May 312010

by Valerie Abradi –

50 Mile Battle or How I Got My Favorite Cowbell

I’ve been struggling with this post. The event is so huge to me that I want so badly to capture everything just right. I think that’s too much to ask of my writing skills so…I’m going to “just do it”.

Going in I was telling everyone that I just wanted to finish, but that my stretch goal was 10 hours. Having done the distance the year before and having had training go really well, it was in actuality my real goal.

Rick saw to all my gear and made sure that running was my only concern. At the start, the weather was cool and cloudy, yet already humid. I started at the back of the pack to keep me from going out too fast, but felt strong and kept moving up.

For the first 8 miles things were great. My pace was between 9:30 and 10 min/mi when I wasn’t walking up one of the steep parts. Then I started feeling the twinge by my knee. Shit. That could be my IT band acting up. Sometimes it goes away. I hoped. It wasn’t long before I was feeling twinges in my hip, too – where the band attaches at the top. That is a bad sign. I don’t think that once I’ve felt it there it has ever relented. By 10 miles the entire band was tight and the pain was getting bad.

I came into The Grove in a lot of pain and really pissed. Rick wanted to know what I needed. I think my standard answer was “everything”. Poor Rick, that’s not much help when he’s trying to attend to me. My first focus was on rolling the band ( the foam roller and The Stick were in our bag of tricks), but ate some pbj’s and picked up a couple more GUs. Snowman was there too. That was a great boost : ) and would be all along. I don’t know if he’s heard such language from me before….I found the right spot with the roller. I’m sure I also kept saying, “But my time is still good”.

I headed out even though I was already thinking DNF. The first year I tried the 50, my ITB acted up around mile 20 and I dropped at about 28. It’s a pain I have trouble running through. The roller, Rick, and Ryan helped. Maybe.

I’m not sure where I saw Ian the first time. But I know I complained about my knee. He told me to be smart. I said I know…I didn’t want to pull an Emma. HA! Like that was remotely possible. Emma ran through her ITB pain to turn in such a good time that she earned a place among the top 50 milers of the year! The only part I was referring to was the then being injured a long time. That was my main concern. I said I wasn’t sure when I saw Ian the first time because he seemed to be everywhere on the course. And he was always checking on me in a good way!

Sorry. This is a ramble.

Even though I found the second side of the course much more friendly to my body, the band got grumpier. I started a new gait that didn’t bend the knee much. I liken it to a flutter kick. And it was surprisingly fast (ok, not fast, but surprisingly not slow). When I made it back to The Grove, I’d been running for 3:26:55. According to the Garmin, I’d gone 18.73 miles resulting in an avg. pace of 11:03min/mi. Still pretty good. Rick got me “everything” again and I told him about my new running style.

I started the 2nd lap with not a lot of hope, but I started meeting up with familiar faces. The chatting helped some. I could stay with people for a bit, but then need to stop to stretch or walk. It seemed like then another familiar face would join me. Shampoo, rinse, repeat.

By the time I hit the Yurt for the 2nd time on this lap, most of my leg muscles were angry. They were not used to my knew gait and certainly weren’t conditioned to doing it for lots and lots of miles. My hip flexors were on fire. Even my shins were starting to hurt? I was thinking DNF again. Was it now that the heat was building, too? Fuzzy on that, but it did at some point.

It was a boost to see other TMs running their races. Cheering someone else takes the focus off yourself for a second or too. Very good to do.

Back to the Grove again, Rick now had a worried face on. Paul, my friend Judy’s husband, was with him. I’m glad he had company at our camp. Waiting for a suffering loved one is hard. Judy was doing the 25k for the 3rd time. I bitched a lot. I had a hard time not crying. The roller helped my new sore spots. PBJ, pretzels, potatoes with salt, Gatorade, maybe some Coke. I headed back out. No DNF yet.

