Wednesday, November 9, 2011

MEOW - Stone Cat Trail Race

Photo By: Mark Akeson
With daylight savings time arriving Saturday night we were forced to dawn our headlamps for the first lap of the Stone Cat 50 mile trail race.  With a format of a four  lap course I knew I could add or subtract layers as I went and it made for a rather easy fueling plan.  Off the gun the dark hour required me to dress warm and keep my pace under control.   After not finishing the Vermont 50 I simply wanted to keep it simple, have fun and get a finish under my belt.  Off the start my friend Amy Lane and I planned on tucking ourselves in behind some of the male front runners so we would not have to navigate.  Our plan worked well as Ian Parlin from Maine was kind enough to let us tag along behind.  About three miles into the race we were treated to a knee deep puddle/stream that was about 1/16 of a mile long.
Photo By: Mark Akeson
 I prayed that there were no rocks or sticks laying beneath the surface waiting to take me down.  After emerging on the other side I was wet and cold, but tried to take it in stride.  Once enough light shed through the trees I took the lead and slightly increased the pace.  About 9 miles into the race I found myself alone, but embraced it.  When I came to the place where I had broken my femur several years prior I had a moment of panic. I vividly remembered sitting helplessly for hours on the side of the trail.  I determined in my mind that I needed to just get past that spot.

As I headed into the lap area I was greeted by my husband Geo who was ready to hand me my knew bottle and 2 gels.  I noted the time of 1:50 which was much slower than I would have guessed.  I shrugged it off as I reminded myself that my goal for this race was not about time or place, but rather about getting back to enjoying running.  As I ran back into the woods I took the two gels Geo had given me and tried to put them in my waist belt, but my hands were simply too cold and the seemingly easy task took me several attempts.  At one point I became so frustrated that I wanted to throw the gu's on the ground and stomp on them until they exploded.  I also attempted to clip my ipod to my shirt and didn't even have enough fine motor skills to squeeze it and was finally forced to just tuck it into my sports bra.  Finally I was squared away and could focus on wait lay ahead on lap two.  The sun was slowly rising and as I peered up at the sky I knew it was going to be a blue bird day.  As I soaked up the rays that made it through the trees I quickly found myself back at the water crossing.  To my surprise it felt much colder this time around and after arriving on the other side my feet felt and sounded like cinder blocks.   I turned up my music so to drown out the stomping of my frozen feet and set into a comfortable pace.  The miles came easy and ticked away quickly.

As I headed into the lap area I noted my time.  My second lap was approximately 1:38, about 12 minutes faster than my first.  With a 2 lap time of just around 3:30 I realized that if I remained consistent I could have a chance at my old course record.   I tucked that thought in the back of my mind, grabbed a fresh bottle from Geo and headed out for my third lap.  I focused on continuing to stay hydrated and found motivation to keep my pace up as I could see other runners on course.  As I made my way through the wet area for a third time the water temperature yet again seemed colder and from the knees down I was numb.  I wanted to double over, but convinced myself to shuffle along until some feeling returned.  Finally I was back up to speed and excited to finish the lap so I could pick up my pacer Theresa.  With this excitement I decided not to stop at the aid station and fill my empty bottle.  This was a mistake because all I could think about over the next several miles was water.
Photo By: Keith Magnus

I cruised through the lap area for my final time and was joined by my pacer Theresa.  It is always a great joy to have her join me because of her contagious energy and ability to entertain me.  I glanced at my watch and mentioned to her that as long as we tackled this final lap within two hours I would break my old record by a large margin.  This excited me, not because I was after the record, but rather because I felt like I was running effortlessly.  I was enjoying each stride I took and was able to take in the scenery and company as it came.  The best part was  nothing was forced and it just reaffirmed in my heart and mind that I did the right thing weeks before dropping out of the VT50.  As Theresa and I caught up on life, we also caught up to my physical therapist Andy, who was running his first 50 mile race.  I was so excited to see him that I almost tackled him. A few miles later Theresa twisted her ankle badly and I had to leave her.  I felt horrible in doing so, but knew that Andy would soon be along and could help attend to her if needed.  After leaving her I kicked it into high gear and was eager to finish strong.  As I made my way down the final section before rounding the corner to the finish I went from a 7 minute mile to a dead stop.  My stomach went into convulsion and then I began projectile vomiting.  After doing so 3 times I looked back and noticed a spectator just a few feet from me.  I then threw up 2 more times and then finally felt a calm in my stomach.  Not knowing how long this would last I made a mad dash to towards the finish and crossed the line at 7:06. 

As I ran in I couldn't have asked for a better day.  The course was in amazing shape, the sunshine was invigorating and the volunteers, spectators and participants were all uplifting. I am thankful for the win and a new course record, but what excites me most is that I was able to enjoy my running.