Today I ran the 6 hour 60th birthday run in Sunken Meadow State Park in Long Island. This event took place on a 2.1 mile dirt trail loop which contained some hills just over half way that kicked my butt worse each time. I wasn't sure what I could do and part of me felt that maybe I shouldn't really be heading out there at all. However, it has been hard to set aside time for a decent long run lately that I figured that I could jog through about 20 miles I would get more mileage than if I stayed home.
I woke up late, scrambled around the house for gear. I grabbed my Team Fight running shirt out of the dryer along with some other gear, stuffed some juice in a cooler along with a bottle of Endurolytes, advil, and my inhaler. I grabbed my Brooks Ghosts, put on my Launches and headed out the run.
GUN GOES OFF: I happily run behind Ray for a few minutes before I fade back. I run the first loop to get a feel for the course and I already know I am in trouble. I am working way too hard for an 18 -19 minute lap, I am not a fan of the sandy parts (which turned out to be just fine). I can feel my heart pounding in my chest whenever the course elevation is even imperceptible uphill. The visible hills became my walk breaks. By lap 2, I wonder how long I would be in this before I hit the wall hard.
By lap 3, I found my rhythm, knew the course was "comfortable" for the first 8 minutes, "uncomfortable" for the next 8 minutes and then "comfortable" again for the last 4 minutes for per loop. I tried to hold that pattern and managed a 20-21 minute per lap average. I was moving well for about 3 hours until I started to falter and get negative.
I had started out in my Brooks Launches which are the most comfortable long run shoes I own. I love my Ghost for training, but they are too heavy for me when I race. I knew if I switched to the Ghosts now, I might as well just stop. I only brought them as a last resort and I was not ready to swap.
At about 3:30 into the run, I took a short break to think about what I wanted to do. I took some Endurolytes, should have taken Advil for my achy feet, gave Arpan (a really nice man who remembered me from the 6-day and who ran much of this event with me) some juice to try, and took a minute to myself. At that point, I began debating trying to cover 50k and calling it a day or stopping sooner to save my feet the pain.
While running alone, I passed two runners who said "Hey there are some fast twitch muscles coming by, she is one of the leaders!" I thanked them for their vote of confidence, but assured them that I was not leading. However, since I wore my Team Fight shirt which says "Wanna Fight" on the back, I heard the guy say "Wanna Fight.... That is Kenyan for ...." (I wish I heard the end but I missed it). This really made me smile because I am not anywhere near my peak shape but it felt great to hear others comment that I looked good (when I felt so bad!)
I continued trying to get out of my funk. Later I rounded a corner to see two young guys flying towards me. One called out "TEAM FIGHT!!! Go Team Fight! I am from Columbia!!". Again this made me feel so great to hear this kind of support and fed me with some reason to fight the pain. At the end of the lap I remembered the Advil.
Unfortunately by 4:20 hours in, my plantar fascias felt terribly inflamed and the nodules felt like needles were being jabbed into them. My gait was getting painful and I just started walking, sending Arpan, whom I had caught up to again off without me.
Elaine showed up and she took some time to walk and talk with me about my favorite subject (Enzo) as I hobbled along. I decided I was ready to quit when Ray and Cherie came flying down the downhill. Ray advised..."Don't walk the down". I assured him I am lucky to be walking at all. He could see my limp as the pains shot through my foot and told me do what I need. I am sure he has used up all his go to motivational tid-bits on me in the last year or more.
But, Ray has a way of knowing exactly what to say and do to get me moving. As he took off down the hill, he said "Remember, Sometimes Things Hurt." As I watched him, Elaine, and Cherie move away into the distance, I walked alone, feeling left behind and sorry for myself, I wondered when exactly did I forgot how to Fight? When did I lose my ability to tolerate Hurt? Which is worse, the pain of failure or the pain in my feet stopping any chance of success? I have always been good at ignoring pain. When I was 5 years old I broke my arm and still went to gymnastics class for a week because I LOVED gymnastics. I would tell my mom my arm felt sore, but I really wanted to go tumbling. After a week, I got an x-ray and I had a fracture but I never let that stop me from doing what I loved. Why am I letting some pain stop me now? When will this become who I am? How am I letting this happen to me?
I looked down at my shirt. "TEAM FIGHT!" boldly covered the front. This shirt was given to me at the Half Full Tri fundraiser to raise money to help young adults fight their cancer. I realized that I did more hard work during chemo and immediately after than I have been willing to endure lately. What is going on? How can I accept this? How can I wear this shirt if I am just going to quit. I can't quit.
As I approached the end of that loop, I convinced myself the Advil is working, that running hurts less than walking and I did my best to get moving. It helped tremendously to overhear one of the volunteers say my number and add "She's has been moving strong all day." (Obviously he missed that hour long period of lolli-gagging while on the verge of defeat). I needed to hear those words.
My laps dropped to 21-22 minutes per lap again. I lost track of what I was doing and just tried to stick with the girl ahead of me. I thought I had timed it so I could start short loops with 30 minutes until the horn. I looked forward to the course change. Ironically because my last two laps were faster than 30 minutes, I was sent out on the big loop again with the advice "27 minutes left!" Oh man! I had already said good-bye to all the hills and now I had to see them again. There were mixed reviews about which was faster the long loop or the short with the hill there, but it did not matter now.
With about 4 minutes left, I finished my loop and was sent onto the short loop. The last few minutes is by far the best minutes in duration races. The second wind runners get when the announcer counts down the minutes is just awesome. The energy level is intense and I was so grateful to be a part of it. The runners cheering for each other, because we were the once who endured! I get to be one of them today.
And when the horn sound, then comes the Collective Sigh of Relief, followed by the Collective Moans and Groans as people hunch over glad to be allowed to stop moving. There is nothing like this in a marathon, where individuals express their relief one at a time. Here the race survivors are together, all in one small loop, hugging, sighing, groaning and hobbling off in a pack of pride and understanding. It is the most beautiful part of racing that I have ever experienced.
So was it worth the pain? Pain, what pain? I have no recollection of any foot pain at the moment because all of those memories have been replaced with the pride I feel from FIGHTING and learning my efforts earned me a 4th place female finish on a course that kicked my butt! I ran just over 34 miles in 6 hours which is a good effort for me today. I have run 31 in 4:15 this past March, but much was different then. Today I was about 19th OA in a field of 160 because I did not quit and this brings me the same amount of pleasure.
When I think about how I almost walked away at 25 miles all I can say now is "Sometimes things hurt." Sometimes they hurt for a long time, like regret and the endless hurt you feel when you give up on yourself. Sometimes they hurt for the moment and maybe that moment lasts like 3 hours, but it ends. This time I am not hurting from the regret of quitting. I am tired of that type of hurt. In fact right now, there is no pain, no hurt, just the beauty of knowing I am still a Fighter. I can endure 6 hours. Now I need to work on 12 and 24. Thank you, Ray, once again for knowing me so well and giving me this gift of a job well done. :) It is no surprise to me that all my best races have one thing in common, your presence :)