3 pairs of socks, 3 bandanas, 2 pairs of shoes and a bajillion popsicles, that is what a nine hour endurance race is made of. When I signed up for the Schuetzen Nein I thought it would be a new, exciting race adventure, plus the price was right! I knew it was a looped course but in my excitement, I don’t guess I read the course description, accurately. It was an adventure alright!
The weeks before the race I revisited the course description and boy oh boy, it sounded more challenging than just running for nine hours. I have never done a timed race before but I did take 9:30 hours on my first 50k so I was a little familiar with spending 9 hours on my feet in the woods. This race was HARD! But it went way better than that 50k. Timed races are often looped courses, and this was no exception, however, this loop was shorter than I expected it to be. The course is less than a mile, .85 miles to be exact and the course description is hilly. The description also mentions a few stairs, which is the understatement of the year. A few stairs, A FEW! No, this course has all the stairs! But I digress. Reading race reviews tells me I am in for quite a challenge with this course. I am starting to get a little nervous, not about the time but about the elevation gain. Am I trained enough, can I handle this race? It didn’t help that the RD kept posting memes about how hot is was going to be and comparing the way the Schuetzen holds in heat to “a hellish inferno”.
Race day dawns with a lot of nerves a few minutes before my alarm goes off. The sun was blazing in from our east facing windows. My bestie Beth and I have rented an apartment for the weekend, so we have all the amenities we need. I try to choke down my gluten free waffles and bacon but I forgot syrup and can’t seem to choke the waffles down without it. I have packed everything I might want in my race bag and cooler. We follow our GPS to the start finish line and glance around at everyone else setting up their “camps”. It is like a dozen mini aid stations right here at the start/finish. This was very different from anything I have done before.
Beth was awesome and helped me set up our tent, chairs and she even brought rugs, so we were fancy! I got my bib and had a quick chat with the RD, who has a wicked sense of humor and seemed very nice. It was clear a lot of the runners were local and that made me more nervous for some reason. Very quickly it was time for the prerace meeting. As I am typing this I have no idea what he talked about at the meeting, probably stay cool, when we would switch directions…I don’t remember. A quick pre race selfie and it was time to go!!! Coleen had helped me map out a plan for the day so I knew I was going to take the first loop slowly, also it was like a million degrees.
I don’t remember a lot about the first loop except being surprised by how many stairs the race actually had. I was supposed to try to avoid stopping a lot in the first two hours, so Beth was going for a run of her own so as not to tempt me. I know I got warm and quickly decided I didn’t want to wear my shirt or carry a handheld. My tent was right at the check in point for each loop, so I checked in and then dropped my shirt and handheld and headed back out. Loop two I was still hot and decided it was time for a cold, wet bandanna so I grabbed that and quickly headed back out again. After that loop it was fresh ice in the bandanna every loop or two. It was HUMID as hell and oh so hot but in the trees at least it was shady. The trails were lined with fields of beautiful nettles on every side (can you read my sarcasm?).
A con of having such short loops is that you are never really alone for long in the woods, which isn’t a huge problem unless you need to pee and you are surrounded by nettles and can’t hike out off of the trail much. Timing bathroom breaks was a challenge and sometimes involved hiding behind a bench and getting caught. Oops.
My goal was to power hike the uphill’s and run the downs and the flats and it was going fairly well. I also had to manage the heat and I don’t do heat when running. I’m #teamwinter all the way! The iced bandanna is the best idea ever and I ate a lot of melty Popsicles, had a little Gatorade but mostly just drank coke, la croix and water to stay hydrated.
The race director was awesome, calling out names at every turn around to let you know he marked your lap and just generally being encouraging. The informational email said that the aid station wouldn’t be a full smorgasboard like most trail races but I thought it was very well stocked! I brought a ton of food for myself but still partook of their popsicles and pickles. They served lunch and beer at noon and there were pastries, soda, most of the things you want in an aid station. They also had three coolers, two with ice to fill hats or put cooling rags in and one with clean ice to ingest. This was the best thing ever and I was so happy to have clean ice! Of course Beth and her parents kept my cooler stocked for me.
Around the half way mark Beth came back from lunch and brought me the best damn green apple slush I have ever had, hands down! This slush was a life changer and so delicious on a hot day. I hadn’t packed my own Popsicles because I normally don’t care for them but they hit the spot during the race. I stopped just about every loop for a little something at my aid station. I ate consistently, chips, more chips, pickles, Popsicles, avocado, strawberries, oranges and potatoes.
The first two hours were the worst of the day for me. At 1.5 I really just wanted to quit. I was frustrated with the hills, tired, hungry and just over it mentally. I texted Coleen and she told me this was where I had to push through the mental part and just make it happen. She also suggested an avocado because I was pretty sure I hadn’t had enough calories but nerves that morning had made it hard for me to get them down. It was time for to walk an entire loop according to our plan so I took my avocado and went for a walk. It made me chuckle a little bit that I was taking my snack on a walk through the woods. It was interesting too that as tired as I was and as much as I thought I hated it when I was supposed to walk the whole loop I kept thinking, I should just run this stretch, this part is runnable.
At on point during the first half I did tell Beth I wanted to sit down and stay and she kicked me back out on the course. She was the perfect crew. Every lap she had a fresh iced bandanna waiting for me, she fed me, she encouraged me and she kept texting Coleen to keep her in the loop. This race just kicked my ass, mentally. It was hot and hard and I was so tired. The second half did go better. I made the mistake once of trying to do two loops without stopping but that made me nauseous and I decided not to do that again.
I spent the entire day soaked from ice melting on me. After about 4.5 hours I decided to change socks so I could have dry feet for at least a little while. Beth helped me getting out my socks, toweling my feet off and prepping my snack for the next loop while I changed. Running counter clockwise felt hard until we switched directions to go clockwise. Clockwise was great for most of the trail but dammit if you didn’t have to climb a huge set of pea gravel stairs after a long downhill run. Towards hour 6 I knew we would be switching directions and I just didn’t want to come back up that damn hill again so I decided it was a good time for a shoe change and new socks again. My feet were so pruney!
After seven hours you were allowed crew pace you. Coleen and I had agreed that I didn’t need crew but it was time for a walk again and so Beth went out with me to keep me company. She let me set the pace and we hiked a loop. The next loop her dad went out with me and let me set the pace again, we ran a pretty decent loop. They took turns keeping me company on the rest of my loops, running up until the last loop when Beth and I went for a victory loop walk. I was pretty sick to my stomach and we knew I could only get one more loop in, so we decided to hike and enjoy it. I finished with 30 laps and went up to the RD and said, “Thanks for putting on an awesome race. I fucking hated it but it was awesome!”
Recap of the course, a lot of stairs that you climb up and down. Nettles line the course, once when I was climbing over a log (there were 3 to get over) I slipped and discovered why it is nicknamed fire weed. As you descended onto the trail the humidity increased and slapped you in the face! The downhills were a lot of fun! The absolute worst part of the course is the hills in full sun to get back to your camp! I hated every step of that hill, every single lap!
This race was put on very well! I would definitely recommend it to anyone but encourage a lot of hill training! If you finish a 50k you get a spanker (a paddle)! Plus all the money goes to support this cool little park! Check them out! Schuetzen Nein!