Jun 032011

Part I – My Pineland History

I have been trying to come up with some clever play on “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times” since, clockwise, it was my worst time ever (11:17:59), but the experience was the best.  Before I get to the actual race, I’ll give my history at Pineland.  I’ve run every year it’s been held.  The first two years, 2006 and 2007, I ran the 50K.  They didn’t have the 50 mile option and I’d never done an ultra before anyway.  Both years I feel I did well, working through ITB pain from 20 and 25 miles respectively with times of 5:55:04 and 5:43:09.

When the 2008 Pineland offered the 50 miler, I eagerly chose that option, but DNFed around mile 28 with IT band pain.  I couldn’t wrap my head around enduring that much pain for that long.  I took my number off and pinned it to the bulletin board in the kitchen.  It would not come down until I competed the 50.  I had basically used my same training plan for the 50k (which was nothing more than my old marathon plan but adding 4 miles to the longest run) with some added miles.  I’m not sure I asked or if Emma volunteered, but, at any rate, for the 2009 50, I used Emma’s training schedule.  It was a lot different than what I had been doing.  It was still 16 weeks long, but had three build weeks before a back down and it backed up the long run with a 10 or 12 miler instead of an easy 3.  That year I finished in 10:55:52.  Yay!!!!!  I still had ITB issues, but later in the race and I’m pretty sure the new training schedule prepared me better to handle discomfort.

Though I’d told Rick I would be cured of ultra’s after completing the 50 (he knew better : ), I felt that the 10 hour mark was within my grasp.  I just needed to be able to run without the ITB acting up or at least showing up later.  I felt that Emma’s plan needed no tweaking and stuck with it for the 2010 event.  The training went well.  The race was a disaster in many ways, but I toughed it out and finished in 11:15:08.  I couldn’t even be disappointed because I felt too proud of myself for not quitting, but it definitely had me saying “next year”.

For my 2011 training, I stuck with the same training schedule, but upped the difficulty of most of the runs.   Bradbury single-track became my main training ground, with runs in our soggy, boggy fields thrown in for good measure.  I felt ready.  I didn’t even keep it under wraps that my goal was 10 hours.  OK, I did give a B goal of 10:30 and an “at-least-finish-not-broken” C goal, but I knew I had a 10-hour, 50 mile run in me.

Part II – miles 0 through 19

I slept in short stretches the night before the race, but at least I slept.  I didn’t have any worries for that morning; I felt I planned and packed well.  All I had to do when I got up was put the cold stuff in the cooler, eat, dress, and tend to Spot and Ally Kat.  Rick had packed the car with the stuff for “Camp Val”, so dubbed by George last year.  I had actually made a list and checked things off as they were packed.

After we stopped for coffee, I was envisioning what I needed to do when we got to Pineland.  Crap!  Next year, when I make my list, it will have to say Fuel Belt WITH bottles.  I brought all the liquids to fill and refill those bottles that were still sitting in the cupboard.  Rick asked if I wanted to go back to get them.  No time.  Crap.

OK.  OK.  Rick would watch the race go off, see me go by after the first 3.5 mile little loop and then head back to the house.  He’d be back by the time I went through the Grove, about 13 miles into the race.  I decided that I would be fine; there are aid stations every few miles.  It wouldn’t be till the heat built in that I really would need to have them with me.  OK.  Relaxing again;  Rick getting the Camp set up, me getting my shoes on.

I’m not even sure who I said hi to or what, in the short time before the start.  Emma and I ended up standing towards the back of the runners, debating whether that helps you go out slow or just frustrates you trying to weave around people because you don’t want to go THAT slow (all that adrenaline and body craving to move (it had been forced to taper!)).  We moved up, maybe to mid-pack.  Erik said his words, Ian his.  We were off!

I knew Emma wanted to run conservatively, but I didn’t think that would mean all the way down to my pace.  Yay for me!  We talked pretty easily but with little bursts still trying to get around runners to find where we wanted to be; I never put myself in the right spot.  Nate heard me complaining to Emma about leaving my bottles home.  He had brought his Fuelbelt, yes with bottles, but decided on a hand held.  I could use his.  But I didn’t know where he was set up.  He would be well ahead by then.  No, I’d be fine; Rick would get mine before I really needed them.

I remember Emma saying she couldn’t wait to get her feet wet, or was it muddy?  Then later in the race, much later, I came across a runner complaining about getting his feet wet.  It actually took me a minute to realize he was serious.  It was a trail race in Maine on a year with a very wet spring.  I was amazed at how dry it was.  I told him that this was the first day that I could remember even putting ON dry shoes (damn taper!).  Oh, yeah, people do run Pineland who aren’t normally on trails.

