One major lesson learned is not to mark the course with bread crumbs. Too many Vermonters now have chickens that roam free and do as they please. The more course I marked, the more they ate. Another lesson that I learned is that as a RD you cannot please all runners. With a race name of IHB what kind of frills were my participants really thinking they were going to get? The largest demand I got was for nice weather. I know that God and I are tight, but I know that he can only perform so many miracles at a time and didn't see my request landing very high up on his list. Therefore, rain, snow, sleet, freezing rain or sunshine the 50k would go on!
On Friday night emails started flowing in from participants who had changed their minds about attending. If I really had the choice I would have jumped shipped too since I had been battling illness which equated to zero motivation/energy, plus there was a winter storm advisory in effect for over night. Hoping sleep would be my saving grace I tucked myself into bed at 6:30. Saturday AM I woke up to a dusting of snow and skies that were working to clear. I pulled all of my things together, had some breakfast and headed off to Charlotte for the "race" and on the way opened more emails from people who decided not to come. In my mind I knew I was ok with not many people showing up as I was not feeling energetic, I would miss seeing them all but knew our paths would cross again soon. I reminded myself that each step that I took was a gift and I will be happy with whatever distance I accomplished.
As the 9:00 AM start time approached the small crew assembled, but I was happy to have a crew. Toeing the line was:
Jack Pilla - ultrarunner, coach, friend and a man I call the "Energizer Bunny". Jack is truly a "Jack of all trades" and always impresses me with his talents. He has the home turf advantage for the race and knows where to push his fellow runners. He isn't afraid to do what it takes to pull out a victory.
Serena Wilcox - ultrarunner, friend and a chick that will not back down to anyone who throws down with her athletically. She is extremely strong, determined and has a rock of a stomach when it comes to eating at aid stations. Never count this girl out!
Nick Yardley - ultarunner, friend, the man behind Julbo (USA) and a Brit. His long legs and ability to run far on just ounces of water make him a threat at this distance. If Nick has a good day and picks a good pace he could give anyone a run for their money.
Myself - race director and along for the ride. Just in search of a local 50k to get a solid morning of training in before my first 5o miler of the year.
The plan was to do two loops, the first being just between 20-24 miles and then the second loop would be tailored to the conditions and due mileage. As the "race" started we all took off at different paces. Serena and I were eager to get things moving and warm up as Jack took his time getting the engines fired up. As we descended down Jack's road and then onto the main road we were off and running. Serena and Nick took the lead as Serena chatted up a storm like she was sitting and having coffee. Jack and I hung behind and just focused on getting our bodies going. Before I know it Jack punches me in the shoulder and I respond with something like "what the fudge?" Jack informs me that I looked like I needed it.
About 8 miles in everyone started asking me if I had to pee yet. Of course the answer was "yes" but I wasn't ready to stop running. I was warm, but not warm enough to stop and get going easily again. I let the others set the pace as I tucked behind them and ate a gu. Maybe the gu would fuel my systems and give me a jump in my stride? As we came to hill after hill the question remained "are you ready?" Finally about two hours in I was ready to stop and pee so we did a mass break and then rejoined each other on the road.
As our pack regained form, we found our stride again. Finally about 17 miles in we took a right hand turn so to start heading back towards Jack's place. The next mile would be a slight mile uphill and the dirt roads were finally starting to soften up. I did my best to stay away from the shoe sucking mud, but was well prepared with my Salomon Gore-Tex SpeedCross2 shoes. At this point Jack started to "play" as he picked up his pace. I swerved behind him and then pulled up beside him as we ran stride for stride. I think that Jack is the only person who has a stride as short as mine. With about 1.5 miles left Jack and I started chatting and pulled away. Once at his place I went inside to refill my bottle and started to try to rally the troops for company for the remainder of my run. Nick seemed tempted, although had a twinge in his leg. I would be a wolf pack of one. What to do? I then remember that I had my ipod in my bag so I dug it out. I knew that some tunes would help me bang out the next 10 miles.
Alone I could choose my path and decide to head in a direction that I don't often go. Within about four minutes I regret my decision as I turn into a serious head wind and it starts to rain/snow. I feel like I am not moving, like I am on a treadmill. I tuck my chin down and put some more volume on tunes as I make my way up hill. Finally my watch beeps and I know I have just 9 miles to go. I continue to battle the wind and feel like I am running with such force and not getting anywhere. I gaze at my watch and realize I am running a sub 7. My frustration diminishes and I allow myself to slow to a 7:30-7:40 pace. With four miles to go I start to crash so I pull out my package of shot blocks. I open them and then watch them fall into a puddle. My body wants to throw on the breaks and collect all of them, but my brain says "no". I am running on a dirt road that is surrounded by farm land, and at that very moment the farmer is out spreading. I would like to think that I learned my lesson last summer with giardia and I tell myself I can make it the final distance without them and a sip of water will have to suffice. As I make my way off my last dirt road and hit the pavement for the final 2 miles the lack of calories starts to take its toll. I am still moving at a good clip, but I am not running in a straight line nor can I see straight or focus. I pray that no major traffic comes my way because I am not alert.
Finally I crest the top of the last hill on Jack's road and I have my 50k. I slow to a walk, as I feel like I deserve to walk the last tenth of a mile. Of course, without warning I get teased for my choice by my friend Joe who is driving up the hill, talk about perfect timing to bust me! His words work as I find myself running after his truck to finish out the final distance. As I enter the driveway Jack says "took you long enough!"