Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Prairie Spirit 50 mile

When I write reports from big races like this it's always hard to know where to start. I guess I should start with how I got here. In May I went for a little training run in the Flinthills with Jason. He told me he thought I could run the Heartland 50 mile. I think I probably laughed and said no way at first. Then I kept talking to him about it by email. I started thinking I'd probably do it. Then I found out Eric was going to have a fall Prairie Spirit that would be a 50k or a 50 mile. Woohoo! A flat course? Sign me up! I started mentioning to family and friends that I was thinking about doing 50 miles. The reception wasn't what I was hoping for. Most of them stared at me with a blank look. Some were really negative about it. I remember emailing Jason that I was kind of bummed. I thought people would be excited like they were when I did the other distances the first time. Not so. Jason assured me that's pretty normal and that it's unlikely people are going to get it. He told me something like "do this for yourself and don't worry about what anyone else thinks."

My training was so so. I could have done more, but considering I moved twice during the training I did ok. I did Lunar Trek, which was not a great race and almost kept me from signing up at all. I just wasn't sure I could do it. Then I did the Hawk marathon and just fell apart emotionally. I was really close to dropping out entirely. I have some pretty amazing friends though and they rallied around me. Joell, Justin, Candi and Zach weren't having any of my pity party. My friend Libby wrote a blog post once where she talked about foxhole friends. These are friends that kind of come out of nowhere and support you and have your back. You knew they existed, but they were kind of in the background. These four people have done more for my confidence and attitude than I can ever repay them for.

A few weeks before the race I found out I could have a pacer. Woohoo! Now to find someone. I asked Candi and she said yes, but, her son might have a football game she couldn't miss. She really wanted to do it but I needed a backup. I couldn't find anyone. Jason was going to be pacing his friend Megan, Justin was volunteering, Zach was going to volunteer if he could and Joell was running the 50k. Crap. Justin knew I really needed someone and was bummed that everyone else had other commitments so he went to work finding me someone. He sent me a message saying he had me a pacer and her name was Kodi Panzer. At first I think I asked who the heck that was, then a lightbulb came on. I asked if she had done Lunar Trek. He said yes. I said "OMG! I think I showered with her!" He told me that I had in fact. He knows this because his wife Joell was there too. It was a special running moment :) Kodi agreed to be the backup, but she wanted to run some even if Candi came, so I worked it out so they could share pacing duties. Candi's son ended up having a game, so she couldn't pace. My son Ryan stepped up though and wanted to do it. I thought that would be awesome, so I took him up on it before he could change his mind!

My crew person was Libby who is such a great friend and is always willing to support me in my crazy running adventures. I'm so lucky to have her!

Race day started with a 4 am wake up call. Not cool! Trying to wake Ryan up proved to be one of my bigger challenges of the day. That boy likes his sleep! He needed to be at the race at 5:15 though because he was headed to the Princeton aid station to hang out with Justin and help out until Libby got there. After they left I finished getting ready and talked to Reina. She is Joell's friend that I met briefly at FlatRock and have gotten to know a little on facebook. I'm so happy I got to visit with her more this weekend. She's so sweet! I also talked to Dennis Haig a little before the race. He's just an awesome ultrarunner and has run in every single FlatRock event since it's inception. He's a pretty badass dude! I told him I was worried about being last. He told me that he ran a 100 a few weeks ago and got a hoodie. On the back it says "Finisher" but nowhere does it tell his time or what place he was. I thought that was an awesome reminder that it doesn't matter where you finished. What matters is that you did.

All too soon it was time to line up. We did and suddenly it was go time! Everyone took off really fast. I didn't. I had a plan and I was sticking to it. I knew if I started too fast it could mean not finishing or doing a 20 mile death march. No thanks. Soon I was at the back, all alone. We had to do a short out and back and Eric was there to make sure no one cheated. I got a high 5 and made a joke about being number 1 (yeah, that was my bib number!) and being in last place. It was pretty funny. I started heading back to the start/finish area, still last. The first aid station was supposed to be unmanned but Jason was there along with Dennis and someone else. It was dark, I have no idea who it was. I handed Jason my headlamp since I knew daylight was coming and I didn't want it on any longer than I had to have it. I filled up my bottle. As I was doing that Dennis said, "Hey, did you see Jason's hoodie? It says finisher on the back. Do you see where it says his time?" Nope, I do not! Thanks again for the encouragement Dennis! I took off and Jason asked if I was eating. Yes. I am. He said to eat as much real food as I could. This seemed like a solid plan, so I ran back to the aid station and grabbed a cinammon roll. I ate it while I ran.