Trail Monster, Emma, enjoying the mud

It was at the first aid station that I realized Emma was planning on staying with me for a while.  She showed me a card she’d made reading:  “Slow, Stretch, Succeed, 100”.  I was happy to help with the slow part, especially since the pace was right on with what I’d written on my own card, dealing with pace for each loop in order to hit 10 hours.  When I went into the trees to pee, Emma was waiting.  I tried to convince her she didn’t need to, but was very glad she did.   I not only enjoy what Emma has to say, but love just listening to her say it.  If I could chose an accent for my own, it would be Scottish.  I learned not to wait for her; she could easily catch up.  Plus I could use the time to take a couple of photos (yes, I remembered my camera and not my bottles).

Of course, this is a 50 mile race and not everything about the first loop was enjoyable.  I noticed how much I was already sweating.  I think the dew point was pretty much the same as the temperature.  Yuck.  Please, please, please stay cloudy.   Both Emma and I were taking in drinks at every aid station, at first alternating between Cytomax and water, but then pretty much sticking with the electrolyte drink.  I even took my first Coke.  I usually save that for late race.

Oh, another mistake…I don’t stop my Garmin when I stop.  Not only have I realized on training runs that there is the potential not to restart, thus missing lots of data, but that time counts in races anyway.  The Garmin will show pace and stoppage time; just leave it alone!  This time I did want to get lap times for the 3.5 mile loop and all three 25K loops.  I wanted to see how I did versus the plan I’d devised.  Seventeen minutes after completing the 3.5 miles, I realized I hit “stop” and not “lap”.  Emma told me her time.  OK.  I just have to add 17 minutes to whatever I see on the Garmin.  No problem; I like having to do little math things while running.  However, when I looked at my Garmin again and realized that the seconds weren’t changing at 1:33:42.  Crap.  Crap.  The buttons are very sensitive.  I must have hit the stop on something.  Arg!  OK, new plan.  I would reset it back in the Grove and go from there.  Well, I did reset it, but forgot to restart it.  ARRGGGGH!

Running into the Grove, everyone was happy to see me smiling.  This was way better than last year when I was already in severe pain.  I got on the roller more as a precaution, not because anything was really grumping.  Rick tended to me, making sure I got my Fuelbelt bottles with 1/2 Gatorade, 1/2 water.  Ryan and Mindy made me feel like I was a rock star.  Off to the across the street, um….Oak Hill.  YAY!  I still had Emma.  She was so clearly happy to be running 50; it was infectious.

Not sure where, maybe near the aid station in the woods, the music one, I noticed a twinge in the ITB area.  Take note (this is me telling myself, not telling the reader).  Monitor.  Didn’t last.  I did tell Emma I’d hit the roller a little longer before the start of the 2nd 25K.  I don’t think she said, but I knew that it was time for her to start picking up the pace.  I would be, according to plan, backing off slightly.  It was wonderful to have her energy and company for 19 miles.  Wow, it was going great.

Back at Camp Val, I came in telling them about the 3 R’s, a mnemonic device Emma and I came up with:  Roller, Refill, Restart.  Then Emma suggested I keep the 3 R’s for my pit stops, replacing Restart (since I would NOT be making that mistake again) with Rejoice : )  Bye Emma!!!  Thank you, thank you, thank you!

I rollered.  There really wasn’t THE spot.  A sign that the band really wasn’t a problem yet.  I was refilled (people tended to what I asked for and then some).  I ate a Honey Stinger Wafer. Mmmmmm!  It was as good as lunch at E & L’s.  I started off my next loop with a big smile and everyone telling me to get getting;  I was a couple of minutes faster than my plan!  I was trying to take a picture of my camp with it’s very special crew.

Part III – miles19 through 34.5

I forgot to mention that I had a sharp, painful stab in the back when I got up from the roller, worrisome, but immediately forgotten when I started off.  The next 9 miles would be my only solo running, then I’d have Mindy to pace me the rest of the way.Just a mile and a half into the 2nd loop, I decided I could no longer run with the junk in my shoe.  I’d first noticed rocks had gotten in somewhere around 10 miles in, but they were still in a place that wasn’t annoying.  Now I had them on the bottom of my feet and ends of my toes.  Here was my first hint of the cramping that was to come.  My toes and arches were the first to cramp.  It made it hard to get the shoes off, socks de-debrised (yeah, I made up that word, but, I like it), and everything back on.  Still, it was worth it.A mile or two after that, I first noticed the sky lightening.  NO!  If the clouds let the sun out, the temperature would climb rapidly.  I know you all know already how this plays out.  It gets hot.  I’m not sure if I could get wetter, but I could get saltier.  I was surprised how this translated into pain.  I think think the edges of all my clothing and their seams started chafing.  Fine.  Stinging wasn’t really a big deal.  Doesn’t stop you from running.

