croom foolishness ~ a 50 mile recap

April 7, 2013 at 8:36 pm 8 comments

friday night was my typical pre-race ritual. a pasta dinner. an ice cream nightcap and a checklist of gear ~ though this list included far more than any other. i even allowed myself one beer. a little help to quell the nerves for what i was about to attempt the next day. the croom fool’s run 50 mile ultra!

a 3 a.m. saturday wakeup left me plenty of time to slowly ready myself ~ mentally and physically. race start wasn’t until 6 a.m. and it was only an hour drive up to croom but thankfully harry was willing to humor me and pick me up at 4 a.m. i wanted to get there with plenty of time to deal with race logistics, meet up with the rest of our friends and just breath.

the hour before start flew by. packet pickup. setting up the drop bag. rounding up the fellow crazies. going to the bathroom about five times out of sheer nervous energy. it was almost 6 a.m. before we knew it and turner, chori, ‘dillo, tift, the drill sergeant and i lined up with the 100 or so other runners doing the 50 miler. though it had been somewhat implied, there really hadn’t been any plans made to pace or race but when tift looked at me and the drill sergeant and asked if we were running together, the sergeant’s simple reply of “she’s my wing man” set the stage and i knew we would stick together.

the horn sounded and we were off. slowly. both the drill sergeant and i tend to go out a little too fast and given our comfy pace, i knew it was going to be a struggle to reign in and stay at the 10:30 we had thrown out as a good place to start. race course was a five-mile warmup back to the staging area followed by three fifteen mile loops. i’d been warned that the first part was mostly fire road versus trail which meant sugar sand. miserable, calf killing, no traction, soft ground. but somehow we had gotten lucky over the last few days. rain for two days prior had helped pack down the sand and break the temps. so everything was going well … until about two miles in. i thought my visor had shifted and was getting in the way of my headlamp but after playing around with it i realized my light was fading. stupidly, i had assumed the batteries were new enough so i hadn’t replaced them. doh! dumb! at first it was fine. the road was wide enough so i just stayed next to the drill sergeant and used his light. but when the trail narrowed i couldn’t stay next to him so i fell in a step or two behind and over just before my light died all together. now if you’ve ever run in the pitch dark, in the woods, trying to see off someone else’s headlamp, you know it’s a bitch. i had to sight and memorize roots or branches since his light would be past them seconds before i had to avoid them. i stumbled slightly a couple times but managed to stay on my feet.

we took a quick pit stop at our drop bags. i ditched my dead lamp knowing the sun was on the horizon. and slipped off the calf sleeves i had thought i wanted to run in but had quickly become too warm and restraining. then we were off on loop one. just about everything about those 15 miles was perfect. the weather was cool. the woods were gorgeous. the pace was in check. a few miles in i felt my knee start reminding me that it wasn’t happy running. but it was discomfort more than pain and i silenced it best i could. we made a concerted effort to stop at each of the three aid stations on course. we knew volunteers at two of the three tables which made it all the better. friendly familiar faces with words of encouragement were exactly what we needed in addition to the goodies they supplied. but i started noticing that the drill sergeant wasn’t taking in enough fluids or nutrition. given it was cool out, it was easy to forget that we needed to but i’ve made that mistake before and i was gu’ing every four and silently sipping on the camelbak throughout. i questioned him a little but he insisted he was good. stubborn man!

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mile 16

littleL, a friend who had gone out of her way to drive up to pace through loop two, was waiting and ready as soon as we came in to staging. we took a quick break. restocked on nutrition. i ate half a pb&j and  part of a cliff bar. the drill sergeant drank an ensure (his usual long run nutrition) and ditched his camelbak for a water bottle. and we were off. but it wasn’t a few miles in that the drill sergeant started fading … fast. and not just slowing down. he looked bad. real bad. littleL and i started drilling him on what he was taking in and it quickly became apparent that he wasn’t hydrating and i scolded him for thinking the water bottle was sufficient. we got to aid station one and made him drink. a lot. and refill. and eat. he perked up a little but i had serious doubts that he was going to finish. just before aid station one we had come across ‘dillo who had gone out too strong and was fading. and we also happened upon chori whose strong start but lingering leg issue had him limping down the road. he was trying to determine if he could hang on or if he was done. seeing them both hurting already was hard. and it was even harder leaving them behind unsure if they were going to be ok. i know ultimately we all have to run our own race but we’re our own odd little bratpack and those are my boys. but we left them both at the aid station and headed back out into the woods.

