Cast a Shadow…my second mud-run ever

10 Apr

For some reason, this never posted back in February.  So here it is, a race report a couple of months late. 🙂


I had the pleasure of running my second mud-run ever (after Muddy Buddy).  No…it was not supposed to be a mud run.  In fact, it was not even a race that was technically on my radar.  Normally a snow-shoe race, I have been trying hard to stay focused on my training for Cayuga, and so I figured I’d do my long run separately and just cheer on Eric and our friends in their races.


Then Eric’s dad went into hospice and we were busy with taking care of him and helping him to smoothly transition.  Among the things I’ve learned about death in the past 3 weeks, it’s apparently a transition or journey.  Luckily for me, I’d previously had very little experience with death, and the few times I’d lost someone, it had been quick–one day I saw them and they were fine, the next I saw them in a casket at a funeral home.  Having a front-row seat to watching someone fade, being responsible for their care…well it certainly gave me a new perspective on the whole process of dying thing.


It also left me with limited time and energy (both physical and mental) to run.  We had started off our time in Buffalo strong, but by the end of the two and a half weeks there, I was not running and was eating mostly junk.  When we realized Cast a Shadow was not going to be a snow shoe race, and I realized that the chances of me actually doing any kind of a long run without support of some kind were slim to none, I knew I needed to sign up for this race.  6 hours to do however many miles I could get in.  The course was a super flat 2.6-ish mile loop this year (changed from previous years to try to avoid some of the wetter spots since there was no snow).  Because the loops were so short, I decided to start without my pack (I don’t even know the last time I haven’t run with a pack) and see how the day went.  No reason to carry extra water weight if I’d be able to get a drink every 2.6 miles anyway.  Even if I was hiking the loops, I could do them relatively quickly (I thought ha).  I was worried about the mud factor, but was told by people who ran early (before 12) that the ground was hard in most places.


Except that our race didn’t start til 1.  And by then it was warming up and the sun was coming out.  I  had no idea that this would be a bad thing, and so I started the race optimistically thinking I’d hit the marathon mark around 5 hours (if I took it easy) and then possibly try to run a 50k because why not.  While the optimistic part of my brain said to do that, the more cautious side reminded me that I have not run long in quite some time again, and if I was feeling injured, I should stop and not hurt myself any worse.


Loop one was uneventful–I ran with Janel, and we chatted and for the most part the ground stayed pretty hard.  There was just enough give in the ground to make it cushy, and I thought about how nice this run was going to be.  I swung into the aid station (aka the back of the truck, aka trailgating), swigged some water and was on my way.


During loop 2, I got myself onto an island and ran alone most of the rest of the race.  Which was fine because this was a 2.6 mile loop, with the beginning section an out and back–there was a TON of interaction with people going the opposite way in that section, not to mention all of the people passing by (there were some SUPER speedy solo runners and a bunch of team relayers).  I was still moving alright this loop.  I swung into the aid station, had some drinks, changed shoes (my water proof ones were giving me a hot spot on my big toe) and then kept moving.


Loop three was when things started to get tough.  The course started to get pretty chewed up from all of the runners churning the mud.  It had gotten pretty bad, and my hip flexors were starting to get angry.  When my hips hurt, I usually listen because a. the hips don’t lie and b. my only major running injury was a hip flexor one when training for my first half and it took me out for about 6 months.  I made it through the loop and mentioned my hips hurt.  Eric gave me a silly massage while I drank a little water.  Then I was back out.


Loop four was bad.  My hips really started burning at this point, which worried me.  I came into the Trailgate Aid Station almost in tears.  I think I got heckled by Chris O. at this point for standing at an aid station for too long.  When people dilly dally in aid stations, I think it’s usually because they don’t want to go back out.  At least, that’s why I do it.  I had some internal struggles, debated myself and then finally took 3 ibuprofen, grabbed a water bottle for the road, and told Eric I was just going to hike this one and see if I felt better.


Loop 5 was pure misery.  Every person I saw had to hear about how much my hips were hurting.  I was the whiney complain-y girl.  Sorry, kids.  I hate being that girl.  The beauty of trail running, though, is that everyone is always positive–lots of “good job”s, “nice work”s and “keep it up”s were shared out there yesterday.  And being able to tell people that they were doing well helped take my mind off how shitty I was feeling.  I hiked most of this loop very slowly.  The runners had really churned up much of the course–I’d say probably about a mile of the loop (if not more) was 6 inches of brownie batter mud.  Other sections that weren’t muddy had turned to puddles.  There were definitely runnable sections, but also a lot of spots where I’d slow down to just hike.  During loop 5, I started to consider quitting.   A half marathon was good enough.  But then I thought some more.  I couldn’t quit.  I told myself to make it through one or two more loops, even if I had to walk (I knew I still had like 3 more hours that I COULD go for).  I had 18 on my plan anyway, so if I could get to 18, I’d be fine.  I came into the Trailgate, got a new water bottle, and left.


