Saturday, March 31, 2012

Broadway Ultra Society (BUS) – 6 hour race. Crocheron Park, Queens, NY. 3/31/12

The weather report was not very favorable.  "Feels like 35 and rainy"… predicted for ALL DAY!  Ugh!  I was not looking forward to this, but I was registered and I was trained.  Thanks to some unexplained foot injury I was even a little bit tapered.  (Maybe it was a foreign body in my foot that caused an infection; or maybe it was a blister under a callus that created excruciating pain; whatever it was, it resolved itself in 1 week but lowered my mileage significantly).

I packed tons of clothes, and socks, and shoes, and things I might need, and headed up to the race with Ray and Jon. (Once again, Ray gets credit for being present with me when I need him most!)

We arrived with plenty of time for me to select my outfit for the start: Brooks T7 Racing Flats, hot weather Dry Max socks (b/c they are thin), calf sleeves for warmth, Brooks shorts, Run Happy Long sleeve Tech shirt, North Coast 24 hour Nationals T-shirt, and my convertible glove/mittens.   I lubed up the places that usually chafe pretty badly (under the band of my sports bra and where the seams of my shorts rub btw my inner thighs- ouch!)  I grabbed my blueberry smoothie (b/c I ran out of my mango smoothie) and two almond-macaroons. We parked just a few feet off course so if I needed anything I could make a pit stop.

In hindsight, as I write this, I realize that I completely forgot to eat breakfast before I left the house.  I usually have a gluten free waffle with some peanut butter and honey and a banana for the ride.  I just had a coffee and my blueberry smoothie.   I don’t feel it hurt me at all to not eat before this race. I believe this is due to me at training higher mileage.  My body seems to be adapting well at burning fuel more efficiently than I have in the past.

As the race started, I had two plans.  First to see how close I could get to 7:45 pace (7:30 lap pace on a .971 mile loop) and hold it comfortably in order to try to set a new 50k PR if the weather held off.  Second, to bank some fast laps early because the weather threatened to turn to cold showers at 10 am and running in miserable weather will slow things down. 

My first lap was about 7:40 and this put me out front of the women.  I ran few more in the lead around 7:30 -7:40 lap pace.  I threw my t-shirt to Jon as I felt warm. It was nice to have a person around for this minor stuff.  I was starting to settle into about an 8 min lap pace when I was passed by the woman who won the NY Ultrarunning Grand Prix series 5 years in a row. (Awards Ceremony for the Grand Prix took place after this race).   A guy running with her also passed me.  I sat behind them for about 10-12 laps and let her set the pace.  I am not against letting someone else lead if they want to.

The rain had already begun and it was cold.  About 2 hours in I realized I really needed to pee and this feeling was not going to pass.  It was distracting and we had 4 hours ahead of us. I did not want to leave the small pack I was moving well with.  It was very exciting to run our first 25k in 2:05 (8:03 pace).  I knew it would be unlikely that I would be just as smooth running alone.  

While in the bathroom, I realized my hands were absolutely frozen, even when in the gloves because they were just soaked.  I ran another lap and stopped at my car, frozen and miserable.  I asked Jon for my T-shirt and that helped.  I grabbed two macaroons.  The chafe under my sports bra band was horribly painful.  I lubed it again, but it was already bleeding.  This was not going to be fun.

My hands felt better in the damp air than in the wet gloves, but soon they were too cold.  I stopped again at my car, declared that "I hate ultrarunning because it is a stupid miserable sport and not fun at all!".  I made Jon promise to not tell anyone I said that out-loud. :)  I ate two more macaroons while finding a pair of dry throw away gloves that felt so much better. 

I realized that warmer clothes and the food all helped me get back into the race.  I tried some cantaloupe at the aid station and just loved it.  It was perfect and just what I needed.  Until that point, I was grabbing a plastic cup of Gatorade every 3rd lap or so.  I began to run harder just to get to more cantaloupe.

I saw Ray and told him, that I need to walk some in the second half of this race b/c I was already starting to feel miserable.  He encouraged me first to keep running, but conceded that if I needed a walk, to just keep it short and try to cruise in the rest of the miles.  I started added a small tiny walk break about ½ way around.  Between the cantaloupe on one side and the walk on the other, I had just enough things to look forward to, which helped me to keep moving. Often I skipped the little walk and kept moving.

