I was a little worried about this race, I won't lie. After it was postponed from the previous week, I'd had two weird weeks of semi-taper, preceded by a pretty mediocre training cycle. There was never any chance of running a PR at this race, but of course I was hoping that it wouldn't completely suck, either. Then I ran a little fast at Saturday's race and wondered if I'd just sacrificed a decent 50K for a silly little 7K. The worry never spun out of control, thank goodness, and I woke up Sunday morning feeling confident that everything was going to be okay. My legs actually felt really good and I was rested and hydrated. I had my inhaler and plenty of food and drink to get me through the day.
I met up with a friend at the starting line - it wasn't difficult to find her because there were just 20 of us runners there. Yes, the race was that small! We were given our instructions (the 50K had a short out and back in a direction that none of the other runners were going, to make up most of the extra miles), and then we were off!
I wanted to get off to a conservative start, so I sort of gave it a little trot, but the rest of the field was off like a herd of rockets. If rockets were animals that would be referred to in group form as a herd. Holy moly! Within mere moments, I found myself at the very, very back of the pack. I checked my Garmin. No, I wasn't standing still.
Of course, I wasn't breaking any land speed records either. I wasn't especially happy with the number that appeared on-screen and tried to put it out of my head. I chatted with my friend, who was also in last place with me, and I took a planned walking break at Mile 1 to drink and catch my breath. The day was off to a rough start. I didn't feel good. I couldn't quite put my finger on it, but I knew I needed to do something to find my rhythm.
I ran on. The entire field came running back at me after the turnaround and I smiled and cheered for them all. Everyone was friendly and seemed to be having an easier time of it than I was. I was finding it very difficult to hold a conversation with my friend, so I started drifting away a little. I really wanted to just put on my music and get in my groove.
Alas, there was no groove to be had. I was eating and drinking on my normal schedule, I had my tried-and-true tunes on my playlist, I was running a course I've run dozens, if not hundreds, of times before and yet...I felt meh. I was already tired, I was already slogging and it's a little embarrassing, actually, to admit that it took me NINE MILES to figure out what the hell was wrong with me: I couldn't breathe.
I mentioned a while back that I'm having trouble with asthma again this spring. I'm doing what I can to manage my allergies with meds and I've been really diligent with remembering to use my Albuterol before running (I really only have asthma symptoms while I'm running - but not during the winter months, so my I'm-not-a-doctor theory is that I have a combination of exercise- and allergy-induced asthma), but sometimes it's not enough.
You may be wondering why I couldn't tell right away that I was having asthma problems, and I'll tell you that there are two reasons:
- I'm still in total and complete denial that this whole "asthma" thing is a problem for me. I seriously haven't even Googled it. I don't want to know. I am like a toddler who has flung herself to the ground at bedtime. I don't wanna have asthma! I don't want to and you can't make me!!!
- My symptoms are like slippery fish - some days it's super obvious that I'm as wheezy as Mrs. Jefferson, and sometimes it just feels like I'm not quite right. Like throwing a blanket over a lamp - there's still light, it's just not very bright. I can still run, but it's hard. It feels a lot like I'm underfueled, or maybe just fatigued.
I could spend the rest of this race report complaining about how I felt lousy, and ran out of fuel, and how I think one of the runners cut the course (which really chaps my hide), but I've decided that I would really rather share with you the handful of bright spots in my day. The things that make even a crappy race better than pretty much everything else in the world, because I'm still out there doing it.
- The race bibs were issued in alphabetical order, with the 50K-ers first, so I was bib NUMBER ONE! The whole time I was out there running (and walking, lots of walking), other racers and random strangers were cheering for me, "Here comes number one!" "Hooray for number one!" "Look, you're number one!" It was sadly ironic - what with being in nearly last place and all - and incredibly awesome all at the same time.
|Make way for Numero Uno, baby!|
- I got recognized from the blog! I freaking LOVE IT when that happens!! It was nearabouts the turnaround, when things were feeling a little desperate for me (there was still a long way to go, I was just about out of fuel and still several miles from the aid station, it was getting hot, etc. - you know how it feels in the middle of a long race), and it was so nice to see a smiling face. Actually, more than one smiling face, which was pretty exciting, because I don't think I've ever been recognized twice at one race before. Famous! And my apologies if I wasn't properly enthusiastic in return - it wasn't my best day, as you're reading here.
|The turnaround was a little tiny caution sign on the side of the trail. Just a bit anti-climactic.|
- Speaking of smiling faces, there were plenty to be had along the race course, and man, did I appreciate them! Some friends of ours were volunteering for one of the aid stations, so I got hugs and high fives (and some much-needed water and salt tabs) at the start, the finish and twice along the out-and-back course. Thank you J-squared! Another friend who was out for his long bike ride found me several times during the day and lied and told me I was looking good. Even though I knew I looked miserable, it was really nice to hear. One of my badass mama friends was out running with her Boston training group, but she took the time to give me a hug and tell me that UIH was looking awesome in his race. I carried that hug and those kind words like a little treasure in my pocket for miles - I was so happy that UIH was having a good day!
|On his way to a second place finish!|
- This guy. He ran a kick-ass marathon, then got on his bike and came down the trail to find me and cheer me on. He ended up riding sixteen miles, smiling and talking to me and keeping my spirits up. I'm not sure how I got so lucky, but I managed to marry the best man in the whole wide world!
|I love my UltraIronHubs.|
- I have shared with you that my to-do list occasionally has some oddball items on it. Here's one: quite a few months ago, I posted a photo on Instagram of a lovely canyon view that I took while on a long run, and the caption said something about how Folsom Prison was just off-camera. My girl Andrea asked why I didn't take a picture of the prison, and I have been meaning to ever since. Boom - here it is!
|The barbed wire is actually from the Bureau of Reclamation, which protects Folsom Dam, but it makes the photo more dramatic, no?|
- If you've ever privately wondered if I exaggerate my OCD tendencies, wonder no more: when I realized at Mile 9-ish that my problems were asthma-related, I turned off my music and slowed way down so that I could just concentrate on my breathing. Easy in, easy out, keep it managed so that I could actually, you know, run. While I was focusing on my breathing, I found myself unconsciously counting breaths and matching the rhythm to my steps. Three footfalls on inhale, three footfalls on exhale. I decided to run for 100 breaths, and it relaxed me so much to fall into the zen of counting that I ended up counting my breathing for the rest of the race. Yes. 22 miles of counting. Three thousand seven hundred and seventy-five breaths.
- I passed four people in the last two miles. Listen, my victories were very, very small that day, so I'm taking 'em where I can!
- And maybe one of the brightest moments of all - I CROSSED THE FINISH LINE! As crummy as the day was, I never truly considered quitting. Even if I crawled through the finisher's chute in last place, this was going to happen:
|It totally looks like I'm about to give that volunteer a hug. I should have. I was SO happy to be done with it.|
Official Finish Time - 6:37:19
AG - 2/4
Gender - 4/7
OA - 15/20
I mentioned on Instagram that this was one of my Top Five crappiest races ever, based on how lousy I felt, but now that I've had a few days to reflect on it I am filled with nothing but gratitude that I am capable of running an ultramarathon at all. No, it wasn't my best (PW for a road 50K by over an hour - can I get a hell yeah?!?), and it wasn't what I had hoped for, but I did it. And that's as good as this life gets.