Monday, April 19, 2010

One Step Closer

(More pics to come tomorrow!)
This weekend Paul and I headed to Southern California for the Leone Divide 50. It was a treat to have him with me because it was going to be a real chance for him to get to spend time with some of my California friends. Kelly and Leslie were meeting us in Palmdale before the race.

We arrived early on Friday, after a most memorable plane flight…more to come on that in a few days, and decided to head to the race start for a little run. On the drive there we saw the incredible fields of California Poppies. What a sight. Once we got to the race start we ran the first 15 minutes of the course up and then cruised back down. I was already getting excited for a downhill finish…I love me some downhill running 

We headed back to the hotel, ate, and then spent some time catching up (and Paul meeting) Kelly and Leslie. The plan was for Paul to drive us to the start and then crew for us at the two spots he could see us. For me the plan was for me to grab my Camelback at aid station #3 and wear it until #9 when I gave it back to him. (Post race John and Lisa laughed saying that the only problem with the race was that the aid stations needed names) I wanted to practice having extra water for Western States.

Saturday morning was crisp, but with promise of getting nice and warm. Paul took my jackets at the last moment, and at 6AM off we went! My instructions were to take it easy and smooth thru about mile 30, remember that this was a training run, and, most importantly, look up and around and NOT get off course! So, straight up the first climb I cruised. It was not about “racing,” but about patience. I had to let everyone around me that I “thought” I should be running with go, and do my thing…patience.

The rewards of this tactic would pay dividends throughout the day. #1: the view!! From the first climb we got to see the sky explode and the sun come up. It was spectacular. I soaked it all in, and hoped that Paul was witnessing a similar view. At Lake Sonoma I loved it all, but never quite felt in my rhythm. I knew it was my first trip to California and in the mountains, but I just never felt smooth. From the get go it was a different story on Saturday. I was smooth going up, and had great turnover on the downhill. My downhill legs are back and happy happy. On the first descent I found the pattern that would continue for the remainder of the day…there were about 6 of us that would trade places: they would get me on the uphill and I would catch them on the downhill. Run your strengths, right?

The trail was fantastic. Keira, the race director, made changes to the course, which I heard were more difficult, but the course was incredible. Not only that, but the course was marked like crazy AND the people working the aid stations were unbelievable. Absolutely first class all the way! The uphills were long and the descents felt longer. I was in heaven. Before I could blink I was coming up on aid station #3, about mile 16ish, and knew Paul would be there ready to go.

Paul and I completely agree that no one can touch the crewing ability of David, Jamie’s husband, but on Saturday Paul definitely showed off that he had been taking notes from the pro  He had my bottle filled with ice and fuel and my pack ready. I was in and out in about 10 seconds.

There was only one problem…the minute I took off up the climb my zip was gone; WTF?? As I climbed everyone I was running near was all of a sudden running away and I couldn’t keep up. It was as though the pack had 500 pounds in it. I was miserable. Crap! I was planning on carrying this thing until mile 42. This was going to be my extra water for the longer stretches to the turn around. All I could think about was dropping, leaving it in a tree, throwing it off the ledge. Uggg!!

I went through the next aid station, and continued to gut it out. I never caught any of the people that had gotten away, but I plugged away. During this time I decided that I would leave my pack at the next aid station and then pick it up on the way back. Fortunately, my savior was waiting just outside the next aid station! I saw Brian, and when he asked what I needed I said, “take this freaking pack!!” He grabbed it and then took my bottle and my powder and refilled it. He asked if I needed anything from it, and I told him that I needed my extra fuel. Of course, now I didn’t have any place to put it. Without thinking, I grabbed it and shoved it down my chest…perfect fit!! He told me that I had 6.5 miles of great single track and then a downhill to the turn around.

I was FREE!! He saved me, and I was sooo ever thankful! It took me about two minutes to get back in my groove and feel great! By time I got to the downhill I had made time back up, and was catching everyone who had gotten away. There are few words to the difference I felt. I got to the turn around, and turned to go up. New race; legs fresh; time to move!

Reward #2: I got to climb up from the turn around with Kelly!! It’s not like we chatted the whole way up, but we worked together keeping pace and moving up. The climb was so much quicker with her company. I am just so very grateful for knowing her, getting to race with her, and being continually inspired by her. After the race someone commented on the fact that she had been ill a week or two ago, and I said, “the worse Kelly feels leading up to a race, the stronger she races.” She is truly that tough! Reward #3: her telling me to look off the ledge to see the fields of California Poppies. What a sight!!