I hit my 27th lap (26.2) of this .971 mile course in 3:41 (8:25 pace).  I stayed moving through my 50k in 4:25 (8:31 pace).  I started 39 laps just as the clocked turned 5 hours. I knew I needed just over 41 laps for 40 miles and anything more than that would get my OA pace under 9 minute miles.

As I ran, I did not see the first place woman anywhere.  I thought about asking others if she was still out there running, but decided that I did not want to know.  Instead I wanted to know how many laps to 40 miles.  If run a good race, chances are I will win.  If don't win with a great effort, I am ok with that.  I was running so hard that I was feeling dizzy.  I was running my best.  My body felt tired, nothing hurt, but the fatigue was tough.   Someone asked "This isn't as hard as a 24, is it?" I recall responding, “Oh, this is very hard!”  I found Ray again and confirmed that 41 and change is what I needed for 40. 

As the final hours ticked down, other runners started to compliment me and tell me how great I was doing?  I wondered if this meant I was winning?  Where was that first place Female.  I continually scanned the course for her but could not see her while I focused on the laps.  I was still sub-9 for most laps.  I knew 11 minute laps would get me 40 miles and change.  I wasn't running that slow, but it hurt.   I realized that 9 minute pace is exactly 40 miles, so anything over 40 miles gives me a sub-9 pace.  That seemed surreal to me!  The marathon I ran in November was just sub-9. Many of my 7-12 miles training runs I do are 8:30 pace, but longer runs are always slower!  How is this happening?!

People asked me questions.  I grunted at them.  Once I even forced out "Cant... Speak.... Sorry."  I was so tired.  When I passed those girls again, one said cheerfully, "I know! You cant talk! It's ok!" :)

I wanted to start the small loop after I ran 41 laps, but since my 41st lap was about 9 minutes, they sent me out on the big one for my 42nd lap.  I was terrified about not making that lap in time, but I knew if I made it I had over 40 miles, so I pushed the pace.  I ended up with three minutes for the short loop and just kept moving as the clock ticked down.

I didn’t see the first place woman and thought I had a chance at winning this thing.  When the command to stop was issued, I notice that  she has stopped behind me.  I didn’t know if this meant I was ahead of her or her ahead of me.  She reported that she had done 2 plus some more of the small loop.  I had only gotten 1 plus some more of the short loop.  We both ran 42 big loops. Ohhhh, so close!

She ended up just about .18 ahead of me to take the OA Female Win.  Only about 900 feet separated us.  I would like to think that had I known I was gaining on her, that I would have dug to catch her.  However, had she known I was right behind her, she may have done the same.  The reality is I was hurting and working very hard.   I was dizzy and unable to even focus my vision as I ran.  I was very depleted by the end of the race. I ran a great race and so did she!  Two women over 40 miles in s 6 hour race is a great race!

I never expected to run 41.15 miles in 6 hours.  This calculates to 8:44 pace.  I am tired, but nothing hurts.

As I walked to my car, I thought about how people always seem to be working hard on the superfluous details of racing that they feel will help them get a better time, get an edge, or simply maximize their potential.  Salt caps, advil, chia seeds, pace charts, special shoes, heart rate monitors, garmins, or other fancy gear.  I have done and still do stuff like this, myself.  However, I seem to be discovering that there is one thing that I can do that makes the impact of all these other additions less meaningful and that is high volume training.  I am just 4.8 miles short of 1000 miles.   The more I run, the better I race.  I don't need to monitor much.  I eat and drink and run.  If I forget to eat, I get moody.  I don't need to worry about much except to try to run as fast as I can sustain.

In this race, I took nothing but a blueberry smoothie before the race, 6 macaroons total before and during, some Gatorade and cola, as needed and tons of cantaloupe as I felt hungry.  I didn't change shoes or socks.  I wore 4 oz flats that other people limit to 5k's. I didn't wear a garmin.  I didn't have a plan.  I just ran.  I ran tired.  I ran my butt off and I thank the miles and miles I run each week for giving me the gift of strength and endurance to tolerate another great (for me) performance for my personal log. 

