When this Garmin associate and Forerunner fan signed up for the ultra of all cross country runs, she had a few of us intrigued and tempted to join in the melee. After seeing her pics and hearing her stories, it will be hard to resist her prodding next year. Read her colorful recap and check out her run in Garmin Connect.
As soon as my husband’s uncle Doug found out I was a runner, he started prepping me for the Living History Farms Race in Urbandale, Iowa. He told me about the costumes, the creek crossings and the mud (lots about the mud). Every time he talked about it, he had an ear-to-ear grin and a joyful glow coming from inside. There was no doubt this was a beloved race, but I kept turning down his invitation. Some people call it “cross country,” some say it is “extreme off road.” The website says it’s “the largest cross country race in North America.” But, after venturing into the below-freezing weather on Saturday morning, I’ll attest that it’s unclassifiable!
I admit. There was a part of me that was worried I couldn’t handle 7 miles of trails, ravines, woods and mud, but that part evaporated as soon as I got out of the pickup. There were characters everywhere! A Wheaties box was doing warm-ups, an entire bunch of bananas were huddling together in the cold, and Dr. Seuss’s Thing 1 and Thing 2 were joined by their blue-haired buddies all the way up to Thing 18. There were some regular runners, but more than half the field were dressed to impress. Doug and I wore all white with red sashes at our waists and necks. The LHF Facebook page promised that if we dressed as the Pamplona runners, there would be bulls on hand to chase us. Running as a group in costume was great! See more race photos and costumes.
There were so many people (a registration malfunction meant more than 8,000 ran this year) that it took us quite a while to start running. When we finally got to trot, it was a herky jerky run. Every time we got a decent rhythm, something would come up: a deer scared out of her wits, a thigh-high creek for us to cross, a hill so steep it should be illegal, or a narrow trail through the woods. Whereas we type-A runners are quick to grumble about the wrong brand of sports drink or inaccurate mile markers in every other race, we all turned crazily carefree on Saturday. It was one for all and all for one, crashing through the woods to get to a creek faster, then boosting a fellow runner up a slope, just to get splashed with mud from a complete stranger. There were course markers, but they were largely ignored. There were timing chips, but dozens were lost on the trail.
I looked down at my Forerunner 310XT a few times, just to find the display caked with mud. I thought about how proud my engineer coworkers would be, how I was really giving the 310XT a good test of the elements. Many of the runners recognized my Forerunner, though, and asked me for the time or distance. No one cared too much about pace, though!When we finally crossed the finish line, the volunteers congratulated us with hot beef stew, pumpkin bread and hot cider.
But, even with the warm food in my stomach, the adrenaline started to wear off, and I realized how cold I really was. My soaking-wet, muddy legs and feet were starting to get miserable, and all I could think about was a long, hot shower. (Everyone knows that’s the best part of any winter run!)
Back in my office chair, on a day when the high temp is expected to reach 60, I’m glad I have the pictures and Garmin Connect data to prove my weekend adventure wasn’t just a good dream. And, strangely, I feel this joyful glow coming from my face as I tell people they MUST run this race with me next year. I guess Doug knew what he was talking about!