Friday, January 31, 2014

2013 Dizzy Goat Race Report

I've had this mostly written since shortly after this race finished, but I told myself I would get my Nebraska insurance license and get my website updated before I posted this.  I have the license, but the website still needs a lot of work.  I did say I was going to post this about the 2013 race before registration opened for 2014.  Since it opens February 1, I need to hurry.
Dizzy Goat Race Report
Joe Vigil - "You want to be a better runner, be a better person".
Larry Kelley sent me this quote from Hall of Fame distance running coach Joe Vigil.  On Saturday June 22, 2013, the best 12 hour runner on the Dizzy Goat course at Schramm State Park Recreation area was Mike Christensen of Fremont, Nebraska, who cranked out 19 laps of 3.25 miles for a total 62 miles.   A Sunday night phone conversation with my sister who also lives in Fremont confirmed that Vigil was correct.  I asked her if she happened to know Mike, and instead of simply saying, “yes” or “no”, she exclaimed, “He’s the nicest guy ever!” (That was even with her husband standing right next to her.  They’re still married, so I guess he’s not the jealous type.)  She went on to tell me several stories of how well Mike has treated her and her family as friends, not just as customers at his Hy Vee store.  By the end of the conversation I was literally teary-eyed with thankfulness and humbleness.  Wow.
If you’re not familiar with the Dizzy Goat, it’s a timed trail race put on by the Greater Omaha Area Trail Runners (GOATz) with the option of 12, 6 or 3 hours to run as many laps as possible, reversing direction each loop.   You can find a more here.
I went to Dizzy Goat with several goals and intentions.  I wanted to set a new personal longest distance, find out if I could actually keep going for three straight hours, run with a “racing mentality”, do another race with my son Alex, spend time with the handful of GOATz I had already met in person and confirm that all the other GOATz with whom I was “Facebook familiar” were actually flesh and blood.
Our three hour race didn’t start until 4 p.m., but Alex and I pulled into the park about 11 a.m. to make sure we accomplished the most important task of spending time with quality people.   I often tell people, “The GOATz are everything a family/church/business/club SHOULD be, but very rarely is.”   The best way for us to get immersed in it was to volunteer, so we quickly checked in and set up our chairs, cooler and canopy at the end of the designated area,  right next to Rikki Wardyn , cheerleader extraordinairre, who what there to support her husband Justin who was running the 12 hour.  It was hot in the shade.

While settling in I got confirmation that Di Laska was more than a digital image.  The solid smack on the bum and “My apologies to Mrs. Green!” made that pretty clear.  I laughed and replied, “She would tell you to hit me harder!”
Alex and I then hunted up one of the few GOATz I had met in person before, my sister-from-another-mother and race director Jody Green to see where we could help.   She set us up in the “aid station”.
It wasn’t what I expected an aid station to be, but the label of “aid station” is not exactly  incorrect.  Sort of like it’s not incorrect to say the Olympics is “a sporting event” or Warren Buffet is “not impoverished”.   I’m used to short events where “aid station” means a  table with some paper cups of water, maybe some kind of sports drink,  and in some of the bigger races maybe some hard candy, a few gels, or  a small selection fruit.  Except for the ISU Triathlon Club’s 5k Donut Run where there are time deductions for the number of donuts eaten, I’ve never eaten or even seen others eat during a race.   That wasn’t the case at Dizzy Goat.  Watermelon, potato chips, gluten-free brownies and rhubarb crisp, cupcakes, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, boiled potatoes, sweet potatoes, dill pickles, tortilla chips, salsa, hummus, gummy worms, frosted graham crackers, turkey and cheese sandwiches, Gu gel packets, Gu Brew, water, Coke, 7-Up, and ginger ale.  For starters.   Since it was lunch time and some runners were starting to get hungry after 4 hours on the trail,  Eric Boos was grilling  hamburgers and quesadillas, having switched from eggs.
However, it wasn’t really food that redefined “aid station” for me.   I started out just standing back, making sure things were stocked for when the runners came in, but then Miranda, Janet (race sponsor Running With Scissors) and others showed me how GOATz work an aid station.  They didn’t ask, “Is there anything you need?” or say, “The water is over there”, like I started out doing, but instead said things like, “Here, let me fill your bottle with ice”, “You’re doing awesome!”, and “Do you want salty or sweet?  Gluten-free?” and “The watermelon is good for hydration”.   They took food and drink orders, delivered them to resting runners, and at times pushed food and drink on runners who needed them but weren’t taking them.  It wasn’t an “aid” station, but rather a “taking care of people we love, even if we don’t know them” station.  I did my best to match them.
