Mendon 50k race report

2 Nov

An exact timeline is foggy, but a long time ago (2-4 years…your guess is as good as ours), Eric signed up for the Mendon 50k.  I trained with him and some other people (this is when we met Lisa and really started running more with Liz).  By trained, I mean they would do loops and I would run 1 with them, moaning and complaining the entire way about how hard it was.  I would finish one loop and call it–either read a book at the cars or go to the store or something.  I swore up and down that I would never do this race.  No sir.  This is NOT my style.  The “hills’ in this race? More like mountains.  My asthma does not enjoy hills.  I can’t ever seem to get enough air, which leaves me walking up them and gasping for breath at the top.  Flats and downhills?  I can crush those.  But hills were something (at that time) that I avoided at all costs.

 

Last year, watching from the warmth of my car (because it was, as usual, freezing cold and miserable), I saw carnage…twisted ankles, people hobbling.  And I again said, “Oh hell no.”

 

Then we ran our first 50k.  I really owe all of this to Liz, to be quite honest.  I’m sure I’d have done a 50k at some point in time…but she definitely expedited the process.  In any event, riding a post-race runner’s high, I registered for the Mendon 50k.  It’s 30 bucks.  We love the RD.  I’d have a ton of support from people I know.  And you’re supposed to face your fears…right?

 

Today I went into the race wanting only to finish.  This had been built up in my mind to be a monster…an unconquerable, hellish monster.  And so I wanted needed to tame the beast.  Truth be told, my ultimate goal was a sub-8 hour finish.  Initially I had thought that I could maybe run as fast as I’d run at Dirty German, but when I broke down the kinds of times I’d been running on every loop day we’d done, I realized that a sub-7 was a reasonable-yet-challenging goal.
50k4

The weather was atrocious, prompting me to say that there IS something in life that’s guarantee-able…crappy weather for the Mendon Trail Runs.  In my initial post-race write up, I had said something about Mother Nature being a cruel whorebag of a bitch…it rained the WHOLE time I was out there today and temps hovered in the low to mid 40s.  It was miserably cold.  However, Mother Nature also provided a beautiful backdrop of rolling hills (ok not 100% beautiful to me as far as running, but if I were just stopped and looking at them, I’d think wowza) and so many colors, including one particularly amazing stretch of rollers (but mostly downs, yay) that was so yellow it seemed like something out of a fairy tale (Angie’s words, but I concur).  So I guess she was only a little bit of a whorebag…
In any event, I was in my own little world at the beginning of the race today…so much so that Eric looked over and said, “dude you’re going to miss your start time.  What are you doing?”  I went over to the group that was lining up and chilled with all of them.   I knew I was going to start out super conservatively (so I thought).  Here’s the shakeout of how things went down:

Loop 1–1:15:00 (all loop times are approximate…results are up, but I can’t see split times yet)  Life is Good

This loop was pretty uneventful for me. I wore a jacket to start but by the time I got to the gate, I was too hot so I left it on the gate.  I figured if someone stole it, oh well, but then I was like, well I could call Eric.  So I breathlessly told him, but the guy in front of me thought I was talking to him and turned around to give me a puzzled look.  I settled in early with him, a guy named Charlie from Ithaca.  We were discussing races we’d run and he mentioned he’d just done Virgil this year.  No way!  We aid stationed.  Which aid station?  Uhhh I don’t know the one at the ski slope.  Oh yeah you guys were great.  I did a shot at your aid station!  Oh MY GOD!!! You’re SHOT GUY?!?!  Awesome!!!  So I knew Charlie and I would be good.  We had some good conversation about his family–his wife works at Cornell and they have the world’s largest library of animal sounds.  I mean what a sweet job?!  He’s traveled a ton and done a lot of cool races, so it was nice to have his company.  At some point in this loop, Angie started running with us too.  I haven’t seen her in FOREVER (she moved to DC), so it was cool to catch up a bit.  She’s a pretty laid back person, so I was happy to have found 2 runners who were cruising along at a similar pace to me (walking all the hills like I knew I needed to do) and were chatty enough to take my mind off what we were doing.  We rolled through the timing mats and I broke from the other 2 to stop at our #TrailsRoc tent to refuel.  I told them to just go without me if they got to the aid station on the other side of the field and I wasn’t there yet.  I mentioned I’d thought we were kind of fast, but Sean was the first one to say “perfect pace for the first loop.  Keep it up!”  I grabbed a handful of potato chips, finished a fun pack of skittles and was on my way.