As I approached the Yurt for the first time on this lap, I wondered when I’d see the first of the 25Kers.  I confess that, in past years, (except for TMs) I kinda hated some of the fast guys.  It seemed like they always caught up with me walking up that long up of the Winter Field Loop (never knew it had a name!).  I’m being honest.  I’m sure they weren’t as self-absorbed as they seemed to me.  I’m sure I hated their speed when I was painfully walking.  BUT, but, in my own self-absorbed pity-fest, I felt like they were resentful of the space/line I was taking up – like they owned the damned path.  Then one would say, “nice job”, and I’d feel all guilty for my hateful thoughts.

Fortunately, I was still feeling pretty good in that field.  I did walk the long hill, but not painfully, AND no 25Kers overtook me here.  Back to the Yurt, the aid station still had the relaxed feel, not the frenzied feel when the fast people breezed through (sorry fast people, remember, this is seen through distorted eyes).  How far could I get?  Someone fast went by me nearing the field of the Valley Farm loop.  Pretty good.  I was able to give them an encouraging word.  In the field, on the stretch before the slight hill, Jeff overtook me!  I think he even put an arm around me and gave some kind of atta girl.  I was pretty psyched.  He was pretty far up.  There was a young kid (who the hell can tell the age of people under 30?  especially at speed) close to Jeff, but I think Jeff stayed ahead, at least while in my view.  Go Jeff!  And thanks for the pick-me-up.  I walked the hill, but that was planned.

Not starting running again was not a plan.  It took me a hundred feet or so to realize that I was still walking.  It was just so damned hot.  OK, run.  I started to remind myself that soon I’d get Mindy.  She became my carrot.  I really don’t remember the miles between this point and seeing Mindy waiting for me at the Valley Farm aid station.  Mindy asked about my needs, the aid station people asked about my needs, I’m sure I made my needs known.

Yay!  Mindy was running with me.  I said tell me about the baby!  Mindy had just returned from Atlanta, a trip to meet her new niece.  I could focus on Mindy’s story about little Briellen.  It was good.  Sometime in the next couple of miles, I walked for no reason.  “Oh, sorry!”  Mindy must have said no apologies or something like that.  I realized that it was silly.  It was my run.  Still, I’d apologize over and over for just that.  Finally, I decided I must be apologizing to me.  I didn’t want to walk.  The heat was hot.

I sweat a lot.  Not like a lot for a girl, I sweat a lot for anyone.  In my first ever marathon, in October of 1986, I lost 8 pounds.  It was below freezing at the start and probably never got out of the low 50’s.  I drank at every aid station.  I sweat. I believe I started complaining about my many raw spots.  The edges of my shorts was the worst.  Mindy had a travel-sized body glide with her.  I said if I applied it to all the neccesary spots, it would have to be mine.

Back into the Grove, Mindy made sure to fill my bottles with straight Gatorade.  Rick provided my potatoes with salt.  I also had a big bag of ice applied to the back of my neck.  Ryan was right there helping out.  It might of been him holding the ice.  I must have used the roller.  I tried to every stop.  I still wasn’t finding a tender spot indicating the IT band was tightening.  I’m sure I had more cramping.  I think the rest of the race, I was plagued by severe muscle cramps.  This would have Mindy pushing the electrolytes.

We started to have the people that we played leapfrog with from here on out.  There was the girl who was struggling with stomach issues.  She was down cause she’d done it before and was hoping to PR (kinda how it works).  There was the really, really grumpy girl who wanted no part of encouragement or even Mindy’s offer to run with us.   We met two guys running together.  The one from Texas didn’t think the heat was an issue at all.

I was still feeling pretty good about my chances of at least PRing.  I had to add 3:24:00 to whatever showed on my Garmin, but I think I was still on track around 30 miles in.  I was amazed that the aid stations had the amount of ice that they did, even late into the race.  I’m not sure which one I first put the ice down my sports bra (both front and back), but from then on out I did so at everyone.  I might have flinched initially putting it down my front, but, I was so hot, it didn’t last long.  For a little stretch, I would feel better.

