It was months ago that Western State has it's lottery. I was not in it. I was surprised to find out I had failed to qualify for the race. I had run qualifying times on several occasions, but because I often do much of my ultra running at duration races, timed events like 6 hrs or 24 hrs, none of my splits counted.
I decided that I wanted to run a 50 because I can only recall running stone cat in 2009 and no other 50s.
I needed to run a 50 in 11 hours to meet this goal. Way back in January I had to decide what to do since races close fast and that is when ice age opened. I was in no shape in January. I also really dislike preregistering for events. However, the videos I saw of Ice Age made it seem worth the trip. I registered and the race closed 7 days later.
Sid had serendipitously been granted that weekend off so I was excited about flying int Chicago with him. We have been talking about visiting Chicago for some time. This would be a short visit but still fun. I booked the flights on American. This was odd because I have not flown commercial in so long I forgot how to do it. It was going to be nice for Sid to get to sleep for a change rather than fly. I got some deals on hotels for non-refundable fees. Same with the rental car.
Then I got hurt.
I have never strained or tore my plantar fascia so badly that I could not walk before. It took 2 days for the pain to begin to subside.
This was 2 weeks before this 50. Really! I suspected at that moment my 50 was over. I should have dropped then, but I was not yet ready to give up hope. First, I believe the human body is amazing and can sometimes heal quickly. I find this to be particularly true of acute issues. Chronic issues take awhile to heal, while acute seem to resolve quicker. I hoped I would heal enough for an 11 hr 50.
I also struggle with the idea of how much pain I experience is psychosomatic. I know when I get high hopes for myself I also put pressure n myself. I tried to mitigate my stress by not telling too many people about Ice Age. However after my 41 mile 6 hr run, I thought maybe I could even be towards the front of the female finishers.
It is hard to be friends with ultra runners and not talk about race plans.
With all these aspiration, I had to get healthy fast. I took a light week after the injury. I still ran at least 1 mile per day to keep my streak alive. My streak is an important source of inspiration to me that I will not abandon willingly. I moved up to 2 then 3 milers. As the days passed I was feeling better. I totaled 16 miles that week.
Long days on my feet pushed me back a step, more so than any 1 mile shuffle did, but by last Tuesday I was up to 10 per day. I managed 3 days in a row of 10 and my foot pain continued to get better, although it wasn't gone. I logged a 50 mile rolling 6 day so I felt I had a shot at finishing this.
I looked forward to a trip with Sid even if I dropped.
Wednesday night, the air force called. They were taking back Sid's days off and had to go somewhere else. Awesome.
So Friday I was off to Chicago alone. I got my rental and made the 1:45 hour drive to La Grange.
La Grange is a funny place. People are so very nice. Everyone seems to know each other. I ate dinner at a bar where people order drinks like Gimlets and Arnold Palmers. They talk about the town hall meetings. The roads have signs like "accident reduction zone. Turn on your lights" in places where the road stretches for miles without another car in sight. The asphalt has rough patches to alert you to the upcoming stop signs. It seemed like a peaceful place to live.
The prerace bib pick up was a lot of fun. There was a tribute to decades of ice age 50s with buckle displays and photos. I loved the photo of the start from 1986. It started on the road that year. You can see the rows of starters and what struck me first was that not one person carried anything. Oh wait, I lie. One dude in a half shirt carried a stick. I was told he was a special guy who sat upside lotus poses before races and ran with his lucky stick. Today people arrived with so much crap it looked like an Occupy camp. I had my bottle and wore my nathans vest so I could carry to huge set of rental car keys.
So I get to the start and the weather was great. A little split second drizzles at 58 degrees. It was a little humid. The RD says go and people go out hard. I am scared about my foot but it feels ok for now. I had high hopes the lingering pain was just my nerves and thought I was proving it. I was just sub-9 with each mile and it felt so easy. I had no complaints.
I was entertained by how many runners sound like chemists out in the woods. Everyone is seeking the the secret to finding more energy within their bodies. Two women shared secrets about 5 hour energy. One man mentioned some herb that helps you burn more body fat. Two young guys discussed the value of walking.
It was fun to just listen to all the conflicting words of wisdom.
. . . Until mile 6 when nagging started. . . Then 10 miles came and I couldn't deny I had begun to irritate it. I slowed down, and ran/walked through 14. Pace was still in the 10:00s.
The next 5 miles included more walking than running with my brain occupied with how to calculate what mile pace I needed for an 11 hr 50. Let's see 11x 60 equals 660. 660 divided by 50. Huh? Oh I can do that in my head right now. Too hard. How about the other way. That's easier. 12 min miles is 5 miles per hour. That's a 10 hour 50. I can do that. 15 min miles is 4 mph so in 12 hours that's on,y 48 miles. That is too slow. Ok. So if I let the Garmin average pace fall to no more than 13 min pace then I should be fine.
Off I go....Run until it hurts.... Walk until it hurts. Repeat. This was working for a bit but the pain was getting worse. By mile 19, running was too painful. I was on my way to the turn around and decided that I could not hike 30 miles and be able to continue to train so I decided I was done.
I asked some volunteers how I could get back to the start. I had no one to call. He offered to drive me. I agreed but told him I needed to be sure, so I headed back out to the turn around .3 miles away. I knew I made a good choice when the pain was ranging on just that walk. I got back to the volunteer and called it a day at 22 miles.
I really needed that time to get myself composed. I was so disappointed to have to stop that I could feel myself getting overwhelmed with emotion. I really hate crying in the woods. It happens a lot to me in ultras. I am grateful to be a chick during those moments because if I was a dude it would be much harder to explain.
So I quit.
I retreated to my car and took a nap. I woke up hungry and went to the BBQ. It was free to runners. I was asked for my name and which race I completed. I quickly responded "my name is Shannon and I completed the 22 miler. I was the first one done so I won it!". The guy on my left got it. He understood I DNFed the 50 and burst out laughing and gave me credit for my positive spin on my defeat.