Monday, April 10, 2006

A Long Day and a Long Recap

I enjoy triathlons. I've been doing them since 2001, so of coure I enjoy them or else I wouldn't keep doing them. However, I don't like to do sprint triathlons. You're looking at a distance of 400 meter swim, 15 mile bike, and a 3 mile run for a basic sprint tri, but it can vary. I don't like doing sprints because they hurt. You're looking at 90 minutes of balls to the wall, red lining it racing. If done right, it hurts. I don't like to hurt like that.


I like half-Ironman and Ironman distance triathlons.

I enjoy running trails.

I prefer to suffer for as long as friggin possible. I like to get my entry fees worth. I like to EARN the schwag and feast at the aid station buffets. How often can you pig out like that without feeling guilty? Hell, it's 5 miles to the next pit stop, and I'll most likely burn off what I just ate.

The Bull Run Run 50-miler started Saturday morning at promptly 6:15am in 60 degree temps, which would be the highest for the day. I was one of 340 starters and 281 finishers. I am a proud owner of a finishers pin and a blue 3/4 zip fleece jacket, since I declared allegiance with the North. It's cool that this race keeps a Civil War theme to it as we are running on sacred ground.

At about 90 minutes into the race it started to rain.. and it didn't stop for 8+ hours. We're running on single track trails.. not a gravel packed alley or a fire road, we're talking single file. And when you're in the back of the pack, as I was, you're running through what everyone else as been through. And when 250+ people are leading the way, it gets messy. And when you're on an out and back course, the "back" portion is messier.

Post race, I overheard someone say, "the mud was cool at first, but the novelty wore off pretty quickly". It was cool at first.. like the first 11 miles or so. You see the lead runners coming back with their legs covered in mud from the knees down and it looks hardcore. The backside of some covered in mud from an errant step. Pretty sweet. Then it gets caked onto your shoes.. the mud and other grit works its way into your shoes and eventually your socks. That's not cool. Eventually you forget about what's in your shoes and where you're stepping.

I had hoped to do better than my previous times of 11:03 and 11:14. Today just wasn't that day. I was good about not getting too attached to a runner and falling in with their pace. I did, however, hook up with a chick that I met after a trail marathon in early March and again passed at the 50k a few weeks ago when I gave her some much needed salt tabs. We'd run together at times, but mostly try to keep the other in sight. I was feeling good up until mile 26 at the Wolf Run Shoals aid station. This is a fun one to get to since they have a theme every year, so it's always uplifting to see what the aid station volunteers are dressed as. My time at this point was 5:45. I finished the trail marathon in March in 5:50, so I figured I was doing well.

Basically, things went downhill from here.

Let's go back to the mud. It was muddier. You don't run down hills, you slide down them sideways. You don't power up hills, you walk up them duck footed (toes pointing out) in hopes of getting some form of traction. You cross a stream and your feet get wetter. Sock change? Forget it. It was like running through 2 sets of puddles with each step - the one on the course and the one in my shoes. They just couldn't drain. They wouldn't. You run through the mud and your foot sinks in over the ankle. You hope your shoe will be attached when you pull it out. It was that kind of mud. The mud that can suck the shoe off your foot and the energy from your body.

Aside from Wolf Run Shoals, the next aid station I was looking forward to was at the start of the Do-Loop. It was a long way out there from Fountain Head, too. I didn't know what the mileage was, but it just seemed like I was running in circles along the White Loop and not going anywhere. Very frustrating and mentally draining. Out at the Do-Loop, they served grilled cheese/cheese quesadillas. I ate a full one. I tried to keep most stops around 2:30 and I spent 3:30 here. It was worth it and damn was that ever tasty! The Do-Loop is 3 miles before you hit the aid station again and start heading back. It was a tough 3 miles with a lot of ups and downs.. literally and figuratively. It's nice to leave the Do-Loop since you're basically heading home at this point.

Weather wise.. at this point, the temp dropped to the high 40s/low 50s. It continued to rain off and on and the wind started blowing slightly. In just a Tshirt and shorts, I was cold, which is why I tried to limit how long I was at the aid stations since my body temp dropped quickly when I stopped. The attire of choice at this time was a garbage bag poncho. Think that's ghetto? I saw a chick at an aid station ask for bread bags for her hands. THAT's ghetto! I was feeling good and only my lips really felt cold. My arms were splotchy red, which was a good sign that blood was still flowing. If they were blue/pale, I knew I was in trouble. I'm pasty white to begin with, so it's hard to tell sometimes.

