Friday, October 2, 2015

2015 Dances With Dirt 50K Race Report

A Speedo and a Bow Tie?

Dirty Brides relay team

You know that nightmare where your friends invite you to a costume party and you show up in a Speedo and a bow tie... only to discover it's not actually a costume party and you're the only one dressed up? That happened to me this past weekend at the Dances with Dirt 50K in Hell, Michigan.

I decided to run this race at the last minute, just a couple of days beforehand. I was initially considering running the 100K relay with some friends. However, I had some work commitments later that afternoon so I figured it was wiser to just run the shorter, individual 50K race, which started earlier in the morning so that I could be done in time to get back to work.

My friends had talked about how crazy this race was, how everyone dressed up in wild costumes, and (perhaps most importantly) how much beer everyone drank during the event. If you know me, you know there are three things I love: running, drinking beer, and running while drinking beer (in my underwear). So this race seemed like the perfect storm!

Standing in the dark before the 6:15 am race start, I slipped out of my sweatsuit and stripped down to my stars-and-stripes Speedo and matching American-flag arm warmers and bow tie. Feeling a little self-conscious, I glanced around at my compatriots, to see what other crazy costumes people were wearing. You know, maybe some sexy nurses or sexy cops. Perhaps a Chippendale's dancer or two. My heart immediately sank into my stomach.

"Oh fuck. I'm the only one dressed up," I gasped as I glanced around at all the serious-looking runners in their serious-looking singlets and actual running shorts. No one else is dressed like a jack ass. "What the hell is going on," I wondered. Well, as I would later find out... While the relay race, which starts later in the day, is basically a drunken costume party, the 50K is a serious race for the more serious runner. Well, fuck me.

"Allow myself to introduce... myself."
And then I was in last place.

So the race starts and I immediately find myself in a pack of three other, much more seriously dressed, runners. We're moving pretty fast, flying through the first mile or two of technical single track in the dark with our headlamps and flashlights. Then suddenly the lead runner comes to an abrupt halt and we four all crash into each other. We look down at a sign in the middle of the trail that says, "Wrong Way". Shit, we're off course already?

We all immediately start shining our lights into the woods, wondering if perhaps this is the start of one of the infamous off-trail sections through the forest that we'd been warned about? Suddenly the other runners behind us start arriving and everyone is trying to figure out where to go. It's starting to become a real cluster fuck. Panicking a bit, I make an executive decision and start running down the trail to my right, which though unmarked, seems like it must be the right direction. [Spoiler alert: it was the completely wrong fucking direction].

Jim Harbaugh and staff are everywhere these days!
Several minutes later I come to an unmarked intersection where the trail diverges into three different, equally unmarked directions. Fuck me (again). Defeated, I turn around and run back to the intersection with the "Wrong Way" sign. Apparently the wrong way was actually the right way. What the fuck? Anyway, I'm now in dead last place with about a hundred runners in front of me on the narrow single track. My race is over. I decide to turn around and head back to the car.

On my way back to the car, something occurs to me: I'm acting like a whiny little bitch. Sure, I've lost any chance at winning. But so what? It's a long race. We've still got four or five hours of running. That's a lot of time to make up a lot of ground. If I put in a hard effort, who knows how many people I can reel back in. Maybe I can even end up winning my age group!

So... I step on the gas and start flying down the narrow trail at break-neck speed, catching up to some other runners. I feel like a bit of an ass sprinting around people through the bushes in my tight little shorts with my butt checks hanging out. I'm sure I look like an ass. And I'm pretty sure at least one other runner must have muttered, "what an ass!" Though I guess that comment could be taken a couple of different ways ;)

Anyway, I continue flying down the trails in my tight little bun-huggers, occasionally catching up with another runner or two. However by now things are really starting to get spread out. As I reach the little out and back turn-around at mile 17, I realize that everyone else ahead of me must have a pretty good lead since I didn't see anyone running back on the inbound section of my out-and-back. Oh well. I guess I'm just going to finish in whatever place I'm currently in. What place am I currently in anyway I wonder???

