Monday, March 24, 2014

Buffalo Run 100 miles (My first 100)

First thing is first: I mentally committed to absolutely finishing this race before I took my first step on to the course.

 So, Friday at noon, we are off.  I could discuss every section of the course. I could tell you about the terrain and it's ease. I could write about the runners who passed me, as I smiled and was at peace with my 14 minute mile pace as I slowly glided up and down the first 19.5 miles of the course. But, that was the easy part.  This first loop of the first 50 mile course is the most "technical" of the entire race. And, it's not that technical.  There is some moderate climbing, but nothing compared to what I have done in our Wasatch mountains. This first 19.5 miles is the section of the course that I have done countless times in training runs over the last 2 years.  I know it, no surprises, so I was moving slowly, listening to music, enjoying the sunshine, trying not to think about the sunsets and sunrises that still lay before me. I remember looking at my watch as I came around the winding trail and saw the start finish for the first of 4 times in my near future. I was 4 hours in, to what I had mentally prepared for a 28 hour run.

Not much to tell for many miles ahead, but I hit the start finish, 19.5 mi. in 4:15. My time was 30 minutes longer than last year when I did this 50 mile loop. But, last year I only did this 50 mile loop once..not twice. This is where I first saw my one woman support team. Cheryl! I smiled, I asked about her day, she loaded up my race vest, the sun was shining, we were both smiling, I was on my way..."See ya in a few hours".

Because my dear friend advised me to write down all the good things that happened out there's #1. Miles 19.5-27.5 were just blissful. I listened to the entire Mumford and Son's  Babel album. I listened to the entire Counting Crows, Recovering the Satellites album. I was reflective on things in my life that are or were heavy.  If I began to run faster than 14 min. miles, I slowed down, and stayed at 14:00. I was eating, I was drinking, I was organized, I was pain free, it was my perfect stretch.

The next 20+ miles were uneventful.  I saw Cheryl twice at the Lower Frary aid station. I hit it once, she loaded me up, told me to take my head lamp, as it would be dark on my way back, and I was out of there. I would be back at Lower frary in 11 miles.  Leaving there, we runners go out 5.6 miles to the Ranch house on Antelope Island, then turn back around for another 5.6.Not surprisingly, I began to get uncomfortable, and experience some pain in the joints, in the feet, and in the arms and shoulders. But, I felt considerably good. I was eating regularly, I was taking salt every hour, I had ZERO stomach issues throughout this entire race (#2 good thing).  This section of the course 20-50 are flat.  ran about 16 miles of this section in the dark with a lamp and my music on a shuffle.  I had dropped between a 15-16 minute a mile pace, but was comfortable with that, given I knew in a few hours I was starting the 50 mile course all over again. 

I got to the start finish line for the second time. one sun had set. it  had taken about 12:40 hours to do the first 50. Right on schedule. Here I'd meet Cheryl and we'd be off in to the night to start the second 50 miles. Before race day, I wrote these miles off in  my head. I knew I'd meet my friend, and we'd chat to pass the time, hiking, running, getting it done, like we have done so many times before. 4-5 mornings a week all winter long, every Saturday, many Sundays, the 55k we did in Moab a month before. I wrote these miles off as the "easy" ones to get through because I was going at them with my friend. I had just spent 13 hours alone on the trail, and this was going to be a brand new run...except, I was having trouble actually running.

Pain and fatigue were setting in, significantly in the feet and knees. But, I was still happy with the pace. We moved well through out the night.  We did some considerable jogging on all the downhills. We hiked the 8 switchbacks swiftly enough, and we reached Elephant head aid station for my 4th and final time of this race around 5:20 am..."Did it just get colder?" I asked, Chery. "Yeah, it really did."....