Now I had a long stretch to get to the first manned station where I'd see Libby and Ryan. I just took it a mile at a time. I was back and forth with another female runner and eventually got a bit ahead of her and she didn't pass me again for a while. I truthfully don't remember much about this section. I know my legs were already aching when there is no way they should have been so early on. Not enough taper maybe? I don't know. When I was getting close to Princeton Jason walked out and met me. It was nice seeing him. He asked what I needed and I said coke and food. I also needed to pee so I told Libby I needed my vaseline and ibuprofen and to use the bathroom. She couldn't find my vaseline in my bag so I grabbed it and took off for the bathroom. I peed then came back and they started giving me stuff. I can't remember all of what I had there, but it was a lot. Justin was manning this station and his adorable twins were there with him. It was so fun to see them. As I was leaving Jason asked if I was taking s-caps. I don't use s-caps, I use endurolytes, but same idea. I wasn't. I had forgotten to bring any. They got me fixed up and I took off.

Here's a pic right after the aid station. I was being a cheesy dork toward the camera. I am a total dork, so the moment was captured well.

The next stretch sucked. Not a lot more to say about it. Nothing was terrible, I just didn't feel very energetic. I think it was through here that the lady passed me again. I passed a guy though, which felt good. I never pass people in races! He was starting to cramp so I felt bad for him. That is no fun, especially early on.

Another pic along the course

When I got to Richmond Jason came out again. I was taking my arm sleeves off as I ran in. I was getting pretty hot. At this aid station Libby had laid out everything I might need. She was awesome! They offered me food and one of the things they offered was a soft taco. Heck yeah! I reapplied vaseline under my arms, drank coke, took some endurolytes and grabbed my taco. The best part of the volunteer handing me the taco was the look of  WTF? on Jason's face. The very awesome and kind aid station worker knew I was in a hurry so he rushed it out to me but it wasn't folded and I needed to take it to go. No time for just standing still to eat! Jason dug deep and went back to his days at McDonald's and folded it up for me. (just to be clear, this is in no way shape or form me criticizing the volunteer. He was very very good! I just wasn't clear on what I needed)  I took the taco and headed out. It tasted so good! That and the coke really breathed some new life into me. I cruised through the next 5 or so miles feeling great. Then I ran out of water. It was getting hot with the sun shining down on me and I drank a lot. I started to freak out because I thought maybe I had misunderstood and there wasn't an unmanned aid station on this stretch. If that was the case I had at least 4 more miles to go with no water. I sort of fell apart. I did pass another guy though. Woot! I finally got to the unmanned station. Hallelujah! By then though I was just cranky.I also caught up with the lady I had been playing cat and mouse with. She was in a lot of pain due to her IT band and wasn't sure she was finishing. I felt awful for her.

I did not love this next section to Garnett. When I got there and saw Libby and Kodi (yay for a pacer!) and Ryan I totally started crying. They were happy tears and definitely not the last tears I would shed that day.

Coming into Garnett with Libby

My awesome pacer Kodi!

My toes had started falling asleep and my left big toe felt really off and I thought maybe I was getting a blister.I went through the stupid process of taking off my gaiter, shoe and sock. Toe was fine, but I applied vaseline anyway. I ate some food, got my refilled water bottle, grabbed a Starbucks frappuccino, told Kodi I was ready and we took off. I walked a while drinking the frappuccino and then I was ready. My stomach was really really not thrilled. I had already thrown up a couple of times. I knew I needed to take it slow for a bit. Kodi let me walk a while, then she got me back to running. She told me hilarious stories about her dating life. We saw someone we thought I could pass, so that became my goal. I passed him! We kept going, I whined, Kodi told funny stories and kept me going. I thought I had a rock in my shoe at one point so we stopped to get it out. I shook everything out and put my shoe back on and started running again. I could still feel it. I thought maybe it was in my sock. Kodi thought I was probably getting a blister. Every step from then on felt like I was stepping on a rock. Yay! A few times I stopped and did some stretches Kodi showed me. It really really helped. During this stretch my stomach was really upset. We passed another guy and as I was passing I asked how he was. He said good and asked how I was. I said good and promptly vomited right in front of him. It was an epic moment! Kodi was laughing and asked if she could post it on facebook. I thought it was pretty hilarious too, so I said yes. She posted "we've got a puker but she's still running!"

