My last half marathon took place back in January so I figured it was time to register for another race. After searching around on the Internet, I realized that Extreme North Dakota (END) Racing was hosting a run south of Fargo, ND. When I registered for the 25K, I thought this would be just another race. One similar to all the others I do. I was wrong….very very wrong.
If you ever plan on doing an END race, I have a few tips for you:
1. Read, read, and read.
Read the e-mail from the race director. Read the blog post from the race director. Read the website. Read the suggested gear list. Read anything you can about the race. I have never been so unprepared for a race and that is 100% my fault.
The race director sent out informative e-mails prior to the race. I quickly skimmed through all of them. I remembered reading that racers should have a cell phone in case someone were to get lost along the way. Although I remember thinking that was a strange statement, I didn’t think much of it as I normally run with my phone anyway.
The morning of the race, I got into my car and hit the road. My GPS told me that I would arrive to my location at 2:00PM. This was a problem being the race started at 1:00PM. I called Jared, quickly vented about how I should have calculated the route ahead of time, and when he asked if I was going to turn around, I said “no” and kept driving. I don’t race for ribbons; I race for the thrill and for exercise. Even if I started late, I would still get the physical and mental benefits from the exercise I would be doing.
Now reading the website (a few days late), I realize that END races are in unique locations.
I was able to magically make up time on the interstate and made it to my location at 12:50PM. Remember that e-mail I skimmed through from the race director? Well in it, there was an address of where we needed to be. However, when I took that address and put it into my own GPS, it brought me to the middle of a cow pasture. This cow pasture had limited cell phone service so I did my best to find my way to the correct location, which ended up being seven miles away. Uffff. (For the record, the address provided was correct.
My app I just could not figure it out.)
By the time I unloaded Argo, got dressed, ran to the bathroom and got to the start line, I believe it was close to 1:10PM. The first few miles of the course were beautiful! The rolling hills were the perfect running terrain. At this point, Argo and I started catching other runners. I thought it was strange that they had water backpacks on but thought that they must just be really thirsty people!
Around mile six (of 15.5), I understood why everyone had waterpacks. There were not aid stations. Remember that e-mail I skimmed through from the race director? This was also clearly stated in there. I wasn’t worried about Argo hydrating because I would stop and let him drink from puddles and eat snow. However, I was getting pretty thirsty and desperate. I was so thirsty that I kept debating to myself, which would be the cleanest option: dusty snow or muddy water from the puddles?
I ended up eating the dusty snow.
At about this point, the terrain changed quite a bit. Instead of rolling hills, we had some (North Dakota) mountains. Looking at others’ shoes, I saw that I also made a HUGE mistake. I was wearing my Hoka One One shoes, which were NOT made for hiking and had zero support when it came to side-to-side stabilization. I could not get traction in the mud!
Around mile nine, I reached an aid station. While everyone filled up their waterpacks, I shyly asked if they had water bottles. The volunteers were able to find me one and Argo and I hit the road again. One of the many benefits of running with Argo is that he knew the correct path to run. There were a few times when I would stop to see which trail to follow and he was able to pull me the way of other runners before us.
3. Expect solitude.
If you want fans to cheer you on, you must bring your own.
There were many times when I didn’t see people for miles, which I actually prefer.
Approximately two hours and nine minutes after starting the race, Argo and I crossed the finish line. Even after qualifying for the Boston marathon, I have never felt more accomplished than I did finishing my first END race. This race pushed me physically and mentally. I wanted to quit when I realized I would end up being late. I wanted to quit when I arrived in a cow pasture. I wanted to quit when I had to hike up the North Dakota mountains (elevation 15 feet). However, I was able to get myself to keep going.
4. Plan for a grueling race.
The race challenged me mentally and physically. On paper, it didn’t look tough but as I was driving home, I swore I would never do another one of these END races again.
Although I swore I would never do an END race again, the evening of my race I was already texting my brother about making a team for the next race in April. I drank the water (or ate the dirty snow) and now I am hooked!