There were 3 or 4 men sitting down in the aid station tent. One of them I recognized from yesterday, he asked me to move out of his way at mile 8 ish.  He was wrecked in a chair, not moving anywhere now, unable to speak or gesture at me, just a glance up in our direction. I knew that feeling, and I had been scared to death of it creeping up in me all day and night. Another man was wrapped in a blanket, and another his head in his hands. This was roughly mile 63

As we headed down the trail, working our way towards the start finish for my third time of the race.  The temperature dropped and the wind picked up fiercely. Ughhh..spoiled by really good running weather all day and night, this unexpected weather brutally whipping our faces and chilling our bodies, sucked.  We sucked it up somehow with hand warmers, and the knowledge that we were almost to the aid station and mile 69.

The sky was a deep blue as the sun was rising in the west. it would be daylight as I started the third leg miles 70-100.  Truthfully, I didn't think much about these miles. I thought they would be relatively easy to conquer given their proximity to completion.  On the contrary, these were the most difficult. The sun was up. Cheryl loaded up my race vest, Jill was there ready to start the 50k. The 50 milers took off at 6am, almost 2 hours ago. I remember Jill said"you're going to finish your first 100 today" She said "it will be like this (she moved her hand in an up and down'll have some up's and down's) "But, you're there".

And, so, I left the warmth of the tent back out to a clear, cold, windy morning.  And, I was overwhelmed with the 30 miles that I still had to gobble up praying to God that they wouldn't gobble me up first. The wind was so terrible, that the tears falling from eyes as I hiked in pain up the dirt road to the mountain view trail head cleared my face sideways.  My music died and I was too cold to mess with pulling out my back up.  I was close to the road at this point, and I spotted Cheryl in her Subaru stopped on the side looking down the trail, looking for me. I waved at her, and pointed to the parking lot ahead of me, where the out and back of this section turned around. I got in her car. "It's so windy!" she said. 

I'm not sure if she could see it in my face, or hear it in my voice, but I was feeling defeated at this very moment. "Ill meet you at lower frary, and run the rest of the way with you" Originally, she would have still met me at Lower Frary, but the second time through that aid station, of my second loop, running that last 11 miles with me (I know it's all so confusing, Ill post a map below, so it makes more sense) But, she was going to do the last 20ish with me instead. The gold spirit and the positive energy had been sucked out of me by the change in weather, my pulsating toes, and my fatigue were screaming JUST STOP! at me. Cheryl did not let me dive into that, she just got me back out there. I started this race over 20 hours ago, and I found no comfort in the fact that I had only 30 more miles to go, but quite the opposite.  Cheryl had given me her fleece hooded jacket before I left the start/finish for my third time. I sat in her heated car as I ate food, ate salt, and got my back up music on. She got me my other hat. And, i got out of her heated, windless car with  2 hats and a hood on.  I was shivering for miles. I briefly thought I was having fever symptoms; as the wind finally shifted and the sun was completely up, but I was still shaking and cold.  I made it about 6 miles where the trail crosses the road, and there was Cheryl, again.  She was waiting with cut up fresh pineapple and melons. Ill meet you at the aid station, which was about a mile away.  I got there, I got in her car again. I ate the fruit and the fruit was good. She was getting dressed to finish this  thing with me   I wanted to change my socks, they were wet and filled with little rocks and grains of dirt and sand. The blister on my toe looked like a hammer head fish.  "that doesn't look good" Cheryl said with a half smile. "what should I do?" "Ya gotta pop it, I have a lighter, anti-bacterial stuff, and some band aids". So, I took the safety pin off my bib, and sparked it up. I popped that sucker in 3 different places as water oozed down my foot. I bandaged that toe and  a few other blisters, and crammed my swollen feet back in to my once pretty pink and purple Hokas, that I now wanted to spit and piss on, and throw out the window.

 Here's the mileage break down in my brain at this point

5.6 miles to the ranch, ugh.
5.6 miles back from the ranch, shit
5ish miles to the mountain view aid station, ok, then I'll be able to see it (it: that point where completion is attainable)
6 miles, that road to the finish is going to hurt.

