Friday, October 31, 2014

GOATZ 50k Race, 2014

The week leading up to the race I was trying to be chill and cool and no big deal except everything on the inside was screaming "This is a big deal!!". I was dealing with a cold that dropped in on Monday and stayed all week. My kids were so, so ready for Mom to not be napping or grouchy or in some form of antsy. Bill, well, I can't speak for him because he was working his tail off finishing a closet in our basement and making trim for all the baseboard that was ripped off so the carpet could dry. He did go for a final run with me on Friday where I told him the in's and out's of what I would need/want from him on race day and also prepping him on how to prepare for running the last loop with me. We ended our easy three mile run with my heart rate racing, my stomach flip-flopping and me doubled over announcing "I'm gonna throw up! I'm gonna throw-up!!" (Bill is a lucky guy.) (I didn't throw up.)

Also, I was emotional. I cried every day last week.

Let's fast forward shall we?

The whole family came along for the race. We drove over to Omaha the night before. I picked up my race packet at Canfield's. As I told them my name, she asked what distance I was running only to remark after I said the 50k, "Of course, the 50k. You're wearing a Zumbro shirt.". I think it's perfectly fine to wear a shirt of a crowned, goat-horned owl the day before the longest race of your life in order to harness all the inner badass energy you can. (Yep, I said badass. I use it sparingly, unless you are one of my runner mothers. I told them to deal with it. Same for you.) (Also, Audrey would really like me to stop wearing my race shirts as normal everyday clothes and even promised to take me shopping after my race was over. Score! Wait, I'm the mom.)

After supper, we headed to our hotel and then down to the pool for a bit. While there, we met a father and his two sons. He was running the single loop, 10.5 miles and the two boys, ages 13 and 14, were running the 50k! As it turns out, they have run eighteen ultras (ultras being anything past 26.2 miles). Their story is that at ages 5 and 6, they were in a running clinic and loved it and then wanted to keep running further and further. I tried peppering them with all sorts of questions but you know what? Boys will be boys and while they obviously loved running and had opinions and so on, they were in the pool and were there to horse around and dunk each other. They were completely inspiring, nonetheless.

I slept amazingly well and was able to fall back to sleep each time I woke up. I geared up and headed to breakfast. This is what I planned on eating: an entire banana spread with chocolate hazelnut spread (Justin's), a cup of yogurt, a slice of toast with peanut butter and honey and a cup of coffee. The nerves however, kept blocking my throat. I could barely get food into my mouth. Bill munched quietly across the table from me. After a trip to the bathroom, whereafter I thought of tweeting that I was either cleared for a race or a colonoscopy but didn't (saved that gem for you because we haven't talked poop much on here and let me just say, it's a normal part of racing nerves and also you're welcome), I demanded Bill help me help myself getting my breakfast down. He, being calm, cool and collected, asked what I normally did when I went for a long run. I told him I get up, get dressed, eat breakfast, take the kids to school, put my pack on and then go for a run. Well, there you go. I settled down and finished a half a cup of yogurt and the full slice of toast. He loaded me up and took me to the race.

In the van I pinned my race bib on my shorts, loaded my pack, and got myself race ready, went over final instructions with Bill and chilled to some music Bill had for me. We headed towards the starting line and also the bathroom line. He even stood in line for me while I chatted with my friend, Amanda. I made it back to the start line just in time. (If you must know, I also take Energy Bits right before a run and then tell myself "No more pooping" and I don't have the urge any more. It's much more the Energy Bits that calm and settle my stomach rather than my stern talking to.) 

Pre-race smiles
At the suggestion of my coach, I tried to place myself somewhere around the mid-pack for the start. I just didn't know where mid-pack was as we were all scattered about. An air horn sounded and the front runners ran. The rest of us walked toward the start before running. There wasn't a rush. Immediately we halted to a hike up an initial little but steep hill. It was if they needed to get in the extra mileage and had us climb to the top of this little hill, run around a bit, go down on one side then go up again only to come back down a little further around it. No big deal. Looking back on it now, I think I placed myself pretty well. 

