Monday, December 5, 2011

Borderline too much...

OK, so Nov. 18th through Dec. 3rd got a wee bit out of hand. A couple months back I was at the Morton Arboretum which is the local hangout if you want to run hills. I was with a few runners in the club and we were plotting out our end of season events. I was talked into Hot Chocolate Chicago in early November and Tecumseh Trail Marathon in early December. This seems reasonable.

About a week later, I was goaded into running a trail race in Palatine, by a club member. He's a tad preachy about how none of the club members have the gumption to wander off of roads or the Prairie Path. I took his challenge and added an 8K trail run to the end of October, 10/29. In addition, I had not yet run a 5K since returning to running and that's the kind of race I am built for so I added the Roadrunner Challenge in early November, 11/12.

So that was three weekends in a row with races and it turns out I did OK at them. The first was the 8K trail run and I finished in 4th overall. This race is stacked with old farts, because despite being 4th overall, I was 3rd in the 40-45 age group. Old folks rock. The next weekend was the Hot Chocolate 15K and I was fine with finishing in under an hour. I was 6th in the AG and 82 out of something like 13,000 runners. That was a fair showing, but it was the first time this season that I did not bring home hardware. At my return to running last October this was not a concern, but as I kept excelling, my expectations grew too. The next weekend was a 5K and I won this overall, by more than 4 minutes, so it was basically a solo effort. I started feeling good about myself and had no real plans for Thanksgiving, so I started playing with the idea of a Grand Canyon Rim to Rim to Rim run. Thanksgiving, because I had no plans, time that I needed away from work and a need to get away. After about 48 hours I pulled the trigger and booked hotel and airfare. Only then did I recall that I was committed to the trail marathon the following weekend. What evs, I was gonna run the canyon.

So I went down and ran the Grand Canyon, 48 miles in one day for my first ultra and it offers some hilly elevations along the way. It was the experience of a lifetime and you can read about it here and here. If you read it, you'll note that I struggled to recover quickly from the canyon; old folks were passing me in walkers. I took 4 days off running after that first ultra and then started back with modest runs on Tuesday and Wednesday the following week. On Thursday night, I was feeling better and ran with my running club, Glen Ellyn Runners. This was a great night, I set out with Todd, Tim and Jared. Todd was very curious about the R2R2R and we chatted while we ran. I was actually doing OK while talking and running low 7s. By the end of the run we were doing 6:40s and the overall was 6:55 pace. I was almost back to normal and just in time to run a freaking hilly trail marathon two days later.

So off to southern Indiana we go. The Tecumseh Trail marathon is known for being exceedingly tilty and having less than perfect traction. The night before the marathon we stayed in a club member's (Sherry) family home. Another clubmate, Francesca, made dinner. It was a boatload of pastas and full of YUM. The rest of us, Tara, Brian, John and myself, just sat back and shovelled in food while sharing great stories.

Race day started well; it was dry, no wind and mid 40s on the way to 50s. This is a point to point marathon so we had to drive to the finish to board a bus to the start. Our driver took two wrong turns, thankfully we had some veteran racers onboard. When we got to the start, I darted off to find some fresh forest real estate to unleash the mornings liquids. With that task done, I chose the warmth of the bus, rather than stand around outside.

When the race director called everyone to the start, I chose to wear compression shorts, a tech tee, a Swamp2K singlet with a lightweight outer shell. I also picked my Adios shoes over my PureConnects. They give me confidence. I had 5 Stinger honeys with me and no gloves. The start is a tad sophomoric; guy stands up, move his lips, but not loud enough to hear and then a horn goes off. It's On!

I was running this race without my Garmin. Those of you who read the R2R2R reports know why ;) I think I went out in 7:15-7:30 pace and that was a lot of adrenaline, but there were 6 guys that shot out even faster. I was told to expect about an hour slower than a road marathon, but was going to run solely on feel today. The race starts in one state park travels through it, some private land and into the other state park where it finishes. This race is highlighted by a lot of run up this hill, so that you can run down it. I doubt we have a level 100 yard segment the whole day. The net elevation is -300 feet so it's a downhill race; please note the tongue planted firmly in my cheek. I think the elevation is like 3500 feet up and 3800 feet down. After about 4 miles the adrenaline wears off and I start to assess how I feel. Surprisingly the assessment is pretty D@mn good. I am in like 15-17th place. and running comfortable to the point where I am not passing nor being passed. This is important, because most of the course is single track and you don't want to get stuck. Shortly after this I start hearing some young folk whooping it up. I'll soon learn that there are 8 kids from Wabash College running the race; 7 athletes and 1 coach. They are having a grand time and yapping up a storm. They are a TEAM; it's easy to see. They are floating up hills but my girth has me quickly catching back up on the downhills.