 

On top of "speedbump"...my smile is actually hiding a thousand curse words.  Also, this is the last time I smiled going up this beast.

On top of “speedbump”…my smile is actually hiding a thousand curse words. Also, this is the last time I smiled going up this beast.

Loop 2–1:23:00   This Ain’t So Bad

Charlie and I reconvened, but Angie was no where to be found.  HBO said to just start walking up the hill to get back out to the course, she’d catch up.  I felt bad, but it was so cold and Angie’s so strong that I figured by the time I walked up the hill, she’d just catch us.  As we walked, Charlie informed me that his goal had been 8:30/Km  I had no idea what that meant, so we did some basic attempts at math, which is really effing hard to do when you’re sucking wind going up a hill, but we decided that was like a 13ish min/mile.  His watch was telling him our average pace was 7:30/KM.  Too fast.  But we both felt ok.  So we cruised. Around a mile and some change in, “Angie” passed us.  She blew by, and I was like hmmm she’s feeling good.  Too bad, it was cool hanging with her, too.  A couple of miles later, Real Angie caught us…it had been her sister (who is apparently NOT her twin…the things you learn when you run 31 miles with someone).  Some of the people from the 10k, 20k and 30k races started passing us, and it was cool to be able to cheer for them (but annoying to have to jump off the trail in the sections where there were major washouts).  Also, some girl almost took us out coming down a big slippery hill.  I’m not sure what she was thinking…but I was thinking how I should’ve tripped her.  Other than that, this loop was pretty uneventful, and when we crossed timing mats we again made our “if someone’s not there at the aid station, just go without them” pact.  I grabbed some more chips and skittles and peaced out.  My goal was not to spend too much time at the aid station, which I knew would be a major downfall for me and was my biggest concern of this race…all the chances to stop and just call it a day.

 

Loop 3–1:30:00    Someone just F#&$ing Kill me

Angie, Charlie and I started this loop together (I think).  He was telling us as we cruised up the hill to the trail that we were getting closer to his goal time, but were still at like a 7:45 or something.  I was secretly glad because I always slow down at the end of a run, so that left us with some cushion.  I started feeling really shitty on this loop–I was cold and soaking wet from the rain.  It made me nervous because I had not expected to feel crappy so early on, but the feeling passed…or maybe not passed.  But I was able to forget about HOW bad it was for a few minutes at a time.  This is what endurance running’s all about–the waves of crappiness.  The hills were really starting to take their toll–my hip flexors were getting a little sore and the bottoms of my feet, too.  In addition, all of the extra foot traffic and the rain were turning the course into a pretty muddy disaster…and I knew it would only get worse over the last 2 loops.  I was so thankful to have Angie and Charlie there, pushing me along.  I had watched Walking Dead last night with Eric, so there was no way I was going to run alone in the woods if I could help it.  Every time they ran, I ran, too.  Walk the hills, plug away on the downs and the flats.  We reiterated our pact at the timing mats and I headed into the #TrailsRoc aid station.  At this point, I was soaking wet and freezing cold–Charlie had looked at my hands at one point and he was like, are you cold?  My hands were completely white (side note: I think I have Reynaults or whatever…sometimes after a long run I’ll notice them turning white and getting all tingly, too).  I came in and got out a fresh shirt, then thought about not changing, since my bib was pinned to my current shirt and my hands were so swollen (happens when I run long distances usually) and cold that they weren’t really functioning correctly.  Elnora stepped up and unpinned and repined.  Meanwhile, Kirsten helped me put on Eric’s watch (mine was going to die) and get my fresh long sleeve on (and Eric gave me a boob squeeze for good measure).  So thankful to these ladies for helping me in my time of need. I peaced out as soon as my costume change was complete.

