Now to do something stupid once.... we all do that right?... but to do it again....takes a special kind of idiot, a half-wit perhaps. ;)
And so the decision was set. After my experience in 2011 - my first trail half marathon ever; I was destroyed by the difficulty, spending the evening following the race in mild lactic acidosis and even though I placed second female was totally spent fininishing in 1:59:some secs. And yet I knew I'd be back.
One year later, coming from 13.1- a seemly a very long distance to suddently a normal daily run and actually qualifying the race mentally as a race of speed as opposed to endurance.... well a LOT has changed as anyone who has been reading is well aware. I debated even doing this race as the travel to and fro are more than the time spent running which under normal circumstances disqualifies the race from my calendar for financial purposes as well as just a way for me to weed through my "I wanna do that ONE"'s. Anyway I got someone to agree to come and so I signed up. Skipping ahead... I've a had a few rough weeks, edging near 6weeks I'd say of some terrible leg turnover and burn out (to be expected with my race schedule and build up in the past 8 months) But very few (except those close enough to listen to my unceasing whining) would know it. I've pushed through and foward. Leading up to this weekend I would have run my very first 80 mile training week and this race would push me (after a cool down jog) to two weeks consecutively topping off at 83miles.
So to get through the pre-race babble, I ran 3 x days of 15miles each in a row this last week a new achievement for me. By Friday, my legs seemed adjusted to running... so much so that tacking on 5 extra miles that day - post-nap and pre- second nap was very do-able. And then the weekend was off and going. Some 7 hours later I was in Lynchburg VA sleeping in the back of an SUV trying to neither scratch my skin off from the poison ivy that literally felt as though it was bubbling on my skin or break down in a puddle of tears as I fought through the frustration that I was not sleeping, not resting and horrifically desperate to stop itching.
At 6AM I felt blessed to had survived the night and grateful to no longer have to try to rest.... the itching seems to be much less when you're not sitting still. And the day began, as I got to witness two awesome runners take on their first half marathon on a seemingly cool but very humid August morning. The course brought them down a very green lush bike path and then up and around a very hilly loop x 2 and then back in. I ran a very relaxed 6-7 miles cheering for runners as they passed, unfortunately missing both Dave and Hunter at the intersection both times. So I made sure to be at the finish line. Anyway both runners made their goals and had a great experience but I wouldn't even begin to tell their stories.
So we're on the road again, headed back to Baltimore in time to help out Back on My Feet's "The Sneaks come out at Night" race event, arriving just a few minutes later than the start, roughly 90 minutes later than would have been ideal. So dirty, unshowered and thoroughly exhausted... the cheering continued and what an experience!
As a runner its become a real blessing to be on the other side, to be able to comfort or provide in any way, you never know what any one else is feeling but having experienced many many feelings out on the course you know they're giving everything on so many levels, Truly Awesome. Anyway somewhere mid cheering I lost it... suddenly I felt like I couldnt stand up much longer, my legs were weak, my body tired and my eyes seemingly gaining in weight. But after this would be dinner, shower and sleep.... right?.....Well, here's the thing about social events.... they always go differently than the listed times...
... So then I'm up in Hampden- which totally elated me since I'd never been there before... but still even the elation was mixed with growing internal pressure to find a bed, but also to get myself ready for my race. I'd gotten everything together and been there for everyone else, I'd assumed I'd have time for myself, but it was after 9pm already (aka about an hour past my pre-race bed time) and I hadnt even eaten yet (about 3 hours after my pre-race last meal time)....the panic grew and increasingly I felt my mood heading due South and everyone I was around was high and climbing (or so it seemed from my perspective). Then to top it off, my friend who'd agreed to run this race with me, bailed last minute. Sink and Anchor.
I stepped out of the picture for a minute going for a short walk to try and collect myself. I was basically sitting on someone randoms door step wimpering.... pretty awesome. I didn't know if it was even worth the drive to this damn race now... after a year of wanting to do it, and talking it up, and getting excited.... it suddenly seemed stupid.... but part of me knew.... it wouldnt truly be half-wit half if I did it all "right" anyway... so since I was already off track I should just go with it. (But Um... try telling that to my Anxious heart.....no connection- utter panic.... very frustrating). Anyway... I ate... a sub, pizza, 1/2 a beer and cried for 30 minutes and bitched about my inevitable future failure for about 2 hrs, nealry scoffing at those wishing me luck (which I whole-heartedly apologize for, because if it weren't for that luck I'd never made it past mile 3).... and found bed around 11:30pm and slept like a ROCK.
5AM and Up again... on the road by 6AM coffee and food being taken in. As ready as I could be, feeling..... well at least a LOT better than the night before. Upon arrival I met up with Robert and Cathy, Rob and Megan and we played catch up and chit chatted about the race a bit. As usual Robert had a plan, Rob was going to take it easy today... and I was just hoping I had it in me to suffer through this one, I had a feeling it was going to hurt.