Thank you for reading my report.  Your comments, feedback or varied opinions are always appreciated!

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Two River Marathon. Lackawaxen, PA. 3/18/12

I wanted to run this race, just so I had a reason to say Lackawaxen out loud. :)  I wanted Sid to come with me because I really am not a fan of taking buses to starting lines. The only dog-friendly hotel was 35 minutes away from the finish area.  We booked it and drove out late Saturday.   Enzo seems to love to travel and enjoyed a night out of the house, especially when we came back with a small doggie bag of left over filet mignon and broiled salmon.

I had to register at the Finish Area which was about 12 miles from the Start.  Race was supposed to start at 9 am “near” a resort.   Sid dropped me and Jess at the start (after we found it) and we stood around waiting on the bus, which was late.  I was ok because I got to find two different bathrooms in that time period and no longer had anything urgent to do.  This tiny crowd of racers finally took off 20 minutes after 9 am. 

The first two miles were steeply downhill.  I believe I clocked a 6:57 and then a 6:40 for 1 and 2.   At some point I feared my feet were going to slip out from under me, but I think my legs were just shocked to be running that fast!  Even though this course was billed as a fast, net-downhill course, net-down does not preclude some ups along the way.  We did meander thought some rolling terrain for a little bit.  I recall thinking at least twice, maybe three times: “Was this the ONE hill they mention would be on the course?”   By mile 9, I was pretty sure that I found it as we traveled up a long steep up that kicked my butt!   I need more hill work.  

Once over that final hill, we headed down towards the finish which we passed on our way to the 7 mile out and back stretch along the river.  As the half-ers, who saw the turn around, peeled off, I was very happy to see two men ahead of me, moving about the same pace as me.  A solo 14 mile run would be rough after a hard 12 mile effort.  I was hoping to be able to focus on someone else other than how I felt.   

Just before the half, a guy ahead waved me up to him.  I am sure he was feeling that company would be nice.  Just like last time someone called me up to them, I responded by saying it was too early for me and that he should just keep it up.  I was in a comfortable but challenging pace, something I could imagine holding for a long time.  By trying to run someone else’s pace, I feared that I would be setting myself up to explode later.  

I hit the half mat at 1:38:00 exactly.  If I could hold that, I’d have a 3:16.  I had high hopes of something close to that since I tried to convince myself felt that the grade of this OUT was a teeny bit uphill and that is why I felt tired. :)   The river was running down while we ran against it, so I hoped that the way back would feel better.  

I spent a large part of the "out"trying to calculate when the "back"would start.  I knew we passed the bridge where I ditched my T-shirt at 11.5-ish miles.  I was not sure how much further the finish was once we got to head over that bridge, but I did see a 25 mile mark on the other side of the road a minute or two after the 11.5.  At the starting line, that RD said he thought the turn-around was at the “two cones around 17 miles”... then he asked if anyone needed him to bring their clothes back to finish area.  Small races rock!

17 miles was not correct, but I was so tired that I just couldn’t do the math.  This was important because several half marathoners missed their turn around mark.  At least, they had some comfort in numbers.  There was a good chance I would be solo at my turn around.  I really didn't want to blow past some cones and still have 7-8 miles to go after correcting for a mistake. 

After I convinced myself that I would not see the turn around until after 18 miles, I realized I was making up some ground on the two guys ahead of me.  By mile 17 a guy in black who was really moving well flew past us.  His energy was contagious and I passed the two guys in front of me.  I could not move as quickly as the guy in black, so I settled on just pulling away from those behind me. 

I was pleased to see Jess in the lead and on her way back.  I was hoping that I might be second, but before the turn around I saw #2 female moving well and already on her way back.  Maybe I would see her on the way in and feel motivated? 

Unfortunately, from the turn around all the way to the finish, I ran alone.  Spectators consisted of one creepy guy seeming to pretend to mend his fence as he stood in the bushes less than a foot from the shoulder holding some pliers.  I saw him there on the out and the back and the fence seemed fine to me.   Three people were standing outside of a corner store, or maybe they were loiterers?  They didn’t cheer or seem interested.    