there was no denying the pain in my knee. it was getting progressively worse and i kept going through two scenarios in my head. one, i could quit after loop two. thirty five miles was more than respectable given i’d more than surpassed my longest run ever of 26.2. and i truly felt i would be ok with it. but i also kept looking at the time. the official cut off was 12 hours. but i knew from past results and course talk that they didn’t actually close the course. there were time checks at each aid station to make sure you were within a decent window but unless you were hours behind they let you run. given how well we had paced. given where we were. i calculated that i could walk the entire last loop and still finish close to, or just over the cutoff. but as we started alternating more of a walk/run, i started to question the intelligence of pushing through what was quickly becoming pain versus discomfort. and it wasn’t just one knee anymore. it was both. and a look at my hands let me know i had other issues to be concerned about. they were balloons. swollen to the point of pain from lack of electrolytes. not to mention, at no point in 30 miles had i felt the need to pee which could only mean that as much as i felt i was taking in enough water, i clearly wasn’t.

around mile 30 we came across john pyle, a well known ultra runner who runs for wounded warrior. john and i are facebook friends and i was surprised when he recognized me and knew that this was my first 50. he told me he was impressed and that i looked strong and fresh and he had no doubt i was going to finish. somehow his words of encouragement gave me a well-needed boost of confidence and determination and as i finished loop two i knew i was going back out for more.

a bathroom break ~ finally ~ and a restock on water and nutrition. i shoveled potato chips into my mouth to get the sodium for my fingers and popped salt tabs. we were surrounded by friends. many who had done the shorter races and had stuck around to support and see us in. we learned chori had tapped out. the pain too much. and i was so sad to hear tift had quit after loop one. and so had turner. that left me, the drill sergeant and we hoped the ‘dillo still on course. but the drill sergeant hadn’t quite pulled it together yet and i think more than i had been he was contemplating quitting. it took me almost ten minutes to get him back on the trails. he was lingering. stalling. and  finally i just looked at him and said <insert attitude here> “are you coming or what?” i found later he had decided he wasn’t but when someone asked him if he was going to tell me no, he just shook his head and started running 🙂

harry had come in with us for loop three to run a few. his knee had seen him through the 16-miler but he was still hurting so there was no way he could stay the whole loop. almost instantly we got ahead of the drill sergeant but i tried to keep the yellow shirt in my sights at each straight away. harry hung for about two miles then doubled back to check on the drill sergeant and vowed he would give it a few hours then run in from the backside and take me to the finish.

i was shocked at how amazing i felt. my endurance had hardly faded. and mentally i really hadn’t had a single moment of feeling defeated in spite of the fact that my knees were done. serious we-hate-you-why-didn’t-you-quit done! i let the drill sergeant catch up and we fell into a run a half mile, walk a quarter routine but i was in agony every single running step i took.  the drill sergeant started pushing me then. run a mile. run to the next hill. whatever he cold get out of me, he did. we made it to aid station two and the timing couldn’t have been more perfect. driving by at that exact moment were two of our friends and they pulled over to give hugs and words of encouragement. and not far behind them, littleL! seeing the three of them and knowing how close we really were was the last push i needed.

mile 43

mile 43 ~ still smiling!

around mile 45 i knew i was done running but i realized that fast walking didn’t hurt as much. it was something about bending my knees more to run that was causing the worst of the pain. and i suppose the added force of hitting the ground harder. but given i still had the energy and the attitude i put my all into the walk. the drill sergeant ~ who had finally regained his strength ~ thought it was hilarious. he was trying to keep up the run/walk pattern but his walk was so slow that before he could start running again he’d find me right on his tail. but around mile 47 he found more and i had less and i told him to go ahead. he had a slim chance of beating his pr from last year and i wanted him to take it if he could. so i found myself solo in the woods and though it was a little lonely i finally found the moment of introspection i had wanted from this race. or not quite.

i could have quit. probably should have. but i realized i have amazing friends who feed off my strength and who hold me up in my moments of weakness. i was surrounded by beauty. not just in the woods, but in my life. physically i was beaten down but mentally i couldn’t have felt more energized and capable of doing any and everything i set my mind too. yes, i found discomfort. lots of it. but it didn’t break me. not even close. i laughed as i told myself ~ out loud ~ that i was actually about to finish a 50-mile race! 50 fucking miles! in well under 12 hours! and the giddiness was uncontrollable. i screamed then. a happy scream. not loud but just enough to hear the echo through the trees. and then i went and peed in the brush! 😉

about half a mile later i thought i was potentially hallucinating, but true to his word harry had run back in to find me. i told him i couldn’t run. i asked about the drill sergeant (who i was sad to hear wasn’t that far ahead and wouldn’t pr). he walked with me. talked with me. we came upon chori who was running (slowly) back in for ‘dillo who i was happy to hear was still pushing through somewhere behind me. and when we hit that final hill harry told me he wanted to go ahead so he could get the camera and ensure he got a finish line picture. i promised him i’d run the last little bit just for the picture! but as i got part way up the hill i was so elate and excited the i found a burst of energy and ran far more of it than he, or even i expected i would! he was barely at the finish line when i came through the tree line running ~ sort of.

i finished running ~ barely!

i finished running ~ barely!

after hugs and congrats from people i’m not even sure i knew, i wanted only two things. to take my shoes off and to drink a cold beer.