Oddly, this is one running costume I don't own... yet!
Running through the woods drunk

Things got relatively uneventful after that. Well except for the beers I chugged at the aid station. And running through the forest, completely off trail while slightly buzzed. Oh, and the "stripper pole". And also that section of the course where, after crossing back and forth over a river a few times, we then had to run waist-deep down the middle of the river for a quarter mile. You know, just your typical run-of-the-mill lunchtime run for Big Johnny.

One minute I was running along on a well-maintained trail day-dreaming about who-knows-what (probably my upcoming PowerPoint presentation at work) when suddenly the course markings went off into the woods and down a steep game trail. Then, the next thing I know, we're not even on an established trail anymore, but just following ribbons hanging from branches as we weave through the forest.

I like that they're running with bottles of beer :)
photo courtesy Shane Angove
At some point we came to a ridiculously steep nearly-vertical hill which has apparently been dubbed "the stripper pole". I was somewhat disappointed to learn that there weren't any actual strippers here. I guess 9 am on a Saturday morning is considered off-peak hours. Anyway, after the stripper pole we continued meandering aimless through the woods. There seemed to be only one rule-of-thumb guiding whoever marked the course: when in doubt, go uphill; if there is no nearby hill, go over any fallen tree you can find.

Oh wait, I take it back, there seemed to actually be two rules-of-thumb guiding whoever marked the course. The other rule was: why just run along next to the river on a the trail when instead you can crisscross pointlessly back-and-forth across the river... and then run straight up the middle of the river for a quarter mile for good measure.

OK,  but enough whining about the course. Let's talk about beer! Imagine my surprise and delight when I arrived at an aid station where the volunteers asked me, "What can I get you... whiskey or beer?" Several minutes (and several beers) later, I stumbled out of the aid station with a decent buzz.

That bitch is wearing my outfit!
Ugh, I can't believe I forgot my body glitter!

The last few miles after that were all a blur. I may have passed another runner or two. I may have taken a nap. Who can say really? Finally I emerged out of the forest and sprinted across the grassy field towards the finishing line... past Jim Harbaugh and Michigan coaching staff, past the sexy nurses and the dirty brides, past the Chippendale dancers and the American presidents and first ladies waving their huge three-pound floppy polyurethane penis.

I was pleasantly surprised to learn that I'd finished 3rd overall in the 50K and first in my age group! Though, full disclosure, there were at least one or two 50 Mile runners who came through the 50K checkpoint ahead of me on their way to running the full 50 miles. #Badass #Gangsta

After the race I got a chance to briefly catch up with some old friends including a few of my old high-school training buddies: Jesse Sweeney, Marty McLaughlin, and Ramon Hernandez. Sadly none of them were in costumes of any kind. Would it have really killed them to put on a wedding dress or some leather S&M gear? Come on! Luckily I met some folks from the Motown Ann Arbor Hash House Harriers who were wearing kilts and drinking beer. My kind of peeps.

And then, inconceivably, I ran into not one, but five other dudes also wearing matching American flag Speedos and bow ties. And their Speedos were even smaller and tighter than mine. And they were covered in red, white, and blue body glitter. And they had a giant rubber penis. I've never felt so inadequate or emasculated in my life. Immediately I vowed to return one day -- with a tighter Speedo and enough body glitter to make Lady Gaga and Ke$ha jealous!

photo courtesy Shane Angove

Here's a link to the official results. And here's my Strava data (note: my GPS inexplicably turned itself off about a mile or so before the finish line).

Congrats to Andrew Bucci, who won the men's 50K race, as well as second place Matthew Zigich. And kudos to the women's 50K winner Melissa Davies who finished only 15 minutes behind me in 4th place overall!

Big ups to Jonathan Hastings and Steve Barber who finished 1st and 2nd in the 50 Miler, and who, as mentioned, both came through the 50K checkpoint ahead of me. And congratulations to Michele Magagna, who won the women's 50 Miler, finishing 5th overall!

And of course, props to everyone who ran; everyone who finished; and everyone who crossed the line carrying a bottle of beer ;)


Matt Zigich said...

lol, was tired of looking at your ass until you got lost ;)

Big Johnny Burton said...

Ha ha. No worries, I don't blame you Matt. LOL.