Friday, May 6, 2011

THAT, is how a 50 goes……

Well now that I’m doing the blog thing again (from time to time), as you can imagine, I have a number of stories that have piled up over the months – but this is my favorite; without a doubt my best 50 mile run to date….

So it was a local run, 50 miles through a lot of ugly woods.  “Ugly”?  Well, really a lot of the course was very runable, but I’d say about 10% was pure walk / crawl.  Mud up to your waist, which you battle for one step at a time kind of thing – and use the rope that was laid out to pull yourself along with!  It’s a tuff course, but not as tough as my upcoming Indiana run, but tougher than Everest anyway.

And what was special about this run?  In a nutshell, I run it every year, but this time beat my PR by over a half hour, taking second in my age group, and finishing toward the top of the field; but how did that happen…..   Ah, I’m glad you asked….

The day started out, and continued, and ended up being – rainy.  It was cool, wet, grey and ugly.  Of course that’s just how I like ‘em!  I tend to overheat and dehydrate; a weakness of mine, and one thing that’s for sure – if it’s going to be a good day, it’s not going to be hot out!  So off we went at 6:00 AM, and this 50 mile run started out – HORRIBLY!  So I was coming off a series of bad runs anyway, and this time I decided to mix it up a bit by setting the Garmin virtual partner to 11 hours, and trying to stay ahead of them.  I had never made 11 hours before on this course, although I came close once – maybe the Trail Slammer will tell you about that one (but I doubt that’s a race he’ll recount – he only talks about the pretty ones!)  

Anyway, so my stomach hurt, my legs felt like lead, I was tired, and I quickly fell behind.  Actually the Garmin said I was doing ok, but runner after runner passed me as I slowed down – and then after multiple pit stops, I believe I was very nearly dead last.  Not even 10 miles in and I was ready to drop, because, well “just because”.  Welcome to my 2010 season!  I decided not to worry about my place, and just focus on the Garmin, which actually told me I was about a mile ahead of where I needed to be, so I took some solace, but I knew that things were bad – although the good news was that the recent interest in Ultra running has brought a lot of very inexperienced people that always make the mistake of going out too fast (and thinking they can run without shoes) – that was a mistake I wasn’t making, I can assure you!  And so painfully I trudged on – drinking as much as I could, hitting my Ensures at my drop points, and generally feeling sorry for myself.  Although I tried to remind myself that “things can, and do, change”; but I wasn’t feeling it.  And at that point I knew I must have been in dead last.

Well a funny thing happened at about mile 20, and in honesty it all changed in about a 15 minute time span.  Maybe the Ensures kicked in, maybe some sort of blood sugar shift, but I found myself running fairly quickly.  In fact suddenly the music improved (yep, I’m an avid I-Pod runner), and it was coming fairly easily.  The Garmin said I was gaining even more on my virtual partner, and in general I was feeling pretty good; I of course reminded myself that this will change too, but enjoy it while it lasts!

Soon I saw my first of many “targets”.  A person that had passed me probably a half hour before and I was coming up fast on them – well, that felt good, I actually passed someone; I dodged around their wheelchair and moved on to the next.  And the next, and the next.  At this point a lot of people were losing steam, and I was picking it up; during the next 5 miles I literally passed dozens of people, telling most that they’ll be passing me back soon…. but by mile 30, I was moving past fewer and fewer people as there were simply not many left, and at that point aid stations were giving me my time in comparison to the “leader” – that was encouraging!

At 36 I came into the aide station that the Librarian and my son (name to be determined) were manning, and both of them looked at me with dropped jaws, telling me I was way ahead of where they thought I’d be – well, I knew I had 14 miles left, and while that didn’t seem like a big deal, when things go bad, 14 can be an eternity….  And then I met her…..

As I buzzed along I came up to, and prepared to pass, a fairly young gal.  She seemed a bit oriental, very attractive, and generally nice.  As always, I came up along side of her and said “Hi”, she said “Hi”, and then I passed her.  But not 10 minutes later she was back!  Somehow she picked back up on me, and was alongside me.  Frankly I thought that was fine, but then she started talking.  And talking.  I heard about her latest Ultra win, and she must have told me 10 times that she was currently in third place for the women’s field.  She asked what place I was in but of course I had no idea.  Soon I couldn’t take it anymore, and mustered up the energy to again pick up the pace and leave her behind.  And ten minutes later – yep, back!  It was clear at this point that there was some amount of competition brewing between us.  She was no longer “pretty” to me, but frankly I thought she might be trying to talk me to death to get me out of the way.  Now I must say that I am NEVER competitive with other runners, only my watch, but strangely enough this was becoming an exception!  We started to “leapfrog” each other as the miles ran on.  We never separated by more than a quarter mile, and I think both of us would give a very subtle look back over our shoulder for the other when we went around a turn.  We would go into aide stations together, and neither would let the other leave without them, always under the guise of “keeping with company”.  But we each knew better.

However, I was still running well, and only once in a while did each of us pass someone, as we were towards the front of the field.  Lots of “Barefoot Runners” and the occasional new Ultra runner were laid to waste – we were a team, but again, there was a definite competitive thing going on –in hindsight I think we both finished better because of it.  We trudged through mud pits together, walked across lakes.  Until, well, I had a plan….

As I mentioned, dehydration is my Achilles heal, but on that day I was staying pretty well hydrated.  And being cool, grey and wet, I was still running very well.  We were at mile 45, and I knew an aide station was coming up at 46, and this would be my chance.  I made an effort to move ahead of her, and keep up ahead no more than a quarter mile, always watching….  When the Garmin said that I was within just under a mile of the aide station, and I saw that I was hidden from her, I hit the gas!  I’m sure I picked up a half mile on her, and soon came flying into the aide station, unseen by the talking machine.  Of course the folks there motioned for me to sit down, while they filled my water, but I’d have none of it!  I shouted out my number, and ran straight through!  No water at all – a very selfish, stupid move – but this was my mindset at the time!  I knew that I could pull off four more miles without water, although I also knew that was pushing it, as mild nausea was already starting to show itself.  But I lit it up for the last 4 miles – at that point even running the uphill’s.
Of course I still continually looked over my shoulder for her, but it wasn’t to be, and a grueling four miles later I crossed the finish line at 10:42 – light years ahead of my target, and second in my age group.   As if it couldn’t get any cooler, as I crossed the line and started walking, a wave of dehydration induced nausea hit me, and I quickly walked over to the woods to throw up – how cool is that!  The perfect finish!  And a FULL 4 minutes later she came in, and of course started talking.  “I’m like, Oh my God, what, like, happened to you?  I didn’t even, like, see you at that last aid station???”  Well, I told her I didn’t spend a lot of time there, and she stared at me – her last words were “You didn’t….”  I said I did, as I wanted to get the best time I could.  We did a mercy hug, and that’s the last I saw her, but she did say she still came in third for the women’s field, so I was happy for her on that.

All right, I’m not really proud of that last move, but hey, I really didn’t do anything wrong – it’s my race to run as I wanted – but all in all, this was definitely my best 50 ever; although you wouldn’t know it by the first 20!  But things change, that’s for sure.  I finished in the rain, sick, and shaking – possibly one of the most awesome experiences of my life!

1 comment:

  1. Hey "The Doctor", very entertaining stuff. I'm glad to hear that I'm not the only one who's pulled the old sprint-through-the-last-aid-station trick to try and drop another runner before the finish. Too funny. Glad you had a great race. I might have actually seen you out there that day (though I ran the wimpier, less ugly distance).