December 29, 2013
On the Road to 50
Last year, a few guys from our running club wanted to put together a fast relay team for the Round the Bay Relay held about an hour and a half from home in the Florida panhandle, Ft. Walton. We won the relay; so obviously we wanted to defend the title this year. After some thinking and planning, I decided to run the entire relay of 36.8 miles myself. This would be my longest run EVER.
I really hate to hear runners say that they "need" one certain run to predict success in an upcoming race. We all know that it's the whole package of the training cycle, mixed with a little good luck to have a successful race. Using ONE SINGLE run adds a great deal of unnecessary pressure to the runner. Even though I know all of these things, I couldn't help but to convince myself that I NEEDED this 37 miler as proof that I could successfully complete 50. Because I have some sort of OCD, I even came up with a mathematical formula why one should do a 37 mile training run before a 50 mile race. (The logic of it would blow your mind.)
Something new happened Thursday and Friday. I was scared to run far. Truth that I've been scared to race and scared of tough workouts, I am never, and I mean NEVER afraid of a long run. This was different. 37 miles seemed like forever. Fuel on the scaredy cat fire was that my hamstrings were still not recovered from the marathon last weekend, and I was very worried about them.
The relay race was split into 6 legs, ranging from 3 miles to 9 miles. The plan was for Sam to meet me after the 2nd leg, which would be about 16 miles into my journey, and she would do the remaining 21 with me. Being the course was 0.2 shy from 37, I ran around the parking lot for 3 minutes prior to starting the race just to be sure I was over 37. I've been doing the majority of my runs Garmin-free lately, and I continued this trend yesterday.
I got up at 4:30 to drink my double serving of UCAN (vanilla is my new favorite). My start time was 5:30. There were 26 people doing the entire thing, and the RD let us choose a start time between 4 a.m. and 6:30 a.m., but he said that he wanted everyone finished by 1:00. I decided on 5:30 because I estimated that that would be easiest for the relay team drivers to possibly check on me and bring me water, etc out there, and eventually our relay team would pass me (but not until the very end of the race).
Holy MOSES, it was a windy start. The temps were in the upper 40s with huge wind gusts coming off the beach. The first leg was 9ish miles and in the total darkness. I wore a short sleeved nightlife shirt, ID shorts, compression knee socks, arm warmers, gloves, and my Run Happy visor. There was an 80% chance of rain, and I can not STAND for water to get in my eyes/face. I chose my Cadences for my feet. I hadn't planned ahead on having a light because I didn't really think it'd be that dark; luckily, Sam had her blinky strobe light that I clipped on my visor. Normally, I would love running by the beach, but the winds were so rough and it was so scary dark that I couldn't enjoy myself. I finally entered town and got to see the palm trees lit with Christmas lights, one of my favorite things about the Gulf Coast life. Just as I approached the end of the first leg, I could see a few ultra runners ahead of me.