Loops 6 and 7 were not much better.  I kept moving, though, slowly picking my way through some of the more chewed up sections of trail.  I had taken 3 more ibuprofen I think before I left for loop 6, and toward the end of it, I think they started to kick in.  I decided to run the last 3/4 of a mile or so during loop 7, and found that it didn’t actually hurt any worse than walking.  Then I started to get really pissed at myself.  I had been moving so well and I was being a big baby.  Mud shouldn’t make a difference–I’m a trail runner, goddammit.  Fucking run some trails.  I got to the Trailgate, and I think this is when I had shoe change number 2.  Putting on clean, dry socks and shoes made me feel better (until I hit the next section of mud and destroyed them haha).


Loop 8 was still slow-going, but I was trying to move a bit faster now, running a bit more.  Eric had encouraged me to “run the dry sections” and I’d laughed and told him not much was dry anymore.  But I found the spots that were and tried to get my feet to move faster.  I thought about how Eric’s dad couldn’t even walk at the end, and here I was bitching about “getting” to run.  I started to get teary and had to shift my thoughts from anything having to do with the past 3 weeks.  Just focus on moving quickly.  I hit the Trailgate, quickly grabbed some food and water and kept moving.


Loop 9, I was moving well.  I came across Valone and Katherine and walked with them for a bit, but then kept running, knowing that I wanted to do 10 loops, which by my watch would put me at a marathon on the day.  Not bad for someone who considered quitting at mile 13.  I came into the aid station and cruised back out.


During loop 10, I realized I’d been running for a full loop in the dark by myself.  I started to get a little spooked–I really fucking hate the woods at night, even when we’re camping, and I do everything I can to avoid being alone in the woods at night.  Then I reminded myself to keep moving forward and stop thinking about what might be lurking in the woods to get me.  I started dogging it a little bit because I knew I could finish the 10th loop with plenty of time to spare.  Sections that I should’ve run, I would stop.  At one point, I came into a clearing and realized how starry the sky was and stopped to walk and look around and take it in.  It was incredible.  I kept moving and crossed the timing tent at 5:42:18.  A super muddy marathon on under-trained legs that had not had much sleep in the past 3 weeks and with a brain that is pretty emotionally spent in 5:42:18??? I’ll take it.


Some take aways:

  1. The more you run long, the more your body can handle it.  I never believed in that stuff, but other than my hip flexors today, I feel good.  If it hadn’t been so muddy, I’ll bet I’d have felt fine today.  There’s something to be said for muscle memory.  Of course, training is a good plan, too…Maybe I should try that next time…
  2. While it pains me to say this, I guess snow may have been better–not enough to need snowshoes, of course, but enough snow and cold to keep the ground frozen.
  3. I was a little disappointed with myself and then I realized that only 5 other women ran farther than me–3 did one extra loop and 2 made it to 13 loops (which is SERIOUSLY impressive).  It’s hard to be disappointed when I can see how much I’ve grown and improved in such a short time.  A year or two ago, I’d almost definitely have quit running this race.
  4. Chafing really hurts.  Blah.  I need some new sports bras.
  5. If I decide at the end of a race (that I’ve been falling apart in) that I am going to race again, I can do it.  At Virgil, I gained some time back after a couple of bad spots.  Yesterday, I managed to pull it back together at the end of the race…it still wasn’t pretty and I’d have liked to run better, but all things considered, it was alright.
  6. I have the greatest husband in the world.  Among other things he excels at, he is a master aid station-er.  He doesn’t let me stick around and wallow in my misery (but does give me hip and butt massages before making me go back out).  He helps me change shoes.  He kept my fruit roll ups warm (insider tip: they crack into a billion pieces if they get cold).  He heckled when I needed to be heckled, he was understanding when he needed to be understanding (without being soft and letting me bitch too much or quit).  There is no one else I’d rather come into an aid station to see waiting to help me out.  He is the reason that I can keep going.  I love you, Eric, for giving up your whole Saturday afternoon and evening to watch me get muddy and sore and tired and keep me going.



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