Waking up to a stomach in turmoil is never a great feeling. My stomach was making noises that could have rivaled a deep jungle in ominousness (yes, I just made that word up). Seriously, I must have made five bathroom stops before we even left home. But, we had 32.4 miles on the schedule for the day and I had high hopes for the run, the Chicago Ultrarunners Palos Spring 32.4M Fat Ass.
Arriving at the Swallow Cliff pavilion just in time to hear my name announced for a raffle prize, I looked up to notice specks of blue were peaking through the clouds...signs of a great day ahead of us :)
Plus, there was a porta-potty right there! Heaven.
Basically, here's how it goes: the pavilion was our staging area, and only "aid station". Bring your own food and bottles, and Brian and Tony supplied a big thingy of water and another big thingy of Gatorade. Thanks guys! The run is set on a crushed limestone 8.1 mile loop, run four times. This year (this is the second installment of this particular fat ass run) Brian had us running "washing machine" loops...yay! This just means that we started out running counter-clockwise, then on the second loop you run it clockwise, and so on until you're done with your loops. This makes it fun because you get to see peeps all day as you're heading in opposite directions. I love, love washing machine loops :)
I had to make one last pit stop, and Geof grabbed something from the truck, and in the midst of this we missed the start (this is nothing new for us), so we started a few minutes after everyone else had already disappeared down the trail. I could feel the competitive burn igniting in my gut...or was that last night's dinner?...as we moved along the trail, a little faster than necessary. Geof urged me back a little as he reminded me we had all day to get there. Before too long, we came upon the first clump of runners and passed by as we said our hellos and good mornings. Then the next clump, then a few scattered solo runners, then no one. We were on our own, enjoying the serene quiet of the late winter trail. Everything was dry, save for a few choice spots that seem to always be wet, no matter what. The one infamous section across from the old toboggan slides was reportedly shin-to-knee deep muddy water, so we devised a re-route as we headed towards it. Running through the parking lot was the perfect alternate route here, and eventually everyone was adopting this. Ah, dry feet, and happy Sporty Cats...they were going to live to run another trail afterall!
I was feeling good and, as always, enjoying the run with Geof. We were pushing the pace just a touch and felt great. Moving well up the inclines, hammering the downhills, smiling. My stomach was behaving and I was really getting into a groove. The first loop was done as we pulled back into the pavilion around 1:12 into the run.
We were both running without any fluid or nutrition since the loops aren't that long and the cooler weather allowed for fewer caloric needs. So at each stop in the pavilion (every 8.1 miles) I downed a half bottle or so of Gatorade, some water, an S!Cap, and a (drumroll) my new favorite delight: Honey Stinger Waffle. This was my first time trying these, and I can't believe how delicious they are! I picked up a few the night before at REI and looked forward to testing them out on the run. I brought along my usual Honey Stinger Chews just in case I didn't like the Waffles, but I never did end up eating any of the chews. So, other than my fluids and salt, I ate three of the Waffles and I was golden for the run. I was pleasantly surprised how well the Waffles held up in the ol' tummy, and how freakin' delicious they were. I would sprinkle those babies over greek yogurt and call it dessert, mmmmmmmm :)
For the second loop, Brian joined us. It was fun to catch up on the week and gab about all sorts of fun stuff with him. We took it a little easier on this loop, until the final mile where Brian and I broke out into an all out vicious sprint on a straightaway. I have no idea what we were cranking out, but it was fast and it felt great! We both sputtered back to a slow jog to recover, laughing aloud and high-fiving the push. "That'll cost me!" I can't wait to see what Brian achieves in the coming year with his new take on training. As Geof likes to say, "It's gonna be awesome!"
Pulling back into the pavilion, I down another Waffle, some Gatorade and water, and an S!Cap. Brian resumes his RD role and we take off back down the trail in the direction we just came from. "Halfway done!" I say to Geof. My stomach lurches in protest of something, most likely the pace we've been holding, and I mention I'll need to stop at the 'john after the road-crossing up ahead.
Crisis averted. 'Nuff said.
Now I'm feeling downright stupendous and we head back onto the trail. The third and fourth loops go by more or less uneventfully, just chatting and smiling, enjoying the brief bursts of sunshine that break through the clouds, the feel of fresh forest air on our faces and the smell of horse dung strewn about the trail. Spring is in the air! I can tell we are moving pretty quickly and I'm starting to feel it in my glutes and hips. I felt like I could just be happy with settling into a slower pace and throwing in some walking, but then I reminded myself that I would most likely relinquish any hopes of a PR or a now-coveted wooden medallion. So, I pushed myself forward. We really had no idea of our placement, or where anyone else stood in the standings. It was kind of fun to tinker with the idea of PRing and winning a top 3 award. Stranger things have happened!
The final loop handed us Big Bertha near the beginning of it and we just hammered the heck out of that steep, winding downhill. It's not very long, but it's steep and was the source of most of our hill training for Leadville last year. I recall thinking it was far too steep to run down at the time, but on this day we flew down it. I let 'er rip and hoped for the best as we made our way down. Steve shouted after us, "last lap, go get 'em!" That was exhilarating!
I found myself checking my watch for the first time during the run, several times in fact, at this point. My interest was piqued when I saw that it was just a few hairs over five hours..."How far does your GPS say we've run?" I asked Geof. Glancing at his Suunto, he announced it was just barely 30 miles. One can imagine my surprise at finding this out! "Whoa!" Heads down, arms pumping, trail crunching beneath our feet. The wind picks up, and the sun goes back into hiding. Now, I'm on a mission. Coming into this day, I was hoping to come under 6:30 for the 32.4 miles. I had nowhere in the recesses of my imagination conceived of coming in under 6 hours. Now, it was suddenly a very real possibility. At about 5:20ish we had already surpassed the 50k mark and I was more than happy with that.
My mind was reeling, and I was now in autopilot. My one landmark on this last loop was the old stone shelter, which signaled we were about a 1/2 mile to the finish. I kept thinking, "Where in the EFF is that dang shelter?! Are we there yet?!" Funny how excitement can cause brief moments to stretch on endlessly. We finally pass the old shelter, and round a corner, then another and another, and then suddenly BAM! we see the pavilion just up ahead. Oh glory of glories!
Pulling into the pavilion to high-fives and congratulations, I stop my watch and note my time on the handmade chart set up on the table: 5h:34m. Brian walked over and handed me my wooden medallion, announcing I was first place woman. Hot DOG! "Now that's something I've never heard before!"
After changing into warm clothes, we headed over to Chipotle for post-run burritos (pretty much a GnP Palos tradition) with Kelly before making it back to the pavilion to cheer on the rest of the runners and help Brian out.
I'd say that was a pretty darn good day! No encounters with DOMS in the wake of this run (yahoo!) and things managed to recover pretty quickly this time around. No soreness, just some sneaky twinges in my calves. Nothing an 8-mile run couldn't fix the following Tuesday :)
Lessons? Eat Honey Stinger Waffles. Sporty Cats are my one true faithful shoe companion. I love those guys and hopefully I can find another pair in the discontinued color...they fit way better than the new colors for some reason :) Icebreaker once again proved its sheer dominance over all things. I wore a long sleeve 150 weight top underneath a short sleeve 150. I love IB. Beanie hats with ponytail holes are awesome! This was my first experience with a ponytail compatible hat and I gotta say, it's pretty sweet. It's a chick thing, so just trust me on this one guys. And, let's see, oh yes, fact: a stomach in turmoil makes you run faster...when you've got the Runs, your Runs are faster! :-) True story!!