Spring Racing Season: Part 2, Zumbro 17M Theilman, MN April 12, 2014

We had planned to leave for a week away leading up to the Zumbro 17 Mile Trail Race on April 6, but Matthew won a prize for a poem which had been submitted to a regional contest here in Iowa.  He won 1st Male in 8th grade in the regional and went on to be 2nd in the whole state of Iowa for 8th grade boys. Wendy and I were invited along with Matthew to a special reading and dinner on April 7 in Eldora, so we moved our vacation start to the next morning.  It was great to see and hear Matthew read his poem!

The next day all 8 of us headed up to Lake City, MN, which would be home base for our vacation and the race.  Shortly after arriving there, a couple of the girls and I headed over to the course just outside of Theilman, MN, and walked about a mile of it to get the lay of the land.

Wednesday we went to the Mall of America...and that's where my race looked like it was going to start to unravel, though I didn't know it until the middle of the night...

Whether it was food poisoning, bad food choices, a weakened/tired body from racing/training/work stress, race anxiety, or some combination of all of the above, my body revolted.  I'll spare you the gross and gory details, but just say, that much of Thursday, I either spent in bed, in the bathroom, or when we did go out...in pain.  I couldn't even cross my arms to rest them on my torso, it hurt so bad...which I knew was going to impact wearing a waist pack on Saturday if I was able to race at all.

In addition to being sick, I spent a lot of Thursday praying and wondering whether or not I could/should/wanted to race.  Friday morning dawned and I felt a bit better, but not great.  Finally I took a walk with four of my kids down to the river and skipped rocks on the Mississippi while the breeze blew nice fresh air over my tired body.  As I played, walked, and talked with my kids that morning and throughout the day, I realized they really wanted me to get well and be able to race.  Later in the day, we drove to the Race HQ so Wendy would know where to show up for the finish if I did race on Saturday.  I got out and talked with the RD, John, for a few minutes and he encouraged me to go for it the next day.  Being there as the 100 mile race was going on, I was inspired again.  What a beautiful day!  So, with my kids desire, the RD's encouragement, and God's help, I got up Saturday morning and made the decision to go for it even though I was still not feeling 100%.

At 8:00AM I sat in my car and watched the rain pour down and then turn to hail before going back to rain and eventually pausing right before the start.  People coming in from the 50M or 100M, whether finishing or preparing to go back out for another loop, were soaked and cold.  The beautiful day on Friday had changed into a dark, overcast, wet, muddy, cold (mid-40's) day on Saturday.  Fortunately, I had thrown all previous race goals out the window except run to God's glory, finish, and a new one: finish for my family.  

I took the first hour out too fast, but that's pretty normal for me.  The view from the first bluff in the opening couple of miles was awesome...you could look down on the whole valley that contained the campground where the start/finish/race HQ was for the weekend.  The course in many places had turned to thick, slick mud.  Footing was a problem in many of these sections, especially on the downhills from the four highest climbs.  I fell pretty hard coming down off one of the bluffs.  That fall shook me up, causing me to be a little more careful and slower on the downhills.  Since I had decided to go with a handheld bottle instead of a waist-pack, I constantly wished I had my hand free on the downhills to help grab at trees to steady myself.  

The course at Zumbro is great.  Lots of terrain changes along with about 3100 feet of elevation gain and loss.  Of course there was lots of mud this day and trail wide puddles to run through because of the rain. The trails are mostly single track and double track including even a few sandy sections.  As one section of the trail carved downward, it was like we were running through a tunnel of sand rounded on either side.

As I made my way up the fourth bluff, hiking/running through the thick mud on the trail and starting to see the view I would get to enjoy more as I ran along the top of the bluff, I realized, "This is why I train all year.  I train to be able to enjoy these moments.  I train so that even when the course is tough and the weather is bad, and I've been sick for two days beforehand, I can come up here and enjoy God's creation and see a view like this."  The view of the river valley was awesome!  I wish everyone could make it out onto these types of trails and take in the views. 

My fueling plan worked pretty well and I never felt sick during the race at all!  Amazing!  VFuel gels along with some electrolyte drinks were the mainstay.  I had a few bites of banana, pb & j, and some chips.  Later on I took some salt pills at the last two aid stations. I should also say that the people at the aid stations and all of the volunteers at the race were awesome.  John has built a great race here at Zumbro.

I fell again in some slick mud with about 1 mile to go, but got up again and kept pushing.  I was really looking forward to seeing my family and completing this race in what was for me, some epic conditions.  Interestingly enough, it seems like as I write this up, I am complaining, but I am not, and actually didn't complain at all during the race.  Instead, I just got after it, prayed and trusted God, and ran.  I am as proud, if not more so of finishing this race, despite my slow pace, as I am at getting a huge PR at Hawkeye.  To paraphrase Philippians 4:13, "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me."  It really is amazing just what one can do when we trust God.

Wendy snapped this one of my on the way to the finish as I passed her at the van.

This pic makes me look like some old hick!

Post-race celebration!  (That was a good hamburger!)

Finally a pic with my wife, Wendy.

Zumbro was an awesome race!  That might seem astonishing considering my health, the race conditions, and the toughness of the course.  It certainly wasn't one of my fastest races, but I enjoyed it immensely by simply seeking to enjoy it, by being glad to even be out there and enjoy it!  I look forward to it in 2015 and racing to a PR while also having a great time!

Zumbro 2014 for me proves how spiritual endurance reinforces physical endurance.  I simply could not have enjoyed and finished this race like I did without the spiritual endurance and faith in God that He has given me.  At the same time, I also needed the physical endurance learned through discipline and running through this past hard winter in Iowa to be able to even consider racing Zumbro with the many hurdles that were thrown at me.   When the spirit wanes, sometimes you just have to dig deep and push on physically, and other times, when it feels physically impossible, God shows you just what is possible through faith.  And we are capable of so much more than we think that we are in life!

In the end, even a simple 17 mile trail race, (simple especially compared to those running the 50 and 100!) can remind us of Paul's words in Romans 5:1-5,

Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.  Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God.  Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.