While in the aid station I finally got to meet Will Turner, another race director.  I’ve been participating in a 90 day challenge Will for about 70 days and have lost several pounds and started some good habits.  It was great to finally meet him face to face and be able to thank him in person for his inspiration.  I also thoroughly enjoyed the time talking with Toby Asplin, owner of race sponsor Handyman Joe’s and his wife (he owns Handyman Joe’s, not his wife—geez, don’t you know slavery is illegal?  As a former English teacher you’d think I’d be able to write it better than that.)  Mrs. Handyman Joe made it clear that she’s not fond of Des Moines, my current home, but she was so nice that it was easy to overlook that minor flaw.
We watched the 6 hour runners start at 1 p.m. and worked the small aid station rush when they finished their first lap fairly close together, but as they spread out and some of the 12 hour runners were taking longer rest breaks, things slowed down quite a bit.  We had more workers than needed, so I went over to our canopy to check on Alex who was relaxing in the shade before our race and to get off my feet for a bit.  While I was sitting there, Larry came over and asked if I’d like to do his last lap along with him.  I was thinking that I should save my legs for my race, but at the same time was honored by the invitation, so I accepted it, especially since he said his plan was to take it slow and walk a large portion of it.  I quickly got into my race clothes, and Larry and I did a lap in our MS orange, finishing with about 10 minutes before my 3 hour race was to start.  It was good to see the course before my race, and get in a positive mindset as a result of all variations of the “I didn’t see you coming” themed jokes from other runners.  
Seeing the course also made it very clear that completing 6 laps in the time limit (the optimistic goal I had tentatively set beforehand) would be next to impossible for me, and that even completing 4 laps in 2 ½ hours and being allowed to start a 5th lap would be unlikely.
Alex and I made our last minute preparations, with an assist from Rikki.  Even though we were strangers, she supplied Alex with some sunscreen from her supply when he was having trouble finding his and was stressing out a bit.  Her calming influence was just what he needed at that time.
Alex and I started toward the back and kept a conservative pace.  
We didn’t want our inexperience with racing in the heat and on trails to cause problems late in the race because of pushing too hard early.  We stuck together down for the first mile or so, but he could tell I was getting antsy to go faster and told me to go on ahead.  I wished him well and upped my pace.  
I descend faster than most people of similar or slightly faster speed (probably thanks to my extra weight and a general lack of fear of falling), so for a little while I was leapfrogging a few people, passing them on some downhills and then getting passed when the trail turned up, but eventually we kind of settled in to a pecking order where faster people were pulling away from me and I pulled away from others. 
I finished my first lap feeling great, got a high five from race director Scott Giddings, switched out my wristband, and hit the aid station for some Gu Brew and water.  I stood around longer that I really needed to, and as I headed back out to run the loop the opposite direction, I realized that I would be passing some people again who had taken a shorter break.  I reminded myself of my “racing mentality” goal and got back after it.
On the second lap I picked up my pace, spotted people ahead of me and concentrated on chasing them down and passing with authority.  Since I’m trying to improve my “killer instinct”, I tried thinking of it like I would in a bike race, hanging behind another person briefly, then upping my speed to get by them in a hurry and make them think they can’t stay with me, then relaxing back into my normal pace when I’m a significant distance from them.
I rarely run with others in races or training, but I love the social atmosphere before and after a race, and during the race I’m constantly thanking the volunteers,  joking with spectators as I go by, and encouraging others I pass or who pass me.  Dizzy Goat was the best of both worlds for me.  I was able to see a lot of people along the route, but was able to run my race at my pace.
The second and 3rd laps were the best I’ve ever felt in a race.  I felt like I was pushing the limit of how fast I could go, but never felt like I was going to blow up.  My rest stops were very brief, just a quick refill of fluids and then back at it.  
I’ve never used it as a race strategy before, but walking up “What The Hill” hill and a couple of the steeper trail sections worked well for me.  I was still “racing” because my walking pace wasn’t significantly slower than I would have “run” those sections, and it definitely conserved energy so I could run everything else faster.
On my third lap I did have a scare when Alex and I met while he was on his second lap.  He told me, “I don’t think I can make a third lap”.    I told him to make sure he was getting fluids and to pace himself as needed.   He looked like he was doing fine, so his statement surprised me.  As I finished the lap I was thinking that I would ask someone in the start/finish area to keep an eye on him and if they thought he would be ok to encourage him to start a third lap before the 6:30 p.m. cutoff.  I figured he would have 10 to 20 minutes that he could rest and then take a very easy 3rd lap and still make the 7:30 deadline.  Even though we had just met, I felt confident Rikki would do well in that role and Larry would be good for that too.
I really got worried when I came into the start/finish area and didn’t see Alex relaxing in his chair as I expected.  I didn’t see him in the aid station either, so I asked one of the volunteers in the aid station if he could check if Alex had made it in and started asking a few people who knew him if they’d seen him.  I was relieved to find out that he had looked fine finishing his second lap and was already out on his third.
