Yesterday I had the pleasure of running (hiking?) the Palmers Pond Fatass 50k. You can read more about the idea behind it here, but a fatass race is one where entrants don’t pay, they just bring a good attitude and food/drink to share with everyone else. Colin did an amazing job putting together a great race and a stellar group of people for his inaugural race. Everyone out there fought through some pretty tough conditions to get ‘er done. Here’s my recap of the day:
We were planning to camp at Palmers Pond, but weather looked potentially iffy, so we scrapped that idea, opting instead for a night inside our warm, dry home. This meant, however, an ass-early start to the day–alarms were set for 3:15, and we were up kind of late last night on the phone dealing with some family stuff and then recapping to each other, so not much sleep happened. As we drifted off, Eric said, “You needed sleep last night anyway. Tonight doesn’t count.” Which is somehow true of races. Strange.
We had a pretty uneventful drive down to the race start area. Colin had hooked us up with a porta potty and tents and a campfire, so that was pretty cool. The vibe at this race was awesome–exactly what I love about trail running–chill and laid back–just some people hanging out running in the woods, testing their limits. We set some stuff up and just hung around waiting. I am bad at patience, so I just wanted to get the day started. I had anticipated a relatively flat, relatively fast course. With the training I’ve been putting in for Cayuga, I figured a 6ish hour finish would be possible, and I was looking forward to possibly PR-ing. We got some race directions from Colin, who told us we were starting on the dry side with really nice running. And then we were off.
The first half mile, I was running and I incredulously voiced my concern: If this is the dry side, what’s the other loop going to be like? I started having flashbacks to Cast-A-Shadow. We were almost immediately hitting mud–the slide-y, thick, yucky mud mostly, although also some sections of just deep puddle-y mud–over my shoes deep. Somewhere in this loop, I also stubbed my foot, heard a crunch, lost my balance and almost fell head first into a tree in the process. I caught myself and almost started to cry–my foot was THROBBING. All I kept thinking was I broke something. A mile of hobbling, though, and the throbbing subsided (or I just couldn’t feel it because my feet were frozen). No matter, I cruised along, and there were dry spots, including this amazing section through pine trees. My phone died, so I never did get to take a picture of the other cool part, but it felt like something out of a fairy tale. You come to the start of it and it’s like stepping through a door into the pines, and then there’s a pond-thing on one side and pines on the other and it was just breathtaking.
I crossed the street, stopped at the car to quickly grab some fruit rollups, and then got back on the road. At this point, I had decided I would do 2 loops–roughly 11 miles, just to see what this next loop was about. Then I would get up and run tomorrow. The next 5.2(ish) miles were sloppy. There’s really no other word for it. The mud was ankle deep most places and I saw why Colin had said the west loop was the dry one. I was fine, but just not able to really run, so I kept considering calling it a day. But then I thought about having to get up early to run 20, and I was like, meh just do the loops the opposite directions again (per the race) and then you can do a 10 miler tomorrow and be done. It sounded like a reasonable compromise, which looking back seems ridiculous. Whatever it kept me out there. I also found Todd at this point, coming back from a wrong turn. We ran “together” (mostly he was in front of me a ways). There was a section of bushwhacking, and this was when I started to notice that plants and bushes were tearing up my lower legs. I also started to think about how this was like an adventure race or something, which made me feel moderately better about the nasty conditions. At one point, it started to rain…but it quickly turned to snow. FML. Then as quickly as it started, it stopped. The sun came out, birds were chirping, and there was no more mud. Well…some of that is true. I came to the start/finish, refilled my water and tailwind, grabbed another handful of fruit rollups for the road, and headed back out.
The third loop, after the terrible east-side loop, was a breeze. It was muddy, but I had gotten used to just power hiking through the particularly bad spots and hobble-running through the “runnable” stuff. I started to think about the reality of how slowly I was moving–I knew everyone was, but I started to question continuing on again. Is it better to just get the time on feet in and finish this training run or better to go somewhere tomorrow to actually “run”? I played with that question a lot the next 10+ miles. I also thought about how this was truly the perfect location for Mess the Dress, how little I was eating and I needed to fix that (but never actually did..fail), how I had put way too much Tailwind in my water bottles and I needed to water it down (finally did that on my last loop), and about my baby sister (who is really sick and in the ER again…an ongoing thing and hence the late night last night). During the end of this loop, I realized that I was close to the front of the race for women. And that was when I realized that I needed to finish no matter what. We didn’t drive all this way for a 20 mile run…we came for a 50k, and that’s what I was going to do. Oh I would be remiss if I forgot to mention that I almost fell again multiple times in this loop. I was having a hard time staying upright, but somehow managed to never actually fall all the way down. Small miracles WERE happening.
