So much to say about the weekend. I have to ask myself why do I keep signing up for these things when they aren’t that easy. This weekend was an example of why I return to the trails or roads to test myself: the time spent with old friends, meeting the most interesting people under the strangest circumstances, having moments of pure solitude and reflection,and digging deep when my body tells me to stop.
Mark and I left Austin Friday afternoon, and met up with blog friend Derek and Mark’s friend John. The trip to Huntsville was long, and I had a hotel mix up, got another room at the last minute, and spent forever trying to find it. How can such a little town as Huntsville be so confusing? Finally, after what seemed like forever, we were off for a great pre-race dinner.
I didn’t have the best pre-race week ever. Nothing emotionally disabling, but I had 2 nights of no sleep, and I had officially come down with a little head cold. I was totally beat when I made it back to the hotel. It was a strange experience there. There were a group of pro-wrestlers staying there, a huge feral cat fight in the middle of the night, and I got the first nosebleed I’ve had since I was in grade school. I had a fairly restless night, but I had booked Meghan to drive out Saturday am and run loop 3 with me, so I just had to suck it up.
Got to the race site, and it was going to be a beautiful day. A little warm, at close to 80, but I figured I could cope with that better than being cold and wet. I found Derek at the start, and he was nice enough to agree to start with me.
I really like to run the start with someone else. It makes the early miles fly, and I don’t really think about the running until I am well into things. I had a nice little group to run with most of loop 1, and I realized it was a really warm day, and it would definitely knock everyone’s times down a bit. I also knew my race would take a backseat to next weekend’s marathon pacing, and I couldn’t do anything to risk not starting my pacing at 100%. No problem, not to worry, sometimes goals are readjusted.
Loop 1 was fun. The park is beautiful, it was fun seeing the 100 mile runners on the out and backs, I chatted with a group the whole way; it went by fast. I spent a little too long at the start/ finish as I was determined to coat myself in sunscreen…I haven’t spent a whole day in with so much skin exposed since last summer! (mission accomplished though…no sunburn). Loop 2 started great, but I definitely had to check in with myself a couple times. That extra gear just wasn’t there. I was staying positive though…getting mad at myself wouldn’t make things any easier. It was so enjoyable to see all the other runners out there. All ages, all sizes, but all with the common goal of pushing their limits. I could tell the heat was taking a toll on everyone. I felt it, but once again tried to remain positive and thankful it was 40 degrees and raining.
I was really happy I would have Meghan run with me on loop 3. Meghan loves to chat, so I knew it would keep my mind occupied. She also had a very stressful week, and so I think the run would be good for both of us. I was excited to see her as I ran in to start my final loop. I felt horrible when a couple miles in, she took a hard fall. She then developed what I have termed “sticky lung”, which is when you either have bad chest congestion and / or strained intercostal muscles (little paper thin muscles between your ribs), and every deep breath hurts. So poor Meghan endured the whole loop that way. We did have fun though. I had a few baby moments. It was hard not being 100%. Everyone wants to feel like they are flying on their race day. I did the best I could…when the distance gets long enough, just finishing with a smile is what the real goal is…and I kept that in mind as we sweated though the woods, trying to figure out how the different runners were doing we saw out there. It was always refreshing to see someone who kept smiling the despite the discomfort. It sounds a little cheesy, and simplistic, but there really is something to be said about staying positive. You just can’t get too upset when you’re the one who signed up for this silly run, and friends come out to help you meet your goals.
Meghan was great company and before my poor blistered feet knew it (it appears the Drymax socks are not a magic bullet for me) we were ready to finish. Another 50 miler done!!!! All the months of training (since August) were now over It was a little bittersweet in a sense. Both of us shifted gears to start wondering about the folks we knew who were still out there. Mark and Derek will still in limbo somewhere. We waited around a saw Mark come through. I think he was at a little low point, but it looked like he was on pace, and Meghan used her engineering brilliance to calculate when we needed to be back at the park to pick him up. We gathered my stuff and went back to the hotel.
Meghan decided it would work best if we showered , ate, and tried to sleep a few hours before picking Mark up about 330-400am. Poor Meghan was starving having eaten a power bar all day. My appetite was still developing, but I was happy to sit down somewhere. Got back to the hotel and by 1000, we were both in bed. I never slept…people in adjoining rooms were loud all night, and there was another feral cat fight. The alarm went off at 330 for a 4am park arrival. We crawled into Meghan’s car only to discover I somehow messed up the clock when I set the alarm and it was really 230. Screw it….we went to the park on a mission to find Mark’s ipod for him, so we could leave when he was done.
We stopped at the last aid station and figured out Mark would be finishing in another 30 minutes or so. It turned out to be perfect timing. We had a blast watching the joy finishing a huge goal brings people. We also watched pure determination as other runners went through who still had 1 more 20 mile loop to cover. All of a sudden, there’s Mark! Mark made his goal of 21:35. We were both so proud of him. We got permission to go into the the park’s lodge and get his award, and it was a Friday the 13th moment if ever I had one. Pitch black, lake in the distance, and we tried to figure out how to get into an old camp lodge.
Eventually, our very ragged trio made it back to the hotel for a quick nap, and then time to eat and head home. A big thanks for Mark for going along with getting on the road so early.
I learned some little lessons this weekend. Tums were a godsend. I was nauseated with a bloated, water slosh-y stomach, and not only did Tums cure it, the calcium and electrolytes in them gave me the extra oomph I needed to finish strong. I also learned to always double check a hotel reservation. It could have been a long night in my car…
I got word Derek made it, and still haven’t heard from another friend (Ryan…I hope you finished!) I really wanted all those who attempted this thing to finish, because at that moment, nothing feels better.