Sunday, November 8, 2009

The First Stormy Weekend of the Season

When I was a kid, my mother told me you can tell how far away a storm is by counting the seconds in between the lightening and thunder. I also remember this from the movie Poltergeist. This weekend there was lots of thunder and lightening and rain and wind. Lots of wind! Lots of rain! And more thunder and lightening than I have ever experienced in the 16 years I have lived in Seattle. Poor Struth was scared. And when Struth is scared, he doesn't hide, he barks and barks and barks. So it was a loud weekend at times at home.

But as luck would have it, I had 2 perfect runs. The first I managed to hit the weather on the mark. I seemed to have picked the perfect hour for running. It did not rain and it was warm enough. Gloves and hat and vest and no complaints. The second I managed a 2 hour run with no rain. It was plenty windy alright. Even if I was able to talk, literally, the wind would have prevented me from projecting anything audible. It's like you open your mouth to say something and literally, the wind blows it back inside. However, I was trying so hard to keep up with Owen on the run that I could not talk anyway. He was putting the hurt on me and I was responding as best as I could. In the end, I was able to keep up with him. I was a zombie for about 3 hours afterward, but it was worth it. I managed to keep it together to do grocery shopping and make a delicious potato and leek soup with homemade biscuits. I was asleep by 11 PM though.....what can I say, I'm not 21 anymore.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Carkeek 12 Hour

Carkeek 12 run turned out to be a significant day for me. I hadn't thought too much about this run as it is pretty low key and a timed race instead of a distance race. I had prepared myself for very bad weather, rain,rain and more rain and then some cold weather with some more rain. I had packed with me lots of extra clothes and the idea that if my hands were freezing and I was super wet for most of the day, that I could stop after running 40 miles but would love to get in 50. It feels like it has been a long time since I have run an ultra or run on the trails or been excited about either of these. I've been running, but on the road and preparing for Seattle Marathon so trying to run at a faster pace. Running for 12 hours sounded like 100 mile training again and I wasn't mentally on top of my game in that respect. So I chose not to think too much about it. When the alarm went off at 4 AM, I hit the snooze. It went off again and I said to myself, well, it's now or never. So, I got up, Owen and I walked the dogs, I didn't eat breakfast and Owen and I drove to Carkeek for the 6 AM start. As Owen and I were out with the dogs before the race, I was thinking that it was only 2 months ago that we ran Cascade Crest yet it seemed so much longer. Getting up in the dark seemed foreign to me but familiar at the same time. Then I started to feel like I was excited about running long on the trails, like my motivation for trail running was on the rise.

We got to Carkeek and it was cold and windy and we were all huddled around the bonfire. We had a brief race meeting and we were off, running the ~2 mile loop with ~500ft of elevation gain per loop. We started with headlamps and followed glow sticks, but after 3 loops, I ditched my headlamp and had to change my shirt because it was so warm and balmy. I was running by myself and after a few more loops I put my iPOD on. The course was very familiar by now and I had established where I would allow myself to walk and were I could run. There were stairs throughout the course, some were designated walk areas for me, others I felt very comfortable running. I was feeling great, maybe the best I've felt since CCC100. I quickly lost count of how many laps I had done and refused to look at my watch. I felt like I do when I am running on a treadmill; just set the dial and put the towel over the display and keep going. It's a real mental challenge. After some time, I came up on Owen. We said hello, chit chatted a bit and I asked him if he wanted to run together. He said no, I should just go ahead, he was comfortable with his pace. So, off I went. I was still feeling so good, keeping up with my designated running areas and my designated walking areas. Once I caught up to Owen again, I thought I would look at my watch, 6 hours had gone by, we were half way done. I choose not to think about the fact that I was only half was done. I keep going, running solo and felt myself slipping a bit but still able to keep up with the goals I had set for myself. And around and around I went. I was headed for another loop and was walking up the stairs and onto one of the steep parts. Shawn was coming up on me and she said, 'Allison, it looks like your calf is ready to pop!' That was weird because I was just thinking that my calf was starting to tug. I made it through about half of that loop before...POP....goes the weasel. What the hell was that? My calf felt like it just stopped working and I was instantly limping. I tried to gently stretch it without success. I limped through the rest of the lap. When I got back to the aid station, I saw Terry and "Sue" (halloween costume of a guy who's name I forget) and earlier I had told them that I was really training for Seattle Marathon. They told me to not run more than 45 miles because it wouldn't be beneficial for running a fast marathon. This was something that Owen and I had talked about. How far is far enough or how long is long enough to find a balance between feeling satisfied in this 12 hour run and being able to train efficiently for the marathon. We had not figured that out yet. So when I saw Terry and Sue, they were surprised I was still running. I used the thought that maybe running too far today would be detrimental to the rest of my marathon training to convince myself that it was ok to quit. The next 30 minutes added up to be a mini melt down. I stopped and tried to stretch my calf. I tried to gently massage it but to no avail. It hurt to put pressure on it. I kept going back and forth in my head the pros and cons of quitting at this point. I decided to wait for Owen to loop around and decided what to do from there. I was bummed out because I was running so well and all of a sudden I was in pain and wasn't sure if I ran more I would do more damage or if I should push through. When Owen looped around, he was surprised to see me. He ate a bit and I told him what happened. He said, why don't you do a slow lap with me. Turns out, he had twisted his ankle and jarred his knee in the 3rd loop and had been running on it ever since. Essentially, he had been running with a bum knee and at a pace slower than what he had planned on for over 6 hours. What a champ. No wonder he did not want to run with me, it was making sense now. At this point, my melt down was in full motion. I wanted to quit. I didn't know what to do, was it stupid to run in pain? Was this an injury or was this just pain from running for almost 9 hours? Would I be a wimp if I quit or was I being smart? After 9 hours, it was a hard decision to make, it's not as if this was a 50 mile race and my goal was to run 50 miles, this was a 12 hour run in which I hadn't fully decided how long I would run. Yet I know myself and I knew I would not feel satisfied if I did not run the full 12 hours. Owen had decided that since he had to run slower than usual on account of his knee that he would run the full 12 hours after he decided that he woud not be doing more damage if he ran slow. He convinced me to run a slow loop with him and assess the situation from there. So I did. I dod a loop with him, both of us hobbling in one way or another. One more loop turned into one more loop, which turned in to one more, etc. We ran the full 12 hours, well, 11 hrs and 50 minutes, no time for a full loop in 10 minutes, and I completed 28 loops, just under 55 miles and Owen completed 26 loops, just under 51 miles. He was second male overall and I was first female and tied Van's course record. We won some good North Face swag as well. I really owe it to Owen for keeping me in the game. I hadn't realized until later that I was having a mini melt down and that it took a lot of mental tenacity to keep going once I realized that I wasn't going to do more harm to myself if I kept running. At least that is the conclusion I came to yesterday and today my calf is sore, but on the mend. I came home and took an ice bath. My legs are pretty tight and achy today and it is a feeling I haven't had for awhile and I realize that I miss it and feel motivated again to hit the trails and do some more races. But most importantly, I took myself to another level with regards to keep on keeping on in the midst of a mental struggle. Another example of the peaks and valley's of this sport. I finished on a peak and ran through a pretty deep valley. Of all this that happened during the 12 hours, the thing I feel the best about is that I kept going. I will remember this for next time.