I spent the balance of the run trying to not step on road-kill, or in the alternative, trying to not become road-kill as the speeders hauled up and down the road.  That kept me busy through 22 miles and by that point I was dying of thirst.  The temps went from 42-65 during the 3 hours I was out there.  I was struggling now with 2 to go.  Some Gatorade would have been nice, but there was just water the entire way.  I had 2 gels that I already took en-route.  I was feeling the legs get heavy, my pace had slowed to 7:50 and I was just hoping to see some sign that I was getting close to being done. 

Finally there was that mile 25 mark again!  I was at 3:10.  I knew I needed to be there by 3:05 to have a shot at a new PR.  It seemed like I ran forever after mile 25 before I saw the bridge to turn towards the finish.  I turned and saw mile 26 on the ground and three people waiving me on.  I could see the park and the shoot and realized that if I picked it up I could break 3:20.  

Official time: 3:19:14
3rd place Female out of 8 women :)
5th place overall… out of 16 total! LOL!!

Small races are the best!

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Miles for Music 20k. USA-TF NJ State Championship. 3/11/12

I raced last week.  A 50k.  I ran a PR.  It hurt.  I recovered. I ran 70 mile miles in the next 6 days. I still showed up to race NJ’s USA-TF State Championship 20k 7 days later.  

I agreed to run my first race as part my new Team, the Do Run Running Club founded my Mark Washburne, the president of the United States Running Streak Association.  I met Mark at a Cupid Chase 5k a few years ago and he encouraged me to try streaking.  It didn’t work out for me back then.  However, 2012 has some promise.  Mark’s team looked like it needed more females, so I figured at the least I could be present and even if I had a bad day maybe I could still help the team compete.   

I wasn’t sure what to expect from my legs, but I had some guidance.  In consideration of my marathon split from the 50k, the “predictiors” tell me I should ideally be able to hold a 7:35 pace.  Last year, I raced a PR 50k and then raced a half the following week at 7:35 pace.  It seemed reasonable to shoot for that pace again, but I didn’t log a 101 mile week before last year’s half like I did this year.  I was a little concerned that I was going to have trouble holding the 8:09 pace for 20k that I was able to average last weekend.  I can honestly say I started off a little scared. 

Weather was confusing.  Maybe it is just me, but the National Weather Service has been blatantly lying to me lately when it comes to their “Feels Like” predictions.  It predicted that at 9 am it would feel like 25 degrees.  I am not sure about most of you, but that means tights to me.   However, someone once said to me “Shorts are for Racing, Tights are for Pacing!” and that just stuck.  I don’t know if it was an original rhyme or if this is some rule that I never heard before or after, but I think about it when I dress for cold weather races.  Figuring that I was not really expecting to be “racing” today, I threw on my tights.  As a last minute decision, I also threw my compression calf sleeves and a pair of shorts in my bag.

After getting my race packet, I spontaneously devised my new “face test” for how to dress:  If my face feels numb, then tights.  If my face feels fine, then shorts.  It doesn’t rhyme, I know.   My face felt fine, so I rushed back to my car and threw on my shorts and calf sleeves and my fresh out of the box properly sized bright yellow, black, and white T7 Racing flats.  I stripped off my jacket and threw a t-shirt over my favorite long sleeve Brooks Tech shirt (I have no rhyme to guide me about upper body dressing).  Last call for clothes in my car left me leaving with my favorite gloves that convert to mittens!

Off to the chilly start, I stood in the crowd wondering how to manage the pacing. Someone yelled go. The densely packed crowd began to shift forward and move.  I tucked behind a tall guy who's Garmin was beeping....beeping...beeping... I thought about asking him what the beeps means, but decided I really didn’t want to know.  I moved comfortably and didn’t feel like I was working hard.  I wondered if I was running really really slowly and that was why it felt easy.  The amount of people ahead of my surely suggested that I was not going out too fast.