We FINALLY got to Richmond. I don't remember a lot of this station. I peed, re-lubed everything, ate, drank, etc. I asked Ryan if he was going to be ready to pace me and he said yes. We took off for the final 6.5 miles that Kodi would be with me. I whined and moaned but ran when she suggested it. Well, mostly. I think it was through here that she started lying to me. Once she said "if you run just a little further you will be at the end of a mile and can walk. I said ok. Then I said "when you say a little further, you don't mean like a quarter of a mile or something do you?" She smiled and said "not quite that far." I don't know how far I ran, but it was way longer than I wanted to! I also stopped looking at my watch and just relied on her to keep me going at a decent pace. BTW, my decent pace at mile 35 isn't quite what it is at mile 5. Oh, how our standards get lower! A very funny thing about Kodi was that she was all messed up on the distance since she didn't start the race with me. I'd ask her how much further I had and she'd say something like 15 miles when it was more like 8. It was so funny. I was mostly just done during this section. Thinking I'd never run a race this long again. It was so hard. Not far before we got to Princeton I heard someone coming up behind me. It was the female runner I had been leap frogging with. She was feeling much better and had caught up and was passing me. Wow! I was a little bummed because this made me last place female (there were only 4 females in the race) but I was so incredibly happy for her that she was feeling that much better.

Right before we got to Princeton I looked ahead and saw Joell. I started crying. I said "Look! It's Joell!" I was so happy to see her! She ran the 50k and was amazing. Several times during the day when I wanted to give in and walk I thought of her. I would think that no way is Joell going to give in and walk several miles, I'm not either! She was a big source of motivation for me. I got to Princeton and hugged Joell and started getting ready. Libby told me to change into a dry shirt and I did. It felt so much better! I also tied a long sleeved shirt around my waist because I was getting cold. I ended up never using it. Justin told me it was time to take a shot with him. I said I couldn't because I was too nauseous. He told me he wouldn't be at the finish line though so if I was doing it now is the time. What the hell. Let's do it. We went in the tent and got our cups with bourbon. Someone handed Ryan the camera. He said "I'm taking the picture?" It was so funny. He said it with a tone of "what? You all get to drink and I have to man the camera?" That wasn't what he meant, but it's what it sounded like.

Libby handed me my bottle and I told her to please take out the gels and chews and stick something real in there. Yes, candy and cookies are real at that point. I could not eat one more gel or chew. Every time it hit my mouth I started gagging. They gave me some candy and cookies. Because at mile 42 candy and cookies are real food! Don't judge! Ryan and I took off and I told him I was going to walk for a minute and pointed to where I'd start running. As we were walking I asked him if he thought Rick and Adam would be at the finish and at that point I started sobbing. I was tired and I missed Rick and Adam and knew they weren't going to be there and was just sad. It's then Ryan looked at me with a completely straight face and told me something Justin told him to tell me when I was in a bad place. It was perfect. I laughed out loud. I can't tell you all what it is because it wouldn't be funny anyway if you don't know the whole story and it's a secret :) The delivery was probably what made it the best. It was a joke but he was so serious.  I started running. My plan was to run a half mile, then walk a tenth. It was obvious pretty quickly that was too far to run without a walk break. I ran a while and then started walking. I walked and walked. I walked 3/4 of a mile, which was my longest stretch of walking all day. I finally told Ryan I was walking too much and he couldn't let me. I was a little nervous that he wasn't going to be able to be mean and make me run, but he did it. 

