Wednesday, August 25, 2010
Getting Younger With Every Mile
It all started in February 2010 . . . The Beast Of Burden. What a name . . . what a challenge. The winter version was huge fun for me as I ran in the 24-hour race and Joe supported me along the way. Joe has always supported me in my craziness of running long distances. Thank goodness that the BOB race director, Sam Pasceri, decided to bring The Beast to another season . . . the heat of the summer. And thank goodness I had absolutely no desire to run in the open sun and heat and humidity along the Erie Canal towpath. So not my thing. So this opened up a whole new opportunity.
Joe’s longest run ever has been 35.75 miles, which he ran at the BPAC 6-hour Distance Classic a couple of years ago. Since then he has run some 50Ks, but nothing longer. The Summer Beast Of Burden 24-hour event would give him the chance to see just how far he could go; a chance to challenge his limits. And it would give me the chance to give back to him for all of the times that he has been up all night long supporting me. I would now get the chance to be crew and pacer all in one and experience what he and others so generously do for me.
A 24-hour race is a different animal. It’s a combination of things; it’s not just who can run the fastest but who can play the game the smartest to endure. Yes, speed is a factor but if you don’t take care of yourself with proper fuelling and clothing choices, the game can end early. Some plan to run a certain distance and that’s that, finishing whenever they do within the 24-hour period. Some run the entire 24 hours to see how many miles they can log in that period of time. Joe opted for the first, choosing the number 66 miles; a mile for each year of his life. A challenge, in deed, but very doable, I was sure. All he had to do was to keep moving at a consistent 2.5 miles per hour for the 24 hours and he would be fine. Of course, I was sure that he could get ‘er done well before the 24 hours were up. So training started; we worked on the miles but more so we worked on the eating and hydration aspects that would keep him going for the long haul. This has always been one of Joe’s downfalls in the long run – making sure he stays fuelled. But we found a solution and I have just two words to say – TAPIOCA PUDDING. Believe it, there is nothing better than ice cold tapioca pudding that just slides down and digests easily when your body just doesn’t want to even do the work of chewing and swallowing. And we went through quite a bit of it last weekend.
So here’s the run-down of how the day (and night) went:
- Saturday: cool, overcast morning. We set up our canopy with chair and cot for resting when the work was done and a cooler with our special fuels.
- At 10AM the runners were off. My first feeling was that of relaxation because I wasn’t running, then big-time nerves set-in, hoping that Joe was doing what he was supposed to do. It was out of my hands; all I could do was wait.
- Seeing Joe, approximately 2 miles into the run, on the other side of the Erie Canal, running with others and talking. I hoped that he was not going outside of his comfort zone.
- Got our “transition zone” in Lockport set-up with Joe’s clothes, food, and drink, and then headed off to Middleport (the turn-around point) at 12.5 miles. I knew I was well ahead of the time he would get out there, but I didn’t know what else to do with myself other than go and wait for him and run through my mind if I had everything in the proper places for him.
- I had hoped that Joe would take about 3 hours to relaxingly get out to Middleport on that first trip and was a bit concerned when he arrived under 2 hours, 30 minutes. He assured me that he felt fine and that the overcast weather helped him to get there faster. I refilled his bottles and got him to eat a bit and he was off again. Did he eat enough? Should I have done something else for him? Did I do everything that I was supposed to do? Man, I think that actually running in the race is easier!
- Watched some others runners come through and then couldn’t stand it any longer, so I headed off to the grocery store to grab a few things for my lunch, more ice, and a bit more Gatorade for Joe. Back to Lockport to eat lunch and talk with friends while I hoped that Joe had slowed the pace a bit.
- Watching my watch and anticipating about when Joe might arrive at 25 miles, I got my clothes changed to my running gear to prepare to jump into my alter ego as pacer.
- Joe arrived in Lockport looking good and running with a couple of other guys, which he really seemed to enjoy their company and didn’t seem to be getting “pulled into their pace”. So we all grabbed some food and posed for photos and prepared to head out for the second loop. Spirits seemed very good in all three guys.
- We ran Joe’s pace, running at times, walking at times. It was all good as long as we were moving forward - and we were. What started off on this loop as me, Joe, Joe, and Jim was soon down to me, Joe, and Jim, and then as nature called as well as the need to loosen shoelaces on swollen feet, Jim moved on and it was just Joe and me. Moving along steady. Still good.
- Turn-around in Middleport went well. Joe went on to cross the timing mats while I refilled the bottles. Some pizza and Little Debbie’s later and we went on to the tent where the drop-bags were and I cleaned Joe’s feet and changed his socks. The feet looked great; no problem areas noted. I told him that the plan was to powder the feet and change socks again when we arrived back in Lockport. Some tapioca pudding, Ithaca Ginger Beer, and we were off again.
- A couple of miles before reaching the Lockport station again my cell phone rang. Lorrie was calling to find out how Joe was doing and I filled her in on everything. Things were looking great and Joe was about to complete his first 50-miler! It had finally started to lightly rain and the humidity was lessening. Things were looking good.
- Into the tent I went to refill the bottles and change my clothes while Joe crossed the timing mat (completing his first 50-miler in 12 hours, 3 minutes) and then changed his clothes. The plan was for me to check Joe’s feet here, powder them and change his socks. He wouldn’t let me do this; he just said he was fine. Knowing that I wouldn’t change his mind and hoping that he was right, I let it go. Pick your battles. Still lightly raining I discussed wearing jackets with Joe. Again, he assured me that he was warm enough and was fine. He seemed to know very well how he was doing and that made me feel better and off we went again – without jackets.
- Frogs – everywhere. Huge frogs whose eyes kept glowing in the light of my headlamp. I was glad to be able to see them because I was sure that stepping on one would make a huge squishy mess that would send either of us flailing into the canal. The rain picked up a bit but we were walking at a good clip right now with plenty of time in the bank to cover the desired distance.
- And then it happened . . . it started pouring rain. And the wind picked up. I had change of clothes and rain ponchos for us at the turn-around in Middleport, but it was getting to them that would be the challenge. And Joe’s feet were really hurting at this point. I feared that we were not moving fast enough to avoid hypothermia. We pulled into the Gasport aid station and after 14 hours, 27 minutes, and change, and it was good enough – a huge, huge accomplishment. The pride that I felt for my husband at this time was just so overwhelming that I was nearly in tears. How does he do it for me over and over again?
- So Honey, you wanted to run a mile for every year of your age? You covered 57 miles. So guess what? You’re 57 years old again! How’s that for a milestone!!
Thank you so much to Sam, Dani, Jen, Ginny, Nancy, Sam’s Mom & Dad, and all the other volunteers whose names I didn’t know! You guys rock! And thank you for the opportunity for me to help Joe do something that he has never done before – and now I know what agony he must go through worrying about me! Joe is now walking normally and able to get up off the couch without too much of a grunt. The blisters (one, I swear, looked like a sixth toe!) I had the pleasure of popping and dressing. And who knew that toenails could look like that? Eeewwwwwwwwwww. (Did I ever mention that the only things that really make me wretch other than earwax is toe-jam and really gnarly toenails?). Love will make you do all sorts of crazy things. And now I really realize how hard it is to help someone you love keep going when the going gets tough. I have to say that this is my most rewarding ultra ever. Thank you and congratulations, Honey. I love you.
“A lot of people run a race to see who’s the fastest. I run to see who has the most guts.” - Steve Prefontaine