Nov 272011

by Valerie Abradi –  I think a good deal of this report will actually be pre-race stuff.  I didn’t need too much Stone-Cat-specific training because I’d kept my mileage up throughout the summer training with Mindy for her 40 at 40.  I think I did a couple 18s and a 19 after her event, but felt pretty there all along.  My problem came with the start of work and the stop of sleep.  In the three weeks leading up to the race, I slept very little.  There may have been a few nights where the sleep totaled four hours, but not many.  I think the worst was just under two hours with none after 2:15 a.m.  Ugh!  I don’t need a lot of sleep, am accustomed to bouts of insomnia, but nothing has come close to this since the kids were babies –  when I was a lot younger.

I really hate it when people say, “you’ll sleep when you’re tired enough.”  Ha!  It seems, for me, that it works the other way;  the more I don’t sleep, the more I don’t sleep.  My normal (non-baby) insomnia bout typically ends as mysteriously as it starts, leaving me with no clues as to how to help end one.  Sometimes, I do know why they start.  This is one of those times; I’ve started a job after 23 years of being out of the workforce.  That is a big change to our schedule, but not the problem.  The problem is I’m not anywhere near where I want to  be in terms of mastering my position yet.  My mind just races at night.  Still I am able to fall asleep, but, (OK, another TMI alert (you may say, “another? there haven’t been any”, but I just reread last year’s race report); feel free to skip down to the part sub-titled “the race”.  The one nice thing about this TMI is that it ruled out the problem that I had in last year’s Stone Cat!), I have been having hot flashes that wake me up…once I’m awake, I find that my mind really hasn’t shut off at all.  If I’m lucky enough to fall back to sleep, it’s probably just in time for the next heat wave.  Shampoo, rinse, repeat.

So, what do I normally do when feeling stressed?  I run.  I realized that my TNR and, maybe, one other mid-week run was just not cutting it.  So what if we were eating supper just in time for Rick to turn in, I needed to add more running!   I may not have slept more, but I started feeling better when I got back to at least three runs during the week to support my longer runs on the weekend.  Running makes everything better.

Since I was meeting Rick in Portland after work on Friday to head down to the race, I had to have everything packed on Thursday night (by the way, it is so good to have Linda and Jerry for neighbors and not have to worry (too much…I’ll always worry about my Spotted dog) about the pets.  Spot and Ally were in very capable, loving hands).  I packed both Inov8s, my Garmin (no way was I going to forget that this year!), tights, shorts, a long-sleeved shirt, my short-sleeved TM shirt, a vest, two pairs of running socks, 3 GUs, a Honey Stinger Waffle, 6 Fuelbelt bottles, NUUN, my Fuelbelt, the headlamp,a sports bra, and gloves.  I was sure I had everything covered.

Of course, I was already hungry on the drive down.  I was looking forward to meeting up with all the other TMs for a dinner at the Italian place right near the hotel.  I hoped we’d make it there to eat with them.  Just when we were pulling into the hotel parking lot, we saw a big TM contingent heading out.  We said we’d park and join them.  Yay!!! The event began here for me.

Trail Monsters – Roar!

After a very yummy, slow-paced meal we all headed back to our rooms.  I changed out of work clothes, put out the clothes options for the run, and crawled into bed.  There was nothing good on TV; I can’t even remember what we ended up with.  It wasn’t long before I was asleep, any way.  From there things got weird.  Somehow, my bed was the workspace of my model.  I went to sleep with the covers pulled out on the right side; I like to have that foot out from under the covers otherwise I tend to point the toes and my calf/achilles/pf get grumpy.  So when I woke up, I was surprised to find my covers all tucked and my feet under.  I realized that I must have clicked too high on the model browser.  I was probably in the assembly level.  So I looked for the place in the browser that highlighted the right bed configuration.  This went on all night.  I was actually happy to have the alarm go off.  I was done with my weird work/sleep/dream mess.

Rick and I dressed to go to breakfast.  It was then that I discovered that I packed the wrong sports bra.  Crap!  Not only was it not the one I meant to bring, it was one that I wouldn’t even use to run 5 miles…It’s a cheapy that has very rough seams.  I knew I’d be very raw after 26 miles.