Loop 4–1:35:00   Don’t Fight the Trail: Take What it Gives You

Having fresh clothes on made me feel a lot better.  I hit the aid station and Charlie was already gone, but Angie was there.  We headed out together.  I must have told her a bajillion times to go without me (save yourself), but she just stayed with me the whole time.  We had been chatting for a good part of the race, but the conversation started to wane as *I think* we were both starting to dig deep at this point.  I kept telling myself that with each hill, it was only “one more time.”  We saw Charlie at the aid station, but we left him around that point of the course.  At this point, I started thinking about how strange it is that time can simultaneously go so fast (damn only one more loop!) and so slow (for f’s sake, we’ve been out here since 8 am…and it’s still raining…wtf).  I also towards the end of this loop started getting kind of dizzy and seeing people in the woods.  I’d turn my head to look and it was just trees.  I know they say people hallucinate during 100 milers…but I think I was a little loopy today during a 31 miler.  MY back started tightening up here, and it was super painful, which also happens sometimes when I run long (and I think means tight muscles…Eric says, duh it was 40 and raining all race. Of course your muscles were tight.).  ALSO at this point the course was REALLY getting muddy–there was a fair amount of slipping and sliding, which is never fun, especially when your hip flexors are already kind of screaming from all the hills.  I followed Angie’s lead for most of this loop–there were times where I wanted to walk a little longer, if she started jogging (the ultra shuffle), I picked up the pace, too.  So thankful for her.

50k2

As we were coming to the timing mats, we agreed that we weren’t spending any time really at the aid stations, so we could just finish.  We crossed the mats and the clock read 5:34:XX.  I glanced at my watch and saw that the last lap had taken us 1:3X:xx.  I was minorly disappointed that a sub-7 hour was going out the window, but then I reminded myself of how much I didn’t want to do this race and how tough it was.  Even if I was a LITTLE over 7 (which I would be), it was fine.  Just finish what you started.

Loop 5– 1:25:00 Fighting My Inner Demons

At this point, we decided to walk all the uphills–even minor ones.  Both of us were tired and starting to really feel the miles.  As we were walking up the hill to the trail, Angie looked at her watch and said, “I think a sub 7 is doable.”  I said how I had thought that would be a phenomenal time, but then said how there was just no way that was going to happen.  We had been consistently slowing down for each loop, and I was tired.  There were some hills we were walking that I literally fought back tears because I wanted to just sit down on the side of the trail that badly.  About a half mile after she mentioned sub 7, I started to really think about it.  But I still just couldn’t make it work out in my head…At this point, there was a lot of internal chatter for me (much of it negative), but I was doing a good job of telling myself to shut up.  This lap was definitely our quietest…there was little talk, and what little talk there was was mostly about race strategy–where were we going to run, where were we going to walk, how tired we were, etc.  But after another couple of miles, and I had made up my mind.  We were walking hills, but any time the trail was flat or down, one of the two of us lead the way.  We were really moving, and I felt surprisingly good (not good…but good given the craptastic conditions and the fact that I had run more than a marathon at this point).  Every big climb we conquered, I’d get to the top and think “You never have to run that beast again…unless you want to…and you probably will in a couple of weeks when all of this is just a blur anyway.”

At one point, I thought about whether I’d ever want to do this race again.  I amused myself with the phrases “one and done” and “hit it and quit it” (which no one else seemed to find as funny as I had out on the trail at mile 28…weirdos).  Every time I glanced at my watch and did the math (as best I could), I realized we were going to be cutting it close for the sub-7.  How close I couldn’t exactly tell, but it was going to be tight.  Coming down the last hill, I could hardly see the clock and I had to blink a couple of times to see the 1:57:xx, with only a short downhill field to run through.  Easy peasy.  I turned to Angie with relief, and she said, “should we finish together?”  Well of course!! We crossed the mats to cheers from an awful lot of amazing runners and friends (who stuck around in the crappy weather to cheer us in).  Angie and I hugged, then we went our separate ways to change clothes.

I’ve never in any kind of endurance event run faster at the end than I had during.  I’ve never negative split.  I’m not sure if this would count…since loops 3 and 4 were slower, but I am really proud for pushing so hard that last loop.  It took some major will power.  This may be the biggest victory of the race…bigger than the finish or the finishing time…just to have run the last loop almost as fast as loops 1 and 2.

