Monday, April 5, 2010

Late Nights and Bluebonnets

Who knew training/volunteering/weekends could be so much fun??

It was yet another beautiful weekend in Austin! We have just been blessed with the most wonderful spring which means that the wildflowers are exploding!

The timing was just perfect for me to get to volunteer at Hells Hills. Some people enjoy being at an aid station, but my favorite is to help with course set-up. Last year, Henry and I spent about 9 hours setting up in the worst storm I have ever been out in...unfortunately to have the race cancelled the next day. This year we laughed that there might be "storms" on Friday during set-up.

Knowing that set-up means lots of hiking, I decided to get my run in before. Bruce, Tausha, and I met for 9 miles at 6AM, and then Pete and I headed to Smithville. We kind of laughed at the fact that Pete was helping with course set up since he is fmously known for getting lost in the woods. So, it was only right that about 1/2 mile into our set-up that we hit a gate and realized that we were on the wrong trail; awesome. We decided to hop in my truck and drive to the far end of the course and set up from there. I am all for the off-road fun, but before we knew it we were headed down a "trail" that was in NO way a road. I am just thankful that my truck didn't get stuck and came through in one piece. In the end the back end of the course got marked with arrows and wrong way signs, and I put glowsticks at the aid stations for my later use.

My plan was to head back to Austin for a few hours, have dinner with Paul, and then head back out to start putting up glowsticks at 10ish pm. I figured there was no better way for a night run: private property and Joe and Henry were asleep at the base knowing where I was headed. If I didn't return they could easily come find me.

So, I load up my pack with 50 glowsticks and tell Henry that if my truck isn't back when he gets up at 3:15, to worry... Right away I get into a great rhythm listening to the night: owls, frogs, cows. The sky was clear and it was nice and warm. I am easily able to run between each hanging, so I am thinking, "no biggie...3hours max for the 13 miles I am going to work." Well, not so much. I quickly hit the first aid station, and all of a sudden I have 50 more glowsticks to "run" with. I crack the glowsticks and load more than enough in my bra for easy access. I found a hidden talent, running with 30 glowsticks in the bra, good times! I get to Off the Lip trail, and I realize that either there are no flags or I am on the wrong trail. I start a bit of a back and forth until I realize that I am on the right trail, but there aren't many flags. My plan becomes to drop or hang a glowstick every 1/4 mile for assurance for the runners. I good with the plan and continue forward. Then I hit Longhorn Loop, and the problem persists. I run back and forth to confirm my location, and then continue on with my dropping of glowsticks for confidence. All of a sudden I realize that I am covering tons of extra mileage and this is going to take longer than planned...oh well.

Then the comedy happens; I get to the field and realize that all of the signs have been removed. The challenge with the field is that unless you know it well there is no way of knowing where the heck the trail continues. It is 2 in the morning, and I am completely at a loss as to where to go. With no other choice, I run every corner of the field for the next 20 minutes until I am SURE of where the trail leads, and then I set up a line of glowsticks so that the runners know exactly where to go. Obviously, 3 hours and 13 miles is completely a lost hope.

I continue on the outer portion of the loop, typically my favorite section to run, and am just ready to be done. I find myself running harder and harder between stops. I am very pleased with my lights and my energy give the about 3:15 - 4:38 and 20 miles later - I finish. I send Henry a text and head back down to the start/finish. When I arrive back it is just Henry, Joe and I awake and runners about to arrive. Joe shows me where to have people park and before I know it I am standing by the park entrance with my light and chatting it up with arriving friends. The 50-miler started at 5AM, 50K at 6AM and it is right around 6 that I realize just how long I have been awake: over 24 hours, 36 miles, and 2 hours of driving...small talk was getting a little low on my list. I head to my truck and sleep for about 30 minutes of gold!

I wake up in time to change clothes and help at the start/finish aid station. I didn't do much beyond helping friends as they came through but I had a blast being out there. It was so fun to see so many friends race and help them in and out of the aid station!

What a fun, fun time! It is so much fun to give back to the local trail community, and even more fun to support my friends. After Pete got 2nd in the 25K, we headed back home!

When I finally reached the house, I took about an hour nap but didn't want to sleep too long because I didn't want to throw my sleep off too much. Paul and I spent the rest of the afternoon together and then prepped for Easter Vigil. I will totally admit to having to rally for Easter Vigil at 8pm. And, let's be honest, when we walked into the dark church I knew I was doomed...candlelight was not going to help me stay awake. Paul and I had a big laugh when the priest announced that "Easter Vigil is typically an all night prayer service." Thankfully the music was lively and quite passionate. We still called mercy early. Paul is normally a MAJOR trooper at church and can endure it all. I am thrilled that he was ok to leave when the Phantom of the Opera music (not quite but that's what it felt like) started and we still had two more readings to get through. We got home and I slept so hard.

I then woke up early Sunday morning to run from the house to meet Paul downtown. It was so much fun to venture 14.5 miles toward him. I loved doing that for my last run of the weekend. We had a wonderful Easter Sunday, topped by an incredible feast (see my other blog for pics and details).

I am LOVING the adventures of training! It seems that each run; each encounter with friends; and the balance of work and life is just getting more and more enjoyable! I can't wait to see what's next!!


Anonymous said...

IT IS A VERY NICE SUGGESTION, THANK YOU LOTS! ........................................

olga said...

Mer, thank you so much for being at the start, lending me pins and just in general smiling lots - and yes, for glowsticks! It is always so much work for volunteers, but so much fun and reward - oh, the memories...Get more sleep before we head out to CA for more fun!