I passed a few at the start of the 2nd leg, but didn't chat much. I was wearing my ipod, and I really kind of just wanted to get to Sam and not worry about talking to anyone. (I guess I was sort of in a mood. LOL) The 2nd leg ran over the bay bridge. Wow. There are not words for the winds on this part. Twice I had to grab my visor because wind gusts nearly stole it. It was literally pushing me to the side and back. It was MISERABLE. Even though the bridge was a major suck-fest, I am proud of how I mentally handled myself here. It was EARLY in my adventure, but I was already struggling. Not a fun place to be. I just told myself to chill out; go with the flow, and just run. Running Garmin-free sounds zen and all, but there is some sort of comfort KNOWING where you stand with pace and distance. I did have a constant question in my mind of "How am I doing?" Even though my body didn't need a watch to tell me that. I must've been doing not so bad because I passed a lot of runners on the bridge, including a barefoot guy. Finally, oh finally, the bridge was over. The next part was tricky, as I wasn't really sure where to go. Luckily, I wrote a few key directions on my race bib. I arrived at the next exchange and checked my time. I was a few minutes ahead of when Sam was supposed to arrive; so I took the time to use the restroom and get a sip of water. When I came out, she still wasn't there. I made the decision to just keep running and hope she would know and have the support car keep driving until they reached me. Sure enough, about 1.5-2 miles later, they pulled over. I tossed them my arm warmers and ipod and got a small bottle of water. Sam carried my bottle of Perpeteum while I drank the baby water. It started to drizzle, but I was so glad to have her with me that I didn't care. We hit some hills, but pretty soon arrived at the next exchange. I had to check the directions on my bib again, and I knew I was nearing 20+ mark. We met up with another runner named Michelle. We talked to her for about 2 miles, but I could tell she was struggling to keep up with us; so when we had a lull in conversation, I politely told her to have a good race and we sped up. When we got to 24 miles, we started a half-marathon countdown. Sam would never tell me our pace, but each time her watch beeped, we counted back. The 2nd to last exchange came on quickly. I was feeling REALLY good for only having 10 miles left. This part was boring and more boring. Sam and I are the kind of close where you don't have to say anything and the silence is not uncomfortable. My hands started to feel tingly; so Sam took my bottle for the remainder of the journey. She handed it to me every so often for me to finish off the Perpeteum. The support group should've passed us during on of the last two legs. In fact, we were depending on them for water. We got to the last exchange and they weren't there. I checked my watch and realized I was 20 minutes ahead of schedule. We decided not to wait and just made our way through the last exchange. At this point, I was thirsty, like really thirsty, and so was Sam. She was closing out a 19 miler with nothing to drink. We stopped at Burger King and took a restroom break. I rinsed out my Perpeteum bottle and filled it with water. We had about 4 miles to go.
When we came out of Burger King, Michelle was passing us! This lit a fire under me, even though I don't really know why. She had started 30 minutes before me; so even though she passed me, I was still beating her. Sam tried to explain this to me rationally, but I refused to listen. I'm thankful for this girl because she really gave me the push I needed to not walk the entire 4 miles to the finish. Low and behold, though, she stopped at Waffle House and we passed her back.
The final half mile goes up and then down a VERY steep bridge. It went by pretty quickly. Sam told me some really nice things, like how impressed she was at how strong I was finishing and we celebrated my longest run EVER. We also talked about everything that I wanted to drink when I finished. It was going to be my perfect long-run trifecta of coffee, diet coke, and beer. (Um, and yes, coach some water, too.) It was pretty crazy as we approached the finish line. They didn't even have it set up yet. Sam yelled ahead to Kenny (one of our running buddies on the relay team) and told him to tell the RD that I was on my way in. They scrambled around, but didn't even have the clock right. LOL. He asked me my finish time as I went through the imaginary chute. Luckily, I had kept running time on my trusty Timex.
And it was a very anticlimactic finish.
This is going to make me sound like I need psychiatric help, but 37 miles isn't really that far. I'm really, really glad it went well. And it is just the confidence boost I need to bite the bullet and register for the 50 miler. True it was just one training run, but I needed it.
I felt surprisingly good physically most of the way. In the 50, I think I will struggle most mentally, especially since they don't allow support or pacers out there. Sam was a tremendous help, but it was because she helped me keep my mind off running. It was just like one of our regular long runs that we've done a million times together.
My stomach felt A-Okay during the run! However, afterwards it was a major wreck. Coach thinks it's from dehydration, more on the not enough water end that fueling. And after doing my assigned homework on the topic, I agree that I've definitely been dehydrated while running and even in my day-to-day life. MUST WORK ON THIS!
I'm still testing out shoes for the 50. I was pleased with the Cadence, but they don't have the most traction, and I may need more than them on the trails. I'm leaning towards the Ghosts.
Rain is not so bad. It drizzled and rained the last few legs, but it wasn't too bad. Not near as miserable as it was in my head.
My final pace ended up being 8:34 and that's including the bathroom stops. I'll take it and I'm on my way to my first 50 miler!!!!