Heading back to Camp Val for the final loop
Somewhere before the field on the other side, my ITB seemed to start complaining more.  I planned to focus more on the roller back at Camp Val.  As much as I wanted to keep my TM shirt on, it was time to ditch it in favor of something white.Oh, I’m sorry.  I really planned to finish this up tonight, but…it’s 2 a.m. and I’m really tired.  I’ll try to get it done in the morning.  In the meantime, I ran today.  The shoes went on fine.  I really had no muscle soreness since the race, just little twinges of back pain and knee crap.  The toe was really the sorest post-run till it popped and released the pressure.  Just under 3 miles with some pep!

Part IV – the final miles (…hopefully!)

Back to Camp.  I’m not sure what prompted the decision, but I planned on putting on new socks.  What a task!  Sitting on the foam roller, I leaned forward towards my shoes.  That put everything from my feet all the way up to my back into sometime of wild cramping.  When I’d try to stretch one muscle/muscle group the opposing muscle(s) would immediately start cramping.  Rick worked at trying to get my socks and shoes off.  I’m not sure how it was finally accomplished, let alone how he was able to get them back on, because I continued to spasm.  Mindy put straight Gatorade into my bottles.  I put lots of salt on each potato piece I took time for.  Better move while I still could.Mindy started working to make sure I remembered to drink.  A new problem surface; my stomach began to feel unhappy.  I don’t think it was absorbing the drinks quickly enough.  Mindy told me that the salt and straight Gatorade would get into my system soon.  I’d feel better.  That it would help with both my stomach and the cramping.  As we got further into this lap, I definitely got needier and more toddler-like.  Fortunately, Mindy took all of it in stride.  I could see her working out new strategies as we went.Not long after we set out, I felt the familiar pain on the outer side of my left knee.  Soon I was feeling twinges up in the hip/butt area, too.  I did some pathetic attempts at stretching the band.  Stretching prompted cramping of other muscles.  Mindy volunteered to try and find the spot and work it out.  I wouldn’t have wanted to touch me.  Back up and running, well moving.  After the Valley Farm aid station, I was back down trying to stretch out some cramps.  Jamie was heading our way.  He asked if I was OK.  Mindy said, yes, just cramping.  Jamie said some encouraging words as he headed off.  Mindy!  He’s on his way to finish!!!  We both yelled big time for him.  I hope he heard.  I was happy to have recognized his effort before he got away.  He was looking very strong this late in the course.  Wow.

Off my ass and back to forward progress.  I complained of a different pain, lower than the knee.  Mindy started putting some pieces together.  Maybe it was my piriformis acting up, bothering the nerve.  She pointed out that could be a good thing; the piriformis is easier to stretch than the ITB.  We could get on top of this.  Down on my back, getting totally covered in all kinds of trail debris, I stretched.  Yes.  Back up, I was able to run again.  Yes.  While I could run, I could actually run at a decent pace.

I told Mindy that if we walked a hill and I kept walking, she should start running.  If I went with her, good.  She just reminded me to run.  If I kept walking, means I meant to keep walking.  Same for anytime I walked.  She should start running.  Very good.  There would be pretty frequent breaks for stretching, but the periods between started to lengthen.

I had periods of light-headedness.  Mindy wanted me to get in more potassium.  At an aid station she gave me a banana.  Yuck.  It was too green.  I really was a toddler at this point.  Did I pout?  Pretty sure.  Nothing appealed to me.  PBJ?  They have good ones at a later aid station.  Yes, I am fussy and got fussier.  I hate PBJs with a lot of PB, especially when running; swallowing is hard enough.  Remember to take GU.  That became Mindy’s job, too.  Stomach issues would continue.  Don’t, don’t, don’t puke.  Nobody likes that.

I think somewhere after the 2nd Yurt visit, my piriformis had been tamed.  I would still have periodic cramping of random muscle, but, Mindy’s methods were working.  The stomach would only bother for a bit while it dealt with trying to absorb the stuff I needed.  The chafing that had started a while back now became really annoying.  The lube stuff wasn’t working at all.  Though most of my body had chafing, it was the short hem-line that was the problem.  Mindy handed me a wipe (yes, she’d brought unscented, moist towelettes…no one likes sticky-GU/Gatorade fingers.  We’d already been through a lot of these.  Sticky fingers kept attracting trail shit like Pig Pen attracts dust.  I finally had to give up on the idea of clean fingers…) the idea being to start from scratch.  OOOWWWWW!  Major, major stinging.  “But they’re alcohol-free!”  Ouch, ouch, ouch.  Now nothing helped.  Shouldn’t have even been an issue; it’s just chafing.  You can run with chafing.  So we did.

