Sunday, November 4, 2007

A Masochistic Birthday!

This year Mt. Masochist was to be held on Nov. 3rd, my 33rd could I spend my birthday any other way??

I signed up early for this one knowing that it would be the 25th anniversary, and David Horton's last year to be the Race Director. Last year the race was sooo hard, I had to go back and so I could take on the challenge again.

About two weeks out from the race I had a wonderful conversation with a friend and someone I respect sooo much. It wasn't just about tapering; it was about being ok in my head about tapering. She nailed exactly how I was feeling, and somehow it helped to know I wasn't alone. I must also admit that it helped that during taper I happened to run into her a few times out and about.

So here I am in this taper, my legs feel great, and the race is less than a week away. Tuesday night I feel a little scratch in my throat. Wednesday morning I just don't feel good...sore throat, sniffles, worst case scenerio in my pre-race book. I see Cassie, and the first words out of my mouth are, "I'M FREAKING OUT!!!" Here I am all tapered and now getting sick. She offered me advice, but I already had in my head to go to Whole Foods and hit the juice bar. I took shots of potions, vitamins, and pastes that will soon not leave my memory. I was determined to cure myself in the next 48 hours without taking anything that would dehydrate me. So I got through Wednesday, with the positive vibes of my good friends, and then Thursday repeated much of the herbal/terrible tasting remedy and more positive vibes. By Thursday evening I would say I was about 70%...not quite how I wanted to head to the race.

Friday morning I headed to Lynchburg Virginia with the hopes of beautiful weather, a not scratchy throat, and some friendly faces. I didn't know many doing the race, and wondered if I would feel like a stranger in their Kingdom. What I would learn over the next 24 hours is that the EAST COAST ULTRARUNNERS are just AMAZING!!

After enjoying some of the history of Lynchburg, the Point of Honor, I ate and then headed over to packet pick-up and the pre-race meeting. When I entered and got my packet, I was warmly welcomed with a hug from Dr. Horton himself. Then Annette introduced me to her friend, Amy, who wasn't going to run. Instead of just sitting back with some unfriendly small talk, she gave to me a friendliness and comfort I can't quite put into words. She offered me race advice, we talked about her move back, and we rejoiced in her reason for not running...even though standing at the pre-race dinner she wasn't entirely convinced volunteering was the position she wanted to be in. It was just incredible.

From there I enjoyed just the constant warm welcome and conversation I received. It was as though I was a part of this community that was foreign to me just a few hours earlier. Every race I have travelled to over the past year has left me with this same feeling...just awesome. I must admit to feeling honored with the people I get to share time with at these races.

The pre-race meeting/seminar/sing-along was quite something. How many times could people laugh, joke, sing about "Horton Miles??" So somewhere along the way, I thought the race was only 52 miles, and that "Horton Miles" were only 2 extra miles. Well, Friday night I learned it was actually 54 miles. I had wanted to have a 10hour race, but that is when I thought it was a 52 mile race...

I headed to the bus at 4:45am Saturday morning. They were heading to the start line at 5am SHARP. I had a nice crew on my bus, and there wasn't too much chatter. When we arrived at the start line, I asked the guy behind me, Jesse, if I could share his light until sunrise. He was super sweet and happy to let me run with him. Before too long, it was time to head to the start line. And after a we went.

they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint." Isaiah 40:31

The first almost 7 miles of the race are on the road, which I actually like. It gives you a chance to spread out and get warmed-up. Many others didn't feel the same. Of course, I probably loved it the most because at about mile 4 a group screamed/sang Happy Birthday to me. (Thanks Krissy, Sarah, and Sarah's team of runners) Then as the sun rose over the dam, it was time to enter the hour down hopefully just 9 more to go.

The colors were amazing, and the on-going company was even better. There was non-stop chatter with new folks, and the miles were just flying by. Before I knew it we were starting the set of climbs leading to the half-way mark. Part way up, I saw Sophie, a fellow Montrail Althlete, coming up. Her plan for the day was to take it super conservative in the first 1/2 and then see what she could do in the second half. So off we headed together....and before I knew it we entered the aid station that Amy was volunteering at. You must remember that I had just met her the evening before. She hollored and cheered for me, and as I was leaving the aid station I saw on the back of her SUV a set of signs, "Happy Birthday Meredith!" I was just blown away and so truly touched!! I told Sophie that the East Coast Runners had made my day so special. It was crazy. Sophie and I must have covered about 5 miles together, and they were some of the best of the race. We had great conversation, and just a really positive time together. As always, it just makes me feel so fortunate to be on a team with all of these wonderful people!

Up the next hill, and we separated. Before too long I hit mile 27, the half-way point. This is where I had my biggest time waster. I needed to go to the restroom, so I headed into the woods. I ended up having to head pretty deep in the woods to find a covered spot, which took about 5 minutes. Afterward, I went back to where I placed my gear on the side of the trail...a must to mark where you went off trail. I started up Buck Mountain at 5:06 into the race.

Psalm 121
A Song of Ascents.
1 I will lift up my eyes to the hills— From whence comes my help? 2 My help comes from the LORD, Who made heaven and earth.
This was on a sign at the top of the climb up Buck Mountain!