As we moved up the slight incline into the wind, M1 approaches.  It’s a 7:03 and into a breeze!  It was fast, but I felt good, so I just kept moving.  M2 comes and it’s a 7:08.  No way!  Now I figure I am banking some time for that 7:35 average.  I felt strong and tall (which is ironic since I am just under 5’2”).   I hit M3 at 7:04. Nothing hurts so I don’t feel the need to back down.  5k clock reads 21:57.  I LOL! because had this been a 5k, I would not have bet money on me breaking 22 minutes a week after a 50k PR and 100 mile training week. I take advantage of my positive energy and the wind at my back.  M4 is a 7:03.  This is starting to feel surreal.  I get a rush when I dial in a pace and it just keeps on happening.  It is hard to run perfect splits without a Garmin.  It was just me and my Timex clicking off 7:04’s … so sweet. 

We start lap 2, with the wind still in our face.  I know it will not stop until that first turn around well over 1 mile into the distance and up the gradual incline.   I start to worry that I over-estimated my ability and decide to try to relax a bit.  I pass M5 in 7:09. The next mile starts to feel hard and now the work begins.  M6 7:12.  Ha! 7:12 was the pace of my best half marathon.  I still have a shot to average that by the end of the run or even better it.  The 10k reads 43:39.  I am getting tired and not sure if I can hold low 7s for much longer.  But as we turn around and hit the decline again with the wind from behind, I pep up.  M7 7:07.  

I begin to catch a woman who was pulling away from me earlier.  I decide to pass her with some authority to see if she comes along.  She does not.  Good because it was too soon to start racing it in for me. M8 7:06.  I know I have the “wind in my face” section to do again and I did not want to mess up the race by making a move too soon.  I try to maintain my rhythm and clock M9 7:04. 

As I pass M9 my Timex reads 1:04 minutes, I realize that I can break 1:30:00 for 20k if I keep it together.  The 15k clock reads 1:05:50, not too far off my 15k PR of 1:04.  However, we are heading back up the incline into the wind and I decided this is not my favorite part of the course.

I am gaining on another woman, who glances back and sees me.  She calls out something.  I have no idea what is it.  I don’t respond because I am trying to sit back and conserve energy for a shot at a “big finish.” M10 7:13.  She calls out something else and waives for me to catch up to her.  I don’t know her and I suspiciously wonder why she is encouraging me to hurry up on the crappy, windy, slightly uphill part of the course. I was right at my red-line at the moment and did not want to blow up trying to catch someone with over 2 miles to go.  I think to myself “Ignore her and run YOUR race.”  She waives me up again.  Finally, I call out, “Don’t worry about me. I am just fine. Thanks!”   

We hit the first and now last 180 degree turn and I decide to gradually make a move on the chick who was trying to get me to run harder earlier.  I pass her on the decline and expect her to hitch a ride along side since she was so interested in running with me just a few minutes before. With less than 2 miles left and no more wind, I was now ready to race, but she doesn’t come with me.  I wonder if she is saving herself and setting up to kick past me at the end.   I can't worry about her and look ahead to the guy in orange moving well.  I try to mirror what he is doing.  I hit M11 in 7:10 and feel ready to leave behind what I have left in my legs.  Orange guy picks up his pace.  I do too.  I start looking hard for  that M12 mark.  There is a sign.  Could it be?  So soon?  No, of course not!  It is some sign telling someone to "Run Fast!" or something like that.  Then I see it and hit M12 at 6:50.  I am thrilled.  I knew I had opened it up my stride.  If that girl passes me now then she deserves to because I am not making it easy. 

Four tenths to go and I can’t contain my own enthusiasm!  I let out a little hoot and holler.  I become that annoying girl who tries to encourage the people I am passing to come with me.   I feel compelled to report the remaining distance to all in my vicinity by yelling out “Only tenths to go!! Whoo hoo!”   But where is that darn finish line!  My watch says 1:26:xx.  Holy Cow! I know I am breaking 1:30 but I am not sure how much is left. 

Finally, I spot the the guy with the sign with the instruction to “Turn Left to Finish!”  I turn, and see the clock.  1:27:55… 1:27:56…1:27:57… Oh Crap, I am not going to make it! I try with everything I had.  Apparently, as per the race photography, I even put on my war face :) but I just couldn’t make it before it flipped past 1:28.  When I got through the shoot and stop my watch it reads 1:28:03…. Ooooo, so close! 

