We are home, safe and sound, after 11 hrs of drive. Time to recap the race...
3 hrs of sleep and after picking up Rick and Jason and 1.5 hrs drive we were at the start. There were 477 starters - big race, indeed. The first 27 miles go basically flat (some inclines, some slow downs) on the bike path along American river. For about 60% of it there was a dirt side path that I utilized, but still flat and hard-surfaced. The weather is gloomy, and it drizzled for most of this part, but not hard. I chatted with Doctor Bob Lind, some girls and guys, Karl Meltzer - had to mention that! - love this community, how does it sound: I chatted with Karl Meltzer! Let me repeat it again - Karl remembers my name and asks me what the heck am I doing on this flat road course when he and I love mountains! (He finished 17th, in 7:27). OK, enough bragging:) Off we went. My crew was supplied with Pro-carb mix and E-crank gels for me, the only food I tolerate in a race. Let me point out again, there are 2 things that I always have to deal with in a race. Compartment syndrom (aren’t you tired to hear that?). 90% of the time it acts mildly, but comes right away, and subsides after about an hour of running (besides some cases when it goes insane, like the Wednesday before, when I was going to quit running all-together). This time was a “good day”, pain was tolerable, I lost feeling in my feet for exactly an hour. Second is my stomach. Between been gluten intolerant and having IBS running a race on simple carbs and added stress kicks a diarrhea (sorry, I know it’s nasty, but such is life). This one went between miles 4 and 10, and after spending 3 minutes at the bathroom before second aid station I was good to go.
I went at solid 9 min/mile pace, letting people pass like they are running a marathon. We go a short out and back and on return I wave to Jason and Rick, my every-great crew, watching me from the bridge. First 2 AS came sooner than advertised - there is no way I can run 6 miles in 45 min! I walk by guys at the first AS and try to tell them how coach Lisa told me if I don’t use walk breaks even of flats, I will never succeed.
Approaching second AS (photo by Rick gaston)
By next AS (about 1:10 in) I get my first refuel - guys are super! Like a Nascar car race, I switch bottle and off I go! This pattern was followed the whole race, so I used a bottle of Pro-carb and 2 gels per approximately every 1.5 hrs. I also dropped my long-sleeve shirt there. 15 minutes later my I-pod dies, almost predicted now. I’ve heard that Nano has this problem that as it ages the charge stays less and less (instead of 12 hrs). That was a bummer, and on top of it my feet start to hurt - I used stiff insoles in my shoes, and they were a wrong pick for the road. I am hoping to make it to next AS and get a change for both items (Soft-Sole inserts from my first sponsor and my Russian friends’ I-Pod who stayed up till 2am the night before to load it up - thank you!). But - here comes a flow from my wonderful boys - they went for breakfast! Next section was mentally tough because of it, but nothing serious. I continue to shuffle, and it seems like half the field went by me. Whatever! The view is actually quite nice, but flat road takes its toll - the back of my legs tighten up and hurt. Really, nothing deserving description happened in those 19 miles, until we came up a short steep climb and I went to the car to switch insoles and get new music set. We get to some trails after this aid, and my mood shoots up. I begin to run. OK, I ran before too, but I don’t call that movement anything but shuffle, so un-enjoyable it was. I begin to feel happy, and pick up some pace and some runners. Yeah, baby, I am no freakin’ road marathoner, I am a trail runner!!! Some more road with trying to go at 10/1 pattern (10 min run/1 min walk), and 27.4M rolls around. Woo-hoo, pacer pick-up! Even the sun comes out!
Mile 19 (photo by Rick gaston)
Rick starts first. He is so funny, the whole week before that (we never met until Friday night) he was nervous he wouldn’t keep up with me:) First mile takes a bit of adjustment and small talk to have a feeling for each other - and after that we are best friends! We chat, I feel awesome and strong, flying on trails (did I explain this is where the trail section starts?) And beginning to pick people one by one. This is a great mood-upper! Lots of technical downhills, I happily work my feet and jump like a mountain goat (Rick’s compliment). Rick counts number of people we pass. After going by two more girls he says - 17, 5 female. Is it time to put my game face yet? One woman, who kicked my butt at Avalon by 15 min, is drafting behind, and I realize I am running her race now, not my own, trying to get away. So I make a decision and stop in the bushes for a quick pit-stop while she passes, and make sure she goes away from my view. Back to been happy. I am about 20-30 minutes behind my proposed schedule, but steadily so. Heck, Uli Steidl, the guy who breaks every course record, won it 30 min off CR here, what does it say for us, normal people? I feel strong. Been on top of my fuel and having no pressure pays off. Lots of mud, just lots. The whole trail is covered, many streams to cross, mud mixed up with horse poop (Jason really appreciated this detail), so sticky and deep in places, at one point my shoe comes off - paying for loose laces, but I always have them loose. Rick recovers my shoe before it sinks, but I ran a couple of steps without in the mud. There was tons of crap in my shoes even before it happens, and it all cakes up, but luckily I don’t get blisters from been wet (knock on wood). Now I concentrate on curling my toes every time we hit a dangerous spot. There was also one big paddle over ankle deep of this mess we had to wade through, but we are trail runners, right? One aid station where there is no crew access, and I had to fill a bottle with Gu2O, what I don’t drink, s a short-lived and very mild bonk came around. My ass also hurts from 27 flat miles (repetitive motion), and I announce it at the AS. Rick and I talk. I am feeling good and steady, still passing runners.
