Rocks, Mud, and Emergency Room Visits
The morning of my first 50Km trail run started as planned, I got up at the ungodly hour of 4:15 (a whole 45 minutes earlier than usual), got drop bags packed, tried to make myself eat and soon got on the way to the race start.
A little less than a year ago I was at a conference where my roommate was this runner chick who wore her gear to bed so she could roll out of bed and get to her training run. In my attempt to convert her to the dirty side, I talked her in to signing up for some trail runs including a trail 50K. She spent the night at our place to be closer to the race.
We planned to run together and within the first mile we picked up a third, our mutual twitter buddy Kristen. We got up and over Pinnacle Mountain but coming down, Ashley’s knees were hurting. She was still way under her normal pace and finally told us to go on, she’d be fine. I spent the next 4 miles feeling like a total schmuck, I mean who leaves their running partner behind within the first few miles of long race? I caught up to Nicholas & Lisa who were up ahead. Lisa offered to slow down to wait for Kristen & Ashley to let us move on. And then my phone rang. My spouse happened to be on the course shooting photos and Ashley was in trouble. She needed a ride back to her car. She was dropping out and going to the ER. I felt even more guilty, like I personally twisted her knee. With a probable torn meniscus, she’ll be having an MRI this week.
Nicholas and I continued on, still at a very reasonable pace alternating running the downhills and flats and walking the hills. There was plenty of mud to cling to our shoes and water filled run offs and creeks to keep our socks wet. About every 4 miles we hit great aid stations with all kinds of goodies including home baked loveliness in the form of strawberry cake and chocolate chip cookies and of course the best volunteer cheerleaders on the planet. My bottle was quickly taken and refilled for me at every station while I shoveled food in my mouth, usually in the form of nutter butter cookies and fritos. The Hashers had a table in between two of the stations so we saw them at mile 13 and again at 17. In Hash fashion they offered the typical goodies plus V8, red bull and beer, they had several varieties on hand including PBR and Mich Ultra. I did not partake of the beer but it did make me look forward to the finish.
At the turn around, which was a little more than halfway since the return trip did not require the trip up, down and around the mountain, I realized that it had taken me 5 hours to get there and if I wanted to beat my goal of 9 hours I would have to be faster going back.
We talked less and ran more and eventually started passing people with a call of “good job”! At the aid station 8 miles from the finish I decided I had it in me to go and I needed to. Up to this point Nicholas had let me set the pace, running when I ran and slowing when I did. At some point I looked back and didn’t see Nick anymore. I decided to keep going, hoping he was right behind me. The workers at the final aid station were the most laid back of anyone I’d seen all day. They just let me get what I wanted and barely even spoke. It must be hard being out there all day. I knew my husband was waiting just ahead, taking photos on the last nasty hill on the trail up to the road. I needed to see his face one more time before I hit the torture of the final 2.5 miles of road to the finish. As I was on the long slow descent down the road from the park visitor center, he rolled by me in the truck to give me one more “GO!” and let me know that Nicholas was right behind me, which made me happy. On the flat final mile to the finish, I got passed by a guy finishing the 50 mile race. Moments before I had given in and started walking. He called back to me “we’re almost there, don’t give up, we have to do the best we can!” Right after that his other two running partners came up and one of them, John, tapped me on the shoulder and said “Tag!, You’re IT!”
Okay that’s it, I have to go as hard as I can which at that point was still not fast but it wasn’t walking either. I shuffled/danced in to the finish with a shout of “SOMEBODY GET ME A BEER!” at 8 hours 41 minutes, making my goal with 19 minutes to spare and making the return trip an hour and 20 minutes faster than the trip out.
After a hug from race director Chrissy, a high five from Course Queen Susy and another hug from 2nd place woman Jen who has been a great inspiration for me, I got a beer, another hug from my man and a chair. Then I ate 2 hot dogs and drank a bottle of chocolate milk while waiting for Nicholas, Kristen and Lisa and the other runners to come in.
Today in reflection, I’m still tired, I’m sore in the knees, I have a big blister under one toenail (typical) and I can’t get enough to eat. And I am looking forward to besting my time next year by an hour. Or more. I know I can.