I DNFd at mile 25. Things started out all right. I was taking it easy, jogged the first 80 minutes through then started adding a little walking to conserve my energy. My core was warm, hands felt warm, and overall my body was handling the cold. After the first aid station at mile 6.5, I took my jacket off and wrapped it over my shoulders because I felt too warm and wanted to cool off, but did keep my mitts on. Got to the 12.5 mile turn around about 12:45 (race started at 10 am) and was the 7th female. The aid station was indoors and very very warm. I was in/out of there in probably 3 minutes. After I went back outside, my muscles in my hips started to tense up and I started to worry because I hadn't even hit the first aid station again at mile 18. Before I even made it back to the first aid station my hips were totally stiff, legs were not moving as fluid, and my morale was sinking.
My mental state before the race began was already shot because I got myself stressed out the night before, and while in the car to the race I discovered my music got wiped off my iPod somehow. I had just synced it again the night before so I have no idea what happened. I normally wouldn't care about music, but I knew I was doing this race by myself and would have no one to talk to, so I was looking forward to having some tunes. Needless to say, no music, running alone, flat course, and nothing interesting to look at made for a very lonely time out in the cold.
After I reached the third aid station at mile 18, things started to go downhill for me. My hands were getting more and more frozen. Putting my jacket back on may have helped warm up my arms and consequently my hands, but I wasn't thinking about that at the time. My core and arms seemed warm to me, but perhaps my arms were just numb and I couldn't tell? I think if I had used a different jacket as my top layer, I would've been comfortable the whole time. Next time? But my hands were becoming increasingly worse. I could no longer function with them and I couldn't access my pack without taking the mitts off. Every time I took the mitts off, my hands got worse and were unable to warm up in my wet mitts. The sub freezing temps (teens), and still getting over the flu were making my nose run like a waterfall so I had to keep blowing snot rockets. That eventually gave me a bad nose bleed so then I was scrambling into my pack to get tissues out with hands that were no longer able to work. Everytime the tissue filled up with blood, I had to take the mitts off to restuff my nose. It was this ridiculous cycle of my hands freezing. I couldn't get to my endurolytes, potatoes, or jelly beans without my mitts coming off so I got to the point where I stopped eating. At this time my water was also starting to get very cold and I was feeling anxious to get out of the freezing weather. I also was struggling with running on the snow. Some of it was powder, most of it was slippy and hard to get a nice push-off. It was almost worse than sand. I was wishing I had worn my YakTrax, but changed my mind at the last minute thinking the course had less snow. Stupid!
By mile 15 I knew I was finished. My hands had swelled up like balloons, and they were frozen and at risk of frostbite. My hips and thighs were stiff from the cold, my back was hurting from tensing up so much, behind my knees were sore from pushing off on slippy snow all day, my lungs felt a little strained from the cold, and I was feeling both of my achilles. I was totally over it and just wanted to be warm again! There was no way I was going to make it 50 miles in those conditions. My goal shifted to just finishing 25 miles so at the very least, I'd feel like I'm still "on track." I was happy to make it to the half way mark, very sad and bummed to DNF, but at the same time, knew my mind and body had done what it could for the day. This San Diego girl just wasn't adjusted to winter and running sub freezing temperatures. I also didn't want to get injured and set myself back 2 weeks trying to recover from this race.
Even though the course was totally flat, the 25 miles on snow felt like 50 miles on my body and mind. It was insane to me. And I couldn't believe how beat up people looked after the first 25 miles.
Things I'd do different:
1. Keep my jacket on or wear something thinner as a third layer so my arms could help keep my hands warm
2. Put those heat thingies in my mitts (I think you like snap them and they give off heat for a while?)
3. Wear more clothing around my hips
4. STRENGTH TRAIN! My glutes/hips have clearly weakened. My hip flexors are fine, but the sides in two spots around my hips are sore.
5. Make sure I triple check everything I need a couple days before.
6. Wear YakTrax regardless of how little snow it seems is out on the course
Perhaps, I'll just wait a couple years before doing a winter ultra. Between not being used to anything below 50 degrees, and being on the thin side, I'm simply not built for this! For now, I'll stick with my hot desert races :)