There were four separate races starting at the same time. The 5 mile, the 10.5 mile, the 21 mile and the 50k. There were a lot of runners in the first quarter of the first loop with a bunch those being the 5 milers. After the split-off, there were still plenty of runners left on the trail. I found this to be kind of weird because I have done all of my training runs alone. But you'll find this to be even a better kind of weird, as if you have a weird-ometer, but if people are around me on the trail, I will make comments and such to them. I'm like my grandma was in the grocery store always talking random stuff to strangers except it's on a trail.

I decided that I would give each loop a word to focus on. The first loop would be the word patience. I knew that I couldn't go out fast even as the energy and excitement of all the runners would try to carry me away. I found out I could be patient with the climbing pace of most of the runners around me but I was faster on the descents as this was neither a steep or technical trail but I kept the feeling easy and patient. There would be plenty of time to rush later if I wanted. I ran segments with my friend Amanda and a few of her friends, chatting about how husbands should never tell their in-labor wives that they are almost done until the head is crowning and other such life things. I paid attention to the trail, the shade, the wind, the light, the heat, the course markings. It was a very well marked course with volunteers directing traffic in a few of the questionable spots, such as crossing a parking lot which I completely appreciated as I can follow trail markings but as soon as I hit pavement I'm lost. 

Clear skies, chatty friends and a strong breeze on the northwest dam wall.

I expected the manned aid station to be around mile 4.5 or so but as it turned out it was further along the course at mile 6, which was totally fine by me as it was nice to think each time I was over halfway through the loop when I got to it. This aid station was being run by my coach and a few more Capitol Strider Turkey's who volunteered to get up really early and drive over and help all day long. What a great job they did! I looked forward to seeing them each time I got near. What I didn't expect was to see Bill there!! It was such a nice surprise to see him! I also said hi to my coach. She did a quick assessment and since I didn't seem to be broken in anyway urged me to get back on the trail. I stuck to my word- patient- and finished the loop. I was starting to feel some tightness in my hip flexors and the back of my left calf and also a warm spot on the outside of my big toe. I intended to look at it at the start/finish line before I went back out but scooted through there a little too quickly. I ate two potato chips (whoa- two whole chips?!), a chunk of banana, and a few slices of orange while Bill re-filled my bottles with Tailwind. This was such a luxury for me to just hand them to him and he did it for me since you know I've been hauling my extra water and stashing it along my routes. That, plus extra food while I ran? Sweet! As I started out again, a person who follows me on Instagram called out to me to meet me and wish me luck. She ran with me for just a short way and we quickly made introductions and connections.  What a nice surprise!

For my next loop I gave the word pleasant. My pace was supposed to be at such that I felt I could run forever. I can't tell you that I ever found that run forever groove as the tightness was more pronounced this loop and I was debating about when to stop to check on my toe. Part of the course crosses the park road which winds around the lake. On this second loop, the volunteer had pulled out his camping chair while cheering runners on. I asked him if I could borrow his chair and pulled off my shoe and sock. Nothing seemed to be causing the warm spot other than running so I put them back on and went on. I wouldn't see Bill again at the aid station but I would see my friends. I was feeling the tightness for sure. My coach asked me how I was doing. I think I maybe muttered as to not really answer and to try not to cry. I could still run and I wanted to keep my outlook pleasant even though I was suffering more than I wanted to. (I should have said something as nothing but my pride was in the way of getting help.)
Beautiful trail
I noticed a butterfly along a fence line and immediately smiled at such a gift. A small pile of leaves played chase with each other in front of me. The weather was absolutely gorgeous for such a late October Sunday with a breeze that kept us runners from being too hot. Someone was making a fire along the lakeshore and the smoke beckoned "Enjoy, Enjoy the day." Then there was a small section of the trail that went through a stand of pine trees. Running through pine trees is my absolute favorite type of trail so far. I've run through them at Sugar Bottom, at Zumbro (though that was muddy, not pine-needley), and now here. The needles blanket the trail making for quiet running (they can be a little slippery). The lower branches of trees are bare but the uppers block the sun and the temperature is always a little cooler. It's just a delight and I looked forward to this very short section every loop.

I finished this loop knowing my family would be waiting for me at the start/finish line and there they were. I handed my bottles again to Bill and went over to the aid station to eat basically all the fruit there was- bananas, oranges, and watermelon. Ooh, so yummy watermelon! I don't even know if I hugged my kids or not. I do know that they looked at me and I probably was a little teary and they may have said good luck or good job. Luke did mention that I only had one more lap to go. He was right. I did have only one more lap to go. Even though it was still over ten miles long, this is where I was and it was good to acknowledge it. 

