Thursday, September 1, 2011

North Country Ultra

Ok, I promise not to go on and on. You guys know me well enough now to know that I probably will get off track, but I will try my best to stick to the points of what I'm trying to say and not start talking about my kids or why hated what I ate for dinner when I was 9.

I'm being honest here ....

I signed up for this race thinking it was going to be easy. Yup, that's why I signed on. Why would I think a 50 mile run through the woods would be easy? This is why, "There is no high altitude to contend with, no rocks to jump over, and no stream crossing to wade through just beautiful forest with a few roots to remind you you're not on pavement." I took this quote right from the race website. When I attempted and failed McNaughton in 08 I wanted the toughest muddiest course out there. Bring it on I thought. I obviously wasn't thinking clearly and got just what I asked for. Well, this time I knew better. What I failed to read was the sentence just before the one that made me believe this would be a cake walk. It states .... "The trail is a single track hiking trail with enough hills to make for a challenging race." Um, note to self, read and re-read all material before clicking the send button on the race application.

No Excuses .... but here's one

I loved training for this race. LOVES is an understatement. I proudly made the best of the time that I had to train. My kids came with me on probably half of the long runs that I had. They rode their bikes while I trotted out the miles. We would sometimes stop at IHop or Dunkn Donuts. It was fun. Unfortunately there was little training on the trails. PLEASE NOTE - I'm not complaining!!! I do wish that I was able to get out there though. I think my falls would have been cut in half.

Falls? Did you says falls?

The 1st 25.5 miles I fell 4 times. I won't go into exaggerated detail like I FELL HARD. YOU COULD HEAR THE THUMP IN THE NEXT STATE. When running 50 miles and falling at mile 3 you're ego is put in check. The next fall, well the ego slowly begins to crumble. You see where I'm going with this right? On my second loop I didn't fall until after mile 35. And then, I think I fell 4 more times. I was tired at this point so my math may be off. My ego would tell you but I don't have one right now. It's rebuilding from all the falls I took.

Don't confuse tripping with falling, duh!

You're out there running, in the "woods". Trees are what make up the forest or "woods". It's a big beautiful forest. Dense. It was a hot sunny day but we were extremely sheltered from the sun because of this fact. A cool breeze would whisp through occassionally and remind all of us that there is a God and he just sent us a little gift. Oops, sorry I'm straying here. Well, tree roots are EVERYWHERE! At mile one I watched a man fall. Me trying to make lite of what just happened to him told him "well, at least you got that out of the way early". And just like that I tripped. Ok, note to self, keep your comments to yourself, even if you are trying to make someone feel better. And then I tripped again, and again and again. To the point where I thought I was tearing my left leg out of the hip joint. I would just find a good pace and boink, I'd stumble.

Yes, I did ask myself "What the hell am I doing out here?"

It was around mile 18. I was deflated. I had good, consistant training runs and even though my training wasn't on a trail but I felt like things should be going better than they were. The thought of doing a 2nd loop was killing me. Much to my surprise I kept the "I'm just not gonna do it, I'm gonna stop at 25" thoughts a bay. But I couldn't stop thinking about the fact that I paid money to feel this way. I was being physically and mentally beat'n up and I paid for it. I was doing something wrong and had to figure out what it was and turn it around.

Yes, that was me at mile 19 on my phone.

1st, I texted to my sister. It just made me feel better. Then I called my husband ....

Husband - hey, where are you?

Me - Around mile 19

Husband - what?

Me - mile 19

Husband - WHAT? Hey, I can't hear you!

Me - mile 19 (geesh)

and then he says ....

Husband - Pam, are you ok?

Me - yeah, I'm ok, I just needed to tell you that.

Husband - I love you, call me later.

Me - Good luck at your game. I love you.

And that's why I'm still married to him.

And the attitude started to change.

The following thought started going through my head ....

I paid for 17 and I'm gonna use 17. Actually I paid for 14 hours but the original statement is 17!!! I started doing the math in my head and I could walk, keeping a 20 minute pace and still finish the race. It would be close but I could finish. So that was my plan. At that point I thought I could feel the smile returning to my face.

You don't know what your miss'n!

A man ran by me around mile 25. I had past him earlier and he had been struggling. But now, he ran by just like he had just started running the race. As he's going by he said "man, if you passed up those blueberries back there, you don't know what you're missing." My ears rang. For 2 reasons. 1. For the most part I trained with cereal bars and dried fruit and bananas. Out here I was running on cereal bars and Gel. ??? Why I changed it up a little, who knows butI needed to go back to what I knew worked best for me. 2. Well, my dad died in April. We weren't close as adults. And when he passed away I was worried about feeling angry and bitter about not communicating as adults but thankfull I don't feel that way. I hear something someone says and it reminds me of him in good ways. "You don't know what you are missing" was one of his favorite sayings. And hearing it then well, it made me smile. I stopped smiling around mile 2 so if felt really good to smile again.

I'm still in the woods at mile 25?!?

I was shocked to see that I was still in the woods at mile 25. I was feeling good now but felt cheated. What the heck, where is everybody? What's going on. A half mile down the trail was where everyone was. At that point I was gonna change my socks and shoes, eat, maybe pee and head off again. Instead I got a piece of Bazooka bubble gum, some more gel and salt, filled my camel and started to head out. I was really feeling good, tired but good cause there were other runner there starting their 2nd loop. I didn't feel so alone or slow. Just as I'm leaving the aid station I hear the volunteer tell a man that those white things on the table are potatoes. WHAT, I almsot left without eating some salt and potatoes. I ate 2 and that was the best decision I made all day!