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i think i need a pedicure 😉

best beer i've ever tasted!

best. beer. ever.

my feet, though grossly dirty, were in surprisingly good shape. one little blister on the side just below my big toe. same place i always blister but half the size i’ve come out of marathons with. and i had no pain ~ ZERO ~ at the former fracture site! finally!

after i processed what i had just done, called my mom, and posted on facebook, i settled in with what was left of my crew. about 45 minutes later ‘dillo brought it in and we ate, talked, laughed and toasted to the accomplishments of the day.

i have to say that ultra runners are the best people ever! there’s a level of camaraderie that can not be explained. we’re all a little solo introspective. we’re all a little crazy. but there wasn’t a person i saw on course who didn’t encourage and support everyone out there. i honestly don’t know if i will ever do another ultra. i know i said the same thing after my first half marthon. and i said it after my first full marathon. so i will be the first to say that as soon as the body heals i may be looking for my next. but if i never do another, i can take pride in knowing that i am an ultra runner!

2013 Crooms fool’s run 50 mile ultramarathon.
11 hours. 32 minutes. 39 seconds.

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Entry filed under: racing, running, ultra marathon.

a little bit mental march madness

8 Comments Add your own

  • 1. PDX Running Chick  |  April 7, 2013 at 9:07 pm

    Congratulations! Fifty awesome miles! I’m so pleased to know you felt good throughout! It can be done, you did it! You maintain your bad ass moniker and inspire me at the same time! Enjoy your well deserved rest!

    Reply
    • 2. becelisa  |  April 10, 2013 at 7:27 pm

      thank you! i’m definitely going to enjoy a little down time but i’ll be back out there as soon as the knees will let me!

      Reply
  • 3. spottedimages  |  April 7, 2013 at 10:09 pm

    You single handedly just reinforced my will to do the races I have planned for this year (all trail – 25K in May, marathon in July, 50K in September). THANK YOU and CONGRATS!!!!! How awesome 🙂

    Reply
    • 4. becelisa  |  April 10, 2013 at 7:33 pm

      awesome! trail racing is the best. i know you are going to rock every one of yours!

      Reply
  • 5. kitkat1126  |  April 8, 2013 at 10:42 am

    Discomfort didn’t break you – in fact you dominated it. I cannot fathom what your body and mind felt like during 50 miles – and just reading this makes me in awe of you. What an incredible feat. This is probably the most incredible accomplishement I have read on your blog to date. 🙂

    You should feel so amazingly proud and accomplished. I really hope you’re relishing in this (while icing those knees!)

    Reply
    • 6. becelisa  |  April 10, 2013 at 7:39 pm

      it’s funny. i think you of all people understood why i went in looking for discomfort. i really believed i needed to hit the low to find my strength. but fact is, it’s been there all along. and i have to admit … i’m feeling a little badass 😉

      Reply
  • 7. Miss Mile High  |  April 10, 2013 at 6:53 pm

    Wow. Just wow.

    Ok, so not just wow, I also have to say more, which is typical of me.

    I generally hate reading race reports. I read a lot of blogs and a lot of running blogs because I so want to be a runner.

    So I saved this one…read all your other blogs last weekend. But I wasn’t interested in race recaps, sorry!

    And then I read it and I felt so excited and happy for you at every turn. I felt so much awe when I read about you pushing on and finding your place. And I wanted to scream out loud with you at the time you said you screamed!

    Awesome job, my friend. Not only in running, but also in writing it.

    You make me want to run. Even if it’s just to the local Kroger to buy more wine

    Reply
    • 8. becelisa  |  April 10, 2013 at 7:47 pm

      lmao! i’ll do that run with you 😉 i understand about reading race recaps. sometimes if you’ve read one you’ve read them all. i’ve even looked back on my past posts of races i’ve run more than once and the recaps have so many similarities. but this was definitely not like any other race i’ve done before and i’m glad i could take you there enough to want to scream with me!

      Reply

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the best of times

5k pr ~ 24:23
10k pr ~ 52:49
half marathon pr ~ 1:55:10
marathon pr ~ 4:10:41
half ironman pr ~ 5:57:50
50k pr ~ 5:33:23
50-mile pr ~ 11:32:39

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