Loop four was pure misery. I wanted to punch someone, but I think this is where I lost Todd (you’re lucky, buddy hahaha seriously though nice spending some miles with you even though we didn’t talk much). I wasn’t even sure if I was on the right trail at one point (I knew, but I didn’t KNOW if that makes sense). And then, like a bat out of hell, here comes Mertsy, the opposite direction from me. In this race, the runner got to choose the direction of the final two loops. Holy hell, I thought, Mertsock is beating me by more than 10/11 miles. FML I AM moving slow. After another 3 or 4 guys went by me the wrong way, I finally asked, “you’re in your last loop??” But no, second to last. Colin was allowing us to choose which side (sloppy east side or kind of sloppy west side) to do second to last and last!!! This put some pep in my step as I thought about which side to do first and also which direction to go. Somewhere near the end, I saw Dan, who said something about not wanting to see me again and we laughed. Oh and it snowed/hailed off and on for the rest of the race. It also got sunny. Mother nature was confused. AND I kept stepping in puddles that looked “fine,” but then I’d sink in to my knee (literally) and mud would splash up in my face. Disgusting. I also wiped my nose a billion times on my shirt. I was a hot mess, let me tell you. Glamour is the name of the game when it comes to trail running, people.
I headed out for loop five on the messy east side, because I wanted that side DONE more than anything in the world. All the guys in the front were going the opposite way I’d just come, but I thought I remembered liking the way I just did better. I considered going with the crowd but then thought, “just run your own race, dammit.” (Apparently I chose the “hard” way to do the loop…I’m not sure there was an easy one ha.) Off I went, opposite the people in front of me. Which ended up being great because I saw people once in a while and could laugh at Dan and tell him he had to see me again, sorry! Toward the end of this loop, I caught up with Jeff, and we talked about how he was going to go farther than ever before today–possibly even the full 50k! It was so good to see a friendly face at that point in the race. We came into the start/finish, but I took off pretty quickly knowing I was almost done and the worst was behind me.
Loop six was a mess. I was frustrated with how much walking I had to do, frustrated by all the mud, frustrated by my overall time, cold, tired, hungry. I had forgotten to grab any solid food in my rush to leave the aid station, so I was drinking tailwind and listening to my stomach grumbling the whole way. The only thing keeping me moving relatively quickly was knowing I was in the lead for women, but not knowing where anyone else was behind me. I tried to really focus on hiking as quickly as I could, which wasn’t particularly fast with the mud and my hamstrings begging for mercy (I love that quote about how it only hurts so much, then it doesn’t get worse…it is so true, you get to a certain point of pain and then there is no MORE pain, it just is constant pain of the same magnitude). But I kept moving. Before I knew it, I came to the fairy tale spot, and I knew I was close. And then all of a sudden, boom. Finish line! I touched the PP (literally 2 P’s strung together) and was handed my first place female award!!!!
Negatives from yesterday:
- This was by far my slowest 50k ever. It took me just over 8 hours to finish. I would be lying if I said I wasn’t disappointed by that. On the flip side, the men’s winner was something like an hour and a half slower than his PR. It was just a slow day with tough conditions.
- I seriously considered quitting–multiple times. I tried to justify it in my head, and I came pretty close a couple of times. Much closer than I ever have before. I was in a negative head space for most of the 8 hours yesterday. That’s no good. No more of that. Goods and bads and just flow with it. Or some other hippie bullshit.
- My nutrition was off. I was hungry multiple times, kept forgetting to actually drink, and I kept chugging Mountain Dew at the aid station. I know my stomach doesn’t handle large quantities of food/drink. So why I chugged I don’t know, and why I wasn’t consistently eating a little at a time I also don’t know. Gotta fix that for Cayuga.
- My foot hurts today. My legs are cut to shit and itching like crazy. My sneakers went in the garbage, along with my socks–everything was holey and caked with mud. That course did a number on my physically and gear-wise. (Plus side to the holey gear–not having to clean it!)
Positives from today:
- Let’s start with the obvious: I stuck it out and finished in first place. (Side note: small field. Other side note: Eric always says you can only race the people who showed up.) Holy shit, guys. I won a race!!!! All I’ve ever wanted to do was place in my age group–I never thought I could win…overall for females.
- Good people. There’s nothing quite like a tough day and seeing people sticking it out together–on the trail, racing, and under the tents, volunteering and RD-ing. The camaraderie that comes from a day like today is so much better than anything else. In fact, if I had to pick a word to describe yesterday, camaraderie might be it. Thanks for all the awesomeness out there yesterday, guys!
- Another solid training run in my 50 miler plan… and my first 50+ mile week of this cycle! Rock on! No taper either, so I guess I should take that into account when thinking about how slow I was.
- Thought I was going to be hurting pretty bad after this one, but somehow today I feel pretty good. We’ll see how tomorrow goes, but I’m guessing I’ll be alright!
In the neutral category, I do want to mention that after these long runs and races, I often struggle to have an appetite or to sleep. I don’t know why–is my body just still processing what the hell we did? Who knows. I just know I wasn’t particularly hungry yesterday (don’t worry–I’ve been eating like crazy today) and I slept maybe 3 hours last night. I was wired.
Overall, yesterday was a great day! Thanks to everyone who came out, who encouraged, who stuck it out too. Thanks to Colin and his wife for volunteering and spending countless hours prepping so that we all could have a great experience!!! Despite the tough conditions (or maybe because of them), yesterday was super fun and a really cool experience. What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger and all that! And as always thanks to my number one supporter, the guy who tells me I can when I think I can’t, the one always pushing me to do and be better, and loving me no matter what–dressed up and ready to go out or with mud all over and snot on my shirt. Eric, I love you. Thank you for doing this with me.