Downing a 1/2 a red bull, a tactic I'd not used since high school 5ks, I edged the starting line, near the front... the course leads into a single track much faster than the time it takes to weave through runners. The Half Wit OAth was taken and we were off, much much faster than would ever be a good idea.
I felt my heart rate climbing but decided to go with it. Judging from my endurance level, even if I hurt everywhere I still had enough in me to get this done. So I stuck to the plan and headed for first female- my way.... which means never assuming you've got the race- so basically racing yourself allt he way to the end.... anybody can have a good day, anybody can have a bad day... I was having a bad day. By about 1.5 miles in I took note of my very high heart rate, my pace wasnt nearly hard enough that my body should be burning through oxygen that fast.... but I literally refused to drop my leg speed. I was hurting.
The First hill came and I was beat. I was hiking, disappointed in myself I remained as effecient as possible. I passed someone trying to keep jogging up and he collapsed into a hike as well. We ran together for about the next 2 miles with him nipping at my heals- the perfect motivaitonal source, and then the down hill cliff. If you look over the edge of well groomed trail you often see drop offs that look like a "bad idea" to fall down.... the Half-wit Course takes you down it... GOAL: STAY on your feet, because if you don't.... you'll be at the bottom with a lot more cuts and bruises than you planned on today. You slam from tree to tree and do your best. Then weaving up and down, up and down on a little bmx type moutain bike trail and then taking a sharp left to nowhere following the markers through the pathless forest floor. Here I took the next two male runners, As they carefull looked for foot placement and avoided tree branches and things that hurt to run into, through and jump over as I carelessly took the most direct path no matter what was in my way. Within moments of passing yet one more male I realized just how much energy It had cost be to be jumping and diving and sprinting through the forest, I really wanted to stop.
6.8 miles you loop around a field and then instantly head about 128 stair steps... about here quitting seemed almost logical except that obviously I'd made it last year... in fact last year this was the place I passed the first woman only to have her take me on the very long hill, which until the day prior to the race I was sure I could run up. Sadly, come time to run the hill the fatigue in my legs was greater than any driving force I had internally- I peaked ahead of me and saw the next runner near the top and peaked behind me and saw nothing, I hiked, even then it was hardly bearable but the mental push remained... all the dopey quotes about pushing through came to mind and at last the hill peaked. I was wasted.... then I remembered I had my emergency GU with me So despite not being a huge fan I took in 100 calories of sugar with some caffeine and within 5 minutes had a second wind. I knew I'd hit atleast 2 more lows so I started to prepare myself while I was high, pushing harder since the trail was quite runnable. The downhill sections were techinical, and with my overall fatigue increasingly difficult but I was determined to keep, if not, pick up the pace and onward I went.
After what seemed like much longer than it should have been I hit the 10ish mile mark where I could hear Cathy's cowbell and then quickly rounded the corner to see her and Dave and suddenly it was a picture moment.... I tried to force some sort of "Oh yea this is fun" but Im pretty sure it was obvious I wasn't totally thrilled with my race experience. I knew from this point though it was basically done.... into the woods, past the alternative beverages through the prickers winding over rocks and then up the hill, down the hill weaving back around weaving in and out of runners moving the opposite direction on the single track path and then back past the alternative beverage station for 12.6 miles.... and from there haul a** to the last 200 yrds which with the exception of the last 50yrds you're nearly forced to climb using all limbs.
Somewhere in the woods I'd tracked the next female and knew I was safe in my position but by now my attention had been on the male runner ahead of me that I'd been slowly but surely gaining on, I was now at his heals, he prompted me to pass and I insisted we bring the race in togther... I like a good sprint in the last 50 yrs ;)... since I'm not sprinter its always an interesting challenge, but he fell back in the last .25 of the race and nearly falling over the gaurd rail crossing the road and climbing the hill I crossed the finish line in 1:50:17; 14th place overall, 1st female, cutting 9.5 minutes off my 2011 time.... I took a shower and then drank some beer and ate too much candy and hang out with some awesome people.
So go figure... after doing it all wrong and griping the whole way, I still had enough mental fortitude to drag through and make it look like it wasn't the worst race of my life. Proud? Well.... sort of.... Happy and satisfied- most definetly. All in All pretty much the best weekend ever, I mean I got to share in three different running events surrounded by a lot of other "Half Wit's" and some smarter supporters of us Crazy ppl. So a big thank you to any and all who played a part, thats including every runner at each of the three events.... you all made it worth while when I doubted it all.
Next year.... will be.... next year, who knows, but hopefully I'll run it again. Such a great course, well worth the travel and the exhaustion!!
Cheat Mountain Moonlight Madness 50miler August 24!!!