The bucket list
I use this term loosely to mean anything you really want to do that seems just far enough out of reach to seem impossible. Finishing the Stonecat 50 miler was exactly that for me. What worried me the most about this run was what it would be like to recover. If I did actually finish the full 50 miles, what shape would I be in? Hospitalized? Maybe. Unable to move, very likely. Silly that I would willingly put myself in this situation. A little crazy? Maybe. The sensible me tried to talk me out of doing the race but the adventurous me kept pushing ahead.
When I stopped by to pick up my friend Mary who was running the marathon, I chatted with her husband Joe for a bit. He said to me "It is really something that you are even TRYING to do this distance, that is really brave of you". Up until that point, I had not thought that "brave" was a way to describe what I was doing.
What about all the training?
I was accepted into the Stone Cat 50 via lottery back in July. That's when the training officially began. Nearly every weekend was back to back running, 10+ miles on Sat followed by a 20+ mile long run on Sunday. There was no sleeping in, no coffee with the paper, no cuddle and snooze. When I would get discouraged and sick of putting all the miles in on weekends I would think about how the day would come where I could sleep in and wake up slow.
There were also the weekday runs before the kids had to get up for school. I like to be home to wake them and make them breakfast, this I did not want to sacrifice. But I don't want to sound like I am complaining because I enjoyed all of these runs and I have never once regretted getting my ass out the door to do it. Its just not always easy to stay motivated. I think everyone can speak to that.
Time for training does not come easy with a full time job and family. I used to think that I did not have any excuse for "no time". I would just sleep less. This is not sustainable. There is a point where if you don't get enough sleep, you can't think clearly. Its all a balance. Yes, it would have been great if I had a several hours to train each day but it never was the case. After I took a new and more challenging job in early September, my window for training was even smaller. BUT, I decided to stay the course. Stubborn? Maybe. But I also realized that there was never going to be a perfect time to go for this goal. There would always be something in the way or a voice telling me "don't do it".
The run... The Stone Cat consists of 4 x 12.5 mile loops through wooded New England forest. Mostly single track. The course is not very technical or hilly but its still capable of tripping you up and sending you flying through the air, landing on your belly (yes, this happened to me). The trails are far from crowded. There are miles that pass where you may not see another runner. Its very quite out there. The volunteers at the race are fantastic. It really is a very well organized event and the vibe is mellow and friendly. The group of 133 50 milers gathered in a field and we were set off into the woods at 6:15 a.m.
I felt great the first few laps, eating regularly, managing to get down my electrolyte drink, 1 hammer gel and some small nibbles of "real" food at the aid stations. During the 3rd lap I noticed that my hands were very swollen. They looked like "Barney Rubble feet". Anyone who grew up in the 70's knows what this looks like. My fingers were fat and swollen. Not a good sign and I realized I was taking in too many electrolytes and not urinating. TMI you say? I can expand on the GI issues that often come with ultra running but I will spare you those grim details. In short, retaining water can be dangerous but it might not be. Its all a science experiment. I decided that I was most likely not going to die so I should just keep moving. My strategy was to switch to water. The swelling did not get any worse so I eventually stopping worrying about it. I was getting close to that last loop.
With the 3rd loop finished, I felt strong. 38 miles complete, I was going to finish this thing. What I did not realize at that moment was that the hardest miles were ahead of me. The last 10 miles of Stone Cat were tough. I felt broken, very fatigued and sick to my stomach. I just did my best to keep moving.
It really helps to have company along the way
I met another 1st time 50 miler on the course named Laura. When we first met, Laura was not feeling well and was struggling with her own physical challenges. I tried to cheer her up, distracting her with my mildly(?) entertaining stories and motivational rants. During the early loops, I was feeling great so it was easy to be the motivator. Lap 4 was another story. I kept telling my new trail friend to go ahead, don't wait for me, just go. She would not leave me. She responded, "I'm not gonna ditch you and leave you alone out here in the woods." Then it got dark. My headlamp was useless. Laura had a flashlight in her hand and this made all the difference. Running side by side I could navigate through those last few miles.
|The best support team, ever!|
|"I'm just doing the marathon Mary"|
My first thought when I crossed the finish line was, "Holy crap, you really did survive this!"
Oh what doubt I had put myself through. My friends Mary, Malanie and Trish were there for me at the finish. It was wonderful to see their smiling faces and I could not wait to clean myself up enough to grab some real food and a pint of IPA.
Its been almost 1 week since Stone Cat and I am feeling like my old self again. Tomorrow morning is Saturday and I am looking forward to getting up early for a run.