Sunday, November 18, 2012

My first 50 miler: Mountain Masochist 2012

     When I originally started this post, I had about 3 paragraphs explaining, describing, moping about how under-trained I was for this race and how I just haven't been into it lately. But does any of that really matter? No. I RAN 50 MILES FOR THE FIRST TIME!
This was, by far, the hardest most invigorating thing I have ever done/accomplished in my life. This race put my heart, sole, and guts onto a platter for me to see. I love what I saw. Physical endurance brings something out of me; it brings ME out.
     When I started this race, I thought, for the first time, that I may not finish. There were cut-off times for each aid station and those times were in my mind the whole race. It did, however, help me focus on getting to each aid station and not the whole 50 miles. The start was cold and dark at 6:30 and we needed our head lamps for the first 45 minutes. At the 2 mile mark, we crossed the first creek and I got pretty wet. My feet felt like clubs when we got out and took a bit to thaw out. I was wearing a long sleeved shirt, bright green/blue leopard print spandex shorts, and some calf length half wool socks. Those socks are awesome and I've worn them for all of my ultras. I got some hot spots but no blisters.
     We had already tackled a bit of climbing when the sun started coming up and the view was amazingly beautiful. At about mile 18, my legs were already starting to feel tired which wasn't a good sign. I had tweaked something in my left calf while doing 38 miles during a 24 hour run at the end of September. I could feel that too. I kept pushing on. There were lots of rolling hills but I actually did a pretty good job of run/walking them.
     I took in a couple of GUs and started taking S!Caps at 2 hours and took one every hour. At the halfway point, our drop bags awaited us along with a big crowd and the buses that had driven us from our hotel to the start.I grabbed my bag and sat down to stretch. I was feeling pretty done already and contemplated stopping. I took off my socks and shook some pebbles out, put them back on, grabbed an apricot Cliff bar (my fav) and started up the first really big hill. When I got to the top, I could start to see the snow that Sandy had left. We came upon a part they called "the loop." You had to run (hike) up a mountain, find a checkpoint punch (like in adventure racing) to punch your bib number, and then turn around and go back down. This is where the snow started. Snow is such a dirty word to me now. I've never run in snow, especially after already running marathon distance. The path through the snow was barely as wide as my stride so I had to look down and be careful the whole time. I ended up walking a lot of it because it had become hard-packed and slick. This portion really got to me and I was really over it when we finally got out. After some hot soup, we hit a nice runnable section for a while. I hit "the wall" and recovered about 3 different times; it's a weird feeling to go through it some many times in one run.
     Other than briefly chatting with runners I was playing leap frog with, I didn't run with or talk to anyone the whole time. That was pretty hard too. Sometimes you just need a little push or convo from a fellow runner to break the monotony. I had cried and cursed a LOT already. I did find, that if I got made while I was running, it made me push even harder.
     We eventually hit ANOTHER snow section around mile 40 something. It was all a blur from there so I don't recall certain things. I think we ran about 5 miles in that last snow section. Simply terrible. My running form was gone, everything ached, and I stopped eating. With 4 miles to go, the sun was setting and it got REALLY cold. I was doing a shuffle and couldn't stop shivering. Everyone was passing by asking me if I was OK, which was really annoying at that point. I obviously didn't look OK. I knew I needed to start running but my body wouldn't go. I was getting light headed and actually thought I was getting hypothermia and might pass out. I was afraid I wasn't going to finish.
     The she came. A girl ran past me and stopped and asked if I wanted her to run with me. She said she would walk if I wanted and would hold my water bottle. I was trying to speak to her but couldn't get sentences to form. Tears had already been streaming down my face and I was a blubbering idiot. I finally got my legs running and never stopped; I couldn't. Debbie, my running angel, kept talking to me and encouraging me to keep going. The original 12 hour cut-off time had been extended 30 minutes due to everyone having trouble navigating the snow. She kept telling me that I was close and still might make the 12 hour time. She talked and talked and we ran and ran and I cried and cried. The last almost 2 miles were straight downhill; this was reallllly painful but I just hammered it out. The last half mile was on a paved road and you could hear the cheers at the finish line. That is when I knew I had done it. I was already starting to cry (more) and all I could think about was the hug, from my man, that I had waiting on me at the finish line. With a quarter mile left, I tried picking up the pace. A yard from the finish line, that little tweak in my leg....popped. I had to limp the rest of the way in. I couldn't believe it happened when it did because a couple miles earlier and I wouldn't have been able to finish.
     It was already dark when I crossed the finish line at 12:09! I immediately got a hug from David Horton, the race director and one of my heroes. The next hug was the one I'd waited the whole race for. I crashed into his arms and cried and said I couldn't believe what I'd just done. It was such an overwhelming feeling and one I'll never forget. 
     I got my finishers shirt and hobbled over towards a nearby general store to get warm. As we were going in, standing outside was none other than Charlie Engle, who then gave me a big hug! He and W had talked for like half an hour before. Charlie had been at some of the aid stations and apparently saw me and said that I looked good out there. It was so cool to meet him. He has a bad rep right now but I admire the hell out of him.
     The whole experience was amazing and even though I was in Suckville the whole time, would never trade it for anything. Five days after the race, most of the soreness was gone but my feet and ankles were still pretty bruised. Now almost 2 weeks after the race, my leg doesn't hurt much unless I try to run on it so I'll just give it a little time. I've had some pain in my right foot, arch mostly, but that is getting better also. My spirits are good and I'm still smiling about my accomplishment.
     Not being able to run right now makes me want to run REALLY bad! This race stoked the fire inside me that felt as if it were burning out. I knew I could do anything I put my mind to but I got so much more than I expected.

I didn't take a single picture the entire weekend and there were no race pics so I had to borrow some (Thanks guys!):

Photo: A nice shot I found from last weekend's race

What's next?
     I recently signed up for the Leatherwood Mountains Ultra Run (50K option) that will be in April. It's an inaugural race and should be pretty good. I'm sure I'll run something else before that but I'm not really thinking about it just yet.

Happy running, friends!