*OK, so now I'm 43 and athletic, but the rest still applies.
Especially, perhaps, the goofy.
The weather for the whole time was cool misty rainy and wet. Really crappy weather for camping and living outside (2 days of it), but exactly my favorite kind of weather for running. And a start time of 8:30am! Soooo much more suitable, IMHO, than the usual ungodly 6am. Another yay! feather in my cap.
Yet another encouraging sign was that I did get some "action" prior to the race . . .
. . . which, if you've read this blog for any length of time, you know is always a race issue of mine. Fear not, we'll explore this topic a little more a little later.
A sad note for me was to find out, 10 minutes before start time, that RBR was not going to be joining me for the run. I was disappointed since my elaborate plan of kicking her and leaving her holding her ankle at 31.01 miles as I sprinted to the finish and thus assuring myself of NOT finishing DFL was foiled, dammit. Thanks a lot! Seriously, though, I was bummed that I would not be meeting her, but don't blame her one little bit. The lack of my new friend did require a bit of last minute mental adjustment (from "OMG I'm gonna have to meet this new person and be socially appropriate! Aaaagh!" to "OK, I can sing and fearlessly shit in the woods! Aaaagh!"), so I hooked up my music and got ready to boggie.
Did I mention it was cold and wet? Once again, everyone around me at the start was all kitted out in armwarmers and leggings and jackets, while I stood around in little more than a tutu and a shirt and wondered if I was nuts for not wearing more. Am I the only one who wears as little as possible to run if it's over 30 degrees?
I never saw this guy, or pretty much anyone else, for the next 31 miles. Those 31 miles, by the way, were just beautiful. Quite a few of them were on fire roads (it stayed misty all day, but it was especially heavy in the first couple of miles):
. . . but there was plenty of single track, too. A couple of portions were technical . . .
. . . but most of it was just smooth, lovely single track.
Miles 0-12 were all about WooHoo! I'm running in an ultra! These trails are so pretty and I'm so awesome! It's all downhill! (it wasn't) WooHoo! Yay me! This is easy! etc., etc.
There weren't a ton of people doing the 50K, maybe 30 or so. Maybe less. In any case, they all dropped me within the first mile, except for two chatty women just behind me, pretty much running at my pace. My "race plan," such as it was, consisted of running the whole thing at a 14-15 minute/mile pace. I did manage that for this section of the race. Those chatty women stayed just behind me, and the little bits of conversation that I heard (Dating Bad Men, Hot Springs, Being Irresponsible) all sounded simply fascinating to me, and I lobbed a couple of humorous (to me, anyhow) conversational volleys their way. Alas, within the first couple of miles it was pretty clear they did NOT want me joining their little club, so I slapped on the earphones and ran just enough ahead of them so I didn't have to hear their (now incredibly annoying to me) chatter.
I had no more than a nibble at the first aid station, and carried on. There was a little out-and-back section around mile 9 (just to make it a true 50K) and it was here that I (and the
jumping for photos so my feet are actually off of the ground so at least it looks like I'm running, but I just ended up looking like
Soon after, I hit the next aid station. Here I lingered a bit, and the chatty women came and went. Never saw them again. Bye, now. The runner I had passed came in just as I was leaving, and I heard her talking to the other runner about dropping after 25K. Leaving me, happily, in last place.
Just in case you're wondering, last place is no bad place to be, for me. I know for some of you guys, that's like the worst thing that could happen, ever. For me, not so much. In fact, I kinda like DFL. There's even a certain cache to it, in my mind. Hey, I'm slow, and I'm never going to "place" in a race, so I might as well have last place. Sometimes you even win a prize. There's nothing special about being second-to-last, but last? There's only ONE last place, and it's mine, bitches!
Where was I? Mile 10? Still enjoying myself! That's about to change!
Miles 12-16 were all about Gah! Is any of this fucking run fucking flat?! (it wasn't) Ouch! My right knee hurts! My left ankle hurts! My groinage hurts! Ah! Gah! >sputter<
This was definitely the nadir of the whole run. I was totally surprised to be wingeing and hurting and tiring so early in the race, and seriously wondered how I would be able to complete another 16 miles. My pace went straight to hell, all kinds of things and bits ached (and I don't usually hurt when I run), the trail was technical, I was unhappy and moving on to miserable. What the fuck?
(In retrospect, I think what happened here might be related to exercise-induced asthma. Before the start, my inhaler shit the bed (empty? I think maybe it was just too cold to work right), whatever, I never got a good satisfying blast from it. I noticed at the second aid station that I was a tad wheezy/phlegmy once I stopped, an ominous sign.)
So I sputter in to aid station #3, halfway through the race and some 4:15 spent (There were a lot of hills, ok?). I immediately hit my drop bag where Tom had stashed another inhaler when I had such trouble with the first, and I hit that thing hard! Yay! Breathing! Meanwhile, a volunteer is following me around, saying How are feeling? Are you OK? Are you OK? and I'm all, I'm s-l-o-w, I'm not dead! and This is my first ultra! and Hi! How are you? to which he says I'm only asking because you are facing the time cut off! and I'm, like, . . . what? He tells me right now I am 20 minutes under the cut off. I'm . . . ?? and still fucking chatty cathy, while he's trying to impress upon me the need to eat and drink right now, which I do (even breaking the nothing-new-on-race-day rule, at his urging, and pop an endurolyte capsule, which turns out to be an excellent move!) and I keep on chattering till he's like Shut the Fuck Up Already and Start Running Now! (but much nicer). The next aid station is in 6 miles, get there!
