The Buckeye Winter 50K Race Report
Finally, we get an extended streak of cold snowy days. The forecast was for a low of 11 degrees in the morning climbing to 30 during the day. I slept like a rock after going out with the family to a nice little Italian restaurant down the street. I ate a basket of bread, a salad and portobello stuffed ravioli with a nice glass of Chianti. It hit the spot.
I got to Boston Store to check in early at 6:15. It was fun standing around in the garage area and talking to the people I've trained with. The running community in this area is chock full of the nicest running obsessives to be had. Maria and George were early too. George was going to stay the entire day for his combination role of supportive non-running spouse and photographer. Maria was dressed in clingy derriere hugging black running tights with a hot pink top. Her hair looked too good, but she got on my case for wearing makeup again. I don't wear that much, but I feel naked with out it, as I do my glasses which I wear for everything. Sometimes I forget to take them off as I'm getting into the shower. I saw Debi next..she looked chipper as always in that June Cleaver wholesome way of hers. She had on powder blue today. Bob showed up with one of his expansive brood, his youngest 14 year old running daughter, Amber, to offer us support. He and Amber were going run 10 miles on the Towpath while we were running around in the woods. I wondered what she was thinking about all these people excited to run all day through the woods.
The 50K-ers started separately from the half marathoners. We were one or two minutes down the Tow Path when I passed a clad in black extremely large person. He looked like a Ninja. Then I realized it was the Master Sean, who vehemently claims he is not a runner, but here he was starting out with the 50K'ers. Hmmmm...thought his plan was to do the half, but I think he has it in his mind to do more. I mentioned this to him and he glared at me, said nothing, so I figured I better just stay out of his way today or I would find myself hanging in a tree.
The race coordinators re-tooled the normal Brandywine Loop so we wouldn't have to cross the river and it's slippery icy pathway of boulders. The sun was beginning to rise, small flakes of snow floated to the ground since there was no wind. When we came by the Stanford Youth Hostel, Debi commented that the scene was like a snow globe. We were happy and feeling good, but I wondered when our positive visions of snow globes would turn to something more sinister...visions of winter hell...
We passed quickly through Boston, saw Bob and Amber after their five mile run of the Towpath and entered into Pine Lane territory. It seemed impossible that as we just entering into the early phases of Pine Lane and already, there were the front runners coming the other way. How can they do that? I rather liked the trail conditions today, snow-covered frozen ground, but it wasn't a piece of cake to run on either, especially the formerly muddy areas which were now pitted gnarly frozen mud ruts. How do they run so fast? The front runners were friendly as they passed. I heard lots of "Great job ladies!" or "Good job girls"! I was partial to being called a girl, rather than the ladies bit, so they got extra points for using "girls".
I was right on Maria's heels for the Pine Lane section, Debi trailed within eyesight distance of us. I was really enjoying this. It was so beautiful. We entered into the Pine Lane corridor of stately pines and challenging roots. There was a photographer standing off to the side. A woman running the other way looked up for just a second to smile for him and found herself doing a face plant. She wasn't wearing gloves, which I couldn't fathom, and took a nasty fall scraping up her hands. She seemed unfazed, however, all pumped up as she was with those good runner endorphins. Our only stream crossing was frozen today, so what a joy to just walk across the water. The aid stations were run by the most amazing people. I gravitated to raisins and nuts, peanut butter and jelly, and diluted broth to warm me up. I was frustrated that my handheld water bottle of Powerade was freezing up, so I had to take off the lid for a swish of orange slushy which isn't what I wanted in this cold weather. Debi said she tried to put her nipple under her armpit. At first I thought she meant her own anatomical version nipple, but didn't think she was that large to pull it off. I was perplexed. I decided I was going to ditch my water water for the next Brandywine loop.