After leaving the Do-Loop aid station with the chick from earlier, we both had the "I just want to finish" mentality. We got into Fountainhead together and about 2.5 miles to Wolf Run Shoals. Along the way, I shared my salt tabs with her and we just soldiered on.. a fitting word. I left a little before her, but she soon caught up and passed me on a downhill section and never looked back. I tried to keep her in sight.. motivation to keep running, since I didn't want to get sucked in to walking.

However, during the last 5.5 miles from the final aid station at Bull Run Marina, I did a lot of it. I left the aid station at 10:45 (running clock) into the race. By now, the fast runners have long since finished, showered, eaten, napped, and warmed up. The temps are in the low 40s but at least it's not raining. The course isn't as muddy these last miles, but the damage is done. Miles of sliding down hills and altering my stride and gait have taken a toll on my legs.. especially my hip flexors and groin. Think of going up a hill in cross country skies and that's what we did a lot of.

Based on the time I left the aid station, I thought I could finish in 11:45, but I just didn't have it in me. I kept moving, but I walked more than I wanted. I was just drained. My heartrate, which held steady in the high 140s/low 150s had dropped to 125. I had nuthin. I took a salt tab. I took a GU gel. I took a sip from the water bottle in my right hand.. then tried the gatorade in my left. Nuthin. I was thinking I could make in in under 12 hours and tried to pick it up a bit. I looked over my shoulder and tried to keep those behind me at bay and tried to use that as motivation. I tried to think of the god Mercury and my mom's note, which I wrote on my shoes but had long been washed off. I wasn't moving swiftly, but I was moving. I kept glancing at my watch and saw I had a chance to go sub 12 hrs, but I had no push as I lumbered up the stairs about a quarter mile from the end. Those stairs are just cruel.

Despite the cold temps, there was a good crowd at the finish. The race director was there to welcome all the runners home, and it was great to get a hug from him. I chatted with a few people before heading up to The Lodge for food.

An event like this wouldn't happen if it weren't for the many volunteers. On days like this, you say an extra 'thank you'. As crappy as it was to run in the mud, it was better than standing around in the rain. Kudos to them for catering to the needs of runners - filling water bottles, slathering on Vasiline in hard to reach spots, dumping out a garbage bag so one could have a poncho to stay warm, and getting you want you need. Much respect. I also chatted with a woman prerace who's boyfriend was running. We got to talking when she said she did triathlons. I saw her at almost every aid station and she was like my personal cheering section as she waited for her boyfriend. It's little things like that that make a world of difference even on the gloomiest, crummiest of days.

Post race thoughts and musings.
When I got up to the lodge, I couldn't help but eat the small cookies, pringles, and Tostidos. Hosed off my legs and headed back to the car after talking with Em for a bit. It was then, about an hour after finishing, that I finally took off my shoes for the first time since about 6 hours into the race. It was surprising to see how much mud and rocks and grit were not only in my shoes, but in my 2 pairs of socks.. and on my feet! Even with all that irritation, I had no cuts no blisters no nuthin. My hands get pruned if I take a long shower of.. say, 30 minutes. Can you imagine what my feet must've looked like after being in water logged shoes and socks for 12 hours? They were fine. They were however, fat and bloated as were my fingers. I've never noticed it with my feet, but my hands usually get puffy and both were just fat with sausage-like digits. I stayed at a hotel even though the race wasn't far from DC and picked up a few essentials on the way back - bananas, water, pasta, vanilla Tofutti cuties.. and a six pack of beer. I only made it through 3/4 of a bottle, but I did make a killing on that pasta and the tofutti cuties. The post race shower hurt and it's a good thing no one could hear the expliatives coming out of my mouth when the water hit my skin. It is then when I discover all the mysterious places I chaffed from my sports bra and shorts.

It's now two days later and I'm feeling good. I'm a little more sore today and will probably get more sore throughout the day as I sit at work. I'm not hurting too bad. It just feels like I did hard/heavy lower body weights over the weekend for the first time after six months. Actually, I've done that before and that hurts worse.

This is a good pain.
This is a "I was on my feet for 12 hours" pain.
This is a "I slogged through the rain and mud and all I got was this fleece and pin" pain.

This pain is a badge of honor that I wear with pride. It is well earned.

Here's a link to pictures and reports from the 14th battle.


At 1:52 PM, Blogger Lizzie said...

Fellow tri-newbie here.

That race sounds pretty kick ass. Congrats on finishing!


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