Monday, April 6, 2009

When in doubt, keep running...

Brew 2 Brew 43 miler 2009

I must start this report emphasizing just how much I enjoy running in the summer heat with the sun shining down.
I checked, rechecked, and checked again the weather in Kansas for Sunday. I'll give it to Mike that the forcast did change. It started at 32 and 70% chance rain/snow, and went to 30-40s 60% chance rain/snow and wind. Yikes!!

I recruited clothing advice (thanks Kevin and Jamie), thoughts to run with, songs for my MP3, and just a general kick in the arse to get to the starting line in a happy place.

Paul and his family were running B2B as a relay, the way most people did, and were to start 1 hour behind me. The good thing about this was that we all headed to the start in Kansas City together. We arrived at The Blvd. Brewery at around 5:15AM, and I figured in true JT spirit I better have a beer. As I was drinking my beer, other solo runners came in. I came to know a few things quite quickly: I was one of the only solo runners without a crew following me; I was one of the only solo runners carrying all of my own gear; and I was one of few women. I made small talk with two guys and the girl (maybe a wife or girlfriend) with them was nice enough to say that when she would see me that she would help me if needed.

I gave my finish bag to some guy named Dan, hopefully who was heading to the finish line, and stood on a sidewalk ready to go. We counted down and off we went... The race started at 6AM, dark low 40s, and quite comfortable. I ran on my own on the levee until after the first aid station (about 4 miles). At that point I caught up to a few guys, and stayed with them until the next aid station where one of the guys was changing shoes and I needed the restroom. At that aid station, the girl of the other guys from before the start grabbed my water bottle while I was in the restroom and filled it, how sweet! The guy, I can't for the life of me remember his name, and I took off. Arghh, we get stopped at the train. Fortunately, his wife was there to make small talk with us (the stop was only 2 minutes). At this point we are about 10 miles in, and are in about 5 or 6th overall? We settle into a very comfortable pace together. My plan was to run 8:30s, but we just couldn't get there. We kept clicking off the miles 7:53, 7:55, 7:58, 7:56, you get the point. I would stop and fill up water at the aid stations, and he would grab fuel and water from his wife. (I wish I knew who they were because she took pics of us runnning together).

Right before the end of leg #5, he divulges to me that his longest run for this was 8 miles, he was a 16min 5K runner, and did a cage fight the week prior. I saw his wife later, and she said that his legs were screaming, so I am guessing our pace over the distance was probably catching up to him. The wind had started picking up in the previous few miles, and I knew I would miss the company.

We made a right turn to start leg #6, and all the decent weather ended. The cold wind came straight into my face, and the rain started coming down. I put on my rain jacket and kept plugging forward. I made my way up the first climb to Mike's motivation for me, Rain by Bishop Allen. The song made me smile. Here are just some of the lyrics:
"oh let the rain fall down
and wash this world away
oh let the sky be grey
cause if its ever gonna get any better
its gotta get worse for a day."

I knew at that moment that I hadn't used up any of the thoughts that my friends had put in my head. They had 3 hours to keep me going. I made it through the first set of rollers and the rain started coming down harder. I couldn't tell which was worse, the cold rain or the wind gusts. I just kept thinking to myself, just make it through until the end of leg 6 and assess then. Well, of course the way to the end of leg 6 was slightly downhill and flat, which totally revived me.

I ran through the aid station, and they remind me that up ahead I will have to take the boat across. Oh yeah, the boat...a bridge was washed out during leg 7 and in order to avoid an extra mile run, you could take a boat across. Well that is all fine and good, but the thought of standing still or sitting in a boat sounded horrible. I keep running, and notice that rain is no longer hitting my body, it's sleet. Are you kidding me?? I don't know what is making me continue to go, but I am still running and running. I am absolutely freezing, but I am running. Every once and a while a huge gust of wind will make me feel like I am standing still and I think that this is what running at Badwater must feel like, although nice and warm, and I remind myself that I will NEVER run Badwater. I think about all of the climbing I did at C2M, and think about how much better my legs feel now then they did at the end of the race there. It must be the constant ice bath they are getting. I try to have warm thoughts, but honestly I am just freezing.

I have been told, in the past, that the best you can do is identify the problem and resolve it. OK, so I am actually working this thought process out..."what is the problem?" Yes, the weather totally sucks, but that isn't an actual problem. My legs are cold, but they actually feel pretty good and I am able to run. My face is frozen, but I don't really need it to be warm. My MP3 is working, and is actually keeping me mildly distracted. And then is strikes me; my hands are freaking freezing. When I conclude this, remember I am doing this all the while running, I almost pat myself on the back. Then I realize that if someone saw me, it would be embarrassing. (not the running like a fool in the miserable weather, but the patting myself on the back) OK, so the assessment is made: my hands are frozen, wet, maybe making me a little hypothermic...what to do?? I seriously spend about 10 minutes from this point running in my head the advice that Jamie gave me. And then I remember, "tuck your hands in the sleeves of your jacket to keep your hands warm and dry." Yippee, I remembered!! So, I quickly get one hand in the jacket. Just then I approach where the boat is to cross the river. It is a mud pit to get down to the water, so I need to use my hands...nice. I get down there and notice the boats on the other side of the river. I ask how long until the boat will be ready and they say about 5 or so minutes. Since I am so cold at this point, I ask the men at the boat to get my other hand into the sleeve of my jacket. Did I mention that it is snowing at this point? They point over to a fire and tell me to wait over there. Picture this, if you will: me soaking wet, freezing, standing in falling snow over a sad little fire. All I can wonder is how the heck I thought this was a good idea. I hit the depth of misery at that moment.