Again I found the second side so much friendlier. It almost helped. I was surprised to find myself feeling slightly less sore by the time I was heading back to the Grove. I rolled again. Trail Monster Dave saw me and offered me his beer. I said no. I was still going! I thought he assumed I was quitting. He said he knew, but thought a sip would be good. Nope. I had my Coke.

OK. I was starting the final lap. I broke camp and started, but spotted team Snowplug and stopped to check in. D told me her news. She still looked really pale. Snowman offered his beer. I refused, but, then, what the hell. Took a sip and was surprised to find it yummy!

I don’t have details for the next few miles. I know I was in pain. I kept calculating whether I could finish if I had to walk the remaining miles. But with the temperature rising and the pain unrelenting, I was nearing the breaking point. This was a mental meltdown. Perhaps more difficult to deal with than the physical one. I had convinced myself to stick it out to 40 miles. That somehow seemed respectable.

As I neared the Yurt for the 2nd time on this last lap, any resolve was fading. It would be about 38 miles. OK. I said to the woman, “I think I’m done”. I’m not sure of her exact words, but they were encouraging and to the effect that I could do it. SHIT. I hadn’t done 40 yet and she said I could keep going. I was so sad, but started to leave. THEN the damn cart showed up. I could just get on. I could just get on. And yet I kept walking away. I kept walking away and the sobbing started. It got so bad I thought I was going to hyperventilate. So I started singing loudly, “Show me the way to go home. I’m tired and I want to go to bed…” It didn’t help. The crying started welling up again. I had to make it around to the Yurt again and then I’d have to wait for the cart.

Then, heading out into the Valley Farm Loop field, I saw an orange shirt of a runner I knew from last year. I actually started my weird running gait to catch up. He was walking. I could get there. He was having stomach issues, but was still upbeat. He looked at his watched and said no matter what it was doable now. I wasn’t sure I really wanted to endure any more pain that long, but enjoyed his positiveness and the company. I told him about my meltdown and the cart. I was surprised to find that the mere mention of the cart could bring the tears back. We talked, walked, and then started putting more periods of running in. By the time we were back to the Yurt, the same woman told me how much better I was looking. She said she didn’t think she’d ever seen such a sad face as when I’d left. I gave Tim the credit. Took more Coke and a couple of salted potato pieces. Jeff showed up at the aid station (he’d run a great 25K) to check on them and also commented that I was doing better than the last time he saw me.

Tim’s stomach improved and I told him to go for it. I walked/ran as best I could back to the Grove. Rick, Ian, and Ryan were all there worried. I said it’d be silly to stop now. I’m sure any damage to the IT band was done early and that my new gait was only painful. I could breathe (very necessarry) and had been able to hydrate and refuel all the way. So, I didn’t have the band to stop me and I survived the mental challenge. Yes, I’d try the last bit. Ian offered to go with me. I warned him there’d be crying. Rick then said he’d come (I think he would have offered first, but, a lot of time I’m a person who likes to be alone when I’m hurting). It was actually easier for him to be with me than worrying. I do appreciate Ian’s offer cause I know he had race things to deal with.

After the usual camp routine we headed out. Again, I found the second side better. Rick was great keeping me from drifting on the course. I’m not sure when we saw them, but I saw these two runners (perfectly nice people I’m sure) who in my misery I’d come to hate. They kept zooming by me on the downs that I had to walk during the 3rd loop. I would catch up when I got to the flats where I could run and they still walked. During my meltdown they got out of my sights. Well, there they were. I told Rick of my hatred. He noticed we were running more. They were my carrot. When we finally passed them, not long before heading out into that final field, they became my stick. I was afraid they’d repass me. Nope!

I finished. Not only did I finish, but lots of my wonderful, wonderful friends hung out to watch me finish. I can cry all over again. I may have been well over an hour over my goal, but this finish was very…rewarding.

The garmin tells me I did 9:24’s for about 9.1 miles, 11:28’s for 30.9, and 22:55 (includes stopping) for 10.35miles.

I’m gonna try to include the video that Jerry took of my finish.

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