 

After thoughts

1.  Give me some flat trails…I think I would own the course if I was in this kind of shape.  My lungs just don’t handle the hills.  I’m wheezing like a champ tonight–I keep puffing on my inhaler but to no avail. I used it before the race and during.  Lame.  I don’t know if I can do anything to change this…just something to keep working on I guess…I’m really proud of how much stronger of a hill runner I’ve become over the course of training for this race…hills will probably never be my strong suit, but I guess they don’t scare me (as much?).

2.  I really hate the post-endurance event “unhunger.”  It’s lame.  Leading into a race, I think of all of these things that sound so good, but nothing sounds good come post-race time.  So yesterday I had 3 fun-size packs of skittles, a couple handfuls of chips, 4 m and m’s, a couple of cups of flat pop (which when I first started researching ultras sounded disgusting to me, but dude so good), a bagel, and 3 pieces of pizza.   Today, I look forward to the rungries and eating everything in sight.

3.  Endurance running has very little to do with athletic capabilities.  Well, not true.  If you want to be fast and win shit, athleticism is a factor. (Or not? Maybe it’s just working hard to get faster and stronger?) But if your goal is to finish something, it’s not your athletic prowess that’s taking you across that finish line.  It’s a lot of hard work and dedication and learning to tame your mind.  It’s hearing your body saying “no more” and knowing when it really needs to stop (because of an injury, hydration or nutrition issue) and when it’s just tired.  And THAT is why you have to run long…not to be able to finish, but to learn when it’s a real “need to stop” and when you can push forward.  To learn what it feels like to hurt but not in an “injured” kind of way.  Just in a “you’re a badass” kind of way.

well she probably hurts from running roads...someone should tell her how soft trails are...;)

well she probably hurts from running roads…someone should tell her how soft trails are…;)

The human body is amazing.  31 miles? At once? 50? 100?!  Insane.  Your body will go where your mind pushes it.  I never once thought about quitting.  I knew going in that I would finish, and around loop 3, I just “put my head down, gritted my teeth and pushed.”  I was damn well determined to “get ‘er done.”  And I did.  Cuz that’s how I roll.

 

4.  I owe a lot to Charlie and Angie.  There were a lot of times I may have slowed down (not sure, but it’s probable for sure) had they not been there.  I had just watched Walking Dead yesterday night, so I had to keep it going so I was with people when the walkers came out of the woods…Seriously though, they were great and the time flew by with them at my side.  I love that you can go from hardly knowing someone to really covering major ground during a race/run.  It’s a pretty cool thing.  So thanks, guys, for being so awesome this morning.  Charlie, in my post-race stupor I left without even saying goodbye to you.  I’m so sorry!  It was wonderful to meet you!

5.  Eric always supports me in these endeavors.  In fact, before I started believing that I could do it, he was believing for both of us.  I see so many people who have spouses who aren’t even interested in what they do, and I know I am so lucky to have someone who runs with me, trains with me, comes to races, stands in the cold, locates cowbells (since I love them SOOOOO much) and gathers a personal #TrailsRoc cheering section.  What we have is special, and I am thankful for it every day.  There is no one I would rather have threatening to smack my ass when it’s cold and rainy. ❤

6.  About 10 minutes after we got home, I voiced it.  “I wonder how much faster I could run that course? If I did the last loop as fast as 1 and 2, then if I could’ve held it together for 3 and 4, I could’ve run closer to a 6:45.”  Eric just shook his head, because he’s heard all my shenanigan lines about “never again” and then watched me sign up for more races (or signed me up ha) again and again. And such is the curse of the runner–it’s a slippery slope for me because once I see what I am capable of, I want to do more, go farther and push harder.  I don’t know what the future holds for me (or us) in terms of our running or other personal goals that we are working on.  I DO know that I want to do this (maybe while wearing a shirt that says this):

50k5

This. I want to do this. For the rest of my life.

I’m not 100%, but I would CONSIDER running this race again…the support from friends was pretty sweet, the trail is really beautiful (albeit unrelenting) and who wouldn’t want to spend the majority of a Saturday running through cold November rain???

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One Response to “Mendon 50k race report”

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  1. Mendon 50k | shmeruns - November 8, 2015

    […] day and knowing that strength doesn’t just go away.  I knew I’d be faster than I was last year, so it was just a matter of how much […]

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