Yes, I run with music

Not all the time but today my plan was this - the 1st 25 miles are a warm up and the 2nd 25 are the race. May sound strange, a 25 mile warm up but that was the best way I could think of to mentally keep my self in the game. No matter how hard or bad the 1st loop was it was ok, cause it was just a warm up. But no music the 1st loop. That was my prize for finishing the 1st loop. So the minute I started the 2nd loop the ear buds went in and the music went on. It's funny cause when your tired you don't need it blasting. You just need to hear it. And it was like angels singing to me. The potatoes were kicking in, the salt the water and the music. Life was good. So good that for the next 6 or 7 miles I felt like I just started. Not kidding. I was laughing (probably sounding a little crazy out there laughing and running) but I just felt that good that it was just falling out of my mouth. Hey, just thought better that falling than me to the ground. At the aid stations I would fill up with water and any natural food item they had. Every hour that would pass I would take salt. I was thinking this 2nd loop would be a breeze. And then, well, not so fast there trail baz'n Pam ....

Why did I start thinking about time?

I stopped thinking about the music, the scenery, my life and the kids and started thinking that I'm feeling so good I just might subsplit my second loop. And then .... thump! Yup, I fell. Right then I told myself get all thoughts of time and speed out of your head and enjoy. And I did. Until ....


I went to take my next round of salt tabs and found myself sucking the last bit of water out of my camel. How the hell that happened I am clueless cause I was taking care of every detail like a mother takes care of her children. But it did happen and I was high and dry without water for about a mile and a half. At this point I was jocking with a really nice man who came out behind me and wanted to know if I decided to take a quick nap. We were throwing these kinds of comments out to each other each time we passed, it was pretty funny. Anyway I told him about my water situation and he kindly offered me one of his bottles!!! And what did I do? In all my politeness? Said no thank you, water is ONLY a mile and a half away. With that he offered it again and told me he had plenty and for some reason, maybe dehydration was starting to set in at this point I turned him down again. So off he went. About a half mile after that I realized that it would be really stupid for me to run and dehydrate anymore than I was. I walked about a mile to the aid station filled up, drank a couple of cups and off I went.

Lesson learned, I will never turn down help again.

The Hubby Tells Me I don't have Rhythm but What I Thought I Had Was Lost After That.

My good feeling was gone. I was stumbling again and falling occasionally. I jockeyed with the same group of people until the aid station at mile 37 it was there I started to think that I had to keep my own pace and not worry about keeping up with others. My goal was to finish and God forbid I'm running, stumble, fall, break something and don't finish with only a mile to go. So I would run the flats and walk the hills. Mile 42 I was feeling tired, sore, sad - well not sad but emotional so yeah, kind of sad. It was then I decided to just walk. I kept about 15 minute mile pace for the next 7 miles. I talked to everyone that passed me and honestly, I was feeling good. I wasn't thinking clearly though cause in my mind I was just gonna make the deadline. I was actually gonna finish about an hour and a half before the cut off.

Where the Streets Have No Name

There was a mile and a half left. The smile on my face was huge. Like I was trying not to smile cause it was annoying me that it was so big. There were 2 women about 50 yrds ahead of me and a man about 25 yrds behind me. Having them there was very comforting for some reason. Until, I started to cry. Yup, it was an ugly cry too. Cause the smile was still on my face. I was thinking about my 1st 50 mile attempt, I thought about the Graves disease and how I couldn't run, I thought how I truly believed I would never run again and that I needed to find other interests to fill my time and I thought about how glad I was that I was wrong. That I am running again. It was a long, slow journey back but I'm here. I'm running. And then I hear the beginning of the U2 song, Where the Streets Have No Name. How did I time that so perfectly? It was time to run. I know this sounds to fairy tale to believe but just like a movie the song starts playing and I start running. I pass the 2 women in front of me and I remind myself not to fast, you don't want to fall. The tears are gone. I'm just smiling my big old smile. It's a great feeling. The sun is going down, Bono is sining in my ear, I'm heading toward the opening of the forest to the finish line. People are cheering, I choke a little but still smile, what an amazing finish .... until .... wait, hey, where is the finish. Yes, I managed to mess up my movie perfect ending with getting lost on my way to the finish line. Granted it was only a couple of steps in the wrong direction, I was going back to the 25.5 mile turn around while the finish was just right of that. DOH! My mistake managed to slow me down enough for me to know I wasn't going to trip or fall over the line. I was done. I did it. 12:35.09.

BLING - Now that's some bling!

I did this race with my good friend Dennis. He finished about 25 minutes ahead of me. Maybe I'll get him next time. :) But one of the things he talked about for this race was the size of the finishers medal. And honestly, it was HUGE! It made me laugh when they put it around my neck. Now, this may sound strange to some but I don't like finisher medals. Sorry Jeff, if you are reading this, you have a wonderful business and I know you bring so much joy to so many with your medals but I just have this quirky oposition to them. Well, I did. Not anymore. You see, I left my medal somewhere at the race. I was talking to so many people when I finished and changing my clothes and packing the car and waiting for the drop bag and eating that I lost track of my dinner plate size medal. The medal I thought I didn't want, well it turns out I wish I had it. I wrote the race director. I know he's busy but almost a week later I still haven't heard from him. Crossing my fingers he answers me soon. :)

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