Official results have me at 1:28:07 and 7:06 pace!   As it was a State Championship Race, my 1:28 got me 18th place female and 3rd in my age group.  Women’s Open Do Run Runners did not place as a Team, but I was really happy to learn that I actually was the top female runner for us for the day.  That will likely never happen again, so I will enjoy it while it lasts. :) 

Thanks for reading.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

USA-TF 50k Nationals: Caumsett Park, LI 3/4/12

Last year at the USA-TF 50k National Championship, I had a great race.  It was a surprising performance that I can only attribute to going into it well-rested and dialing into a perfect pace. In 2011, I ran a 4:15 for the 31 mile race and took 8th place.  By April, I was sick with liver failure from a medication that was supposed to help me.  It took a while to recover and my fitness and motivation took a big hit.  I focused on school and work for the rest of the year.  I did very little racing that I was incredibly proud of,  except for winning a 24 hour race after some tornadoes sent most of the field home and surprising myself at a 6-hour race where I managed a 4th place finish.  I spent most of 2011 suffering from my painful plantar fibromas that just never seemed to get better.  After cutting down my training to no avail, I knew the problem wasn’t from running TOO MUCH, it was from running TOO LITTLE.
At the 2011 24 hour National Championships, I ran in great pain the entire way.  At 10 miles into the run, my fibromas felt irritated. I already knew I was in trouble. Just hours into the run, I saw Dr. Lovey and he told me to stop by the med tent to see the podiatrists who would work on my feet. Every 2 hours or less I was back in the tent getting worked on.  They really saved my race, but by mile 85 or so I was done.  Before my compulsion to quit overcame my desire to fight on, I saw Dr. Lovey and walked with him.  He told me about his pain.  He complemented my running form (when I was able to run) and then advised, “Sometimes to get over something like this, you just have to start over from the beginning.”  This was back in September and his words echoed in my mind for months.

On January 2012, I started over with a 5 mile trail run at 11:36 pace. It was hilly.  It was slow.   But later that day, I ran 5 more miles at 10:36 pace.  I like the short slower runs that were over before my feet got a chance to hurt.  The next day, Monday, I got up before work and ran 3 miles, then 5 more that night.  The small goal of 3-5 miles of pain-free running seemed so pleasant.  I did very slow distance runs on the weekends.  Running was becoming fun and relaxing again, instead of a stress.  

My mileage quickly climbed to 60, 70, 80 miles.  Mid-January, I ran the Croom 50k just to see if my feet could tolerate 31 miles if I took it slow.  I wasn’t focused on racing but rather just running about 10-11 minute per mile or slower and taking a break between laps.  I finished in just under 7 hours.  I realized I would need to drop about 3 hours from that time by March to run like I did at the 50k Nationals last year.  That seemed ridiculous, but I didn’t dismiss it as impossible.

By February, I was able to log 50 mile weekends and 85-100 weeks.  All pain free.   Nothing was very fast, so I started adding progressions during some morning weekday runs.  My average pace was still slow, but I was ending most runs at a low to sub-7 pace.  I felt good.

But March 4 would be the test.   I wanted to see what high volume could do, even though I did very few 15-20+ milers at a "helpful" pace.  Most of my LSD was quite slow.  Most of my faster runs were quite short.  On 2/29, I even ended up in the Emergency Room with a serious allergic reaction causing my face and throat to swell.  This did not make a good formula for running an 8 minute pace for 31 miles.  However, I decided I had to take the risk.  I had to go for it. Sub-8's gave me a short at sub-to-low 4 hours for a 50k and that sounded nice.

I met Ray K in the parking lot.  Every one of my best 2011 races had one common denominator:  Ray.  He has been my ultra-guiding light since I meet him at the 24 hour Nationals in 2009.  He knows me.  He knows how I train.  He knows when I am on a roll.  He knows when I am crumbling.  He knows what to say to reverse my internal combustion (or create some internal combustion/? I am not sure.  Do cars run on internal combustion? I will have to ask Ray.)  He has been able to say things to me in the midst of implosion that has gotten me moving well again.  There have been days that even he couldn’t help me.  However, knowing that he was there gave me peace of mind.

