My first real race in a long time. As a new Mom you're in a constant state of challenges. You want to be home, you want be running, you want/ need to be at work, you want to be the best Mommy and be a fair partner in your marriage. You want a lot, and you do what you can and what Needs to be done. We all have our own way. Mine was to give up racing, I could still run, even participate in ultras but I had to be able to come home and play with my son and take over for my husband who'd just given up his weekend for me to disappear in the woods. My rules by the way, not his. He's always supported my running, 100%, but this was my way of keeping a balance, so to speak. Now, though, my son is 2 and I miss pushing myself, improving, really learning from my mistakes, so this year, I'm racing a little although still with "being Mom" always in my head and heart.
So Seneca Greenway, my nearly annual race, I think this was my 4th go at it, it was one of my first ultras and where I met a large majority of the ultra family I keep close tabs on today, even though I haven't seen them out there the past couple years, I keep running this race, its near home, its a runnable course and great way to see where I'm at.
We started out with 26 degree temperatures, very brisk and quite chilly, I ended up double layering, had my Hot Hands in my gloves and felt ready for the first few miles of cold pain. I have Raynaud's, which most people know, but if you don't, basically when your extremities get cold the blood vessels clamp down and you get no flow to your finger tips and toes, so numbness and pain and when the blood comes back you get lovely sharp stabbing pain, very fun stuff! So I start out moderately fast, in the first 300 yards and here a snap and watch as my milestone pod skids off to the side of the road, I almost went after it, but then decided the data that got me here today was more important than seeing the data from my race so I let it go. I ended up in the top three people at the trail head which surprised me and I took note of my body and I verified that I was really not going too fast. I hadn't done much caffeine, I didn't feel amped, this was in fact my comfortable pace. We frolicked down hill for quite some time and weaving in and out I remember just how much the twisting and turning on this course was responsible for the difficulty since there are not any major climbs on the course.
Going along, around 3 miles in my fingertips came back to life and the stabbing pain took my mind off my still frozen legs trying to maneuver the trail. Somewhere in here I noted I was struggling with my left eye, it was blurry and felt stuck. I couldn't really see, I was a little freaked out but figured once I thawed enough, it'd improve. First road crossing came and went, we kept on weaving. I could still see one runner ahead a bit and I tried to keep him in sight.
I'm running along and the main focus of this race was :
1. to Keep running, not jog, not walk, but Running
2. Practice the gait techniques I've been working on, so Rate of Impact (ROI) and Ground Contact time
3. Eat, eat more and again don't stop Eating
The halfway point was nice, I refilled, refueled, lost my top layer and gloves but kept my hot hands, and I was off again, feeling pretty confident about how quickly I was making it through aid stations. This next stretch my mind started to struggle, mostly because I was expecting to start feeling bad in this section as I usually do and my longest training run was only 20 miles, and also because it was a really lonely run. I never saw those top 2 or 3 guys again and I had a 2 relay runners pass me but there wasn't so much as a hello between us. The twisting turning windy day just continued on. The next AS was a relief, but as grateful as I am for the AS volunteers, they seemed too cold and not too happy to be out there, they were amazing, but maybe not as inspiring as they might have been if the wind would have calmed down! Still, seeing people was wonderful. A shot of coke and a cup of water and my tongue was nearly frozen, haha, but I was off back to running.
I lost track of the miles I thought we were around 18 maybe 19 when I came to another sign for mile 21, so suddenly I realized I was actually doing well, my 3 hr watch bell had not yet chimed which means I was on pace for my goal. This pushed me and I kept focusing on my gait. Keeping it light, that was the best thing about this race and I can feel the difference and have spent most of my races feeling slow and heavy in these later miles. But by picking up your cadence a tad, and using your calves and your glutes you can feel light, which is the difference between your mind telling you to walk and feeling like you can keep on rolling.
Around mile 24ish, I was feeling strong but really starting to feel lonely so I was challenging myself to play with hills and there was a perfect one ahead, the kind with a shallow dip before it so you can really charge right up it, I was excited and started to charge when thud and skid. I hit the ground so hard I rolled against the dirt. I am usually very quick to get up but this one took a second, that really hurt! So I got back up tried to shake out my arm and shoulder which had taken most of the impact and dusted while I started to run again. I checked my frozen hands, the stinging was just stinging, no blood! woohoo! It was also now, about 3 min away, from where I'd fallen I realized I'd dropped a hot hand on the trail and felt terrible. I am strict believer in Leave no Trace, so I made sure to tell someone at the next aid station that I'd littered on the course. Finally that AS came, mile 27, seemed like it'd taken me forever, but I hadn't heard the 4 hr beep yet on my watch so I was feeling good.
Topped off the water and got to moving, knowing in my mind this was where I needed to not fall apart. I ate my other bar and kept on running, day dreaming about blogging, hoping my son and husband would be at the finish. Right around here, the turn off for marathon vs 50k, I got very discouraged. I peaked at my watch which for some reason even though I hadn't reset it at "fall back" that morning I could have sworn it wore the correct time (I'd thought to myself, "Oh I guess I did reset it") so when I looked for the first time all day and it read 12:03 I was taken aback, so what I thought was just 4 hrs was actually 5, which means I was not making my goal, not even close. But, I knew I was doing well for me so despite a watch or a finishing time it would be a good run and that kept me going. This last 4 miles was as stretch around the lake. It was beautiful and frustrating. The wind gusts were so strong and cold. The trail was so confusing up and down and in and out so many times with no one around I kept getting very nervous I was lost.
Then it happened, I came to a parking lot, the blue ribbon was 20ft behind me, I was on course, but I couldn't see another blue ribbon anywhere, I said to myself, "no way, how'd do you get lost again" (since I'd blown my last 100miler getting very lost only a few months back) I went back to the blue ribbon and looked around, I didn't know if maybe I was on the wrong section of the course, I just couldn't reason it out, but someone showed up, and told me the next blue ribbon was across the parking lot down the hill... he saved the day!! I went back to running, but now I was ready to be done.
This last 2 miles I fell 2 more times. The second of which I hit my knee on a rock and that was annoying more than anything, that aching feeling with every step. I was mentally over the last loop and wanted some sign that I was on track and would be finishing soon. Finally there it was, the turn to the finish. 4:44!! I was not at 5 hrs and I was thrilled!! Saw my husband and my poor son who was miserable, crying, cold and just being a 2 yr old.
Huge thank you to the volunteers who froze out there for hours for us and the RD who put together another great event!!