On Saturday I had the opportunity to run the Berryman 50 miler, situated in the Mark Twain National Forest. The run would be two 24.8 mile loops with a short out and back at the start. Celebrity sightings pre-race: Caleb Chatfield, Greg Burger, Paul Schoenlaub, and Darin Schneidewind. The weather was perfect at the start, a change for the area that had saw rainfall every day for over a week. Remember the windstorm/tornados down in Missouri a few weeks ago? Produced about twenty downed trees on the course that required crawling over or under to get through. So...pretty weather, fun trail!
We took off at 630am, with me leading the "Masters 'whousedtobefastbeforeallthesurgeries' Division". My big hairy audacious goal for this race was under 10 hours. My primary goal, as always, was just to finish. In talking with some vets from the course, I settled into an 11 hour plan, wanting to make the first loop about 5:15 and go from there. I was using a two bottle belt for hydration, something new for me but on Rick Mayo's advice I wanted to skip every other aid station on the first loop. Worked out beautifully, by the way. The first 5 miles of the course are extremely runnable: flat or gentle downhill, mostly in creek beds that had water in them.
Question to self, mile 3: Did I put blister shield on my left heel? (answer later)
The next five miles or so provided a great mix of rolling terrain, some mud pits, and some rocky stuff in the 2 creek beds that didn't have water in them. I hit Brazil Creek, around mile 16, at 2:50 and after soaking my hat and refueling I left out with caution. Again, Mayo had warned me that there were a couple of miles of hills after Brazil so I tried to conserve energy and use this time to enjoy the scenery. Folks, you shoulda been there. I didn't even know the forest could get that green! There was poision ivy everywhere...just another plant to me, as I'm not allergic to the stuff (thanks, Mom!) and it added to the lush appeal of the place. I was really enjoying myself here: everything about the place reminded me of my childhood home. After a couple of miles the course leveled off a bit (more rocks!) and then came the trees. I had already navigated around a few, but in the last 6 miles of that loop there were at least a dozen huge poles directly on the trail. I was glad that I was a bit ahead of schedule pace-wise, as some of these took some time to get around.
I hit the turn at the five hour mark. These "turns" scare me...they are bad. Family and friends are there. The grill is sizzling. Beer is cold. Everyone is in a lawn chair that looks like a recliner. The car that will take you home is there. I was in enough of a hurry to get the hell outta there before any bad thoughts could creep in, but Darin REALLY helped with that. He had ran the marathon and was absolutely dying to go another loop, but had stuff to do with his family that afternoon. Seeing Darin all torn up about not running the second loop made me feel pretty lucky. Darin got my bottles filled, Jenny came through with the electrolytes and gels, and I was back on the trail in under five minutes. Twenty-five to go.
Answer to previous question, mile 27: "No, there is no blister shield on that heel!"
Also, around mile 27 the tops of my feet began hurting. really. really. bad. I figure this is just lactic acid buildup, so I come up with a new plan. Slow down a bit, pound the electrolytes, freeze my paws in every creek on the course, and things would get better.
Things did not get better. Things most certainly got worse.
It turns out that the low cut socks I was wearing had fallen down into my shoe. The shoe starts chewing up my ankles and the tops of my feet. I leaned against a tree and studied some abrasions, bruising, and some significant swelling. OK, then, new plan: if walking hurts this bad, running can't hurt any worse, so I might as well run. That worked for about two miles before I started getting nauseous...my food/drink plan was so dialed in that I was peeing every thirty minutes and felt great, so I suspect that the distraction my feet had become was now messing with my stomach. I did not take my shoes off because of the swelling, kinda like not opening an envelope that you KNOW contains bad news. So, I walked. And though my feet felt terrible, my stomach felt alot better. New math: I'd rather feel good, besides the feet, and walk than to feel bad and try to run. So I basically walked it in. I would run in spots, but they were few and far between. Since I've already touched on what the course was like, let me share some random stuff from the last 18 miles or so (it's all a blur anyway):
- those flowers are pretty. - I like the forest. - I wish there was a toilet out here. With a magazine rack. - I wonder where I'll eat lunch tomorrow. - "SWEET CAROLINE...duhduhduh...GOOD TIMES NEVER FELT SO GOOD (sogood!sogood!sogood!) - Saw Mark Koester out there, looking good. A runner in a trail nerds shirt always picks me up. I ran for 50 steps with him. Adrenaline surge! - These trees are bulls***! We could have done without that out and back, I've ran a marathon around these trees! - I am Spartacus! - Ouch! - A year ago I would have quit this.
A serious note, I need to practice downhill running and lift more. My uphill stuff is good, but the quick, light turnover I used downhill for the first 20 miles left too quickly. At the last aid station, I was offered a beer. I didn't drink it, but that offer somehow gave me the motivation to jog in slow to the finish. In fact, this still hurt worse than walking but I figured there wasn't enough course left to get sick and DNF.
So, I got there around the 12-hour mark. I could have chosen different socks, but then I wouldn't have had to face being hurt with miles to go. The course was beautiful, even when my plans had fallen apart I enjoyed the scenery and terrain. David and Victoria White put on an excellent race, and the volunteers were angels. I proposed marriage to at least two volunteers who gave me cookies and popsicles. Overall, happy boy. Peace.
