Thursday, November 28, 2013

Belated race report: Living History Farms Race

What am I grateful for this Thanksgiving? Well, a number of things, but the most relevant one to this post and blog audience is that I did the Living History Farms Race and that I survived.

(I'm also grateful that if I had to plunk a race in the middle of a week's worth of moving/unpacking, it was one that didn't require a serious training plan. There's my excuse for my silence.)

So about Living History Farms. People warned me about the bottlenecks, the costumes and the water crossings. I listened closely and believed them, but there are some things one must experience to truly understand.

The bottlenecks worked to our advantage, in one respect, because one member of the team hadn't ever run more than three miles, and another had maxed out at four miles. There may have been equal parts running and walking in this race from our team, but almost none of it can be blamed on fitness.

The bad part of it, duh, was that we were moving slower in less-than-ideal conditions. Also, beyond the cold, the terrain made me nostalgic for the forest preserves back in Rockton and what a fun challenge running there was. When else will I look back on difficult running with such fondness?

As for the costumes, I was pleased with how well our team members managed to represent our respective decades -- yep, that was our theme -- despite our last-minute tendencies and the incredible cold.

Other runners definitely delivered on the costume front as well. I was surprised to see nearly naked guys committed to their plans of being nearly naked, but I guess I shouldn't have been. The costume that made me laugh the most, though, was the adult African-American man dressed as Dorothy from "The Wizard of Oz."

Close runners-up were the people who wore plastic butt cheeks on the outside of their tights, but they lose points because I had to stare at that ridiculous image as I scrambled up a hill that I honestly was afraid I'd slide back down.

And now for the water crossings and, equally important, the actual weather reading. I'd read online that there would be eight crossings and that midday highs would be in the low 20s ... but very little prepares you for that reality.

Neither, honestly, was quite as bad as I expected. The first creek was fairly shallow; the second and third ones (back to back) were deep and made me yell for quite a few yards afterward; and after that, it became a point of pride.

The prerace warning of a crotch-deep creek never came to fruition, unless someone shorter than me was the measuring stick (unlikely), but the warning of "wear shoes you don't want anymore" was spot-on. RIP, pink Brooks Ghosts.

My biggest hurdle with the water and temperature was self-inflicted: The flares on my bell bottoms froze after the second-third creek crossing, so instead of merely kicking the cloth out of the way as I climbed a hill, I nearly tripped a few times. CLOP-CLOP-CLOP was how I sounded at the end.

Now for my great reveal, for those not there. The temperature at the end of the race? 16 degrees.

And by "end of the race," I mean that we took off at 9 a.m., ran/walked/climbed/waded for 2:23:01, had a bowl of beef stew and walked back to the car to check our phones ... at THAT point, it was 16 degrees.

Before the race, I was a little cold and a little whiny; during the race, I was a little cold when the wind blew and a little whiny; after the race, I was absolutely freezing -- like, my fingers were painful -- and absolutely insistent that we get into the car as soon as possible.

OK, so what does all this rambling mean, as far as my experience goes? As I said earlier, I'm glad I did it ... but I'm perfectly fine never doing it again.

I like completing/attending Des Moines' signature events, and having teams at them is definitely a bonus. Doing LHF this year -- without skipping a single water obstacle -- earns us some serious bragging rights, especially when more than 1,000 runners backed out because of the weather.

But I think I prefer the challenge of running the entire length, or of pushing myself to finish as fast as possible, to having the quirks of LHF or the Warrior Dash.

To come full (enormous) circle? I'm grateful for the discipline that training-required races provide, for the huge sense of accomplishment they give me afterward and for the light-hearted races in between that make me realize this.

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