Brief recap of the end of the month:
- great but too short recovery from Mt. Masochist
- two weeks post-race I ran a 25K, too fast, a wonderful long run in Bastrop (more on that later), and a 5-mile Turkey Trot at my parents (was happy to run 35 minutes on VERY tired legs)
- came home from Thanksgiving, and straight to Kileen to visit Paul's family, and then his parents came to our house the next night
- Thursday after Thanksgiving met up with friends for a business planning meeting at this fantastic restaurant...so good we took a picture of our plates (by the way 1/2 portion split with Erin)
- Then Paul's birthday, and I threw him a Dessert Party. It was great times to over-feed so many for his birthday, and, yes, everyone who came went home with leftovers!!
...in the midst of all of this projects due and working; now can you see where my blog posting time has gone???
So here I am in the midst of a very busy time, and Sunmart is approaching. Sunmart holds a special place for me, even with the crowds on the trail. It is the first Ultra I did, I get to see so many friends out there, and it is a good place to have some speed at the 50-mile distance. Did I mention the trophies are REALLY cool!
As I was getting plans together for the trip, I really created a great weekend to look forward to...I would see Catherine and Bryan on Friday morning, Ashley would stay with me Friday night, and Noelle was kind enough to fill the roll of my crew/ass kicker!
I know I have mentioned it before, but I am not a huge fan of the cold, so when the weather report was calling for a low in the 70s and a high in the mid to upper 80s I was thrilled!! I knew I could run in those temps and know how to manage my nutrition in the heat. I had my plan of Succeed, Cookies, Potatoes, etc. ready to rock.
I got into Huntsville around 2:30 Friday afternoon, had pre-race dinner, and put my legs up on the bed. Chad and Ashley arrived around 5, and had a laugh that I was just sitting in the bed. We had done a very speedy long run together in Bastrop, and I was so happy it had been warm that day. We were ready for the heat, and I spent a bit of time trying to convince them that short and t-shirt weather was a fun thing! They went to have their pre-race dinner, and when they got back I was still on the bed...although I had put my pj pants on. They were quite humored with my pre-race ritual of relaxtion, but I kept reminding them of just how much longer I would be running than they would (they were both doing the 50K). After some good chatting, Chad went over to his hotel. Ashley very shortly joined me in my pre-race vegging.I actually slept on and off quite well, although when the morning rolled around I felt quite uninspired to be racing. I went through all the motions: getting dressed, body gilding, eating, drinking, loading the car. Off I headed to the park, hoping the vibe of the start/finish area would get me going. I got there and still I was not struck. I laid out all of my stuff in the same fashion I always do, ready to grab and go after each loop. I shared hugs and hellos with all of my friends. I was so happy that Bryan and Catherine were there early enough to share in the pre-race hugs. With 30 minutes to go...I REALLY needed to get going, in my head, so I listened to Brave and Mighty to Save. I tried to get others as hyped about my music selection but not a nibble, apparently God Rock (my new name for my music) is not everyone's running motivation.
Soon enough it is time to get to the start. Noelle and I walk that way, and see Lorena as she is making her way to the start. She had a 50-miler on her life to-do list and today was her day to cross it off. I was so excited for her to go for it. I knew I would see her throughout the day, so I was excited for that. And then, we lined up, I said a prayer during the national anthem, and we were off. I was in a good pack from the beginning, but in a very comfortable position. We hit the first aid station, and the only thing I noticed was that I was drenched...nice.
My favorite section of the first loop is the out-and-back because you see all of your friends on one side or the other. I saw my friend, Pete, on this section. I saw another friend of ours in front of him, and I could see the look in his eyes chasing him. I looked right at him, and said "run smart. run your race." I didn't know if my words would stick, but know he runs his best when he is not trying to keep someone else's pace. He is a very smart runner running his own race. I had already backed off from running with Robert, just for sake of having conversation...his pace was not mine.