The hotel, Comfort Inn of Danvers, gives a great discount on the rooms for runners AND opens for breakfast at 4:30am so that Stone Catters can get their breakfast buffet before the race.  Rick and I were one of the first in the lobby waiting for the buffet to open.  I chose 1 1/2 English muffins with PBJ and, of course, coffee.  It wasn’t long before Kate and Jamie were down.  I think Blaine and Erin were next.  I was complaining to Kate about my sports bra.  She said she brought an extra.  Now, that was a funny thought.  I could have left my Fuelbelt behind; I would have had lots of storage space!  When I pointed that out to her, she suggested I ask Erin, a much better fit.  I am going to look for that brand from now on.  After the entire 26.2 miles, I didn’t even have a red line, let alone any raw spots.  I ended up deciding on shorts, my TM tee with a micro-fleece vest, and gloves.

The drive to the race venue was uneventful this year (yay!).  Rick even got a parking spot at the school instead of the satellite lot.  I already had my race number, 1; Kate had picked up most of ours the day before.  So I used the ladies room (one of the only places where the men’s room line is substantially longer!) and debated on which shoes to run.  Soon our TM ranks grew to full strength.

George ended up beating my not bringing the right sports bra; he forgot his running shoes!  Erik went all the way back to his car to see if his size 10 Invov8s would fit George.  Nope.  So George would set out on his 50 with his old road shoes.  I put on my older Inov8s, figuring I’d go with tried and true.  For some reason, they were bothering the top of my left foot.  I switched into my newer Inov8s, a slightly lighter, lower shoe.  They felt good.  I didn’t choose them to begin with since I never had run more than 12ish in them.  I could always switch mid-race if needed.

the race:

Right when we all were to head out to start the race, I realized I needed to hit the bathroom again.  Crap!  By the time I got out there, I couldn’t find any of my people.  So, I just tried to place myself intelligently in the marathon field.  This was the first year they thought to have the marathoners to go in the opposite direction on our little 1.2 mile loop before heading off onto the full 12.5 mile loop.  It was to prevent the bottle neck that always occurred when all the runners, 50 milers and marathoners, squeezed through the narrow opening at the end of the field.  By sending us in reverse order, the marathoners would hit the opening later.  I thought it a good idea, but figured there’s still be the bottleneck when we reached the single track like there was last year.  Well, either the lack of bottleneck at the start allowed the runners to get farther and more spread out or the 50 milers were a lot faster this year.  There were no places where I needed to walk due to a long stretch of slow runners on a stretch of single-track.

It felt good to get running in the crisp air.  I went out a bit fast.  I formulated my race plan right then.  I would try to keep the pace up for as long as I could.  If it were too fast, I felt I could recover and still finish.  I didn’t have any trouble with the dark trail; the headlamp was working fine.  It also seemed like the trail was more traveled or maybe more recently raked and easier to follow than last year.  When I reached the single track, I was leading a short line (two or three?) of runners.  They appeared to know each other and talked easily.  I was the one concentrating on the path; they just needed to follow.  This was the only stretch where I had any difficulty at all picking my way and (yay!) it was because I was running pretty fast for the conditions (dark and unfamiliar single track with fall leaves).

We were promised there was no way to avoid running through water this year.  The trail goes between two beaver ponds (I would have just said bogs, but I heard a couple different people refer to it as the beaver pond area), but the water spills over the trail between them.  Last year, if runners tip-toed along the edges of the trail, they could keep their feet pretty dry.  Danielle and I passed a long line of runners doing just that.  This year, there was no dry edge.  The water was flowing pretty fast over the trail.  Everyone had to run through.  It was also way colder than last year.  It took a while for my toes to get their feeling back and, when they did, it was that burning, painful thawing feeling.

It was somewhere after that, Nathan passed me for the first time.  He must have started way more conservatively.  Funny thing, he passed me two more time before we finished the first lap and I don’t remember going by him anywhere!  I didn’t stop at any of the aid stations, maybe he did.

Somewhere around the seven mile mark, a woman pulled up pretty close over my right shoulder.  She said, “You’re slowing down, you know.”  No, I didn’t know.  The she asked how old I was.  51.  “Oh, I’m 52.”  She might have said one or two more things, but nothing that I took as particularly friendly.  I picked up my pace a little more.  She might have fallen back a few paces, but I got the feeling she was hanging on.  I didn’t like her at all.

Then some guy I’d passed back and forth was behind me.  We talked a little bit.  I smiled to myself, thinking that woman must have dropped back a bit.  I was very psyched to see the junk car; it meant there was about two miles left in the lap.  I kinda hated the “Cat” that was out there.  Someone dressed in a StoneCat costume and another volunteer were cheering us along – but VERY, VERY nosily with some type of horn/siren.  I hope they were wearing hearing protection.  I know I ran with my hands over my ears for a good stretch.

