Thursday, June 26, 2014

Summer Racing Season, Part 1: The Dizzy Goat 6 Hour Race, Gretna, NE

This past Saturday I once again traveled over to Nebraska to compete in the Dizzy Goat put on by the local trail running group known as the GOATz or Greater Omaha Area Trail Runnerz.  The race is put on at the Schramm Park State Recreation Area outside of Gretna, NE which is just south of Omaha.  The course is a 3.25 mile mix of trails, grass, and pavement with 600 feet of elevation change per lap.  You run odd numbered laps clockwise and even numbered laps counterclockwise, thus leading you into the fog of a dizzy goat!

It is helpful that they have you wear different colored rubber bracelets to remind yourself of which way you are going, especially a few hours into the run when you yourself can forget just which colored flags you are suppose to be following!  Twelve hour runners began at 7am and 3 hour runners would begin at 4pm with us 6 hour runners starting at 1pm, right about the hottest time of the day, though I think it got hotter all afternoon!

The start of the 6 hr Dizzy Goat Race, photo by Mike Buckley
My original intention had been to come to the Dizzy Goat and run 8-10 laps within the 6 hour time frame. However, race day weather of high heat, (86F at 1pm) and humidity would see me need to reassess those plans while out on the course.  The 600ft of elevation change may not seem like much over 3.25 miles, but it adds up especially in the sun.  There is one hill, fondly known as "What the Hill?" which has 150 ft of gain/loss in one quarter mile.  Yeah, I hiked that all 3x I went up it.  I thought running down it would be tough on my quads, but I was actually able to slowly jog down it all 4x during the day.

The night before the Dizzy Goat, there was a downpour in the greater Omaha area that caused the course to start out being muddy in a few places, especially one short tenth of a mile stretch that ended up being tacky, (runners know what I mean) all day and had most of us resorting to an impromptu side trail around it on several laps.

Crossing the suspension bridge early in the race, photo by Mike Buckley
Another interesting piece of the course is the suspension bridge we crossed each lap.  Depending upon how many people may be running across it, this bridge can be easy to cross, or jump all over making your legs feeling pretty strange!  

The Dizzy Goat is staffed by some of the best and most excitable volunteers that you can find out there! Because my shirt had the word "Firecracker" on it, each time I would near the mid-lap water stop, a volunteer would loudly proclaim here comes "Firecracker."  In addition, at the end of each lap as I came to the aid station, a nice guy would take my water bottle from me and fill it with water and ice.  One of those times, ultrarunning star Kaci Lickteig, (the Pixie Ninja) even filled my bottle for me.  She was a real kind and encouraging volunteer as I would pass through changing laps.  It was so awesome to meet her in person. She will be carrying the hopes and dreams of many in Nebraska and the Midwest this weekend when she lines up in Squaw to run the Western States 100 for her first time.

Coming downhill towards the end of a counterclockwise loop, photo by Mike Buckley

Honestly, Saturday for 6 hours was a test of endurance and dealing with suffering.  In order to qualify for a finisher's medal at the Dizzy Goat you must either run the whole time of your designated race or finish the equivalent of 1 lap per hour of your race.  That may not seem like much, but it can be tougher than you think, especially with the 3 H's: Heat, Humidity, and Hills. Though my plan was to run 8-10 laps, that slowly slipped away during the day and I even considered calling it a day at 6 laps and 19.5 miles, but God helped me push through and finish a 7th lap about 5hrs and 43 minutes into the race.  Then I was done and received my medal, placing 16th/60 overall and 11th male/23.  

Praise God!  Here again the truth of Roman 5:3-5 comes to my mind of how God grows us in life,
"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."

Some people may think it's weird to rejoice in our sufferings, but it is through suffering that God makes us stronger, both spiritually, and physically.  I pray that as my character is built, it is a character that shines forth God and the hope I have in Him, for He has never put me to shame.  He is my hope and my strength, the ultimate reason I run and race, to give Him glory.  Like Eric Liddell in the movie Chariots of Fire, I live for those moments when I am running and "I feel His pleasure."  Yeah, Saturday was a sufferfest that I am still recovering from, but it was also joy in God's Creation and under His guidance I finished the race.  May we all be able to claim we have run the race of this life to His glory.


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