year. “I didn’t think that I’d finish,” I said to Jeff when he handed it to me.
“Don’t worry, we would have just kept making them until you did.”