Amy had told me that this is where the race changes. This is where I needed to move. So I did just that. I came up a guy named John toward the top who was having a rough time. He is diabetic and was having stomach issues. When we got to the top I saw the Ginger Ale and suggested he have some of that to settle his stomach so that he could eat a little. He did and off we went down the other side. We had a great time and ran back and forth until we got to the loop. It was there his crew said, "Run this section and be back in an hour." So, they weren't talking to me but it was pinned in my head. I asked John, "can we do this section in an hour; isn't it like 7 miles?" He said, "it's over 6 and last year I did it in 56 minutes." There it was, I was to run this section in under an hour. I can't explain why their impression was what was pushing me, but I was off to follow John. I later found out that he came out in 56 minutes. I exited the loop in 58, and HUNGRY. I grabbed 2 cups of MOUNTAIN LIGHTENING (generic Mountain Dew but I LOVE the name), and a stack of cookies. I wish there was a picture of me running down the trail with this stack of cookies...peanut butter or oatmeal and some shortbread with chocolate all sandwiched together being shoved in my mouth. It was all sooo good, and gross at the same time.

I ran and ran and then climbed and climbed up to aid station 15. Again, Amy was there all smiles but as I was grabbing more MOUNTAIN LIGHTENING I saw her check her watch. She told me it was actually about 5 miles to the next aid station with almost 3 of climbing. After that it was 3.8 to the finish. I looked down at my watch and saw what she did...I had 1:30 to break 10 hours. My plan was simple, if the ground flattened at all I would run. Jenny and I had been trading places ALL day, and I told her of my plan. I said, "it's going to suck but let's see how hard we can push." I actually felt surprisingly strong. I guess this plan had played out pretty well. Holding back gave me some good energy. Neither one of us spoke, but we worked. All the rocks were covered with ankle deep leaves and I just focused downward on the trail. With 34 minutes to spare I hit the last aid station. One more quick swig of MOUNTAIN LIGHTENING and away I went. Before I knew it Jenny was cheering for me from above. I just ran, and ran, and ran. At 9:53 on my watch, I hit 1 more mile to go. I knew I couldn't make it, but I was going to try. I ran, and ran, and ran. When the trail dumped onto the road, I dropped my pack and water bottle. My legs hated me, but there I was the finish line in my face...10:00:44. As the weekend in Lynchburg began, so it ended...with a HUGE hug from David Horton! That is how he greets each finisher.

And then for the comedy...they have this Ironman and Woman competition post-race. Man who benches most 150lb. and woman who benches the most 75lb. Annette grabs me and says you must. I try to explain that I am sore from running with a water bottle in one hand and gloves in the other...before I can debate I am sitting on a bench with 75lbs being lowered to my arms. I grab it, and my arms go down, and down, and down....that's right they don't actually come back up. As the bar is sitting on my chest, it takes assistance to remove it. Funny stuff. Next year I am coming back in full force!!! Fortunately, I think a lesson in Roller Skiing is going to cure that...more on that lesson in a few weeks :)

After that Jesse, the guy who shared his light with me so many hours earlier, and I walked back to get my bottle and pack. We got to cheer on other runners coming in. It was so fun. I got to congratulate all the other Montrail runners on their great days, good health, and very well-executed plans...YEAH SOPHIE!!!

And unlike last year, I actually had time to catch the first bus back and clean-up before the post-race party. I got to share hugs with all the people I spent the day with, and I got to see and thank Amy again!! She already got me excited for next year's race because she'll be back out there.

As I was leaving, I went to say good-bye to Dr. Horton. I thanked him for the gift of the day I had for my birthday, although minus all the above details. He told me that the blessing was in the fact that I realized it was a gift today. He NAILED it... All day I felt the gift: the weather, the leaves falling like rain drops with the wind gusts, the wonderful people I got to share the day with, my health, my ability be able to run such an incredibly tough race, all the love and support I have at home, and that there was no better way to spend my birthday than in God's Kingdom. How blessed I feel!!

And in case that wasn't enough, I got to share my birthday back at home with my friends and Paul. Thank you so much for such a special celebration and evening! It was wonderful!!

Does it really ever get any better than this?


Sophie Speidel said...

Hi Mere!!

It was great to run with you on Saturday and to be part of your birthday celebration. I am very psyched that you had a stronger race than 2006, despite missing the sub 10:00---as it was, you were having a blast out there, and that's all that matters!

Thank you for the great company and pacing, and I hope our paths will cross again soon. I am linking you from my blog, so feel free to do the same and we can keep in touch.

Happy Trails!!!

David said...

Meredith...Great race write up! Man you've been all over lately. You actually manage to make ultra running sound..well, fun! (which I am sure it is!) Happy late Birthday, I was terrible and got wrapped up in the Colts-Patriots game Sun evening (I am from Indianapolis). I hope it was a great day! Hope to see you soon. I have Clearwater Saturday then,...done!
Take care...

Eudemus said...

Happy Birthday and congrats on a great race! You sure do travel a lot for your races.

clea said...

It almost makes me want to be out there running in that cold weather...well, almost! Glad you had a great birthday. I LOVE birthday races!

JohnF said...

Hey, we share the same birthday.

What better way to spend that day than an event like that.

olga said...

Happy belated birthday, Mer!!! I saw your time and pictures - awesome job, and what fun! I loved Buck Mtn back in 2004, and Horton's hugs are precious:)