The gun went off.  My plan was to run with a mindlessness that allowed me to focus on the moment I was in.  For miles I felt smooth and strong and easy.  Mile 1 was 7:44.  It felt easy.  We got chatty in mile 2 and slowed to 8:00, but recovered by mile 3.  The first lap was 24:50 and it felt too slow.  Each of the next 5 laps I worked on slowly speeding up my pace and did so by seconds per mile only.  I hovered around the mid-low 24 minute 5k for 7 in a row.  At lap 6, I have goosebumps and visions of seeing low 4 hour mark on the clock.  I could feel myself doing something amazing. I knew I worked hard, although not necessarily smart for a 50k.  I thought about how I managed a 100 mile training week earlier than I planned.  My feet felt numb, but not in pain.  My form was still fluid.  I thought if I can just make it to lap 9, I got this. 

But as I hit the back side of lap 7, I started to falter.  I could feel my body weakening.  I took the gel I had in my pocket and hoped it could revive me.  I was still moving.  Only once before had I ever run 31 miles non-stop and it was here.  I wanted that again, but I wasn’t so sure I would make it.

By lap 8 my arms started going numb.  My posture felt contorted.  I couldn’t find a reason to smile except that I knew the first half of the loop was kind to me and helped me recover from the mid-back part.  I cruised along, felt better and then hit the "rolling" section, which beat me down.  Lap 8 marked my first 25+ minute 5k split of the race.  I didn’t care.  I knew they would get worse from here. 

I started lap 9 feeling like I was going to die.  I wasn’t sure how I was going to be able to finish 6.2 miles.  My stride was shrinking.  My legs were cement.  The splits were jumbled in my mind.  I no longer knew what my projected finish time would be, but guessed if I slowed to 30 minutes per 5k for the last 2 laps, I could still finish under 4:20.  I was just not fully confident I could actually run that fast.   I was no longer looking at mile splits, fearing the worst and not wanting proof.  People called my name and I couldn’t find a bit of energy to respond.  I believe I grunted at one guy and he laughed at me.  Ok, that made me smile.  I finished lap 9 as Byron Lane finished his 10th.  I wished I could be him, finishing as the clocked turned 3:45.  I figured if the last lap took me an hour I could still break 5 hours!  I was feeling that low, but I was still “running” although it feel like I was running in mud. 

I hear Ray in the distance, yell out “Come Catch me!”  He was on his way out while I was coming in.  I know I looked in his direction, but everything looked blurry and I was not sure where he was.   As I ran from the start-finish and off into the distance, I felt surreal, overcome with light-headed dizziness, my legs buckled.  I was going to hit the pavement.  I had visions of being scooped up off the asphalt by emergency medical techs.  I had to walk a few steps to get my vision back. No!!! Grrr!!!  I walked.  Damn it!  Even walking a few steps, my legs felt like rubber bands that I could not control.  I felt disappointed in myself for breaking my stride, but after a few second I realized walking was just as hard as running and I found the will to get moving.  I did not walk a single step the rest of the race.

I could barely open my stride, but I was moving.  I made it all the way around the park and heard Ray again call out:  “You are going to PR!  Just 3 tenths to go!  Kick now!”   I really tried to will myself to kick.  I am certain I did not slow down, but I am not sure I really picked up the pace.  I have never felt so bad in a race in my life.  Despite the last two laps feeling slow, one was at 8:48 pace and the other was 9:00.  This was better than I thought it was.  I even managed to barely snag a new 50k PR at 4:13:04.  

I don’t like the feeling of falling apart a race.  It is incredibly painful.  However, I credit the higher volume training for keeping me in the fight.  I have never fought so hard for a finish line.   I was able to tolerate so much more distress that I reached new level of fatigue.  I never did collapse, but I was very close for a moment.  I am incredibly proud that I rediscovered my ability to fight.  Because I made it to that finish line, I earned 7th place in the USA National 50k! What a great day for 10 x 5ks in the park.