Tuesday, September 7, 2010

It's All About The Patch

"When you want something, all the universe conspires to help you achieve it."
- The Alchemist

OK, it's been a bit over a week since the Green Lakes 100K so I guess it's time to put my thoughts together and analyze what this run really was for me. First of all, this was my first ever 100K race. I have numerous times run this distance and further, but this was actually the first time that I covered this distance knowing that 62 miles was to be the end point. It was kinda cool knowing that I have gone this distance before, feeling good throughout, so I should be able to complete the distance without too much of a problem. But there are no guarantees with ultrarunning; I also knew that this particular race would be a huge mental game for me. The course is a 7.7-ish mile loop, repeated eight times. Loop courses are always difficult for me because when the going gets tough, it's way too easy to say I can't go on. So knowing this, I was prepared for the mind games, and had already mentally prepared for loops 5, 6, and 7 to be the challenge.

So here's skinny on how the race went down . . .

- 41 starters toed the line for the 6am start. It was a cool morning but the forecast was ominous with a prediction of sun and temps in the high 80s to 90s. Hydration and electrolyte replacement were going to be crucial to survival.

- Loop 1: 1:19:09. Time to savor the cool dawn sky. My plan was to try to maintain 1:30 loops. Despite my time on this loop I did run conservatively and felt very at ease and didn't feel like I pushed to get under 1:30.

- Loop 2: 1:24:05. The sun started to come out but the temp was still comfortable. Took a little extra time getting some eats and refilling my bottle. Still felt at ease here.

- Loop 3: 1:33:17. Here come the 50K-ers. Nice to see more people out on the course and the speed of the front-runners. It was warming up at this point but I was still feeling good and taking in enough fluids to prep for the coming heat.

- Loop 4: 1:42.26. Hot now! I really tried to get some solid foods into me but the heat was already taking its toll and I just couldn't stomach anything solid. Thank goodness for the protein-carbo mix of Accelerade. It really kept me fuelled. However, I started to get this weird hot-spot feeling in the middle of my left foot which seemed to initially get better with a sock change. Never had that before.

- Loop 5: 1:50:48. OK, something's gotta give with this foot issue! At the lap area where all my med supplies were, I sat down, dried my foot, didn't see any blistering but noticed an area that could easily turn into a blister. Slapped on a piece of moleskin, got the sock and shoe back on, and felt instantly better. Now I only hoped that this would hold. The heat was also becoming more oppressive, so at the suggestion of Jill Perry who was working the aid area, I put a bandana filled with ice around my neck. Who knew how good this could feel? Amazing! I didn't think I would be able to tolerate the bandana on my neck, but the relief it brought to me was so amazing that I didn't even notice having it around my neck. This turned out to be a definite life-saver.

- Loop 6: 1:49:45. Walking a bit more now but still feeling in good spirits. Looking at the time I still felt that I was doing OK to make the cut-off (which was that you had to complete loop 7 by 12 hours). But mentally I was having issue with the I have to do this TWO MORE TIMES!

- Loop 7: 2:18:06. OK, now things were getting really mental. Not only did I wonder if I would be able to make that 12 hour cut-off but I was wondering if I really wanted to make it. By the time I hit the 3rd aid station, which was being manned by my friend Sam Pasceri and his family, I was near breaking down. I went into the station thanking Sam for all he did for all of us today and told him that I was done; I wasn't going to make the cut-off. Sam sat me down, fixed me another ice bandana, dosed me up with some Mountain Dew and a grilled cheese sandwich piece, and basically gave me a kick in the ass. He told me "It's all about the patch". The patch was the award for finishing and it was all about finishing, not about time, not about place. He told me that so many had dropped because of the heat. Finishing was about overcoming. Even his young son, Dominic, told me that all I had to do was 15-minute miles to make the cut-off. Those two were just so infectious and up-beat, how could I give up? I left his station telling him that I would see him again and tried running a little.

OK, so the run and the optimism lasted about 100 meters. What the hell? I couldn't do it. So I walked and thought about how I would break it to Sam that I just didn't make the cut-off . . . it wouldn't be my fault then that I didn't go on; it would be out of my hands.

And then I came into The Beach area, walking and looking at my watch. Damn! I still had more than 5 minutes to make the cut-off. And then I saw my grandkid cheering squad of Kaitlin, Cara, and Clare! Kaitlin told me that I could do it. Cara distracted me with talk about their day. I asked Clare if I should go out for the last loop and she told me no. I asked her why not and she told me that I might get hurt. Sounded reasonable. I came across the mat with less than 3 minutes to the cut-off, ready to call it quits. But my ever-loving honey, Joe, had other thoughts. He got permission from the race officials to go out with me, not to pace me but more to make sure that I got around safely - likely because my loop 7 time was so pitiful and everyone expected that loop 8 would be much longer. So I downed a 5-Hour Energy with caffeine and we left the area walking.

- Loop 8: 1:45:01. And then it happened. Somewhere around 40 minutes into the loop that 5-Hour Energy kicked in. I still couldn't stomach anything solid, but I was drinking and peeing and still moving. And then I was running (ok . . . it's all relative!) again. It was getting dusky out and the deer were coming out. We were alone up on The Serengeti and it was beautiful. And then we hit Sam's station. I was so psyched to see him and Dominic and Ginny again and the energy just kept coming. It was time to finish this puppy off.

Heading back down to the lower loop I started to get a bit queasy so I slowed the pace a bit, but once we hit the lower portion of the course I was back. And running . . . actually running. And I crossed the line in 13:42:40 . . . didn't fall once, still felt good and alert, moleskin on my foot intact, and oh-so-dirty-and-stinky! And I won the Female Masters RRCA Champ category (OK, so I was the only female masters that finished, but whatever!).

I was the last finisher but I have to say that this was a very cool place to be. Did you know that the cheers you receive as last finisher are probably just as loud as those for the first?! Very cool indeed. 18 people dropped from this race, so finishing to me, even last, was huge.

Once the going got really tough, I kept telling myself that I didn't need to suffer, that this race was a training run for the upcoming Virgil Crest 100, that any distance I completed would be a good training run. But finishing . . . I am so glad that I did . . . this gave me a huge confidence boost that I was able to overcome something so hard. Thank you to my cheering squad, to Joe and Sam and Ginny and the kids for the much-need ass-kickings, and to all of the volunteers who took care of us on this brutal day! These runs are never a one-person victory.

OK . . . kill the heat! I want a cool Fall day! And in less than three weeks there better be one . . . but if not, I feel more confident now that I can take it on. Cowgirl Up! Team Honey will take on VC100 next!

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