FINALLY, the boat comes across and we load up, others have approached at this point. On the boat the other runners notice how sad and cold I must look, and one of the guys actually gives me his gloves (old layered garden gloves). I gladly take them. We make it to the other side and they all run with me: 2 girls and this guy. They push me to the next aid station. The girls actually put me in their van to warm me up for a moment, with their team who is actually living up to the brew part of the relay. Soooo nice. We visit for a few minutes, and then they kick me out of their van telling me that I will be so dissappointed not to finish and to let Paul catch me. Sadly, I get out of their van into the rain/snow/wind.

The next two sections are unspeakably miserable, hilly, and constant headwind. I cannot believe I am doing this, and I cannot believe that it hasn't ended yet. Time has stood still, and the wind is not helping it move any faster.

Just when hope had truly sunk to the pit, I get to the last leg. The rain has stopped and for the first time in over 3 hours the wind is at my back. I started letting my legs glide, and I realized that although a little tight they really felt quite good. It lifts me, and I go: 4 miles left, 3 miles left, and then just to make sure I don't forget what I have been through the wind starts at the side of my face and directly into my face. Arghh, no gifts. The last 2.5 miles and I have to gut it out.

And, then it's over: 43.91 miles 6:32 and change. First woman, and the total placement to come... It was the worst weather I have ever run in. I was overwhelmed and frozen at the finish. Fortunately, the Dan person had my bag for me and I sat in the back of a truck and called my family. They were not too far behind. They put me in the warm van and I changed, and was sooo happy to be dry and warm.
Once Paul finished his last leg we went over to the post-race party. As we were in line for post-race beers, I see the guy who gave me the gloves. We shared big hugs and thank you's. He will never know just how much he saved me.
I won a ceramic mug, which was quite nice, and my name will go on a plaque.
I get that this is a long report for a not so long run, but I want to remember every moment of what I went through. Without anything but my running legs, whatever gear I had with me, and the thoughts in my head; I did it! Yes, I needed a pre-race rally to get me there, but once I was out there nothing could stop me. I want to remember this moment for the next time a race, or life for that matter, gets so challenging I want to shut down. I actually downloaded more than just the song from Mike for Sunday. Francesca Battistelli sings in her latest: "everyday the choices you make, say what you are and who your heart beats for. It's an open door..."

May the door stay open, and continue to guide me in thanks and strength. How fortunate I am!

A side note of thanks goes out to a wonderful weekend with Paul's family...I am truly blessed!

(I wore Drymax Hot Weather socks, wet feet for over 3 hours, no blisters!! Will download and add pics of my feet this week)


MikeW said...

you're on a roll!!!
Way to stay tough, Mer!
I'm sorry my weather dance didn't help... but it did bring sunny skies to Austin.
Need more photos!

olga said...

OMG, Mer, this race totally deserved to have the longest report ever! That was tough - or, rather, you are tough! No 100's in your future, you say? I say, reading this, you are off to one right now!

Larry said...

Ok. Let me get this straight. You, Mer, were gulping down a beer at 5am in the morning and then ran in cold weather? I don't believe this was really you? Of, course, JT would be very proud. ;)

Awesome job! And, great report. Congrats!

meredith said...


Olga - I actually had a VERY brief moment of your same thoughts, figuring no 100 could be worse. But then I thought better of it :)

Larry - Yes, Sunday was the total opposite of my happy running place. Beers were the only way to help. Good to catch up tonight, even if briefly!

Leah said...

Wow! Loved the race report. What a run. Congrats to you on making it through and finding the good parts in some horrible conditions.

brownie said...

Can't believe you started drinking before I did. This race is definitely on my to-do list!

nicoleyed said...

Mer - new song to try is "Positive Vibes" by the Cottonmouth Kings. Really good for getting through crummy weather and low points. Thanks for the socks, cake balls, and a fabulous weekend!!

KP said...

Loved the long report - very much worht it! Have you never read mine - I ALWAYS praise gloves! I'm so thankful someone shared with you! That's what it is all about, good memories - even of tough times!

kelly said...

Hey Mer, great race report and congrats on another win. You are totally kicking butt these days! I am excited to see you at Miwok. See you soon.

crabby said...

A beer before the race?!?! You have now replaced JT as my hero! Awesome job lady.
Cathy Bridge

RunSueRun said...

The beer before the start definitely deserves bonus minutes for next year's C2M!!

Way to go, girl. :)