Tuesday, March 23, 2010

I ran 104 miles at Pac-Rim AND I met Gary Hall Jr.

This year I decided to do something different than Chuckanut 50k. I love Chuckanut 50k, but it fell on the same weekend as another event I hadn't tried before so I went with Pac-Rim 24 hour run. When I signed up, I was thoughtlessly excited because I just know I have a strong passion for running and for running long distances. However, recently, I really feel like I have lost my mojo for racing/running. I can't really explain it here, but suffice it to say, I'm low on the mojo right now. Owen and I went on his family's ski trip a few days before the run and I had such a great time. I felt like I didn't have a care in the world. It was sunny, the snow was great in the afternoon's, it was the first time Owen and I had skied together and his family is incredibly fun and generous. I didn't think about work, running and all the other stresses that usually bog me down. We skied 2 full days at White Pass and then headed back to Seattle Friday. We got home, went to the store, did a load of laundry and it was 10:30 pm. Time for bed because 4:44 am comes early, especially when there is a big day ahead of you. And yes, I really set the alarm for 4:44 because 4 is my lucky number.
The alarm went off, the car got packed and off we went to Longview, Wa to run 24 hours around a 1 mile gravel loop. I couldn't help to think to myself, am I really prepared physically, mentally and emotionally to run 100 miles? I felt so different before Cascade Crest 100 and to compare the two just seemed like comparing apples with oranges. 1) I was having leg pain and wondering if I would make it 24 hours/100 miles; 2) was I prepared to run in a 1 mile circle for that long? 3) it's FLAT, I love hills! and 4) WHERE'S MY MOJO!
We arrived. We set up out little area that we would pass by loop after loop. It was literally a small area compared to other runners who had "changing rooms" or as most people know them by; tents. My plan was, don't get injured, try for 100 miles and don't go much further, keep my eye on the prize, (my "A" race later this year), as John Novak would say. This was my plan, not very specific or well thought out, but with some obvious goals. At 9 AM, we were off. For the first 4 hours, it was ok. The loop was pretty, it was fun to see people, my leg pain was manageable and I was running with one of my favorite people, Owen. We hit 26 miles at 4:25 and 50 miles at 9:08. We hit 100k at about 12 hours and it was dark by then. I was getting really bored of running the same loop and I couldn't imagine doing it for another 12 hours. We adapted a system of walking patterns based on what Eric and Steve told us and just moved right along. By mile 70 or so, my body was in so much pain. My leg was the least of my worries....my feet were on fire and my shins were so aggravated. By mile 75, I was reduced to walking, hobbling, wincing, and overall, not enjoying myself and wondering...why am I doing this? However, from my few years of ultra-running, one of thing that I have learned is; if I don't reach a point where I feel like crumbling, then I'm probably not trying my best. However, when it's happening, it's sometimes hard for me to remember this. After a few more miles and this time with more walking that running, I thought I had maybe actually done some damage to my right foot and was wondering if I should continue or not. I thought about some of the times I had felt this way, like Carkeek 12 hour and Watershed 12 hour and really questioned myself. I was bummed. I didn't want to stop, yet I was really in a lot of pain. I thought, well, maybe I could walk the last 30 miles and still get 100 miles and accomplish a goal. But I didn't know if I had the staying power to do that, walk for 30 miles around a 1 mile loop in the dark and get cold and miserable. What's a girl to do? Owen was giving me good advise....and I was trying to follow it but my mind was all over the place and I felt somewhat emotional. So, I decided to walk until something better presented itself and this is where Owen and I separated for a while. He ran, I walked; he felt good, I did not. Then a few miles later, I could run and I felt good and although he was running, he did not feel good. You just never know what will happen. We caught up with each other and ran for a few more miles together and then separated again. From mile 80-something until 100, I ran alone. I looked at my watch at mile 92 and it read 19:10. If I could tun the last 8 miles at a pretty good "ultra" clip for me, I could break 21 hours. I could hardly believe it because not that long ago, I was hobbling and walking and really at a low point. It just goes to show that anything, and I mean anything, can happen when you are out there that long. So indeed, I finished 100 miles in 20 hours and 40 minutes. Whoa, I could hardly believe the journey I had been on and was so jacked up with endorphins that it hadn't really kicked in. My plan was to slow down and walk a few laps and call it good. As I started to walk, I realized just how much my body hurt. My leg, my feet, my shins, my hip-flexors, I was so cold and I thought, just walk....just walk..... and then figure out a game plan. As I looped around for lap 104, Owen was just finishing loop 100. He was excited yet completely physically about to shut down. It was time to go and get him situated. I did not need to do anymore loops, we still had 90 minutes to go to finish the 24 hours but clearly, that 90 minutes would not have benefited Owen or myself. So we called it good.
We drove back to Seattle and that was hard too, I was so tired. I had to stop at a rest area to sleep for 30 minutes and then make 2 more stops just to stretch. We still had to pick up the dogs from their second homes and go to the store and who knows what else we did, it was a blur. But we made it back all in one piece, even it that piece was frayed.
I went to work on Monday and walked like Frankenstein. I looked terribly tired. I made it through the day and then again today, I made it through the day. My feet are still wrecked. I decided to go to the pool to swim and loosen up. I grew up swimming competitively and although I don't swim that much anymore, I still have quite a passion for it and follow it. It was random that I went to THAT pool and THAT time. When I got there, I realized I was sharing the pool with former Olympic swimmer Gary Hall Jr! I have never shook hands with an Olympic athlete let alone a swimmer, so it was really amazing that I had that chance. When I initially saw him, I approached him and told him that I enjoyed watching him race and we didn't say too much. Then I got in the pool and swam and he was in the lane next to me...what a thrill to watch! I got out and then HE approached ME and said, "are you the one that ran 104 miles?" and I said, "yes, how did you know?" He said that he overheard my friends talking about it. Oh....I was sort of flabbergasted that he approached me...an Olympic swimmer! The he said congratulations, that is impressive, I could never do that. I said something like, well, I could never be an Olympic swimmer like you, the chances of someone becoming and Olympic gold medalist is quite rare. Humbly, he said, 'every one's got their thing.' Wow....it was really a cool experience!
I am really glad that I ran the 104 miles and completed my second 100 mile run. I will be even more glad when I find the rest of my mojo. If anyone has seen it, let me know, I'd like to see it again.