I’ve got about an hour before Eliot and Asa wake up to knit together some memories from Saturday’s race, so here goes. Please send a note if you’d like details I left out.
Cliff Notes Version:
Loop 1: Felt great
Loop 2: Felt okay
Loop 3: Felt AWFUL
Loop 4: Felt awful
Loop 5: Felt a bit less awful
War and Peace Version:
Amanda took me to a Walgreens in Huntsville to get some immodium the night before the race. I’ve had so much “stomach” trouble during races lately, I wanted it on hand at the aid stations. A solicitous employee asked how he could help us as soon as we walked into the store. I had a flashback to the clumsiness of buying feminine hygiene products in junior high. ”Hi, I need some…(blush) immodium, please.” Without missing a beat, he replied, “Oh, are you running tomorrow? Right here down aisle 6.” He went on to ask us if we wanted any superglue for our blisters. Apparently he was pacing someone. We declined.
Loop 1: I’m pasting the teaser from yesterday below, so skip to Loop 2 if you’ve read that nuttiness.
I was feeling great the first 20 mile loop. My legs were light and I was clipping along happily with a bunch of guys. It was dark, so I didn’t recognize anybody. And, truth be told, I’m about as oblivious to the names, faces, and feats of most male ultra runners as they are to the women, so I probably wouldn’t have recognized anybody in the light either. EXCEPT Scott Jurek and Anton Krupicka — because you’d have to be living under a rock not to have seen their faces or read something about them. So there I was clipping along, feeling happy. I wasn’t sure how fast we were running because it was dark and I knew I’d take a huge bellyflop if I took my eyes off the trail to take a look at my Garmin. I started to feel like I’d like to stretch my legs out a bit more, so I scootched around a few of the guys — and found myself 5 feet behind Scott Jurek and Anton Krupicka. Holy Sh***!!! I promptly slowed down and let them vanish from sight. Oops. I wish you a could have seen my face when I recognized those two. I imagine all the other guys in the lead pack were thinking, “Who is this nut?” Ah, well, it’s a good story now that the end-of-race vomiting has subsided.
Loop 2: The running still felt pretty good at this point and I loped along happily. The biggest adventure was navigating the frozen footbridges. Some of their angled ramps turned into sheets of wet ice as it warmed up. I didn’t fall, but I did holler “Wo-o-ah!!” quite a few times as I slipped out of control. Generally I stuck to tiny mincing steps going over all the bridges even when the ice was gone and they were just wet. I’m not very coordinated and it was easy to imagine careening off the edge of one. Apparently some poor woman did — and broke her leg.
Loop 3: Things kind of fell apart. I’m still not sure exactly why. My legs felt strong; I just ran out of energy and I started having trouble breathing. It seems like each runner’s nutritional needs are a little universe of their own. And I’m still trying to figure out exactly how many calories and how much water I need to take in and how often. And my stomach seems to get more persnickity with each race. The immodium was certainly a lifesaver. The Walgreen’s modesty disappeared I had no problem hollering out “Immodium NOW!!” at Eliot as I ran into the aid stations. (Eliot is a prince.) I think part of the problem was that I drank too much water and got hyponatremic. I was a big sausage at the end of the race. The breathing issues, on the other hand, were pretty straightforward. My sports bra was too tight. That’s right. Okay, I know you’re not supposed to use new gear during a race, but it was a sports bra for gosh sakes. I’ve been wearing them for quite a while and I thought I had a good handle on “this one fits.” Apparently not. I realized I was taking these really shallow breaths and it dawned on me that my bra was really tight. I ran into the Dam Road aid station and asked the guy filling my water bottle if they had any scissors. He said he thought so and I told him to have them ready for me when I came back through in six miles. He did and I proceeded to ask a nice fellow I’ve met once or twice before to cut my sports bra. ”Listen, I know this is going to sound weird, but…” And then I leaned over and lifted up my shirt. (I know!!) He snipped an inch up the back and I sped out of the station. I should have had him cut the thing off because it was still causing trouble at the beginning of the fourth loop. I passed Scott Jurek as I was considering my next move with the sports bra. (Yeah, that sentence was fun to write.) I’d heard Scott had just come to run about 60 miles of the race, so I didn’t actually “pass” him. It still felt pretty surreal. I wanted to say hi, but he was in the middle of a conversation with a fan about how his last name was pronounced. (Fan: “HI!! Scott!! Wow!! I can’t believe it!! I’m running with Scott Jurek! Now is it Jurek or Yurek?” Scott: “Well, either is fine. Most people in the States say Jurek, but in Europe…”) Scott couldn’t have been more gracious to the folks who wanted to chat with him during the race. I heard one woman attacked him Beatles fan style at the Park Road aid station for a picture. She screamed loudly when she saw him. Eliot said he thought someone had been injured. Everyone had good things to say about Scott’s demeanor, attitude, and presence during and after the race. He made a lot of people’s days. Very nice.
Loop 4: I picked up my pacer, Kelli, at mile 60. And the first thing I asked her to do when we got out of sight of the aid station was tear the rip in my sports bra more. Kelli has paced me on Loop 4 for three years now. She is primarily a road marathoner — and spending time with me during Loop 4 has done nothing to convince her that running hundred mile races might be fun. At one particularly low point I stopped and asked her for a hug. She gave me a good one and we struggled on. I also did a lot of talking to myself this loop, “OK. It’s going to be okay. Everybody out here’s suffering too. Let’s get going now.” Kelli was nice enough to ignore me. We saw a fair number of runners talking on cell phones this loop. Weird.
Loop 5: Kelli handed me off to Brian at mile 80. I told him I really really wanted to PR. He said we’d do it. Brian is an extraordinary pacer and friend. He paced me for 20 miles Saturday and then went back out to help a friend who didn’t have a pacer for another 20 miles. He finished pacing around 6am. I just tried to tuck in behind him and keep up. I also asked him for a hug, kept talking to myself, and added in some swearing. AND I asked him to rip the sports bra some. It gets better. He couldn’t, so he had to ask for scissors at an aid station. They didn’t have any, but there was a knife. I wish I had a picture of Brian sawing at the back of my sports bra with a knife at mile 83. I also want to hear him tell this story to his wife. I like to smile and say hi to other runners during races. There was no smiling and very little eye contact this loop. My head stayed down and Brian and I just got it done. I couldn’t have run any harder Saturday, and I’d made my peace with any finishing time under 30 hours, so it was a real treat to PR.
Asa and Eliot are up, so I’ll save the wrap-up and many thank yous for later.