"Ever Tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better" ~ Samuel BeckettOctober, 2014: I ran the Des Plaines River Trail (DPRT) 50 miler on a bit of a wing and a prayer. I had just raced a marathon two weeks prior and that was my longest 'training' run and it was the downhill, quad abusing St. George Marathon (SGM). I made the conscious decision not to 'really' train for the 50 but to simply try to survive the 50. My goal was the SGM and I knew I couldn't train for both well at the same time. (Your Theory Is Crazy, But It's Not Crazy Enough To Be True. )
DPRT goes pretty well, all things considered, until the last mile. I mean, it sucks way before the last mile, starting at like mile 18, but during the last mile my poor fueling catches up with me as my peripheral vision begins to darken and narrow. The world becomes a wavy place where my feet know not where or how to land. Having experienced this before, not while running, I know that I am close to passing out thanks to low blood sugar - and I have nothing on hand to help me now. I make it to the finish in 9:15 but I am a majorly hurting unit.
It doesn't take long for me to decide that I need a rematch with this course. I need to redeem myself. I need to take what I learned and see if I can do better. In fact I registered for 2015 before the Thanksgiving leftovers were even finished...
"Unless you try to do something beyond what you have already mastered, you will never grow." ~ Ralph Waldo EmersonOct, 2015: This time the DPRT 50 is my goal race for the fall. Yes, I make the once again stupid decision to run a downhill marathon as a training run. Revel Big Cottonwood, with 6000 feet of elevation loss in 17 miles is not the best 'training' run, and it beats my quads to heck making SGM feel like a piece of cake. But at least it is 5 weeks before DPRT.
Then two weeks before the race I'm enjoying a balmy, sunny Indian Summer trail run with my trusty canine running partner and an oblivious hiker allows his off leash dog to leap for my dog, running full force into my left knee, twisting and hyper-extending it badly. The diagnosis: All the ligaments are sprained. As the race nears my PT, who is normally not very conservative on these things, suggests strongly that I not run the 50, not because it will make my knee worse (that probably won't happen) but because of the likelihood of a compensation injury popping up somewhere else.
I think long and hard on this. I think about my goal this year, which is to go under 9 hours. Now that seems somewhat improbably. I also think about the fact that my whole season was focused on this race and how I really have been looking forward to running this race just because I love the race. So, I decide to give it a go with the clear stipulation that if I feel anything concerning going on (as in injury, not just normal pain) I will call it a day.
I fly off to Milwaukee where Sandra meets me. I get a blissfully restful day hanging at her house catching up on the work I can never catch up on at home, but all this 'less busy' time allows a little too much festering time. I'm trying to get excited, but there's this knee thing that is keeping me from really setting my mind to the task before me.
The night before we are at the hotel and I'm still not all 'there'. I'm not nervous, or anything. I'm a bit antsy, but I'm also in denial. And I actually, sort of, sleep.
This year it's wave starts based on what you are planning to run. The first wave is 'under 9 hours'. As the gun goes off I'm still not sure when I'm going to start. I'm still wearing my down jacket as Sandra says, "Go!". "Okay, I...guess." as I pull off the jacket throw it to her and take off. We start with a 2.5 mile out and back through the start/finish. It's cold which I am thankful for. My knee is feeling okay. Actually, it's feeling pretty good.
I see Sandra again, wish her luck on her half that starts in 2 hours (she's a saint for putting up with me!), and we are off to the turn-around 26+ miles down the trail.
Everything feels good. I keep the fuel coming in, in small but steady doses. I try to keep stops to a minimum - though this is still a big sticking point for me, and I need to get faster at aid stations - Everything is ticking alone great. I see a guy hold a sign around mile 13. It says "You are not even close to almost there". I smile. Interestingly, for the first time, I am listening to music and happy being in my own little world. Due to the wave start, all the runners are VERY spaced out, and though I'm at the front of the pack, there are long spans of time where I see no one. Every so often I worry that I've take a wrong turn.
I start running with and talking to some young guys (I learn later that one is 17 years old). We talk for several miles, but they're walking the hills, so we part ways on a long, not very steep incline.
I reach the turn around, and the guy with the sign is there and has changed it: "Still not even close to being there". We exchange some laughs, I find my drop bag and I eat and drink and grab a bar for the road. I know that I'm the 3rd or 4th woman at this point (the nice thing about out and backs), though I do need to pop into the potty, so who knows if someone passes during that time.
And off I go. I catch up to my 17 year-old acquaintance who obviously passed me when I was in the potty, but now he's alone.
"You're missing someone." I say.
"Yeah. He said he needed a walk break. He said it would only be a minute. That was an hour ago."
We run together for a while. He's picking my brain on training for and running a 100 which apparently he's aiming to do in several weeks. Then he needs to take a walk break and I go on. I never see him again.
For 32 miles I feel great, maintaining between a 9:10-9:40 pace, with no walking other than entering and leaving aid stations. But at this point fatigue hits in an open field, the sun beating down, my HEED running low - it all makes for a rough patch. I know I needed to get to the aid station with my drop bag at mile 38. My adductors are cramping and I need fuel, stat. My friend Laurie, who has been biking the trail, joins me on foot with about 13 miles to go. My pace has dropped to about 10-10:30 and that is HARD. But I can still do it. I get to the aid station, do a gel, refilled my HEED. Drink a cup of Gatorade, grab an extra gel just in case, and hobble back out. I pull back a bit on my pace and allow time for the gel to do its magic on my cramps. And Voila. They are gone.
Sandra, riding her bike, finds us with about 5 miles to go, and it's nice to have company, especially good friends, BUT I also still have my ear buds in. I remember last year becoming a tad irritable at this point and I just can't handle chit-chat - or really much of anything. So, while it is nice having them here, I also block them out and focus on my music and my pace. Actually, No. To be honest it's much more than 'nice' having them there, It really actually keeps me honest and pushing. I think perhaps I would have let up a bit, had they not been there. No. I know I would have. And sharing these things matter so much to me. Sure, I can go it alone, but I would rather do it this way.
With about 2 miles to go, my Garmin dies and the blank gray screen tells me that ONE goal, which was finishing before my Garmin died, isn't going to happen. We cross the last bridge, the bridge where my sight started going wonky on me last year, and I feel good, and start to push it again.
Laurie asks "Do you want to be going this fast?"
"At this point, yes." I grunt.
I didn't remember the finish at all from the previous year and we keep making turns with false promises of the end being near and then I see the last turn, and I see the guy with the sign. This time most of it is scratched out and replaced with "You made it!". I raise my arms and say "Thank you! Yes!" and he flips the sign to the opposite side which says "Badass!".
I cross the finish, this time not in a daze, but feeling strong. 8:36:07. 11th overall, 4th woman.
My rematch went well, and yet, when I look at my data, I see that I spent 20 minutes at aid stations. And while my knee held out remarkably well, it was not 100%. And so, I wonder...what if ;)
Time will tell if I that 'What if?" leads to anything further...