It's been two and a half weeks and my perspective hasn't changed.
I'm SO glad I did that race. Even with the "injury" and uncertainty leading up to it, race day couldn't have been a whole lot better overall.
I was uncharacteristically calm the night before and the morning of the race. Well...that's not exactly true. I was very detached from thought if that makes sense. I felt like I was watching someone else's life paying out in front of me. I was so unsure what was going to happen that I think I somehow disconnected from my perpetually busy mind. I can't say my thoughts were quiet, but they weren't spinning. It was very much like my mind was in a holding pattern. Race morning I woke up, had breakfast, packed up my bags and stuff for the race and headed out with only enough time to park, unload and go to the bathroom. I don't know if I would have recognized my own mother that morning. Before I knew it we lined up, the gun was fired (literally) and we were running.
The Race Set Up
This race is called Dizzy Fifty because the course is set up in loops. There is a little loop to start out, then you run a north loop and a south loop three times. The north and south loops make a kind of figure eight with the middle point being the start/finish of the race. So you come back to "home base" a total of seven times. I honestly thought I would hate this because I generally truly dislike loops. I don't want to come back to where I started during the race. If I had my way I would probably run point to point races all the time. The thought of coming back to the "start" SEVEN times was almost enough to keep me from registering.
However, I have to say, I LOVED it. Shockingly it was pretty perfect for a first time 50K. I had all my nutrition planned out and ready to go and the loops worked out so that all I had to carry was a hand held water bottle. If I didn't like running with fluid as much as I do I could have easily not carried anything at all. Not only that, probably because this is a trail run I didn't remember many parts of the course even the third time I ran it! I noticed different things each time. The group I was running with experienced the same thing. We dubbed it "course amnesia".
When I started running all the thoughts that had been strangely absent the few days before the race came flooding in.
"Why am I here exactly?" "Who do I think I am trying to run THIRTY ONE MILES?" "I might have a stress fracture...or worse, a messed up tendon." "What if I end up really tearing the tendon...they can't cut this one out." "This doesn't feel good." "This is just mile one...what will this be like after 30 more..." and so on. Mercifully within the first probaly quarter of a mile, I connected with a good friend I don't see nearly enough. (Remember the girl with the broken foot who beat me at Iron Girl? That's her. She's an IRONMAN now but I'll call her Iron Girl here.) We talked and talked the whole rest of the little loop which really helped calm my mind and allowed my body to warm up in peace.
When we made home base stop one I had to use the bathroom pretty bad so Iron Girl ran on while I did what I needed to do. I don't know if the 1st part is the north or south loop because I'm directionally challenged, but the first part you do is the more technical of the two. This whole course is fairly easy in comparisson to the only other long trail race I've done (McKay Hollow Madness 25K), but when looking at just this race, the first loop (not the little one) is the more "challenging" of the two.
There is a section that goes down hill and then there's a section that goes up hill. ( have to say that section got longer all three times I did that loop.) There were people in front me and behind me the whole time, but I mostly ran "alone". I talked to some people but I wasn't running "with" any of them. My mind had settled but I was paying very close attention to my leg and evaluating every tinge of discomfort. I told myself that if a tinge held on for a mile, or got progressively worse than just a tinge, that would be the end of my race.
First (half) loop done...back to home base. One of the athletes I coach was also doing this race. She planned to be a little slower than me so I left a dry erase board at "camp" so we could leave notes to each other. I wanted to know how she was doing and leave her words of encouragement during the race. I left her a note, refilled my hand held and headed out for the second half of the figure eight, the "easier" of the two. This loop winds through the woods in such a way that it feels as if you will be lost out there forever.
frost flowers. But, because I had to go to the bathroom AGAIN I told them I would see them back at home base and I went on my way.
First figure eight done! Only two more to go. I used the bathroom (again), refilled my bottle, and checked the dry erase board. I won't share the note my athlete left me (I have to come up with a name for her...) but it was HILARIOUS. I left on for her and then started running loop two with Iron Girl and the other friend. The other gal can walk faster than a lot of people can run, she also has an adorable child, so I'm going to call her Fast Momma.
I decided very quick that I wanted to stick with them. They were out there to finish not compete and were doing an undefined walk/run. It was probably a little slower than I might have tried to go if I were alone, but it was super comfortable and that's exactly what I needed. Plus the talking made the time FLY by. An hour felt like 10 minutes and before I knew it we were starting the second half of the second loop. Another friend came out there to get some miles in for an upcoming Disney marathon (she might be doing the Dopey Challenge, I can't remember), so three became four. Then four became five when we met up with another gal. We had little trail train going and I realized why people are getting together to run trails all the time instead of going it alone like I usually do. It felt like I had been out there maybe a couple of hours but when I checked it had been 5 and we were starting the third and final loop.
When we got back to home base before starting the last half of the last loop I had a huge surprise...my Knight in Bald Head was there!!! He had gone out to do his run earlier and had planned on coming out to run some with me. Unfortunately he hurt his leg on his run. ((Side story...I haven't talked about how COLD it was that morning...funny that I didn't think about that detail this long after the race...but it was probably one of the coldest mornings we had all season. Well, Dwayne got four miles away from his car and hurt his leg to the point he couldn't keep running at all...and had to walk back FOUR MILES in the freezing cold, soaking wet with sweat.)) I told him I was fine because I was running with the "train of awesomeness" and only had the last half of the last loop to go, about five miles. At the rate we were going it would take about an hour longer. He asked about my leg and I had to laugh...at that point I told him it was the only thing that didn't hurt.
I was feeling surprisingly good in fact, except for my pubic arch. It felt like I had been riding a skinny horse, or a horribly fitting bike with a terribly uncomfortable saddle, all day long. I haven't researched this yet to try to figure out why...but I'm fairly certain it stems from weak hips.
As we started out on the final section I could feel, and hear, the fluid in my stomach sloshing around. It sounded like a half full gallon jug being jostled around. I fueled the whole race with a product called Tailwind. I'll write up another post on it, but for now I'll say it worked like a complete charm. No stomach discomfort and I had more energy than I expected to have. It's a powder you mix with a certain amount of water (you MUST drink with it for the fuel to get to the muscles). I had dialed in the amount I would need, but I didn't account for running much slower than I am used to. I also didn't account for how cold it would be. Cold and going slow meant I was sweating MUCH less than usual (and using a bit less energy). Consequently, it created a bit of a "back up" of fluid in my stomach. And that back up was sloshing around so loud the gal in front of me asked if she was hearing my water bottle!!! Nope...that would be my stomach.
We were going to hold hands and cross the "finish line" together, but Iron Girl had gotten pooped on by some tree-dwelling animal like half a mile before we got there and unfortunately found it by reaching her hand up to see what had just hit her head!!! We could have moved around so that the poopy hand was on the outside but we were all more interested in being done.
Thirty one miles in seven hours thirteen minutes and fifty eight seconds (13:59 pace overall). I had an unbelievably great experience. I loved the race, I loved the friends, I loved the day. My leg didn't hurt that day, and it didn't hurt the next day. (It hurts off and on and I'm not quite sure what is going on although I have a theory it's inflammation from eating certain foods...more on that in a later post.) I am more than thrilled I made the decision to run the race. After it was over I was in a bit of shock. I was in a daze the rest of the day. I don't think it had anything to do with food. I think I just couldn't believe it was over and that I had actually done it. I didn't even have to go home and crash. It was a really good day all the way around.
Until next time...