Saturday morning was literally the perfect day to be a runner. Although it was 30 degrees at the start, it quickly warmed up to the mid 40s with sun and clear skies. About 50 of us showed up, filled a truck with donated food and prepared to run anywhere from 1.25 to 35 miles.
From the time I woke up on Saturday, I was aware of how different the morning of an ultramarathon felt compared to a regular marathon. I didn’t have to worry about halting drinking so that I could use the porto-potty at the perfect time before the start; there was a porto-potty every 1.25 miles. I didn’t have to eat a huge bowl of oatmeal to carbo-load; I had fuel every 1.25 miles. I didn’t have to pick the perfect layers; as some of the other runners can attest, I lost a layer of clothing every lap for the first few miles, leading me to ask if this was Run Your Clothes Off. Even the atmosphere was different. Instead of thousands of anxious runners shoving each other in a corral, checking pace bands and planning strategy, we stood around drinking coffee and introducing ourselves. As Queen of race nerves, this was a welcome change.
The race went off around 9:15 and I started slowly as planned. Really slowly. I’m not kidding when I say that some of the kids who were running with us beat me through the first lap. The first few laps were painless as my fingers and toes warmed up. By about 5 miles in, I had stripped off my tights and was comfortably in shorts and a tee shirt. For the first couple of hours, I ran in 4 lap (5 mile) chunks, stopping after every 4 to fuel, stretch and do a systems check. Per usual for me, I didn’t feel warmed up until about 8 miles in and cruised through mile 15. After the 12th lap, I started doing 3 lap chunks and definitely started to feel the distance. After my 17th lap, I announced that I was only had 24 laps (30 miles) in me for the day. From that point on, I did two laps at a time and just tried to keep one foot in front of the other.
Miles 22 to 26 were tough. I was tired, sore and disoriented from running a loop trail covered in leaves. By the time I reached 26, however, I was elated. Every step was one longer than I’d ever run before and I was excited to see how far I could go. I was also thrilled to note that although I was tired, my form wasn’t falling apart. I was moving slowly, but not compensating, so I plugged on. On my 24th lap, Greg, the race organizer, kindly joined me to celebrate. It was a good thing, as I was tired enough that bidding adieu to every tree, stump, log and squirrel seemed normal. I finished, with minimal fanfare, but have never been more proud of myself. The race medal, a crushed can, may become my favorite bling from any race.
After the race, I begrudgingly got myself into an ice bath, foam rolled and refueled. My friends can attest that I even wore small heels on Saturday night (although they will also share that I was moving so slowly, it could barely be considered forward progress). I am sore today, but much less so than I anticipated. Stairs are not my friend and although I feel like a rockstar, I look like a pirate.
So what did this race mean to me? First, it was part of my continued effort to be a more patient racer. I knew that if I wanted to survive, I needed to go out and stay slow. In past races (please see Vegas 2009), going out too fast crushed my opportunity for a good race. Second, I verified that endurance remains a strong point for me. When I am exhausted at mile 20 of Boston, I can think back to Saturday, and be grateful for only 6 miles left and confident that I have it in me. Finally, I had fun. Running has always been my release valve, but my competitive drive sometimes overrides that and sucks the joy right out of it. During this recovery, I’ve done some fun events that I hope recalibrate me.