Tuesday, December 7, 2010

On? Yup, On, On ... Or ... Story Of A True Fat Ass

This was my first Fat Ass run (no entry fee, no awards, just a group of people gathering for a fun time). On Saturday, December 4, Joe and I travelled to the Middlesex Fells in Stoneham, MA, to put the final ending on the 2010 ultrarunning season. The Fells Trail Ultra Winter Solstice Edition Fat Ass Style Informal Run ... sounds formally impressive! But thank goodness, it was not so formal and a whole ton of fun. WAY FUN! The run followed the Skyline Trail, which is an 8-mile loop, which would be run 4 or 5 times, whichever you could get done in the 10-hour cut-off. Now, having just run a 50-miler only a few weeks ago, I had already decided before going to the run that I was going to do the 32 mile run. However, that said, I certainly thought that 40 miles was doable in 10 hours. How wrong could I be? Well, the reality is that the first 40-mile finisher, Ben Nephew, who appears to be some kind of hill-climbing-boulder-running anomaly, finished his 5 loops about 2 1/2 hours before I finished my 4 loops ... and he started about an hour and 15 minutes late!

All I can say is thank goodness we had a dry day. It was about 40 degrees, clear, and way windy. Inside the trees we were very protected, but each time we came out into an opening the reality of December truly hit. And as for the trail ... well, it was so like the trails I ran at Massanutten. And I kept reminding Joe of this so he could truly get the feeling of why I felt so exhausted at MMT. Some people are just gifted when it comes to running on this boulder-type terrain. Let me just say ... I am not. I do love running (and I use this term loosely) on this stuff, it's beautiful and challenging, but I am not the least bit fast. But I still love it and it's great to be able to do this kind of stuff.

So, the rundown of the run. Joe and I started out at the back of the pack. My intention was to go easy on the first loop so that I could become familiar with the trail. And good thing I did ... we started on a flat trail from the parking lot and I was just caught-up in the fun and just running mindlessly. So if I hadn't been at the back of the pack and had others to follow, I would have just continued on, mindlessly, and completely missed the turn onto the Skyline Trail!

We immediately went UP and UP some more. No fear that I would go out too fast here. I was just a bit ahead of Joe, who kept telling me to go on. He must think I am some kind of speed demon because, even though I was just slightly ahead of him, I was really running as fast as I could at that moment. I passed a couple of runners and thank goodness they were then behind me because I completely missed one of the turns to stay on the correct trail. Even after 4 loops I still never saw any marking telling us to make this turn. Fortunately, this couple had done a run-thru of the course and knew that this was the correct direction. I didn't want Joe to make the same mistake I did, so I decided to wait for him. He wasn't too far back and now there were no other runners in sight, so we just ran together and had a really fun time. Let me just say, I totally enjoyed running with my honey way more than racing anything! We had a lot of fun. And I would have run the entire 4 loops with him only he decided to call it a day after 2 loops. Can't say as I blame him. We don't have anything like this terrain to practice on at home ... I think my only saving grace was the time I have been putting in on the Concept II. Also, one other downfall of running this kind of technical terrain, especially when it's a cool day. You forget to drink. Joe found that his urine was quite dark and that he was feeling a bit whippy, likely indicating dehydration. I am sure he could have overcome this, but as I said, it's quite difficult to do when you're constantly watching the trail and trying to keep your hands free to help climb boulders and catch yourself when you fall.

I think Joe was happy with his run and then he got to do what he really likes to do at races ... hang out and encourage everyone and help and just plain shoot the shit. I was so glad to have had this chance to run with him; we really do have so much fun together. It was like a constant hash with us. I would run slightly ahead to make sure to find the next trail blaze, Joe would ask "on?" and I would give the "on, on" signal. Now I would have to remember those spots where I missed the "on" and Joe pulled me back on. So off I went on loop #3 by myself.

Loop #3: pretty uneventful. I passed a few runners who had left me in the dust early on. Got to see lots of runners repeatedly who had taken the trail in the opposite direction. Now there were also lots of casual hikers and other runners to exchange conversation with, most of who had no idea that there was a "race" going on. Since we did not wear bib numbers, it was virtually impossible to know who was in the "race" and who was just one of the many other trail runners out there. Made this confusing mistake several times, which made for interesting conversation.

Trail conversation on Joe's last loop:

Hiker: "Is there a race out here?"
Joe: "No, we're running a Fat Ass."
Hiker: "Did you say Fat Ass?"
Joe: "Yup, Fat Ass."
Hiker: "What's a Fat Ass?"
Joe: "It's a run where there is no entry fee, no awards, no aid, just for fun."

And the conversation went on. This was one of Joe's stopping-to-talk-so-he-could-recover moments. There was a couple of those.

So anyway, back to me. Loop #3 finished uneventfully; I grabbed more food and drink and headed out to finish this puppy off. Loop #4 I felt pretty good and was getting to know the trail intimately, never getting lost or even off-trail. OK, so maybe this made me a little cocky. And what happens when you get a little cocky? You, or at least I, get brought back to reality ... usually pretty painfully. Yup, went down like a giant pile of shit. My foot slid off of a rock and I hit the deck, slamming my right hand and right thigh right onto a giant rock. Numerous F-bombs were dropped. My hand felt like a thousand sharp spikes were driving through it. The leg just went numb. Eventually I pulled myself up, cursed some more, and started walking. Wow, that was going to leave a mark. Eventually I was able to put something that resembled a run together. And then I had a revelation. My glove on my right hand felt tight. Holy smokes, was my hand swollen. Eh, the fingers still moved and there was feeling, so it couldn't have been too bad. The downside to taking a giant fall like this is that it seems that every twig, pebble, and pine needle is now out to get you and bring you down again. And they did ... but more gracefully.

I finished the 32 miles in 9 hours, 17 minutes, and change. And it was WAY WAY FUN! I chatted a bit, stuffed more food in my face, thanked the RD Steve Latour (a really super nice guy ... thank you for standing around in the cold and wind so the rest of us could enjoy the run!), forgot that my right hand was just about falling off until I shook Steve's hand, and then Joe and I headed off. The best part of this whole event is that Joe and I stayed at Joe's sisters' house just a few minutes away and all I had to was jump into the car and soon we would be at a hot shower!

So the moral of the story is ... if you ever find any of those Fat Ass runs, even if you have to travel a bit (and you can afford to, since you're not throwing any money into an entry fee!), it will likely be well worth it! The run, the people, the food ... it's all good stuff. And now I know a really great place to run the next time we're near Boston!