I started doing 1/4 mile intervals. I'd run 1/4, walk 1/4. This was just what I needed! The first couple of intervals were just so so. I was moving slow, Ryan was pretending to run beside me even though he could have walked and kept up. I gave him my watch so I didn't have to know how far I had to go. I wanted to just run when he told me and walk when he told me. I asked him at one point if he thought I could still finish under 12 hours. He said it would be tough. I must have had a devastated look on my face because he said "Is that really your goal?" I said yes and he said "ok, lets go!" He started encouraging me more and trying to get me to go faster. He'd run a little faster and walk a little faster and tell me to try to keep up. He'd tell me if I could go just a tiny bit faster I could get under a certain pace. His competitive instincts kicked in and the kid was amazing! When we got to the last three miles he told me it's just a 5k. Anyone can run a 5k. He reminded me of my old 5k route in Elk City. Every 1/4 of a mile he'd tell me where I was along that old route. Then he started having me imagine running in different places. Just pretend I was somewhere I loved to be and picture running there. How did this child get so smart? 

When we were getting close to Ottawa I looked up and saw a sign from a truck stop on the edge of town. I was so excited! I think I yelled "LOOK!!! We're there!!!" I'm pretty sure it was LOUD. Ryan laughed and told me to keep going. We got to the edge of town and had to run on some blacktop under I-35. We came around that and onto a straightaway into Ottawa. Ryan had to pee so he went off into some trees. He kept encouraging me! It was funny. He was peeing and yelling "you've got this Mom! Keep running!" He also told me I got one more walk interval and then I was running it in. I was skeptical. We were running along and I saw someone up ahead. I started telling Ryan I could see where we turn off the trail toward the finish because I could see people. He didn't believe me. I think he thought I was hallucinating. I knew someone was up there though! I got closer and said "OMG! It's Jason! I told you I saw someone and I know who it is!" Ryan told me don't get my hopes up. He said when I got there and it wasn't Jason I was going to be disappointed so don't try to guess who it is. We got there and I was right! He yelled for me to go have my moment. I so did!

We turned toward the finish line and I feel like I picked up my pace but I probably didn't. I saw Eric and I gave him two thumbs up. I had told Ryan earlier that I really wanted him to cross the finish line with me. Typically pacers don't, but I don't care. He isn't just my pacer, he's my son. I wanted him to cross that finish line with me. We crossed the finish line in 11:48:58. Woohoo! 

Yes, yes I did throw my hands in the air in celebration! It was such an awesome moment. The early mornings, the many many miles, the blisters, chafing, puking, tears, etc during training were all for this. Was it worth it? Abso-freaking-lutely! Crossing the finish line of my first 50 mile race was always going to be awesome, but when I had Ryan by my side it was just so much better. 

There are a ton of pics of me at the finish line (really, it's embarrassing) so I won't include them all. I'll put a bunch on FB for those of you that are friends with me on there. Joell and the twins were there, as were Libby and Reina. Eric grabbed me and hugged me and then gave me my buckle. Woohoo! Missing was Kodi who had stayed at Princton drinking and helping out. She also got a tiny bit lost. Here is a picture of my face after she told me something really really funny that she said.

Another of us

Sadly I only have one pic of me with Libby and it's really far away and you can't really see us. So disappointing :( She was so amazing out there and helped me so much. I'm so so so so thankful to have her in my life!

To the Epic Ultras Brigade: Thank you! All of you are amazing and I can't thank you enough for giving so much of your time to help us out. Ryan, Libby and Kodi, you're the best team I could have asked for! Jason, I'm still not sure I want to thank you for talking me into this! I cursed you a lot. You should expect that at this point though. Thanks for helping crew me too! Justin, thanks for talking me into taking the shot and for so many other things I can't name them all. Joell, you're just the best. Seeing you at that last aid station helped me more than you'll ever know. Candi and Zach weren't there physically but they sure were in spirit. Kodi was reading me your comments and I knew you were behind me 100%! Rick, Ryan and Adam, thanks. Thank you for being patient while I was grumpy, tired and sore. Thank you for letting me run instead of spend time with you, thank you for maybe not understanding why I do this but supporting me anyway. 

I think it's time for a little break. Not sure what's next, but I'll let you know when I do!

1 comment:

  1. Awww, Mel, I am so happy for you! What a wonderful thing you've done. You are amazing. Congratulations, and thanks for sharing such a sweet write up. I literally cried happy tears for your reading it.