Monday, November 14, 2011

Sweet Misery - Godiva Misery Run

All photos courtesy of Shannon Johnstone of Running Down.

Some races are special not because of the fantastic course, or the great volunteers, or the fun and friendly atmosphere, or even because you have a great time. The Godiva Track Club's Misery Run had all of that, and then some. But it was special for other reasons - reasons much more difficult to define. This was a race of firsts for me. My first race as a member of Godiva and my first race in the Godiva Winter Series.  My first race involving cow poop. My first race with my 7 year old son Ryan running by my side. The Misery Run was excellent for all of these reasons - but especially because I was able to run with my son.

Ryan and I had been looking forward to this race for weeks. Reading old race reports with pictures and even video of past races, left Ryan and I wondering exactly how many hay bales, mud puddles, and cow poop piles we would be running through. Being 7 years old, Ryan is a finely tuned potty humor machine, so he couldn't stop giggling about running through cow poop. I'm a 7 year old at heart, so I egged him on at every opportunity. My wife was not amused.

I wasn't sure of the exact length of the race, but had heard it was a loop course totaling 5.75 miles. I was a bit worried about Ryan. His longest run to date had been 5.4 miles, and that was along a flat greenway near our house. The morning of the race he seemed a little nervous as well. I told him he was free to stop after the first loop (or anytime really for that matter), and that seemed to calm his nerves.

Race Day
Orange County,NC. I think the race was
somewhere between the X and the
pirate ship.
Race day arrived and we piled into my car and headed out to find the race site. If the rest of the Godiva races are as hard to find as the Misery Run, I'm going to have to do a bit of recon beforehand. It's almost like Godiva is intentionally trying to hide the race. First you email the race directory for the secret directions. Turn left here.. right there.. then look for some guy standing near a mailbox. The only reason I found the race was because I happened to be following a car with a Godiva bumper sticker. Otherwise I might still be lost someplace in Orange County, North Cackalacky.

I parked my car in a cow pasture next to a farm house, very glad that there hadn't been any rain in the prior few days. Ryan and I signed in and had our bibs in minutes (I love small races!), so we wandered over to one of the hay bales so Ryan could practice climbing over. At about 6 feet tall, the hay bales were quite a challenge for 4 foot tall Ryan. But with a little practice, and some advice from me to jam his foot into the bale, he managed to make it over a couple of times without help.

No problem for Ryan. Me on the other hand...
Lap One - Who Put These Trees Here?!
The race started with a bit of a wait. Traffic was backed up at the first hay bale, so we waited for about 30 seconds before we scrambled across. All of my worries about Ryan and the hay bales were laid to rest when the little monkey scrambled over the top much faster than his old man. This would become a trend as the race progressed.

Once we cleared the hay bale and the adjacent cow pasture, we hit the single track through the woods. I wasn't expecting downed trees. Of course, I never seem to expect anything difficult. "Ignorance is bliss" is my overall race strategy.

Ryan giggled as he leapt over each log. I grunted with arthritic pain but urged him on with some half hearted "Woo hoos!". All I could think was "Doesn't this farmer own a chain saw?". But then I noticed that some logs had been intentionally piled across the trail. "Ahh, sadistic farmer!" I concluded. I like his thinking.

Just as we emerged from the single track, back into the cow pasture, we were forced to splash through a foot deep, muddy, poop colored (and filled?) water hole. Really?! Again, with the course sadism? I was beginning to like this farmer.

Ryan, smarter than his old man, heads for the shallow "water" near the fence. The hose
spraying ice cold water was a nice sadistic touch. Well played farmer Marquis de Sade.
Over another giant hay bale, and then another long transit around the perimeter of the farmstead on the single track through the woods (more and bigger logs across the trail!) , and we were finished with the first loop of the course.

Lap Two - Shoe Stew
The second lap was harder, mostly because my shoes were filled with some indescribable farm gunk. Mud? Sand? Poop? I spent a good portion of the lap running with this cow poo shoe stew squishing between my toes. Ryan laughed at me and said his feet felt fine.

Lap Three - Sweet Misery
About half way through lap two, Ryan announced to me that he wanted to run the entire race. I was surprised - and proud - and worried. I was running out of gas, having already run 10, 13, and 12 mile trail runs the week before the race (the final 12 miler was for the 12athon, a fun year-long event everyone should participate in next year!). The course was tough. Much tougher and more technical than I had anticipated. And I guesstimated that Ryan had been averaging about a 12 min/mile pace, and amazingly had been negatively splitting each loop. The third loop was his fastest. At times he left me behind on the single track and I struggled to catch up, but luckily I climb hills better than him, so I always managed to close the gap when we headed up. We managed to finish the lap together and entered the final cow dung challenge together.

They call it "The Volcano", but the only thing erupting from the giant pile of cow dung, was a foul odor, and the partially submerged tips of previously lost shoes. And we had to scramble through it somehow. Disgusting! And awesome! My right leg sank up to my knee on the first step. I pulled my leg from the poop vacuum and luckily my shoe stayed on. Ryan is so light, he basically floated over the stuff.

I immediately begin sinking.
Oh, crap, I think I dropped my car keys!

My neighbor Katie was running the race and had passed through previously. Her daughter was at the bottom of The Volcano yelling "Get my mom's shoe!"

Being the chivalrous type, I pulled an entombed shoe from the poop and flung it from the pile. Manure flew in several directions at once. You're welcome!

Shoe and poo flew!

I've haven't laughed that hard in quite a while.

Ryan and I escaped from The Volcano, slopped through the cattle yard, and ran through the pasture to the finish line, in a final time of 1 hour 10 minutes. I was way off from my estimate of 1:30. Ryan was flying. In fact, he was the youngest to finish the entire race and earned a nice finisher's prize - irony, thy name is chocolate bar...

The aftermath. Even with a good hose rinse, the only reason I'm keeping my shoes
is because I'll need something to wear at next year's
Misery Run.

Special. I try not to use that word too often. I don't want to cheapen it. But this was a truly special race for me. This wacky, dirty, funny little race will long hold special memories. Thanks, Godiva!