Toward the end of the first loop I was sloshing, even after having taken 600mg of sodium. It was an entirely different beast with 80 degrees and 100% humidity. I just started pounding the salt....stomach stopped sloshing but I needed to go to the restroom. I went once in the woods and then when I came through the start/finish ran to go again. I told Noelle I was going to have manage my stomach with the heat, but I forced my food and drink down as scheduled. I have learned the very hard way that the best I can do is continue with food and drink even if I don't feel good...things are much more likely to improve if I can continue to eat. So off on the second loop I went.
It was good to see the 50K people out there on this loop. I was thrilled for the company. I didn't know many of the 50-milers around me, and most didn't have a ton to say...oh well, I had my music and the pines to keep me company. on the back end of the loop I caught up to two of my friends running the 50K, Jeanette and Laurie, and was so thrilled to have their company. I couldn't believe what a rough time I was having for less than 25 miles. Yuck... After a visit with each of them I put my head down and grinded back to the start/finish area.
To my joy, Bryan and Noelle were awaiting my arrival from the loop. I needed their lift. Bryan had decided it just wasn't worth it in the weather; he does not do well with the heat. I was so thrilled to have him walk me out as I was stuffing my face with food to get revamped for loop 3, always my toughest. They had told me that others were having a tough time, and it made me feel good to not be suffering alone. Off I went with the encouragement of Bryan, who said all of the right things!!
Loop 3 was tough because I was so alone. There were people on the trail, just none that I knew. I wanted my friends. I wanted company. The heat was life-sucking and I wanted conversation to distract me. I was so desperate for conversation that when I caught up to one of the Canadian women (the world championship for the 50-miler was going on) who didn't speak much English, I actually fought to piece together a conversation with her. It was pretty funny because all I understood her talk about was falling on the dirt, which she had another name for, and I am pretty sure she didn't understand a word out of my mouth. We got to the next aid station and I drank some soda, put my head phones on and headed off. I prayed to God to give me the strength to fight. I so wanted to be done. I couldn't believe I had another loop to do. I thought of my friend Jamie and her incredible will to drag her leg to the finish at Badwater. I thought of this only being a test of my will, and it was only up to me, my belief in God, and my belief in myself to perservere to the finish. I fought my way to the finish of the 3rd loop.
Noelle could feel the defeat in my eyes, but took my food and drink and walked out with me. I shoved potatoes, cookies, and drink in. I was going to feed my soul to run. It was then I looked her and my watch and said, "I'll be back before 9 hours comes." That meant I had to run! I was fueled, and ready to go. I ran to the out-and-back section and wanted to get the job done. Fortunately there were a few 50k people with the same intention...I ran with them for about 10 minutes and then headed off. I had the wind at my back and the final miles ticking away. I passed two women who weren't feeling very well, but I needed to take what small amount of energy from them I could from them because I needed the continual boost.
I was chasing such a not even secondary goal....first was to finish, second was to break 9 hours. If you would have asked me before the race, I would have thought I would have been in my car in under 9 hours. (did I mention we were going to a party in Austin Saturday night). But, here I was with my new goals and chasing the dream of reaching them. I hit the last aid station, not sure if I liked the random drum pounding or not, and knew I could do it. Then through the trees I could see Larry. I thought he got a glimpse of me because he would be walking and then all of a sudden totally take off. So randomly, this made me run faster..."don't run away from me," I thought. Finally, with about 1.5 miles to go I caught him with all of my chasing energy. (He hadn't known I was behind him) We took off together. At first we talked about the emotion of the draining day, then we were too out of breath to talk. We were running hard, or at least as hard as our tired bodies would take us. To the finish line we landed...proud, happy, and drained. Our toughest day, COMPLETE!!
After I finished, I changed, packed up and awaited the news that I had been dwelling on throughout the day...just ask Noelle...did I win a horse?? Well, actually my showing was not so bad: 9th woman and 3rd American woman, AND an 8:52 finish :) Not quite what I was hoping for but met my reassessed goals!
At times when I was running on Saturday I was overwhelmed by the distance. What was ahead kept daunting me. But then I would think: I am inspired by those that love me, those that show me their strength under so many more difficult conditions in both life and sport, and those that share their lives with me everyday. That is more than enough to get me through a tough day in the woods!!
How Blessed I am!