I told Kelly of my plan “to go” at the top of the climb. We turned onto the single track, and off I went! I felt fantastic. I was so very pleased. It seemed that the further into the race I got, the stronger I felt. So, I pushed…why not? A big treat on this section was seeing the people heading out as we headed back. They were so very kind. They would move off the trail, so unnecessary, and we would cheer for each other. My only real slowdown came when I saw Chris in his Hawaiian shirt! How fun to see him racing!! Before I knew it I was back at the aid station Brian had been, and I was in party mode this time around! I love coming into aid stations happy, appreciative, and full of life…the least I can do for what they are doing! As I was getting reloaded Sue came over to me and told me that 2nd place was 2 or 3 minutes away and if I felt good to go get her. Well, I felt GREAT, so to chase I went. I ran the next section as fast as I could, went through the aid station, and then charged downhill toward aid station #9, Paul, and mile 42. I thought for sure I would see her. I caught all the guys that had passed me earlier when I had my camelback moments, but she was nowhere in sight…what the heck?

I came thru mile 42, all smiles, and to a funny moment during Paul’s quick pit stop for me, “Mer – where is your camelback?” My response: “yeah, me and the camelback…not friends. But, I feel great!” Paul ran through the aid station with me, and charged forward to the final climb. It was such a lift to have him there!! Happily, the climb was not that bad. It was a little steep in beginning, but then was gradual enough that I was able to push it up. I realized that unless the girl in front of me was slowing, I wasn’t going to catch her. But, I also had to remind myself that my goal of the day was not get 2nd but to have another successful training run, and that I was accomplishing with each step. I got to the final aid station, and asked what the time was. My Garmin had died and I had forgotten to get my other watch from Paul. They said it was 1:50. I don’t know what that meant to me, but my goal had been to run about 8:30, so I had 40 minutes to cover the last 4 miles…about 1 mile climb and then 3 miles down to the finish. I crossed the finish line in 8:23; not a bad close for 50 miles. I finished and felt like I could have kept running forever; what a great feeling!!

Paul was at the finish and greeted me with a huge hug and kiss. Keira was at the finish to congratulate each finisher with hug and cooold water; I loved the dry ice! At the finish, as well, was Renee who finished in 2nd. I told her that I was trying my darndest to catch her, and she said that she heard I was running strong and ran as hard as she could. Her friends paid me the most wonderful compliment at the finish telling me that I was the happiest runner with the biggest smile on the course the whole race! I LOVE receiving that compliment. There are no words to share my appreciation for my life; the gifts of a great day; this incredible journey I am taking to Western States; all the people that I have that love and support me everyday; just every part of my life/health/everything… the best way to show it is with happiness and a huge smile on my face!

California, once again, didn’t disappoint, and my gratitude towards all of my blessings continues to bring rewards I never thought truly possible!

Side bar: I can’t end this without sending every piece of my happiness to my friends and their incredible successes in Boston! How we get to lift and push each other to be and do more than we ever thought possible!! Ahh, to dream and to accomplish!


olga said...

The CA poppies far away were like a red sunset into the ground. I kept wondering what it was. Beautiful.
You ran a great race, and it was really nice to see you. From my experience you can get away in canyons without a camelback, but with 2 big bottles (or 2 regular ones and one in a pack). Just drink lots at the AS before and after.
Looking forward to your continuing journey into WS!

meredith said...

It was so great to share the day with you, and see you "back" to running! Yes, 50-milers are that fun!!

Thanks for the feedback on the bottles. I just have to get my right arm strong enough to carry the 2nd bottle; don't ask.

Can't wait to see you soon!

RunSueRun said...

Meredith, it was wonderful to see you again. Congratulations on your awesome run! Hope that telling you about 2nd place woman wasn't a bad thing. You both looked so strong - knew it could've gone either way.

meredith said...

Sue - It was so great to see you! No, it was wonderful because I felt great. It made me keep myself in gear. Had I backed off and she slowed down, I would have been kicking myself right now. At least I know I did everything I could, and finished strong :)

Thank you!

KP said...

Hi M! I can't express how much I enjoy reading your race reports. Thanks for taking me along with you with your words and smiles!

KP said...

Hi M! I can't express how much I enjoy reading your race reports. Thanks for taking me along with you with your words and smiles!

mikeINaustin said...

Great write up, Mer, and congrats!
oh, and thanks for the kind words about Boston.

I can't say I smiled much like you in your race, but I can say I made up for it with smiles later!

Anonymous said...

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