So I finally shut the fuck up and get the hell out of dodge.
Miles 16-31 were all about What time is it? What if I get pulled off the course! Do I care? yes. What if I finish but don't make the cut off (9hrs)? Do I care? no. Yay! I love running! It's raining! I love running in the rain! I've never run this far before! Yay! Please don't shoot me!
So I don't know if it was the food, the salt tab, the inhaler or the threat of DNFing (my guess is a combo of the first three) but I headed out of that aid station a new runner. Gone were the aches and pains and doubts and for the rest of the race I had myself a good time. True ultra-style, I walked some of the uphills, but un-Bootchez style I did NOT get lazy with this and only walked when I felt I absolutely had to, and ran again as soon as I could. I maybe walked 1 or 2 miles total, which I think is pretty good given the 4400' elevation gain. Have I mentioned that gain before? Yes, I have. It was hilly indeed.
I ran, and ran some more, and ran some more. Then, in the middle of absolutely nowhere, I see this:
So I'd crapped before the start, plus I had one good "field" crap already and I don't really feel like I need to go again, but who the hell am I to turn down an outhouse? In I go, and surprise! another crap down the hole. I'm all psyched 'cause the shitter's clean AND there's even toilet paper so I feel all luxurious and shit, so much so that I feel the need to take a damn picture of the site so I can blog about it, even though I'm facing a friggin' time limit here! and that, right there, tells you all you need to know about what's important to me as a runner.
Run some more.
There must be some back story here that I missed, but these:
There were two more aid stations, where I ate and drank heartily (and took an endurolyte at each one. My new fave!). At both stations my time was ok, still 20 minutes shy of the cut off, even though my pace has dropped a bit. At the last station, the volunteers are There's a cut-off? Supposedly, yeah. I still feel fine 26, 27, 28 miles in. I'm barely paying attention to time, now, as I know I'm going to finish and that's all I care about.
Round about here, my iPhone starts getting all weird in playing back my precious music. I think it's the earphones themselves, but the controls are all wonky and the volume's going up and down and the music's fast then slow and I stop and fiddle and go again and stop again and go again and this all goes on for about 5-8 minutes before I finally say Fuck it and pack it up and put the damn thing away for good. I'm completely addicted to running with music and I don't know why because I'm now just as happy running without it and don't feel bored or anything. Maybe it's because now I'm 28 miles in and my runner's high is like at heroin level and I'm just Whoppeee! I've run so far and I'm still having fun, Yay!
OK, so here's a reason that running with earphones may (or may not!) be a good thing . . . mile 29 and my unadorned ears start hearing gunshots. At various places along the trail I have seen shotgun shells, so this is not too much of a surprise, but it's really close. Blam! Blam! Blam!Blam!Blam! <pause> BLAMBLAM! and it's almost like I can hear 'em pull the trigger it's THAT close! I start yelling (and believe you me I can yell VERY loud!) Please don't shoot me! I'm a runner*! Don't shoot! Please! You don't wanna shoot a creature who's wearing a tutu! Please don't shoot me! word for word, yes. And Gary says that mile 30 went by three and a half minutes faster than mile 29, and that's 'cause I was hauling ASS.
(*I just barely managed to restrain myself from yelling, I'm an ULTRArunner, 'cause I'm on mile 30!)
Some little bit after this I look at the time, the real time, and realize that it's something like 5:28 and no, I'm not going to make the time cut off (which I've completely forgotten about) and I resolve right then and there that I for sure don't give a flying frig whether I make it because I AM going to finish and, well, yay!
And then, and THEN! I come down the hill and out of the woods and there it is the finish line and I'm DFL and I throw my arms up in the air and yell I'M HERE! I'M HERE! and the few people still standing around and of course Tom and Debbie turn around and start yelling back and whooosh through the chute and I'm done! An awesome volunteer (Gail?) has to actually stop me from running as I sprint away from the finish line. "You're done! You don't have to run anymore!" she says.
I do. I stop. I'm happy and laughing and getting hugs and congratulations and I'm asking Did I make it? because it suddenly occurs to me that I do NOT want to DNF and someone says No, you didn't and I'm kinda bummed. The clock says 9:03 and I'm thinking, wow I've been running for nine whole hours and that's ridiculous, isn't it?
Celebration, high fives and hyperventilation happen. I've finished and I'm super happy!
I ask a volunteer in the know (turns out, the same guy who gave me such excellent advice (eat! stretch! drink! shut up and go!) at the midpoint) and he tells me that even though I didn't make the cutoff I still finished and will be recorded as finishing, not DNF. I just don't get an "award" and who cares? because the award turns out to be a water bottle and I have enough water bottles to build a boat, seriously. I could not possibly care less because I finished and still felt strong and gosh darn it no matter what you say it is a fact, an unalterable fact that I, indeed, came in
Oh my my, that was such a good time!
So much thanks go out to Tom and Debbie, who took such wonderful care of me all weekend, and especially right after I finished running (I was in quite a state for an hour or so). I couldn't have done it without them.