February 9, 2010

Yukon Days 3 Miler

I should have known by the event logo that this race was going to be completely ridiculous and an outright horrible idea.  Seriously, what is that thing?  

Yukon Days involves a 1 mile run, 3 mile run, and a 3 mile snowshoe race which all take place ON White Bear Lake in good ole Minnesota, in February!  If you're not from the northern part of the Midwest, February is pretty much the absolute worst month of the year to be doing anything outside.  Sign number 2 this was a bad idea.

Looking at last year's times when I was considering signing up for the 3 mile race, it didn't seem like it would be that bad: the winner of the 3 miler ran it at about 6 min mile pace, and I took a quick glance at the pictures and it seemed like people were having fun, even if they looked like they were freezing their butts off.

For whatever reason, I decided to sign up, and since my mom had recently gotten into snowshoeing, I thought it would be fun to sign her up for the snowshoe race as a Christmas present.  So Saturday morning we woke up, hopped in the car, and drove the few miles to the race.  I was originally planning on running to the race, but with my leg being injured I didn't want to push it - and I can sincerely say I was happy to be injured at that point, because it was frigid out there!

We got our numbers, timing chips, and hoodies.  I'm used to getting nice, fancy tech shirts for running events...but this was a hoodie, and it was definitely NOT fancy, or cute!  Hopefully you won't see me wearing it outside of my apartment.  Again, bad sign.

I stood with about 100 other people on the frozen lake waiting for the race to start...freezing to death.  The race director FINALLY announced that the 3 miler would be starting in a few minutes.  Everyone lined up near the two cones marking the starting line, and moments later we heard this huge CRACK! that you could hear propagate over a good few seconds.  It's normal to hear this kind of cracking on a lake, and I wasn't worried about falling into the water or anything, but it was definitely startling and I just wanted to get going.  Another sign this was a bad, bad idea.  I also noticed everyone around me had on yaktraks...and realized that probably would've been a good purchase.  Fail.

The race finally started, and I was off.  I started at about 8 min mile pace thinking I could finish this bad boy in under 24 minutes.  My sub 24 min dream came to an abrupt end upon nearly falling on my face 5 steps into the race.  I immediately realized running on ice covered in 3-4 inches of fresh snow was insanely difficult.  It was like running on a sandy beach, but way more slippery.  My pace soon plummeted to around 11-12 minute miles except for a few spots where cars had driven and packed the snow down, and I could run around 9:30 min pace.  Ankles were rolling, yaktraks weren't helping (suckas!), and everyone appeared to be tiring quickly.  The way everyone looked running, you'd think they pounded a few drinks beforehand.

And as if the ice and snow weren't enough to deal with, we had to run the 2nd mile through a popular ice fishing area.  I had finally just figured out how to awkwardly run with tiny strides to reduce the slippage, and then we had old ice fishing holes!  It was like running through a mine field only instead of mines you had old ice fishing holes buried in snow to deal with.  Any method I thought I developed to conquer the snow and ice no longer worked.  Gah!  Can this race just be over already?

By mile two I was abnormally exhausted and just wanted to be done.  I picked out this guy running in shorts (umm hello, it's 20 degrees out!) about 1/4 of a mile in front of me and decided I was going to pass him before we finished.  I booked it as fast and safely as I could and passed him with about a half mile left and before I knew it I was done.  I saw my mom waiting in the crowd to start the snowshoe race, said good luck, and took shelter in the warm car until she finished.

I finished in 33:44 - a PW!  I later learned the winner of the race, a girl who has been known to run sub 3:15 marathons, finished in 24-some minutes.  Now, I don't feel so bad!  (last year's times were so speedy because it hadn't just snowed - tricky!) I also learned running on such a terrain is probably one of the worst things you can do with an injured calf/achilles, but it actually felt pretty good afterwards and has been improving ever since - hooray!

And BIG ANNOUNCEMENT:  I finally did the impossible and took a cute race picture!

All of the freezing to near death, ankle rolling, slipping, tripping on old ice fishing holes, and acquired wind burn on my face was all worth it in the end!  It was also fun getting my mom to do a race - she finished in under an hour and wasn't last! :-)