Tuesday, February 24, 2015

My heart was frozen

Turns out, everyone is human. My first attempt to knock Maryland off of my 50 state list resulted in a DNF, my first time pulling out of a race voluntarily. Turns out, the Frozen Heart 50k was an amazing event where everything conspired against me.

Southern Maryland is incredibly beautiful. Seriously, it looks like a freaking postcard. I left work at noon on Friday and drove up, temps were in the teens and there was solid snow everywhere above the VA state line. I got to cross the Potomac River on the Price Bridge, so I didn't have to go all the way into DC. That makes the drive only about 4 hours northeast of Raleigh. The bridge had some traffic stalled for about 10 minutes, so that let me see something amazing!

The Potomac River

My bucket list has a bullet point to see a bald eagle flying in the wild. Well, sure enough, one flew up from the left side of the bridge, then over the bridge, and down to the water on the right. This bird was huge! It picked up a huge fish out of the water next, then started flying towards my car. The talons went in, and then you barely saw a ripple in the water before this thing pulled out a 2 foot fish. The river was about half frozen over, so the eagle set the fish down on the ice, then pinned it down with its claws and started eating. That was freaking incredible. I got a couple of pics of the dinner from my phone that had to be cropped down to show the bird.

The beak is dipped down into the dinner
Then after about 10 minutes of watching that, I knew my trip was made. No matter what else happened it was already memorable.

Welcome to Maryland!
I had never been to this part of Maryland before, it is very rural. I saw "share the road with tractors" signs, and a horse and buggy. With all of that snow on the ground, it looked like postcards I've seen from New England or something. Absolutely beautiful.

Lots of farmland

So pristine!
After I got checked into the hotel I hit up a nearby Target for some last minute supplies. They just pile up the snow into 12' high mountains in there! I was fascinated. I made the trip by myself, but Ella would have freaked out seeing that bald eagle and these mountains of snow. I'm so looking forward to her being old enough to take these trips with me (she has to be able to stay by herself while I'm running or run with me so it's going to be a few more years) but I was really missing my girl the whole time.

May be annoying if you're used to it, but I think that's really cool.
Race day came with the same optimism. I made it out to the state park with no trouble on the roads. The course goes through the parking lot, so the car became the default drop bag. I got my packet and layered up!

My aide station

Finish line aide station

The lake we were running around

Ready to run! Let's get this party started so I can finally get warm.

The view coming down into the finish line

Got my game face on. Ready to rock.
It was 18* at the start, which makes this the coldest race I've ever done. To prep for that, I had my trail shoes, 2 pairs of socks, and gaitors to keep the snow from falling into my shoes. 2 pairs of pants, 3 shirts, arm warmers, 2 pairs of gloves, and 2 head wraps. Some of it was thermal stuff designed for warmth. And I did, actually, end up staying warm the whole time.

We hit the starting line and took off. First into some single track, then it came around into a field and across a dam. The entire forest floor was covered in a foot of snow.



The frozen lake we ran around

Single track trail. Plenty of elevation change in there.

I was glad there was no active rain or snow falling. First trail race in months without active rain. But that snow caused a little condition called sliding. Every. single. footstrike. was hit and slide. It was literally 2 steps forward, slide 1 foot back. I fell a bunch of times. To call it tough running wouldn't do it justice.  This trail was brutal.

That's single track alright.

Still happy? must have been early.

Keep the lake on my left.
In the pre-race instructions they neglected to tell us what the course markings were. There wasn't anything obvious like arrow signs with the race logo on it either. Eventually I saw orange flags, yellow flags, and white blazes on the trees. So naturally I missed a turn. They said there was an aide station somewhere in mile 4, so when the Garmin said mile 6 I figured I had missed something.

Also, and this is more common in small races like this, I couldn't see anyone running in front of me or behind me. yet I was not alone. Suddenly as I'm running along I hear the distinct howl of a wolf. There is no mistaking that sound, I promise. It was definitely in the distance so I don't think it was howling at me, but I was certainly lost alone in the woods in the foreign land of southern maryland. And we call that motivation.

Postholing to show how deep the snow was.

Tight single track through a really cool cluster of trees

That white ring around my face is frozen sweat. I'm done.
The course was 3 loops of 10.5 miles each. I kept the lake on my left and eventually circled back around to the parking lot. When I hit the line my Garmin said 8 miles in 1:50 so there was no need to even go back out for the other 2 laps. I normally run 8 miles in closer to 1 hour than 2, so that shows you how difficult the course was.

I talked to the race director at the finish line, apparently lots of people missed that turn. In fact, out of about 135 starters, they only had 29 finishers for the 50k. Another 20 people went out for the second loop before bailing.

Sad face for the DNF

Back in the car for the final stats
I hopped back in the car and drove back to Raleigh, leaving before 10 am. Around 10 am, it started snowing again there and continued for some time. So it's a good thing I left when I did. Trail conditions could have hidden dangers, it really wasn't safe to run on a course like that. And it wouldn't have been safe to drive the 4 hours back to Raleigh in the middle of a snowstorm. So I'm glad I bailed when I did. I'm glad I went up there for the event. This just wasn't my day to get that state checked off of my list. I will try again later on this year. I guess that's what happens when I try to run a trail race without a beard! ha!


CautiouslyAudacious said...

A 50k is a feat in and of itself and then add those conditions, wow! Good call on staying safe. Sounds like it was still a great trip!

Kyria @ Travel Spot said...

Probably best that you left when you did! It's better to live to fight another day...however, I do question your decision to shave your beard off in the winter time!

Lisa from Lisa's Yarns said...

I think if there was ever a reason to DNF, you had one on Saturday. Those conditions were terrible! I ran in 18 degree weather with no snow and I was not loving it so I can't imagine running in that deep of snow!

Karen said...

Bummer! So sorry you didn't finish but my goodness, those were kind of epic conditions you had there. At least you got to check the eagle sighting off of your list - that had to make things a little better, right?