Snowdrop Ultra 55

I won\’t lie to you. I\’ve wanted one of these buckles since 2014. I entered the race that year, but did not finish the 100 miles. I only got 45 miles; and my knee wouldn\’t work after that. So I dropped.

Here is the 2018 version with the shirt; which I now own.

So the race lurked in my mind quietly for several years. In April this year, I did a 50k in a great time and I felt great after; I wondered if I could do 50 miles or even try a timed 100 again.

I started to watch for Snowdrop entry to open. Opening was midnight on June 28. That night, I was laying awake in bed at 1:30 am thinking how I would enter in the morning. I decided to enter right then and maybe I could go to sleep. It was already 65% full. It filled by 8 am.

But, I\’m IN!!

I signed up for a rails-to-trails 50 mile race October 28. It went really really well. I was surprised. I did a 50k on December 16. It went really well. I decided I\’m ready for Snowdrop.

On December 24 I went to the Snowdrop course and ran for about an hour. While I was there, two of the race directors showed up. They explained everything to me and gave me a tour. On Monday December 25, I thought it would be ok if I just didn\’t go. I even drafted an e-mail to the RD saying to give my ticket to someone on the wait list; but I never sent it. I decided to go running first. For one hour, I was sure I would skip the race. Then I was thinking about how I was making an emotional decision, projecting how unhappy cold mud and porta-potties are. Then after 2 hours, I got this tiny little thought: what is so bad about just going one day and seeing how things are? Uh…. what a concept, don\’t quit without even giving yourself a chance. You can\’t get to day 2 if you don\’t go to day 1. You can\’t get to day 3 if you don\’t go to day 2.

By Wednesday, I realized: you can\’t finish if you never start. I decided I would get my butt to the starting line.period. Then, the day before the race, I decided I would get 61 laps done (42 miles) but no other commitment.

This race is a mental race. The course is flat and short. It is not a beautiful dramatic thing like Hardrock; but there will still be blood and tears as each racer meets their own limitations. The whole problem of finishing is mental. Hence, it is unknown territory. I am a notorious quitter. But I am better now than have ever been.

You can\’t have a journey if you never start.
You can\’t have grit if you let your fear keep you home.

I went to packet pick up with a box containing about 10 lbs of old race medals. Snowdrop Foundation puts new ribbons on these and hands them out to kids with cancer; \”Bling for Bravery.\”

Day 1: I\’m at the race site very early. I was awake most of the night worried about getting a parking spot in the A lot. Driving to the race, I heard a story on the radio about a girl who fell off a cliff while riding her bicycle and almost died; and how she got a love of life itself during the experience. She learned not to just go from thing to thing, but to live each moment as a precious time. Perfect. I need to enjoy this race, not just hope to get it over as soon as possible. Journey they said.

The weather might rain but it is pretty warm. I claim a good spot along the course for my wagon and chair. Eventually, the race starts. I planned to run 3 minutes and walk 2 minutes until I got to 61 laps (42 miles). I did well with this until about 34 miles when I decided to walk the last 15 laps. The course was half concrete and this was taking a toll on my lower back and knees. So I shut down the running. I was on course moving forward about 11 hours and a little. Lots of pit stops to grab food, shift garmins, porta-potty, etc. It did rain for about 30 minutes so I got to use my new umbrella. I was very tired after the 30 min drive home.

Snowdrop Foundation helps kids with cancer. All around the course they have pictures of little kids with cancer. Some say, \”In honor of  ____\” Some say, \”In memory of _____\” (Oh, these are the ones who didn\’t make it). Some say, \”Survivor ____\” In any case, looking at these pictures made my choke up repeatedly all during the race.

I resolved to show up for day 2, but no expectations on performance. I ate a big bowl of vegetarian cuisine for dinner. I didn\’t sleep real great.

Day 2: I got to the course and started running at 5:17 am. I was surprised that my legs felt good. So I again did 3 minutes jog and 2 min walk. I slowed down my running speed to lessen the impact. I did real well, with too many pit stops. The weather was pretty warm, but a heavy mist. I was getting wet and had to use a rain shell.

They had some new signs on the course. Here is my favorite:

They also had a sign that said, \”They didn\’t say it would be easy but they did say it would be worth it.\” These two signs helped me alot mentally.

I must have been a cranky pants a good part of day 2. Some people started finishing. I got to see the things they do for each and every person who gets to 100 miles. All I thought was I don\’t want all that fuss. Just give me my buckle and let me go. Cranky Pants!!!  Better I finish on day 3 when I won\’t be so cranky.

I got the second batch of 61 laps done. Another 11 hours on course. The shoes I used for day 2 weren\’t exactly right. These shoes had caused some problems with one of my toe nails. After I got home, I figured out what to do about that (and used a different pair of shoes for day 3).

I was now up to 84 miles. I knew that come hell or high water, I would finish those last 16 miles, even if I had to crawl.

Day 3: Again, I didn\’t sleep very much. After 84 miles, my body felt a little beat up. Nothing was broken, but I kept feeling little twinges of pain here or there. My hips weren\’t happy, so I couldn\’t lie comfortably. But I had the alarm set for 3 am; and when it went off, I was up and at \’em.

I started forward motion at 4:45. It was very cold. Many people were still on course. Many of these people were walking very slowly and maybe limping.

I, on the other hand, was amazed at the recuperative power of laying in bed for a few hours. I was well enough to again do the 3 minutes jog and 2 minutes walk. I was doing really good. It was very cold and windy, but this didn\’t seem to bother me.

I had to be patient. It was still going to take a few hours to finish 16 miles. Don\’t screw up now. But I was excited to see my lap count get closer and closer. And I was feeling better and better. I couldn\’t believe I was actually going to finish this thing. It had taken alot to get to this point.

At 143 laps, I could hear them mention my name. The RD asked me how many laps as I went by. I said 2 more. She said, \”Next lap is your bell lap?\” I said, \”Yes.\” She wrote something on her clip board. I kept going but started to cry real tears. Even as I type this now, I\’m crying. I was going to finish that race. I finished the final 16 miles (23 laps) in about 3:45.

I am not a quitter!

They actually have a big bell that you ring for your last lap (in honor of a cancer patient completing treatment). As I came through the race crew was again saying my name. I rang the bell. Then, I ran most of the last lap. The crew was watching for me as I came around. They hold a finishers tape for everyone. They announce on the loud speaker. The RD even said it was my first 100 miler (true), and that I almost quit earlier in the week.

Here I am getting my buckle.

This was an experience of a lifetime. Worth it!

A word about me and timed ultras. Why did I go home? Well, for many races, when something goes wrong, my brain is too worn out to fix any problems. All I do is quit, usually with 50 miles. But, when I get home, I realize what I could have done. So this time, I just planned to go home, even though it was a 35 minute drive. Indeed, after day 2, I had some repairs to do on toes and at home, I had the resources.

Also, I know what part of my problem with 100 mile races is. After about 35 – 40 miles, I am not interested in more running. If it is a 50 mile race, I\’ll tough it out. But I fail to see the point of walking slowly in pain for 65 miles. I admire people who do it, but I can\’t seem to do it myself.