Sunday, May 12, 2013

Very lucky and always grateful at Ice Age...

Race report from LPTRunner Mary Gorski...

Yesterday I got to thinking about how lucky I am.

The Ice Age 50 (50 miles, 50 kilometers or a lovely little half marathon for the less compulsive among us) was held yesterday, May 11, on the trails of the Southern Kettle Moraine near Whitewater, WI.

For ultrarunners in Wisconsin, the Ice Age trail run is a ritual of spring, like opening day of baseball season for MLB fans. There are other events throughout the year but this is THE ONE, the real start of the new season.

Ice Age has the status of old home week; it’s an ultrarunners’ reunion. Veterans with 20 or more finishes under their belt toe the line with newbies doing an ultra for the first time. Icons of the sport, including those who have represented the US on international teams, come back – if not to run, then to cheer on others.

Even former race directors are on the trails, taking photos, cheering runners, and helping the current RD (Jeff Mallach) with the two million details that putting on such an event requires. 

For me, this would be my 11th finish at the IAT 50-miler. Added to that have been a few DNFs and one or two years of doing the 50K.

But while I love the race, the Ice Age race has often been one that has been accompanied by a bitof bad luck for me.

Note the emphasis on “a bit.” I’m not talking full-scale disaster; instead, just little twists in the luck continuum that add a few wrinkles that I’d rather not bother to iron out.

I hate ironing.

Getting to the tenth finish was a tough one for me. I DNFed my first attempt two years ago with a bad case of the flu. Coughing and wheezing, I called it a day at the end of the first nine-mile loop.

A few days before last year’s race my back went out without me. Three days before Ice Age I could barely walk.

But as is usually the case, more good luck than bad seemed to be with me and I slowly made my way through the course. I was a member of the 500-mile club.

This year I’ve again had some incredible luck at races, most notably in Boston where my finish time had me close to but not too close to the horrific events of theday.

I can’t think of a race in which I’ve had more luck.  I walked away unharmed while many right behind me did not.

I had been saving my Boston Marathon shirt for a special event and I couldn’t think ofanything more special than Ice Age. Yesterday was the first time that I ran in the shirt.

Every time there was a wrinkle in my good luck I looked at the shirt to remind myself that there was always more good luck than bad.

More simply– there is always more good than bad PERIOD.

As usual, there were wrinkles for me this year. Once again I was trying to get over a nasty cold (a tradition in spring that seems to go hand-in-hand with Ice Age for me). And then without any prior warning my right knee ached from the first step on the course (WTF?).

The weather… we all had that crazy wrinkle to deal with. Mother Nature was in a whacky mood yesterday. Sun and 50-degree temps, then face-stinging sleet and hail, then sun again coupled with high winds, a little rain, and then repeat. WTF again.

But even crazy Mother Nature couldn’t shake the good luck of the day. Though it had been a wet spring, most of the trail was dry (except for those lusciously slippery sections on the way to Emma Carlin).

Though my equilibrium seemed to fly out the window every time I blew my nose I managed to stay upright on the trail all day.

And the crabby knee didn’t really start to whine too loudly until the last three miles. By then this horse knew that it was close to the barn and had plenty of time to walk it in before Farmer Jeff closed the barn doors.

Eleven hours into the race I made that last turn and came in for finish No. 11.  Lucky 11, as with all of my other finishes.

This morning – the day after – I feel grateful again. Grateful for a lot of good fortune.

And I also feel… a little bit like shit.

Hell, I ran 50 miles on a gimpy knee with a head full of snot. I mean I’m grateful, and happy, and lucky and all those other very sweet things, but my body still feels like it has been run over by a truck.

But even fort hat, I am grateful. Not everyone has the opportunity to run 50 miles – even with the sniffles and a gimpy knee. Not everyone has the choice. I am grateful that I do.

Finally, some highlights:

- Relocated LPTR Cassie Scallon blowing the previous women’s course record out of the water by almost 20 minutes to win the race.

- Seeing long-time running buddy Jim (Jacques) Blanchard come in for his 25th consecutive Ice Age finish. As someone who has DNFed a few of my starts, I have incredible respect for Jim’s accomplishment. The level of respect ranks right up there with Cassie’s amazing win.

- Getting the number “123” because it was so darn easy to remember whenever I came into an aid station. “What’s your number?!” “1,2,3!!!” Loved it! Thanks Jeff.

-Celebrating the first 50-mile finish of Tom Schiessl. I remember Tom’s first night running with the Lapham Peak group about two years ago. Then, the idea of a 50-kilometer race seemed out of his range, much less 50 miles. “Really, you guys meet out here to run in the winter too?”  Thanks for joining our merry little crew Tom.

- Spending a little time on the trail with JoDeen Hettenbach, who constantly reminded me that “This is such a fantastic day, isn’t it?” regardless if it was sleeting or sunny.

- Seeing Tom and Lorraine Bunk, the king and queen of the Kettle Moraine, cheering us on in the first mile of the race. Tom has a much tougher ultra to deal with right now than most of us; it was great to see both he and his lovely bride where they belong – on the trails.

- Getting home and remembering that I had apple pie waiting for me.  Mmmmm… excellent refueling.

I am lucky. And grateful.

Time for more pie.  

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