Just passed the din, I felt someone right on my heels.  It was too close for my comfort; I definitely like some space.  I don’t want someone to take me out if they trip or even step on  my heels.  Finally, I stepped off the trail (though, still running) and said something like, “It’s all yours.”  Well, it was that woman again.  Instead of taking the lead, she ran right beside me, leaving me running in deeper grass.  When I realized she was staying like that, I said something and found some more speed.  I could tell she wasn’t far behind.  She and another woman she seemed to know, hung with me.  I tried to keep picking up my pace where I could.  Finally, we were coming to the field signifying the end of the first lap.  I ran a little harder.  She said, “I think that’s all I have” or something.  Rick ran out to meet me, took two of my FuelBelt bottles for refilling, and met me just after the turnaround with new bottles.  I didn’t take any other time.  I wanted to make sure that woman was not going to get ahead.  I know she said she was pretty well beat, but I thought that might be some kind of ploy.  I would still use her as my motivation to push the pace (at least not let it drop too much) for the rest of the race.

I was very surprised at how quickly the first aid station came.  I guess that’s because during the first lap, the marathoners have run the extra 1.2 miles before reaching it.  Got a nice bit of encouragement from Erik and the other volunteers.  It was sometime just after there that my calves and shins began to be pretty sore.  I was worried that my right calf was going to go BOING.  I think it was the lack of time in those shoes – certainly lack of time in them with any kind of speed (relative).  So the pain was more of a nuisance and a worry than anything too painful.

Nathan went passed me again!  WTH?  We talked for a little before he pulled away.  I was going to try to use him to pull me along, but I realized I was going to have to find a spot for a bio-break (17 or so miles in).  UGH!  I was sure that woman was dropped, but not totally.  I hoped she wouldn’t go by while I was indisposed.  I don’t think I took too much time.  The calf tighted a little more during my stop.  Hang in there.

Two miles later, I had the same feeling.  WTF?!  Another bio-break?  Perhaps that really big, cheesy pasta dish wasn’t the perfect pre-race meal.  Whatever, it meant another stop.  I looked at my Garmin.  Was I still on pace to beat last year’s time?  I wasn’t sure.  Here, I didn’t need anyone telling me my pace was dropping; I felt it.  I hadn’t walked yet.  Those two pit-stops were my only not running.  I had even managed to take my three GUs on the fly.  RUN.  The noisy cat!!!  I think I might of even high-fived him this time.  The noise was not unwelcomed.  Two miles, keep moving!  The kids’ book Madeline popped into my head, “…afraid of a disaster, Miss Clavel ran fast, then faster.”

I did try to remember to cheer on the 50 milers heading back out on their laps, but it was hard when pushing here.  The field!  I think I could see 4:2x:xx.  Run!  Rick was running with me.  I could hear Jamie and Jeremy.  My breathing was going wacky.  As I crossed the line, I thought I was going to hyperventilate.  The calves started to cramp.  My head was going light, then lighter.  I was tended to by the sweetest trio.  Jamie gave me a very effected calf massage.  Rick brought liquids, Jeremy clothes.  I was a mess for a bit, but a happy mess.  I beat last year’s time by 5 full minutes!  Soon, Nathan was in there helping in my recovery. He’d gone on to put 9 minutes on me in those last few mile!  What a great finish!

My post-run consisted of trying to put enough clothes on to get warm enough to stay to cheer on the other TMs.  At one point, a random person added her blanket to what I had piled on me.  I also couldn’t stop coughing (still haven’t, really).  We did get to see all the marathoners finish:  Mary, Brenda (oh!!!  I loved when I congratulated her and found out she had much to be congratulated for…Erik proposed to her at the aid station he was volunteering at!!!  Her first marathon well run and an engagement all at the same time :), George (dropped down to marathon – his 6 week post-100 miler body didn’t quite feel like the 50 – imagine!), Christine, and Ann.  I felt bad that I didn’t know how to cheer up/comfort Emma when she dropped somewhere in her 3rd lap.  We also saw Ian, Blaine, and Zak after their 3rd laps. I wish I stayed for their finishes, but…I just couldn’t get warm.  What a day for TMs!!!

Back at the hotel, I had a hot shower then got under multiple covers on the bed.  I pretty much stayed like that till our friends came to go out to dinner.  I love the StoneCat.

No proof-reading.  I’m just, finally, getting this out.

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