The Beast that is Zumbro

I didn’t leave Zumbro empty handed. Even though I DNF’d, (DNF=looser spelled another way) I left Zumbro Bottoms feeling like I had just won the biggest race of my life. I never really thought of Zumbro as a race anyhow, but saw it as more of a personal challenge, with the actual journey leading up to the race as the hardest part of the challenge. I viewed the race as the reward for sticking with the challenge and seeing it through till the end. For the entire winter, I only made healthy lifestyle choices. I put most of my life on hold and scheduled the rest of it around race training and recovery periods. Zumbro wasn’t a weekend affair for me, it was an all winter affair with a very challenging training schedule. The reason for challenging myself was simply because I wanted to be a stronger/healthier/fitter person then the guy I was yesterday despite the medical diagnosis and doctors that said I couldn’t. I wanted to show all the people in this world who are dying from heart disease and other chronic disease, the endless possibilities when we become committed 100% to improving our health and wellness through lifestyle measures. Lifestyle trumps it all. When I toed that line Friday night at midnight in the middle of a wicked storm, I proudly realized I was in fact winning the challenge made to myself just by showing up and toeing the line. Here I was, standing at the start line, stronger, and more confident than ever in my abilities to charge off into the darkness through a raging blizzard to try conquering an absolute beast of what may have become that night based on conditions, one of the toughest/ruggedest ultra-marathon courses in the Midwest. Fail or finish, just having the courage to follow through on my commitment to this challenge and being able to step up to the start line in such intimidating conditions was a huge personal win. Right before he said “GO”, the race director was giving his pre-race spiel, and mentioned problems with medical access to parts of the course, and the fact EMS services would possibly be unavailable due to the remoteness of this course. Made me wonder if I was the only one racing who had previously experienced a heart attack followed by sudden cardiac arrest, a spontaneous coronary artery dissection, congestive heart failure, and was running with a built in Pacemaker/Defibrillator but at the same time in all seriousness, made me think of how far I had come, reaching a point where this wouldn’t be a problem for me. As far as the actual race, as much as I thought I was prepared to go the 50 mile distance headed into this race, I was quickly reminded you can never prepare completely for something like this without gaining some experience first. This was my first attempt at 50 miles. I never ran/trained in conditions like this because normally when we have a major winter storm I stay inside or very close to home on familiar and flat ground, and I don’t make a habit out of playing in mud while traversing up and down rugged single track on steep terrain in the dark. Trying to run up and down steep hills with everything from ankle deep mud/water, iced over slippery sections, to deep snow drifts and raging blizzard conditions on that ridge somewhere out there in that really dark windy night added in a twist my training or experience just didn’t cover. 17 miles on that course in those conditions is all It took to make me realize I need more experience and training before attempting to push out 50 miles in condition like those so I decided to drop at the end of my first loop while still feeling relatively strong but at the same time feeling certain that trying to see it through would leave a lasting mark that I would be feeling for months, and I am pretty sure I would have missed the cutoff anyhow based on my slow pace so I took the least physically painful path and dropped. Mentally is another story as I keep going over my reasons to drop and wondering the outcome if I would have pushed on. The memories of my time on that course are thankfully forever etched in my mind since it was too dark to take any photos. Thundersnow, heavy torrential rains, giant heavy wet snow flakes, fierce gale force winds knocking down big branches, deep snow drifts, ankle deep mud, followed with hill, after hill, after hill, after hill. The fact I stayed on my feet was one of the reasons I was so slow. I was overly cautious, going extra slow on the down hills for fear of landing on my rear. I did witness a couple superhuman beasts who passed by showing no fear while cruising with the speed and grace of a deer. A huge highlight for me was the chance to see some of the people in person who were actually able to push through these brutal crazy conditions that I would never have believed to be so brutal had I not witnessed it firsthand. I am in absolute awe of the those who finished. They are truly elite athletes to conquer in such extreme conditions. I will be back to challenge myself again next year, smarter, stronger, and more prepared for the brutality that’s Zumbro…





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