At mile 40 Jason comes into play. Boys switch the pacing duty, I get my bottle and off we go. I am an energizer bunny (courtesy of Jason, but I tell him I was called it once before, at Umstead), trails feed my energy like battery charger. I ask him how far is that “Avalon” woman, he says less than 10 min, and before we know it - she is ahead. Jason cautious me - run my own race, look where it brought you. I pick up ground slowly, and in a mile we pass her - no, not pass her, drop her like she was standing still! She yells with jealousy - hey, you have two pacers! I couldn’t but respond - well, I am a lucky girl, my boys like to follow my cute ass:) I don’t know what works for whom, but call me a pervert, I need compliments on a run. In a real life I have BID and hate myself, and only while running do I come to peace with my body, so I need affirmation.
We talk. I can’t shut my mouth, I am so excited for this run. We discuss everything, from my family, Alex, Stephen, work, friends, races, love for people, to his love-life (hey, I am secretly in love with Jason, I need to know that!) to Rick’s love-life (OK, I have a thing for love, you got that). I never go out of breath, what might mean I am not working very hard, but I am so enjoying it! I run strong, splashing and jumping, still picking up on those who went too fast. At the last AS I finally look at the watch - and figure if I try I can break 9 hrs, but I have to work for it. First goal of the day. It’s a good day if I ran 47 miles without a pressure of making any certain time. Off we are, to a steepest climb on a dirt road. In some other report it was described as “hands on knees”, and it was close to truth, but not killing. I stopped talking for the first time on this mile stretch, pushing it. It was definitely aver 15 degrees hill, but it was over before we knew it. Next was still 2 miles uphill, but on road - brutal, but oh, so close to finish. Rick comes down and joins us. We laugh a lot, it makes me slower:) I try to throw in a few shuffles, but the way I walk I don’t really need to - I never get far off those who tries to run this thing. Last 0.1 mile climb and a final turn. Guys encourage me, but according to my watch I am good. I break into a short walk just yards from the finish and explain to spectators it’s my staple - I need to look good for the pictures, it’s more important than few seconds! They laugh, I am happy, I turn last corner and go under the banner in 8:58:28. Yeah!!!!
At the finish (photo by Rick Gaston)
Thus the lesson - not that it hit me like a light bulb, but it surely was very clear on that day. I am not really a competitor. I mean, I am, but I don’t handle pressure. At all. I can not possibly set myself up with goals of certain times and certain places. I can not run anybody’s race. I am one of my own. I need to love it, to begin easy, to look around, to “small the roses”...My best races were those I had problems before the start - it allowed me to relax and cut out the expectations. My first 50k - I had such a respect for distance, I went at 9 min/mile and never felt off the pace. My first 100M - I was so scared, only a year after a first 50k, I walked every small hill from the start, passes 50 people by the end and won it, finishing 3rd overall. My second WS100 - going into Grand Slam cooled my competitiveness. My Avalon - heck, after that flu I couldn’t even stand on my feet, why bother racing? And now, after a horrible bout of compartment...OK, may be those times weren’t the fastest I am capable of, but those were races I was most happy with, I ran steady, I had a strong second half, and I value it the most. May be I will never see my fastest times, but if I can still have a passion for running and racing, I’ll take it over been a competitive racer. I will. And I am sticking with this!
Let me give my gratitude to Jason and Rick, my super-duper crew and pacing team! Guys were incredible, smooth like an oil-machine, funny and entertaining, they quilify to crew much better runners like Scott Jurek and Matt Carpenter - I never had to break a stride to exchange the bottles. Their pacing was superb too, and for me I don’t need to be pushed faster, I know how to run, I can push myself. To me a great company of someone I really adore as a friend is much more important. Certainly thanks to RD and volunteers for making races happen for us, idiots. I’ll say it again - even though I don’t use AS for food, it’s nice to come to it as a break point (the race is not that long when you go on AS to another) and I definitely eat at the finish!!
It was a great day, great vacation, and I am so high, I want it to last longer.
You can read more of this day and see the pictures in awhile here:
and probably at some point here (right, Jason?):