Monday, April 21, 2014

Muddy Sneaker 20K Race Recap

On February 15th at 3pm, registration for Muddy Sneaker opened. At 3pm, Mike and I registered for the race.

I didn't really think about it much until everyone started to freak me out about how difficult this race truly is, and then I started to devise my "escape route" (jumping off a ledge during the race to end it all). We weren't going into it to race, at least I wasn't, so I tried to use that fact to comfort myself.

Mike and I drove to Naples with our friend Rob and the entire time I really didn't feel like running. As we were driving up the final road to the race, we saw our friend Beth riding her bike. Yes, she is a beast and a fellow triathlete training for Ironman Coeur d'Alene (which she'll rock, of course).

After picking up our packets, sitting in the car and standing in the long port-a-potty line, it was time to start the race. We saw a few more friends and took a pre-race photo.

Thanks for the photo Kirsten! (another triathlete training for Ironman Lake Placid)

I really had no plan, other than to not die (though I was welcoming any possible hallucinations), and found a place at the start. After a few announcements, that I couldn't hear, we were all off and running! 

The start of the race is up a hill, a nice preview of the rest of the race, and Kirsten was on the sidelines cheering us on.

 Smiling during the first tenths of the race

After running up the dirt road, the course took us into the woods. About a half a mile into the race, a runner in front of me pushed some tree branches out of his way and they smacked me in the face. I was a little shocked, but after making sure I wasn't bleeding I was fine.

 Mike getting ready to cross the first stream, photo courtesy of Alex Tong

 Proof I don't always smile during races, photo courtesy of Alex Tong

We made our way across the first of many stream crossings and back up into the trails in the woods. The majority of the race was run on fire roads, but this portion was on single track. I took my time in the spots that looked iffy and just tried to keep sight of the people in front of me. 

The second stream crossing was a bit worrisome because there was still ice that we had to cross over! A few other runners were near me at this point and after making our way across, I somehow mentioned how I had never run the race before. A woman mentioned that we would run this section of the race twice, which was helpful for me to know since I had no idea what to expect. 

I really enjoyed the variation of terrain during this race. There was single track, open sections and all of the "obstacles" that we had to get over and under. At the first water stop, around 2.5 miles, I joked about how I wanted to stay and eat all of the delicious food that they had. But I kept going.

The next part of the race was run on fire roads, which made it a little bit easier but because of the hills it wasn't that easy. I walked when I needed to and ran when I could. There were some people dressed like a chicken, a penguin and some other animal directing us which way to go (no not hallucinations). Mile 6 was the sweetest because it was mostly downhill and I was able to hold sub-9 for most of it (I ended up with 9:18 pace for that mile).

Around mile 7 I saw someone who looked like one of our friends. I didn't think that it was possible that I would catch up to her but when we got back to the chicken and penguin, I saw that it was our friend, Heather. She decided to DNF and went on straight while I turned left. This was the portion of the race that we had already run and after an aid station we went back onto the single track we ran on earlier in the day.

Around mile 8, I saw a runner who had passed me earlier on in the race. I thought to myself that there was no way I should be catching up to him and then I noticed more of our friends and they were carrying another runner. One of our friends, Jenn, hurt herself during the race and a bunch of people carried her out of the woods (no cars could get to this portion of the race). Mike told me later that he had heard her fall and went back to help her for a few minutes.

I felt so bad as I went by them, and asked if she was alright. Even though she was in a lot of pain she said she was, and I continued on my way.

At the next aid station I saw our friend, Todd, and he went back to see if he could help our injured friend.

Before the race when people were talking about it, I knew that the last 3ish miles were going to be interesting. There was about a mile long downhill portion, which wasn't too bad but I made sure to watch my footing, and then a 2 mile long climb to the finish. After crossing the final stream and stopping at the aid station for some water there it was. The BIGGEST uphill ever.

There is no way I could run this part of the race so I just did my best to hike up it as fast as possible. I was chatting with two other women about our Ironman (even though I really didn't feel like wasting energy talking, but it took my mind off of what I was doing). When we made it to the top, of that part, there was a little bit of a flat portion. There was a guy there and he said, "you made it to the top of the worst part" and I said, "well here's the ledge I can jump off of to end it all". He said that was the best comment he had heard all day.

I did end up falling once during the race, and while it hurt my shoulder and knee I kept going. In the final mile while going uphill I alternated between running to a certain point and then walking briefly. Todd caught up to me and CRUSHED the uphill.

 Mike finishing the race, look at that form

Actually smiling and not hating life, photo courtesy of Alex Tong

Eventually, I saw the finish line and knew I had to run the rest of the way. As I made my way into the clearing, I saw my people! They were cheering me on and making comments about chicken (in reference to the people dressed like chickens).

After 2 hours 34 minutes and 4 seconds, I finished the hardest trail race I have ever run! Mike finished in 2:16:43 and it seemed like he had a great time too!

 Us with Beth after the race

In all honesty, this race wasn't as bad as everyone made it out to be. Yes, it was challenging and if I went into it wanting to race I may have been disappointed in myself. At different points during the race I thought about what people told me, to have fun, and I was having fun. I talked with people, laughed, smiled and also cringed when I had to literally hike up those final hills.

This race also taught me that I am mentally tougher than I was a few years ago. When we ran an 11 mile trail race two years ago, I really wanted to jump off a ledge to end it all and this time I just joked about it. I am happy that I am physically stronger, but I am happier that I am mentally stronger too. 

 The cheesy smile says it all, let's do this race again! Photo courtesy of Alex Tong

I was told I may not be happy that I was running during the race, but that after I would be happy that I did it. We're already talking about doing it next year, so it must not have been that bad.


  1. Congrats to you and Mike! This race sounds like quite a beast!

  2. Great job to you and Mike! This race sounds really tough.

  3. Wow, tough race, but you are awesome as always.

  4. Nice job, Jamie! One question...what are fire roads? You two looked great in the pics taken of you!