My 4:00 AM wake up call wasn’t awful.
My two and a half hour drive to De Pere wasn’t awful, except for that one part where Mr. HappyPace had me pull over and demoted me to the passenger seat because I’m a little too swervey on narrow country roads.
It was the moment I stepped out of the warm car to collect my race packet when it began to feel horrendous.
Then the first visit to the porta potty was delightful, on opposite day. The frozen plastic toilet seat on my previously warm cheeks sent an arctic chill up my spine and froze the marrow in my bones. From that point on I couldn’t ignore the frigid elephant in De Pere, WI. Single digit, negative windchill cold.
After what felt like a year on the South Pole the race finally started, in mass shivering confusion. I couldn’t see an official starting mat so I just hit start on my Garmin when I heard the gun go off. It wasn’t my Garmin that I was worried about, it was my feet. I was running on them but could not feel them at all. They were completely numb. What a scary feeling it is, to run on feet with no feeling.
Those are the thoughts of a runner wearing a bunny hat because it’s the warmest hat she owns.
Eventually my feet warmed up, I was running with a comfortable amount of body heat, I took in the scene of a great course, I high fived a girl I know from Twitter, things weren’t so bad.
It began to suck again in miles 6 through 8, a gradual uphill into the biting, ferocious wind. I was also fighting with other runners for a small patch of concrete trail not covered by pace-killing snow. Winter racing is not for the weak willed.
After an hour, twenty nine minutes, thirty one seconds of frigid running I flung myself through the finish to collect my chocolate and bonus jar of cheese spread.
Was it worth the chocolate? Sure. But more worth the bragging rights of toughing it out when it would have been easier to call it another DNS, or turn at the 5k turnaround point. The moment of making that mental decision to not take the shortcut back to warmth is what I’ll remember most from this race months from now.