Recall that I had busted my butt on the Glacial Trail two weeks prior to showing up at Ottawa Lake to run the North Face Endurance Challege Midwest Regional 50 Mile race on October 24th. I knew what I was doing, but I don't know why I did it looking back. But isn't that kinda how ultrarunning usually plays out?
In the wake of the GT50k, I had some funky tightness hanging out in my calves that was playing out in the form of an annoying discomfort in both of my ankles. Imagine what it sounds/feels like to pluck two rubber bands over each other, while stretched out. Gives me the willies thinking about how it feels! Well that's what the funkiness felt like. So, after just a couple of runs (literally, one 6-miler in Iowa, and then a 9-mile night run the Tuesday before NFEC), I paid Dr. Heddles at Active Body Chiropractic a visit to get a little ART done on my calves and ankles. BAM! He works wonders. After some e-stim, some ART, and some swapping of favorite Seinfeld quotes, Dr. H decided I should try out Kinesio Taping. So he applied two strips of the stuff from my heel to the back of my knee (one black, the other hot pink :)) and sent me on my way saying I'd feel a lot better during the race.
Friday night, Geof and I spent more quality time in gridlock getting up to Brookfield to meet some of the CHUGs for dinner at Mama Mia's and to finally experience the garlic bread that floats in garlic butter that Deanna and Torey had been gushing about. I fell in love with that bread. Lucky me, Kelly and Brian got up into 'sconsin early and were able to pick up my packet and race swag (thanks Brelly!), so after dinner the four of us headed to our hotel for the evening where I set into motion my usual pre-race A.D.D./anal retentiveness...I know, that must just shock you :) After I was happy with my preparation and organization, it was time to hit the hay.
I must say, 4 a.m. came pretty early. Kelly was running the 50k (her first one!!), so she and Brian got to sleep in, and Geof and I snuck out early to get to the start line. It was balls cold, and misting a little, but the weather called for that to clear up. I dropped off my drop bag with a volunteer who didn't really seem to like runners all that much (a strange theme I'm noticing in this particular race series)...
There were a lot of people. We met one of Ben's friends, Mike, who was running his first 50-miler, and his fiance, Blair. Blair had planned to just hang at the start/finish area since she couldn't drive their truck, but since Geof was crewing me he offered to have her along to the aid stations so she could have a chance to see her dude more often. This turned out to work out really well for everyone!
So we started. It was cold, I was tired. Legs were...just being legs. I ran alongside Ed for a bit on the road section, but moved up once we got on the trail. It seemed like it was dark for-flipping-ever. Just as first light was showing, I noticed a dude who was leap-frogging with me quite a bit and introduced myself. He's Brad from Cherry Hill, NJ. He liked how bright my headlamp was, hence the leap-frogging. He was on a redemption run of sorts after having a performance he wasn't so happy with at the NFEC in D.C. He ended up finishing just over 10 hours; great job, Brad! Ah, light. I made it to the first aid station (6.6 miles) feeling pretty good, legs were happy finally, belly was fine. Seeing Geof sent me soaring :) I was in and outta there pretty quickly as I didn't need much more than a refill. The next crew station would be around 11 miles, and since Brad was out of there before me, I was prepping myself to go it alone. Not long after leaving the aid station, though, I noticed a runner just ahead of me who stopped to see which way the ribbons led at a fork in the trail. He looked back at me and I pointed to the right. I noted that his t-shirt was funny ("We're the fast crowd your mother warned you about") and we chatted it up from there on. Kevin was running his first 50-miler so it was fun to feel like a little bit of a veteran. It was also great to have trail company.
In and out of AS 2, a pat on the butt from Geof and I was off. The next crew station was 21 (I think) and a station that we would return to again at 35. I had 10 miles of no Geof ahead of me, yipes! I was feeling fine for the most part, and had plenty of trail chat going on with Kevin, but I could feel this nagging blah coming over me. Checking my vitals, I was fine. Legs felt good, great in fact. Stomach was stellar. Feet were happy. What gives? Coming into 21 I was so thrilled to see Geof there. I told him I was getting lonely feeling out there, and that I'd probably pick up my iPod at mile 28. Some more refills, and I was off! Kevin had left before me, so now I was on my own for a bit. After a non-crew AS that I more or less cruised past we were poured out onto this godawful field section. Ugh, you could see everyone in front of or behind you, you could see where you were heading and it felt like a million miles away. Come ooooonnnnnn! Worse yet, I knew we'd be coming back through it at some point. Gross. I was officially getting bored. I was tired. I just felt like stopping. Whoa, what?! Stopping? There's no stopping in ultrarunning! Well, there's no stopping when absolutely nothing is wrong :) Being a little tired or bored is no reason to stop in my book. So I kept on keeping on. A little ways before pulling into the mile 28 AS, Kevin caught back up with me and we rolled into mile 28 at the same time...
To my surprise, Jim and Torey had joined Geof at this aid station (also known as Emma Carlin for all you KM100 runners out there!), so it was a big lift to hear my name being shouted by my peeps again :) Thanks Jim and Torey for being out there! After a quick potty break, some Perpetuem refilling and snagging my iPod, I glanced down at my Garmin and noted to Geof that if I got out of there right then I could probably hit 6 hours for the 50k mark...BAM! So I kissed him goodbye and said I'd see him at mile 35, I've got a goal to achieve! I thought Kevin had already left so I cranked up the iPod and got rolling to some Coldplay. Ah, sweet ultra music.