We keep this accordion pattern up through about mile 16. Don't ever look at mile 16 before committing to this race. It's a beast of a hill, on gravel, but this is nugget sized gravel so you can't even plant your feet levelly. The hill goes up about 600 yards at 12% grade. The it turns and goes up another 3-400 yards. I knew it was in my best interest to walk some of this hill. Blasting up it would only hurt me later in the day. The college kids got a good quarter mile on me here. Fortunately, one of them need a bio break and the rest waited for him so we hooked up again. At about mile 16 you start ascending some pretty steep stuff. So steep that they built switchbacks into the trail. Here I chose to walk one length and run two to conserve energy. This was the first time since the Wabash team that I had been passed today. But even this person walked a bit in this section. From here we're OK til about 18 where the last ugly switchback section is and I employ the same strategy. A few of the Wabash kids were falling back here and I started passing them again. I reminded them to run a few of the switchbacks just to keep the legs warm. At the top of this section it's runnable for a bit and I realize that I am really only able to keep a moderate pace so the younger guys start passing again. We stayed within about 1/4 mile through here as I would still gain downhill, but I was losing ground overall. At we passed through 20, I just decided to go low and slow to finish this day. I felt I was looking pretty good in the AG and was well ahead of what I had planned for. The last 6 miles are in The Yellowwood State Park and like the rest of the run it's quite beautiful. The race is well organized and they have a lot of aid stations towards the end of the race. I had been fine with water since the temps were low and was good about my calorie replacement so I was sore, but never felt like I was cramping. I will say, the hell I went through the week before made this run tolerable. I saw a deer in this section of the run and seeing it bound was disheartening as I felt the earth had a rubberband attached to me to prevent me getting off the ground. I catch up to the last two Wabash runners and their coach. I think he'd just twisted an ankle so he was in walk mode. I encouraged the other two to keep me company to the finish. We chatted about their season and how we were feeling and it really helped tick off a few miles. At about 1.5 miles to go the trail tilts up again; enough that I chose to walk. the guys stopped too and at the top we started back to trotting and they got all the way to run. I never really got back to run for the rest of the race. As I approached the last turn, I saw Francesca, she actually saw me, I was probably bleary eyed. Francesca had volunteered at the 9 mile aid station and was just now getting back to the finish area. It was a pleasant surprise. She cheered me on and I ran up through the chute. I forgot to look at the time, oops. About 10 feet further I was handed an award, 2nd in the 40-45 age group ;) Then some guy expected that I had the energy to lift my foot so he could take off the chip. He was wrong, there was some bending down in his future.

I was done. That was 75 miles of hilly trails in less than 10 days and I was a tad proud of the accomplishment. At the finish, there was warm soup, homemade. Also a number of sandwiches. The lady there had been up since 4 making everything. I think she said the name of her business was The Bread Lady. I was OK with soup and water at this point but the sandwich was too much bread for me at this point. Francesca found me and offered what ever she could to help me recoup. After a few minutes we walked to the car and I got some dry clothes on. I then started out of the finish area to cheer on others in the group. The next person I knew was Mike Theil. He had a heart valve surgery the year before and was deferring to this year. Yup, this guy X years my senior and one year out on heart surgery was about to finish this beast of a marathon in under 4 hours. You all should be impressed by that. As Mike passed I took a few steps to try and run him in, when I realized, "That ain't happening". I could walk, but no more than that. I then wandered back to the finish to greet mike and support him, He already had hot cocoa and a sandwich. I went and got a sandwich too. Mike was 3rd in his AG. We then stood around chatting and waiting for Brian Bottomly. He finished with a smirk and realized today was possibly harder than anticipated. I started getting a tad tight so Francesca and I decided that we'd wait for Sherry, Francesca's childhood friend and Rita, Mike's wife, then we'd take off for the house.

When we got back to the house, Francesca went out for a run and I took two beers out of the fridge. I was gonna walk one beer down the road and one beer back. It felt and tasted great. I then took a shower and got into some comfy pants. I was done for the day. We got a call that Tara had finished, but not John yet and he was past his expected time. The nature of this course causes it to be difficult for communicating up and down the course. A short while later we got the call that John was in. He's a very kind man and he'd passed a woman in her first marathon, who was only running it to honor a fallen soldier. John helped her complete that task. A+ John!!!

Overall Place: 21
Age Group Place: 2
Time: 3:37:57

Once we all got back to the house we had food and wine and merriment. I was feeling rather good for the strain that I'd put on my body over the last month or so. I turned in first as I was really tired. The following morning at about 6:00 I awoke. I couldn't sleep so I did what every person having just run a marathon would do. I ran 5 easy miles. It was still very dark there, but we were so far out in the country that I didn't fear traffic and it was very enjoyable to just plug away some 9 minute miles. The rest of that day was food, driving home and doing homework for school.

I had just closed out what I believe was a pretty good year for my return to running after the 20+ year hiatus.

I went from miserable 9:00 minute miles last October to Qualifying for New York and Boston, winning a road race overall and pulling hardware out of all but one event, and I did an Ultra. The only thing left is to get the rest of my 2000 miles in for the year.

No comments:

Post a Comment