I am usually a bit stressed the week before a run. I have figured out that the aches/pains everyone normally shakes off during training are given increased attention during taper time. Stuff that seems like no big deal any other day of the year (work, allergies, whatever) is magnified, at least for me, just before the run. Mostly because I'm not running as much, so I have time to think "The mail is late today...I wonder if that will effect my 50 mile time on Saturday?"
But just this once, it has been awesome! Life has slowed down to a crawl, and even though I'm on the weather channel website every five minutes to get the forecast (rain, rain, rain), I have been unsuccessful in stressing myself out. Confidence may be a bit of it. When I was asked to pace for Western States, my runner had no evidence that I could actually run for forty miles. For WESTERN STATES? ME? That's like putting everything you own on a donkey to win the Kentucky Derby!
But now I know I can. I know, I know... I will respect the distance. And I will demand respect from the distance as well. Just say "GO!"
Seen from a volunteers perspective, some notes for the Rock Creek Trail race this past weekend:
- congrats to all the runners. As much as I enjoy seeing the speedsters display talents I only dream of, its every bit as much fun to study the faces of the folks I usually run with...back there.
- Volunteers galore. Bo and his kids; John and his crew; Barb; Jenn; Christa; MK and Gabe; "workhorse" Askins; and at least 6 other people I missed. I am so taken with these efforts that I'm having a hard time with the words. If the execution of this race is to be a machine, ya'll are truly the wheels. Thank you.
Thanks to RD's Karen and Willie Lambert for setting this whole thing up. None of us can volunteer or run without these opportunities. I used to think that life-changing experiences were tied to the distance of the event. I think now that every event offers that experience for those who seek it.
- Finish line beer is the best in the world. When I retire, I'm never going to a bar, I'll just show up at races. I like the atmosphere better there anyway.
- Bit of personal info that I've not asked permission to share, so I won't use her name...a female runner came through our A/S and when I asked her if she wanted some food she declined, pointed to her stomach and said "Gut issues". She is one of the toughest runners I've met, so I wasn't overly concerned as she headed on. She stopped in her tracks, turned and gave me a hug for luck at Berryman next week. We've all fought that same stomach stuff, but to be caring enough to show some love for another runner whose race is a week away? Incredible. It would take a damn sight more than gut issues to keep this lady from doing anything she set out to do.
- Something that goes overlooked, but Kansas Trail Council is a constant in keeping those trails up and maintained. If you find another trail that was more runnable than Perry on Saturday, study it closely...you're probably on pavement.
Whataday, whataday! I knew an old football coach who used to shout this before the start of every practice. Shouted with enthusiasm, it was still a pretty generic call to battle in my opinion. Until Monday.
Monday morning after work I grabbed about 4 hours of sleep before cutting the grass. Laid down for about an hour before the UPS guy woke me up (What can Brown do for daysleepers?). Then squats and lunges before meeting the locals for "Hawg trot", a run that begins and ends at a BBQ restaurant/bar. Nice little tempo run, although my stride is too inefficient and I usually have little aches/pains in my feet after these things. Went home, showered, then work. Got off at 6am and caught a 10 minute nap in the Great Plains Running Co. parking lot before Willie showed up, went to scout the trails for Rock Creek #2. I did a 6 or 7 mile jog before giving up the ghost and walking the rest of the way in. My paws were hurting enough by then to practice some visualization of being up all night, hurting, and still having miles to cover to finish. A slice of convenience store pizza and a shower before FINALLY getting back in the rack for some rest. WHATADAY, indeed!
Mileage-wise I'm a little behind schedule for the week, but rest and recovery for the foot will have to be keys for the next ten days leading up to Berryman. I'll pour on the low weight/high reps in the gym for two more days this week and nurse the foot as best I can. Mentally, I find great inspiration in what I know from my peers. It wasn't that long ago that Christy Craig was fighting knee trouble, only to spank 40 miles at Free State. Willie has a foot story courtesy of the Mother Road 100, but has refused to let that keep him from doing the things he wanted to do. Colleen was technically dead with a cold for a month before Rocky Raccoon. Gary has been training for Leadville with Colorado beer.
Bottom line: thanks for the inspiration. I learn enough from ya'll to keep stumbling through this thing we do.
Stuff that means absolutely nothing, in no particular order:
Berryman 50 less than two weeks away. Running around 45 miles this week with a couple weight sessions thrown in, then 6 day taper. I like to start "food tapering" about ten days out, very clean diet, then slow life down to a crawl and severely reduce mileage about a week out, seems to work ok for me.
Thinking in the shower today what a neat thing it would be to have the "runner craze" really take over this area. Picture businesses that have the following voicemail message: "On Wednesdays, expect increased volume as Lawrence Trail Hawks have post-run meetings at our restaurant."
Or a sign: "This store closes at 5pm on Mondays to allow our employees to attend the 'Hawg Trotter' run on the Shunga trail."
Please send up a prayer for GH, who has a drinking problem.
Coffee is good.
Pumped about Rock Creek Trail Series #2 this weekend. Yours truly will be out there somewhere watching all of you get a good sweat on. I like to watch other people exercise, it makes me feel healthy!
Salomon XA Pro Ultra update: ran 40 miles on these puppies nearly out of the box last weekend...good shoe.