Maria and I talked a little bit about how it was going to be difficult to do this whole out and back Pine Lane thing again! We stifled, at this point, any mention of what was yet to come and concentrated on the here and now. That's the best way to handle an ultra--the here and now. My husband mentioned the other day, "What fun do you have in staring at the ground all day? That must be what they make people do in hell..." I don't know, really, but I was enjoying every bit of staring at the ground today. My legs were feeling great. My toes and fingers were holding up well with the two pair of wool socks and the rag wool mitten with hand warmers. I usually end up getting over-heated with my fleece jacket, but I kept it on today, it was so cold.
It was great seeing Bob, George, and the other Boston Store volunteers that I knew upon our return to Boston Store. I told Bob I wanted to ruffle his red hair for some one way valved good luck. I was feeling good, but my confidence didn't extend beyond 18 miles. I'd need an infusion of good luck to break through my lack of confidence for running beyond that distance. Maria and I were fast cooling down and wanted to get going again, but Debi was in the bathroom, so this is where we lost sight of Debi, at the 13 mile mark. Mike K. and Josh were trailing us on the Brandywine Loop. We could hear snippets of Mike's conversation with Josh. Mike was making turkey calls for some reason. I never found out what that was about. Near the aid station Mike snapped this photo of me. I took a quick glance at it because Mike has been known to post unflattering pictures of me, but this one was OK...I had my best librarian look in this one...running librarian at mile 15. Mike said he was going to post it on the Internet for the cheap enjoyment of young boys...he is such a card, isn't he? Please post for only 30 and older...
Once back at Boston, Maria and I took a quick bathroom break. The two women's stalls were empty, so we headed to the men's. She took the only stall. I was going to stand guard at the helm to make sure no guys came in, but I was anxious to do my own peeing, so I went to see if one of the women's stalls were free. Finally! Maria would be fine. Capable girl, that Maria. I just wanted to hurry up. It was at this point that I decided I was going to hang on Maria's ass for the entire race. She was going to be my Buckeye butt beacon. I didn't want to run alone because then I would let my thoughts sabotage my running. I would hang with her come hell or high water, slippery embankments, and frozen ruts. She runs a disciplined steady pace.
I turned to my Ipod for the second running of Pine Lane. I kept it kind of low in case Maria had the inclination to say something, which was seldom for this stretch. We concentrated on the terrain beneath our feet. We saw Debi walking up the hill with some dude on the return stretch of Pine Lane. She was smiling as always in her powder blue and mentioned that she had broken through the ice at the creek. I thought of that game we played when I was little, "Don't Break the Ice" and Debi had gone and broken the ice. It was separated at the edges and thinner in those spots. We saw the Ninja warrior Master Sean looking very intense, I don't think I said anything, so fearful was I of getting hung in a tree.
As we neared Boston Store and the 26 mile mark, I started feeling exultant. I felt no worse now than I did at mile 17. My legs were tired, yes, but there were no focused pinpoints of pain, just generalized fatigue. I had to thank Sean for that; he may not consider himself a runner, but I do, and he has helped me to be my best. We checked in to Boston. It would have ludicrous to stop at this point for what is the difference between a marathon and a 50K but one lousy Brandywine loop. It was harder to walk the steep the hills now. I had to brace my thighs with my hands as we climbed. My back was bothering me more than my legs. I thought of being laid out on a table getting my back cracked and worked over by my fantasy 6-5 Swedish masseuse named Sven. He comes to me at times like this...
I focused on my tunes for the last few miles. Maria had a gained about a minute on me; I could no longer see the frost on her ass, but we were almost done!! What a feeling! It defies description...pure happiness wrapped in bone tired exhaustion. I came through the finish in 7:09:43. I had taken nearly an hour off my summer time. Jim C. gave me my promised high five, even though I wasn't the last person to finish. I gave hugs all around to Maria's family, Bob, and anyone else willing to envelope themselves in my exultant accumulated 31 mile stench.
Funny, but no one really seemed surprised that I finished the 50K and that I did better than the summer one. I think the person most surprised was myself. I think that's why I keep doing these things...to remind me what I'm capable of. Because I tend to forget...