Monday, March 26, 2012

NJ Ultrafest 2012- 50K

Well, where to start this story. I guess starting around Wednesday I was totally wiped out, but naturally as I always do, I pushed through my workouts and got everything in. I even managed to run with the MCVET Back on My Feet crew and meet some awesome people. By the end of that day I was thinking how much i wanted to up my race to the 50mile run, however, rationally this was not the best plan. Thursday was crazy, I don't remember much of the day but again I hung out with some awesome ppl and stayed up much later that my 48Hr pre-race sleep schedule should allow. By 5am on Friday I was UP and OUT to teach yoga, and then another angel fell into my lap, so I spent 45 min driving her around Baltimore bringing her back to her hotel. I barely had enough time to squeeze in my swim (where another great friend stopped me and gave me some great news- TBD) and then stop to grab fuel for my race. I got home with 35 min to pack for the night and the run and shower.

By 10:30 Frank and I were on the road to NJ. I, felt like death, I continually began to nod off, but was always interrupted by friendly conversation and out of respect and gratitude that I was NOT driving I thought I ought to stay awake. So i did. About 4 hours later we arrived at the Augusta, NJ fairgrounds for check-in/ packet pick up.

 Meeting Jim, ML and her husband we hung out and chatted for a while, checked in to meet Rick, the race director- first impression "What a jerk"... im NOT allowed to fold my bib down?!?! WTF??... but the smarter side of me was thinking, "eh, it's his gig, he put a lot of effort into this, I guess i can deal." After hanging out in the warmth of the Sun for another 45 min, off to the hotel we went. Ahhhh- bed?? Oh wait, its only 5:30... 6pm came, I felt mildly ill, weak and exhausted, presumably feverish, but knew it was important to get one more full meal in. Dinner at the Hampton Diner it was. In my less than 100% health, i wanted nothing to eat, so I got the usual- greek salad with a side of lots of bread. I ate till I was utterly bored with it and then forced a bit more in. Back at the hotel... i was in bed by 7:30, out cold by 8pm (apparently snoring- how embarrassing!!!).

Race Morning- took in more calories than usual- around 600 and then my typical coffee. Surprising to me, I felt pretty good, nothing like i had the night prior. I immediately decided to see what I COULD do. I mean, it was ultra-fest and I was running the 5K of the ultra world, a "dinky" 50 kilometers... so I had half another bar 30min pre race and an Emergen-C and just like that we were off and running. Within the first 200yrds of the race, we'd gone the wrong way and although warned fully by Rick, how STUPID it is to follow the person in front of you, we ALL did just that. So at 1.2 mi in... Rick comes running and screaming at us 50K runners to STOP STOP STOP... not something you hear often in a running race...but we Did HALT and make a 180 hooking us directly into the 10mi loop (adding .2 or so to our overall distance- negligible in my personal opinion).

I was moving fast, or felt fast, pacing with a guy who told me he was a marathon runner who agreed to a canyon run 44mi long who figured he ought to try to up the distance... he eventually took OFF... part of me thinking, cool! and part of me thinking, "no way he's gonna hold that pace."(But I wasn't even sure I could hold MY pace- who was I to judge someone else's race).

By the end of the first loop, it was nice, warm and sunny. the top 2 guys and the marathoner all gaining distance ahead of me, which was of little concern to me, since 1) personal best was all I was going for and 2) the idea of being 1st female was fun enough, i kept an eye out and made an effort to continue to gain distance ahead of the 2nd female. I dropped my long sleeve shirt and gloves at my drop bag and grabbed a Greens bar, and spent the next mile eating 300kcal, already feeling better.

The entire second loop was great, I felt strong, steady, pain free, the breeze kept the sweat drying on us runners so no one was dripping- nice to not be wearing wet clothing. The sun was shining  and overall the runners from 100mi and below looked strong. Circling along seeing the same faces, wishing one another all the best, having full understanding of how different each persons goal was today. I was grateful for every kind comment and every smile. I ran into Frank for the first and second times during this loop, low-5s as we crossed paths.

During this loop I'd somehow managed to bypass the three men in front of me and was now knowingly leading the 50K race. 21 miles down in 2:45min...I was confused, and now getting nervous as the pain began to build that I wouldnt be able to maintain. My hopes were the same: that i had created enough distance between me and female #2 that even when i did, and i expected to, burnout... i'd still walk/ crawl my way through the finish line and maybe hold onto 1st female.

Well, the whole loop hurt, I tried to stomach another bar, half way through i wrapped it up, stuck in my sports bra with the intent to try again in a few, nausea/ the literal "not want to eat" associated with pushing yourself too hard was setting in. I knew I was slowly unraveling around 24 miles, I hit the edge of my comfort zone. My left leg was heavy and then... the magic came. One the top guys I had passed was 2 mi behind me at the loop water station, he took his own time to fill my water bottle... a very very little thing, but the kindness made it all worth it. I felt completely refreshed for the next 15 min. Then the pain settled back in, mentally I knew I had roughly an hour, 6 x 10min sections... I can always run just one more mile, just 10 more mins.

Headed to the last 5K of the course I crossed Frank again, and for the first and only time our low 5 was right on, the resounding 'Smack' recognizing one anothers pain and effort gave me enough to make it my next checkpoint- the beach ball... at mile 4 and 8ish of the loop there was this beachball stuck in the mud, that for some reason signified playfulness and joy and every time I saw it I was revived. This time as well.

I was now oscillating between confidence and crumbling with every 100 yards under feet. Moving through the OMG, can I make this? to the Duh, of course you can... coming back to my sources of strength and motivation: The 6th Branch, Semper Fidelis Health and Wellness, My Catonsville runners, The ppl that inspire me and support me: Friends/ family and the people I have lost through great suffering (Nicole, John and others less personally known).... and all the people out there who have brought my life to where it is today. For All of that, Relentless Forward Progress (RFP)- ONE MORE STEP... always just one more was continually possible.

Then there it was, the end of the trail, 1 mile-ish to go... I ran into Zsuzsanna, another new running acquaintance running the 100mi, a couple loving words later I was headed up hill (the only hill in the loop)... and OMG, new muscles (aka not the exact same pounding my legs had been taking the last 8 miles of flatness) ... i took off, and carried it in. 4hr 9 min 6 seconds I had actually placed 1st. Kinda Cool, I thought.

More awesome ppl, high fives, and some food later. The day was at its end for me, and soon enough Frank too. Wishing I could stay and support the 100milers through the night, Frank shuffled me into the car as he has family to attend to back in MD... so back on the road we went.

RACE Highlights:
1) Beach ball!!
2) The woman that totally fell on her face, got up and kept going- she's awesome!!
3) one of the marathon girls had a Killer smile, that just made you feel so damn good to see someone that happy.
4) the marathoner I raced with for the first few miles, he made it! In a good deal of pain I'd say from the facial expressions we shared in the final loop, but he made it!
5) The Greens bar was amazing, best mid race meal I've had thus far.
6) Hammer's HEED being at each stop was great, but the ice cold Poland Spring water stop was like heaven!
7) oh yea, the turning around in the first mile... seeing that angry, yet clearly big hearted race director running and yelling like a bad comedy show... PRICELESS!
8) the compliments post race felt pretty good... as one the volunteers attempted to talk me into running 20 more miles for the 50mile race.
9) Frank finishing, and proclaiming how hard it was (even though he did fantastic!)
10) The Weather- yay SUN! Post race sweet potatoes and oh yea: post -race Sam Adams Alpine spring ;)...

4 weeks to Labor of Love 50 Miler!!

1 week to Cherry Blossom 10miler!!

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