Bill and I turned and headed back out. I was pretty much silent. We passed a few women and one of them called out that we were happy and crying at the same time. She could not have said it better. I was so happy to be doing this and starting my last lap but I was also crying because I was hurting. I tried filling Bill in on how things were going but the words were few still. I told him about my knee and that running was really difficult. We walked. Now on my third time on the same route, I knew where the runnable sections were and where I would walk. I tried but couldn't hold to that. So we walked. We were quiet and I fought to keep the battle positive. I would be Persistant. There was only one way to get back to the finish line and I would get there even. I tried having Bill time me alternating with a quarter mile running, a quarter mile walking but that didn't work. The running effort became so hard I was worn out and initially felt like I could barely maintain a walk because I was too tired but then I would recover and started power-hiking faster. This was by far my slowest section. Looking back on it now, I think some of this had to do with my electrolytes. My hands were swelling a little beyond normal and I was thirsty a lot more without feeling my thirst quenched. There is a lot of variables and I've yet to nail all of them down. 

We shared the trail with two horses and four riders
I wasn't paying much attention to my watch at this point. I turned it to just the time of day, not watching my heart rate or my pace or how long I had been out there although I did hear my watch chime a couple of times. I looked down and saw that I was now beyond 24 miles. I was now in most miles ever consecutively run. Each step was a new PR for me. Well, I cried, of course. Then I started talking a bit more. We chatted only a bit about the kids. I couldn't think about them because the mom in me would take over and I would start worrying and that was no good. I was so grateful for them coming and hanging out while I ran. I was so grateful for Bill driving, handling the kids, taking me to the race, running with me, walking with me, being there for me. I was so grateful for everyone who was pulling for me. It was better than a birthday. It carried me. It was a beyond beautiful day. I was so lucky to be out there doing what I really wanted to do.

My final stop at the Turkey aid station had my coach attending to me specifically. I told her where I hurt and she had me do a couple of stretches. I was congratulated on my distance PR to which I acknowledged with a nod and more tears. Four and a half miles to go. Now I thought of the kids. I looked at my watch. Thinking back to breakfast when Bill asked me what my normal long run day looked like, I now focused on the end of the day. Maybe I could pick them up from school? My knee was still not playing but I was ready to move. I broke the running into sections- run to this fence thing, run to the curve, run to the pole, run to the end. It was a good stretch of running. Then I recovered by walking. By now I figured I needed Bill to help me walk faster. When I was walking before I thought I was going fast only to look down and see that I really wasn't. Now I needed him to help me keep pace and it worked. My mantra became "Pick up the kids." I wouldn't actually make it to the finish line in "time" to pick them up but that didn't matter. I ran when I could even though it wasn't pretty. It was more of a shuffle and by now my form had compensated for the hurting knee and tight ankle. But I persisted. Run through this section. Run to this orange flag. Now to the next one. Now the next. We got to the south end of the lake and could see the kids on the shore thanks to Ben's orange shirt. 

The south dam wall. Later in the day sailboats would cut across it.
Shortly after that we crossed the dam wall and I started up with the running this time to the finish line. I knew I really truly was almost done and this was a very short trail segment. I could hear the music and the announcer and the finished line pulled me through the trees. Then there was grass. Then people on the sideline cheering and clapping. For me!! I raised my arms in victory! I was so happy! So happy!!

I was awarded my finisher's medal and handed a bottle of ice cold water. My kids congratulated me. We turned to watch Amanda finish. It was an amazing feeling to be done. We found a couple of chairs to sit in. Sitting was amazing. I ate a tiny bowl of lukewarm chili. It tasted amazing. Unlike Superior where the finish line and the entire race felt kind of surreal, this felt very real. I was very aware of the culmination of the day's effort and it felt amazing!

If you can't tell, I'm really, really happy!!
I really could go on and on about things still post-race, the drive home, the conversations with my family, my recovery and more but I do have to wrap this up. I posted on my Facebook wall several days afterwards how tremendously thankful I was to everyone's support of me. The same is true here. You don't have to read my rambling about this run or that race but you still do and I'm thankful for you. I'll save my where do I go from here thoughts for another day. Here's to another day, another dream!!

My crew!


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