I had some serious doubts toeing the line on Saturday morning for the Greenland Trail 25K. First off, the conditions were downright nasty. Snow, wind, and freezing temperatures are not the most welcoming conditions for any race, let alone an all-trail, mostly single track course.
To make matters worse, I completely underestimated the weather and was scrambling before the start to decide what to wear. I suppose it’s quite silly to assume you’ll experience the same calm conditions at your home in Aurora than at the Greenland Open Space about an hour south on a 95% exposed course. At the end of the day, I was 100% happy with what I ended up wearing, but that definitely wasn’t the case during many parts of the race.
The proverbially gun went off and I shot off the start line way too quickly. Perhaps it was the excitement or simply the need to get moving and warm up, but my first mile would be my fastest at 8:32. Reflecting on this point in the race really makes me chuckle, but you have to understand the race and course profile before I tell you why. The Greenland Trail Races feature three race distances: 50K, 25K and 8M. All three follow the same looped course around the open space, which is about 7ish miles and 500 feet of elevation gain.
Back to the reason why I’m chuckling: The first couple of miles are on a jeep road that’s low enough on the course to not have a serious amount of snow on it. Couple that with the fact that the 50K-ers had already taken off and – what I assumed – had “broke trail” for us later racers, and I thought we were in for a lovely, runnable race course. At this point I had also warmed up and was cursing my wardrobe choice of an extra sweatshirt layer and leather Swany toaster gloves. I’d eat these words later.
Mile 3.5 is when we make a left hand turn onto a 1.5-mile climb. The second we turned onto this part of the course is when things completely changed. The course was completely rutted out and snowy, with zero places to get a good foothold. Imagine running in super soft sand at an average 7% grade. Oh, and that’s when the wind came into play. Apparently as we ran southwest on the course we had a tailwind. Surprise! And the next factor would be one that came into play the rest of the race: at this point you start encountering 50K-ers who are moving at a slower pace than the other shorter distance competitors. The only way to pass anyone on this course was to run into calf-deep snow. Let’s just say my heart rate was a hot mess during this race.
Finally, mile 5 is when the 3ish-mile descent begins. I’ve never been looking forward more to a descent during a race than at this point. My quads and lungs were burning from more work during the ascent than originally planned, and I really wanted some reprieve. Oh, and at this point I was back to liking my gloves and sweatshirt layer again, as the wind was biting. Turning into the descent portion was bittersweet, as I quickly realized that the wind was now completely head-on, and strong. Happy to be going downhill but contemplating how long it took for frostbite to set in on facial features, I was once again cursing the conditions.
After the turnaround for the second loop I had a very sad realization: we would not be returning to that wonderful jeep road again that we had ran along for the first couple of miles. Instead, we bypass that portion and are treated to a mile-long climb that is much like the others: snowy and rutted out. You can see that little blip around mile 9 of my Strava data.
I won’t go into too many specifics of the second loop, as not only did the conditions get worse (snow picked up, wind strengthened and there were now snow drifts on course), but so did the number of obscenities flying around in my head. Here’s a chronological list of various thoughts I had throughout the race:
Ugh, I’m already warm. Why did I wear this sweatshirt? And my hands are already sweating. Shit.
Okay, first couple of miles were in the 8’s, that’s good. If I can keep that up I’ll be happy.
I’m sure the 50K-ers cleared the trail for us. We should be good.
Sweet baby Jesus this is horrible! Why is there so much snow? I hate snow! I’m going nowhere and can’t get any stable footing!
Yikes that wind is cold. Thank goodness I wore this extra sweatshirt.
Did the 50K-ers even come this way? What the hell!
Ugh. My arms are already sore from these heavy gloves. Stupid gloves.
Holy shit that wind is cold. My ears are burning like crazy. I wonder how long it takes for frostbite to set in?
Another climb? Dammit! Stupid snow! I hate you!
Okay here’s the turnaround. Look happy. Smile. This is great!
Fack we aren’t hitting that jeep road again. Dammit! Didn’t the 8-milers hit this too? Why is this so snowy still? Oh my god I hate snow!
I think it’s getting colder. Thank god I wore this sweatshirt. My hands are nice and warm too.
Am I running like a drunk person? Yep, I totally look drunk.
God this sucks. Why did I do this again? Oh, because I had Olive Garden last night. Horrible excuse, Amanda, horrible.
Yep, frostbite. I’ve got frostbite.
Finally some downhill. Ouch. What the hell? Oh now it’s snowing again? No, it’s like snow-pelting. That shit hurts.
Dude. Amanda. You’re from Minnesota. Stop being such a pansy.
Everything hurts and I’m dying.
Thank god for these gloves.
Okay just a couple of miles left. Give it what you’ve got.
I hate snow. Did I say I hate snow?
Is that a ponytail? Dammit Amanda, go get that ponytail.
Finally, the finish line!
That was awesome.
I’d do it all over again. I gave more of myself than I thought I had and fought to the finish. I may have cursed the course more times than I ever have in any race, but it was a confidence and character builder.
Happy to have finished sixth place female and third in my age group, and represent the Roost at another race! GO ROOST!
Up next: Collegiate Peaks 25M on 5/7.