I headed out for my fourth lap somewhere around 6:00 realizing that I would have to run that lap 5 or 10 minutes faster than the previous laps in order to make the 6:30 cutoff and get to run a 5th lap, but I could walk at a very slow pace and still finish long before the 7:30 deadline.   I refocused on my racing mentality goal and hit the course again.   Walking up What the Hill hill for the last time I fell in with one of the 12 hour runners who had looked very impressive while I was working the aid station.  I complimented him on how well he was doing, and he confessed that he was having to slow down because a knee that was flaring up even though he was feeling great otherwise.  He seemed to also fit the “better person, better runner” category, and I almost stayed with him to continue the conversation.  Instead, I wished him well and continued to “race” rather than just finish.
I was relieved to meet Alex about 1/3 into the lap as he was about 2/3 through his third.  We spoke briefly and I told him how happy I was that he had recovered so well from the trouble he had on the second lap.  It was only then that I found out that he was never in trouble and had felt good the whole race.  When he had told me earlier that he didn’t think he could make a third lap, it was because he was confused on the time, thinking that he wasn’t going to finish his 2nd lap with enough time to be able to go out for a third one.
After that I pushed hard, thinking that I could possibly go fast enough that I could catch him in the quarter mile or so of finishing stretch  after the loop, and Alex and I could finish together.
The workers at the mid-trail water stop (who were awesome, even though I haven’t given them proper credit) informed me that my nose was bleeding.  I’ve had problems with it in the past in hot weather when pushing my limits, so it wasn’t a big surprise.  Luckily they had ice on hand, so I took my bandana from around my neck, put some ice in it, put it on my nose and hit the trail again at a brisk walk pace.  After about 100 yards of walking it seemed fine, so I started running again.   I didn’t feel as good as I had on the 2nd and 3rd laps, but knew I could keep my pace up for the last couple of miles.  I determined to push hard all the way to the end.  I didn’t want a repeat of the feeling I had in a triathlon a couple of weeks before where I coasted the last 2 miles and let way too many people pass me.
As soon as I hit the finishing stretch I started looking for Alex’s neon yellow shirt ahead of me.  With only 100 yards or so to go I spotted him over in our rest area, having already finished ahead of me.  I shouted at him that I was throwing my water bottle to him and heaved it his direction.  He then started running at an angle to intercept me close to the finish line.  I initially thought he wanted to run in with me, but then he sped up and pulled ahead of me.  He was yelling something at me that I couldn’t really hear over the finish line music, but I assumed it was something about me being old.   More than once he has sandbagged me on a neighborhood run and then sprinted ahead at me at the end.  It hurt like crazy, but I sped up and pulled even with him as he yelled again and sped up.  Still in my “race, don’t just finish” mentality, I put even more than I thought I had left into the last 50 yards or so, finally pulling away from him and beating him to the finish line.  While I collected my medal,   Alex then came up to and cleared up our second miscommunication of the race. “I wanted to get your picture!  Why did you keep running away?  I was yelling ‘Picture!’”   When I explained that I thought he was trying to outsprint me, he insisted that if he’d been trying to beat me across the line that he would have.  I’ll let him keep believing that if he wants.  I’m disappointed there’s no photo of my finish, but the laughs were worth more. 
The post race celebration exceeded my expectations too.  Lucky Bucket Brewing and Mama’s Pizza products were abundant and tasty, and the company was even better.   I especially enjoyed the time with another 90 day challenge participant, Chris Hug, and her daughter and son.  As much as we like to complain about the younger generation, there are a lot more good kids than bad, and the future is going to work out just fine.
Alex and I didn't get a post-race father/son picture until we got to our hotel room, just before he crashed out.  I barely had time to take his picture before I was out too.

Since this is my Insurance Nerd blog, I should make a connection to my insurance business.  There actually is one.  I have often worked as an insurance agent the same way I started working the aid station at Dizzy Goat.  I’ve done a great job of filling orders when people have asked me for something, but I have failed repeatedly at pushing coverages that people should have.  I need to do that even if they don’t ask for it.  I’m reminded of this quote from atheist, illusionist and comedian Penn Jillette.
“I’ve always said that I don’t respect people who don’t proselytize. I don’t respect that at all. If you believe that there’s a heaven and a hell, and people could be going to hell or not getting eternal life, and you think that it’s not really worth telling them this because it would make it socially awkward—and atheists who think people shouldn’t proselytize and who say just leave me along and keep your religion to yourself—how much do you have to hate somebody to not proselytize? How much do you have to hate somebody to believe everlasting life is possible and not tell them that?  I mean, if I believed, beyond the shadow of a doubt, that a truck was coming at you, and you didn’t believe that truck was bearing down on you, there is a certain point where I tackle you.   And this is more important than that.”  I have a moral responsibility to do my best to make sure everyone I care about has proper insurance coverage, especially life insurance, because I believe in it the way someone going door to door to tell others about religion.   If I have something great for you, I will be telling you about it.