She Got Run Over By a Damned Old Train

I finished.This is my race report for the Snake River Island Hop. Trust me, the title will make sense.

I signed up for the 100K last fall, on a whim, for all the wrong reasons, after promising myself I’d take the winter off of training to work on core training & burning off some of the extra forty pounds of fuel I’m carrying. And a month or so into training, the pain in my slightly-damaged knee led me to quit running altogether and to train to walk this event. Walking 62 miles in 14 hours? Not possible – not for this body.A few days before the race, the race director told me I was the only person signed up for the 100K, and because she couldn’t justify asking the volunteers to stay out on course that long for one person, she was cancelling the 100K. She was very apologetic. I was ecstatic. Seriously. A hearty “thanks be to God!” escaped my lips. At risk of sounding melodramatic, this notification ranked right up there with “the biopsy was negative.”

I’ve run a few times, for relatively short distances, in the weeks before SRIH. I decided I’d risk injury and push myself to run part of this race, but not so much that I’d wear out and DNF. (I’m not sure my heart could take another ultra DNF.) Janson, another Nomad, started with me. I let him know I’d be walking most of the course, and he said that was fine with him as he hadn’t trained specifically for this race. (I both hate and admire people that can run a 50K on a whim.) Having Janson alongside me led me to run more than I otherwise would have, and for that I am grateful. A few hours in, I could tell I was pushing myself too hard, and let him know I wasn’t going to run much more. At that point, he stopped being my pacer and went off on his own.

I had a drop bag waiting for me at the turn-around point. I put my mp3 player & headphones in the bag. I almost never listen to music when I’m exercising outside, as I want to experience the world around me. On really long runs, though, the music can be a great motivator. I figured I’d leave it until the second half, as I shouldn’t need it earlier on and I didn’t want to get spoiled. (It’s a weird thing, but I figured I’d appreciate it more later – and boy howdy did I!) I also put in a pair of socks & shorts (I started the race in capri tights). I didn’t avail myself of either one, and I regretted it.

It was a windy day, right from the start. The wind usually picks up later in the day, but the wind was already pretty brisk at 6 a.m. There were times is would slack, but it came roaring back. I didn’t switch to the shorts because I figured I’d get cold. (The day’s high temperature was predicted to be in the high-60’s (F).) I shoulda switched. Fortunately, I’d decided against the black tights, but I was too warm. I was wearing a pair of arm sleeves to protect my skin from the sun, and they cool nicely when damp. One of the bits of swag was an Icecot, and I’m really glad I kept that with me. I wrapped it around my neck to keep the sun off, but I soon employed it to keep me cool. I dampened it with water, and it kept my neck nice & cool. We’ve just met, Icecot, but I am seriously crushing on you.

Not changing my socks was stupid stupid stupid. Really stupid. Never making that mistake again. Nothing catastrophic happened. (I don’t get blisters from running. G’head – hate on me.) My feet were just really tired of those socks, and taking them off at the finish line was a very happy moment (not the-biopsy-was-negative happy, though).

Heading back toward the finish meant heading into the wind. At this point, the wind was strong enough to blow the hat off my head. Ah, spring in the Lower Columbia Basin! I tried running off & on, and my heart rate never went above 100 bpm. In other words, my legs were officially Not Coming to My Party. They were done. Specifically, my glutes were fried. I’ve never had that happen during a race. Trash my quads? Sure. But my glutes? I’m usually unaware of their presence until the next day when they remind me they had to take over for my completely trashed quads. And herein lies another lesson from this race: running a flat ultra is different than running a hilly one. Most trail races have a variety of terrain. We may curse it, but it means different muscles are being engaged at different times. On the flat, it’s the same motion for the entire race.

I finished. The course is bit short – my Garmin logged 29.67 miles – and I walked 90% of it. Because of that, I’m having some difficulty calling myself an ultrarunner. My ultrarunner friends will remind me that almost everyone walks at least some of an ultramarathon. I’ll feel better about it if I do better at the next one.

Next one? Yes, you read that right. Although I’ve pledged to spend my summer having FUN, I’m eyeing another. But I’m not signing up for it until I decide I’m going to do it. And whether I do it or not depends on how this summer goes. I plan to do a lot of hiking & riding, and if the hiking convinces me I can run the Chocolate Chip Cookie 50K at the end of October, I’ll sign up for it. And I’ll definitely do SRIH again. The scenery is nice, the volunteers are awesome, the trail is just thirty minutes from my house, and I’d like to improve my time.

I got home, grabbed a beer, poured some Epsom salts into the tub and sat in the tub while it filled. I slept poorly Saturday night, as my achy glutes kept waking me up. The good news is that my slightly-damaged knee and misshapen toe with the bunion were fine. (I prophylactically took Tylenol before, during, and after the race, rather than waiting for pain to tell me to take it.) The toe hurt off & on during the day, but never terribly so. Despite eating more than enough on Saturday, I was hungry & tired most of Sunday. My right glute feels like someone literally kicked me in the butt, and a tetchy glute has – predictably – given rise to a griping IT band. (Back to the core training!) My legs are tired today, and they’re achy when I’ve been sitting too long. But overall, the body feels fine.

Oh, about the title: As I was approaching the finish, David Allen Coe’s “You Never Even Called Me By My Name” started playing on my mp3 player. I am a terrible singer, but I’m willing to sing loudly and badly under the right circumstances. It timed out perfectly so that I was belting out “She got run over by a damned old train” as I was crossing the finish line.* Given that I’d spent the day on an old railroad grade, it seemed an appropriate way to end the race.

* Here’s the story behind that lyric, straight from the song itself:

“Well, a friend of mine named Steve Goodman wrote that song
and he told me it was the perfect country & western song
i wrote him back a letter and i told him it was not the perfect country & western song because he hadn’t said anything at all about mama,
or trains,
or trucks,
or prison,
or getting’ drunk
well he sat down and wrote another verse to the song
and he sent it to me,
and after reading it,
I realized that my friend had written the perfect
country & western song
and i felt obliged to include it on this album
the last verse goes like this here:

Well, I was drunk the day my mom got out of prison
and I went to pick her up in the rain
but before i could get to the station in my pickup truck
she got runned over by a damned old train”

Read more: David Allan Coe – You Never Even Call Me By My Name Lyrics | MetroLyrics

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