If I wrote about each of those pieces of this race, then this will be twice as long. But, these were the hardest miles I have ever slugged through. It's important for me to note the good thing in each of these final sections was again having my friend Cheryl with me. My feet felt broken. With each step I whimpered. I began to sob when she said we'd have to pick up the pace or I would not make the cut off. And, when I began to think about that fact, I felt even lower and bluer than I can ever remember. To work so hard physically and mentally for so many months, and then for so many hours in the heat of it, to be so close... and realize that it might not have been enough enough...well,it just broke me. And, I sobbed. Im not even sure if there were actual tears left in me at this point, but I sobbed. Neither of us said a thing. Cheryl put her arm around me, and we walked on for a few minutes, until I dropped behind her again, and walked as fast as I fucking could. And the only way I could move at all was watching her feet in front of me.

"I know it's going to hurt but we have to run some if we are going to make it". She began a timed walk run. We'd walk 10 minutes and then run a minute and a half; these jaunts riddled me with physical pain, and I'd grunt and whimper at the end of each. 

(Begin the fast, you're gonna finish this thing music)

I asked Cheryl to count down the miles to me. "11", "10", "9", (Single digits) "7" (whew, I was hoping she skipped one, or that was a lonnng mile:)

When we got to the Mountain View aid station, we had about 2:20 to go 6 miles. This part of the course half sucks. You spend 2 miles on the road and  cutting across a rugged field like area with poky little plant life. The concrete felt like baseball bats swinging in to my heels, toes, and knees with every single step. The dirt was slightly more forgiving, but not much.  We were moving too slow for comfort.  Once we hit the the 3 ish more miles to go, Cheryl told me to go ahead. I saw her slowing down and holding her stomach. She was getting ill, and I felt horrible that she had spent literally 25 hours making sure I ate and drank, so intently, that she might have forgotten to eat herself.

I walked quickly, and jogged the slight inclines, but again this trail is mostly flat.  Every. Single. Step. Hurt. My voice was shaky and ready to sob again when everyday hikers and runners would pass "Good Job! "keep it up!", they'd say. I politely said "thanks", but I didn't believe them.  I kept going, because really what the hell can you do when your 2 miles away from finishing. The sun was setting for the second time. The mile long road to the finish was difficult, but I jogged/walked.  I saw my yellow B.O.B in the distance, up against the fence at the start/ finish. I was about to get there for my fourth and final time. Olivia my daughter spotted me, and ran down to the road to meet me. I saw my husband, my youngest daughter, Sylvia in her ridiculously cute little rain boots, Jill was there too. Not many other spectators or cars. The races were essentially over. I was going to make the cut off, i knew that now. I was mere feet away from the mats. 

Done. Holy Hell. I'm done. Thank God, I'm done and I finished my first 100 mile race. 30:18 was my final time.  14 women started the 100 miler on Friday, 8 finished. I was 8th.  70 people were registered for the race, 46 crossed the finish line, I was 44th.  

I had to write about this, because it almost doesn't seem like it happened. The farthest I had run up until this past weekend was 50 miles.  Out there, I thought at one point, this is going to make me hate running, but that was a short lived feeling derived from flight or fight.  I felt like I was failing for many, many, many hours out there. But, as reflection comes later, I was fighting not failing. Cheryl is so experienced with ultra running, ya know, being an ultra runner and a Meltzer, and all...I put all my trust in to whatever she said to do. But, mostly she was my friend out there. 
A few weeks ago, I asked her very sincerely not to let me quit.Well, she kept her promise:)

So, that was that. Clearly, I'm not a competitor in ultra running, but it's something I really enjoy, and I'm not embarrassed that I am slow.  I've said it before, but that feeling of accomplishing something so difficult is so good for the soul..for my toes, eh, not so much.



No one can really know Everything about you, but

I cannot live with someone who can't live without me.
Nadine Gordimer