Once back in the field section, I was pushing it harder so that I could hit my 50k goal. Kevin came striding up beside me and scared the bejesus out of me. I told him what I was doing and he pulled me along here. I kept looking down at my Garmin checking my distance, when BAM!, 5:59 = 50k!! I got my goal! Yahoo, one more thing to check off the 2009 goals list! Sweet.
So from there I pulled back as I was officially out of breath. It was rolling and the sun was acting like it might come out and play. The conversation was steady and the breeze felt good, but my ankles started aching on ascents. Feels a bit like a very subtle burning/stretching. Felt good on the descents though. I started to take it easier and my stomach was dropping out thinking about what could possibly be going on with my ankles/achilles. Should I stop? Nah, I'll try some Advil at the next AS. Finally, the mile 35 AS came into view as we rounded a corner. Kevin was meeting up with his pacer here, so I knew I was definitely on my own after this part. I suddenly felt very unmotivated to continue. I just wanted to see Geof! The stars aligned.
As I pulled into the AS I locked my eyes on Geof's legs just across the road...they were bare! He had shorts on, wait, and running shoes! Oh my gosh,"is this a joke?!" Geof was going to pace me in the last 15 miles! Oh glorious morning! The sun was out, it was warming up and now I was going to get to spend the last 15 miles with G :) Blair was going to drive Geof's truck back to the start/finish so she could catch her dude finishing, so this worked out so perfect for us. I did a quick change of socks (only one blister, on my left foot, and while it was a big one it didn't hurt, so I left it alone. The Hydropel was working a little, I guess), grabbed a Doubleshot, dropped some things in the truck, refilled bottles and then we were off. Oh, and I took some Advil for my ankles.
Achey ankles? What achey ankles?
Coming into the mile 35 AS...I was showing my number to the volunteer :)
The last 15 miles with Geof were the best. The weather really picked up and it was just gorgeous outside. My legs were tired and sore in spots, but I felt good otherwise. We pulled into the mile 40 AS and were greeted to very loud, thumping dance club music and some of the more colorful and hilarious volunteers I've ever experienced. They were great! They called themselves Aid Station Awesome; very apropos! Next up would be the Hwy. 67 AS (mile 45) where I had a drop bag that I wouldn't end up needing. Everything was holding up really well and I was very happy with how I did things throughout the day. One bottle of Perpetuem and one bottle of Clip2 (drank these up every 2 hours-ish), one S!Cap per hour and one gel or three Clif Shot Blocks per hour. I think I had one Skittle, two sips of Mountain Dew (won't do that anymore, makes my stomach get funky!), and a few potato chips at an aid station and that's it for solid food. It's nice not to have to rely on the aid stations, and it keeps me from dilly dallying at them.
I was having a great time running with Geof and he really was a race-saver for me that day. I would have finished, but I would not have been happy about it, and I'd have probably walked it in completely. My spirits were lifted, I was smiling and laughing, I was running (more or less) and I was going to finish with plenty of time left over. I knew I wasn't going to PR, but I knew I'd break 11 hours. As we were poured out onto Hwy. 67 once more and followed the route that I had began on 10 and a half hours earlier, we could hear the sound of the start/finish, and then the red arch came into view. I'm almost done!! Geof pulled off to the side and I glided across the finish line and into a gathering of CHUGs waiting there for me. Gotta love the CHUGs!! My final time was 10:35 and some change, not bad considering how the early part of my day felt and how my legs were treating me most of it. I'll take that to the bank!
A good race overall, a little bit of a head trip, but nothing like Pineland Farms was for me this year. Plus, I had peeps to talk to on the trail, Geof was there helping me along, CHUGs were out en force, and the weather really cooperated beyond expectations. I used Hydropel on my feet for the first time ever, and while I got that one blister on my left foot (outside of ball of my foot), that was it, so I'll give it another go in my other shoes to see if maybe the wider toebox is the answer. Loved 'doing it liquid' as Geof and Adrian would say, it makes racing easier not worrying about carrying food, or stocking it in drop bags. And, I love the race swag...lots of crap that I'll actually use (though it would have been better if the shirts were Atayne shirts)!
After changing into warm, dry, not-stinky clothes, Geof, Kelly, Brian, Tony and I headed into Eagle for some dinner (and solid food) at Coyote Junction, yum! After dinner we went next door to the gas station to buy some ice for my legs for the drive back to Chicago. That helped a lot! It was great to get home and get to sleep finally (especially knowing we could sleep in!). I dreamt about food and woke up really early absolutely starving so I made myself a big bowl of cereal, fruit, and Geof made toast with Nutella. Wow, hungry much?! I was starving like that all day Sunday...perhaps I was making up for the whole no-solid-food-while-racing thing the day before :)
A great time had by all...and congratulations to Kelly on finishing her first ultra and 50k, and to Sarah for finishing her first 50-miler! Now it's time to hunker down and give my legs a break for a while. I need these ankles/tendons to get happy again. Of course, I need to wait until after Javelina Jundred pacing this coming weekend before I can do any of that :) I'm spent after such a busy ultra season! But man has it been a great season :)
Check out Geof's post about his experience crewing for me: Here Comes The Sun