We were approaching the Yurt for the last time!  We celebrated.  Then!  Was that a mirage?  They had popsicles!  Oh. My. God.  It’s amazing how just that could raise you up so high.  I asked who’s idea.  Sara’s.  I said, “You’d think you were married to someone who runs ultras!”  Another volunteer said, “She is!”  I smiled.  “I know.”  I gushed.  I said they were my favorite of all aid stations ever.  They were.

Mindy reminded me it was getting to be GU time.  I told her I’d take it when we got to the “troughy up in the field place” or something very similar.  And she knew where I meant.  How in tune is that?!  When we got there, “isn’t it GU time?”  Very good.  Mostly now, walking was due to heat/dizziness.  I’d, we’d, pretty much worked out the left leg pain.

Valley Farm aid station.  Anything look like you want it?  Watermelon!  The toddler reappeared.  I’m not sure if it immediately came back out, but I know I “yucked”.  Blah.  Hot, mushy watermelon made me want to hurl.  Then I tried to hide my reaction from all but Mindy; the aid station volunteers were doing an awesome job.  I didn’t want to make them feel bad.  Besides, they are the ones that make the good PBJs : )

Oh, we are so getting there.  I hope this doesn’t sound like I was miserable this entire last loop.  Mindy and I were having fun even while dealing with the pains, cramps, fueling issues.  We were working well; dealing with and solving the problems.  I did realize at this point that I was not going to even hit my “B” goal.  That was OK.

Whoa!  Coming back into the Grove, you’d think I was on pace to set the course record.  The TMs were out in full-force, cheering.  Ian asked our neighboring camp if we could steal some of their shade.  A chair was produced.  I had ice on me, drinks, salted potatoes, and was encircled by friends.  Emma!  How’d you do???  She gave me her little impish smile and said good, but didn’t go on much.  I got the sense that, right now, this is still about you.  Jim handed me a sip of his beer.  Mmmm.  Better get up and finish this.

heading out for the last 5+ miles (see why those shorts chafed?)

I know we took a long time, but it was good.  We knew we had it.  Still had to work on fluid intake.  I had to go down all steep hills backwards (better on my really sore big toes and easier on the ITB).  We were still leap frogging a lot of our same people.  We did pick up a couple, younger woman, older man (both in relation to me).  Also a younger (20 something) woman who, though struggling with the heat, seemed to have the best attitude.

Maybe 1/2 mile out from the last aid station, we see Alan running toward us!  He offered encouragement and advice.  Told me that a worried Rick was waiting for me at the aid station.  Then, there he and the aid station was!  People tend to hate that field.  I was very happy to see it.  I wanted to make sure I stayed ahead of the couple.  Mindy was to look back and let me know.  I was going to use them to push me.  I didn’t hate them like I did my “stick” from last year’s race, but I would definitely beat them.  OK, Mindy was giving me targets to run till, but we just kept running.  I loved not stopping when “allowed”.  I saw TMs near the end of the field.  After walking that little hill near the end, I would make sure I pushed, for me and for them.

Emma (remember she’s already run 50 miles) running out to bring us home!

I ran fast and faster.  I felt like I was sprinting through the finish.  Rick and Monsters made me feel like a hero!  People waited on me hand and foot (pretty literally!).  I was shaded by Ryan (though he needed reinforcements, he casts a narrow shadow!).  After icing my feet and discovering my first-ever black toenail, I was lead over to the Triffitts camp and put in Jeremy‘s chair (it was already wet).  Emma gave me a wonderful shoulder massage.  I wish I could have stayed their listening to their tails of the trail longer, but, I began to shiver.  Time to get home.

In Jeremy’s chair (an honor, really.  read about his amazing race)

So, my slowest time yet, but I had fun and learned so much.  This race was about surviving the heat and the cramping it brought.  I had no residual pain in the piriformis/ITB leg.  I think it was a spasm not an injury.  Looking back in my log to my first 50, I commented that it was “perfect weather”.  I truly believe that, with the training I did, I was capable of 10 hours.  I needed the “perfect weather” though, not the hot, humid, hell that we had.  I am complaining, but I’m not complaining.  It was the best of times; it was the worst of times.  I liked this race.  Next year’s 50 will be a day earlier calendar-wise.  I will try again.  I’ll hope for good weather, but…

PS.  I had no delayed onset muscle soreness.  Means I didn’t work them hard enough.  Seriously, I had to do too much walking/stopping.  I look forward to having the stairs as my enemy next year.  I want to earn that.

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