This is how it works-
I love to run but there are times when I would rather not. This is when the voices start. Chants, name calling, guilt and reverse psychology is how they get me up and out the door. I don't really mind the voices and have actually started looking forward to their daily calls. Together we have formed a running club that supports, encourages and competes with each other. I love these peeps. They are much more experienced, talented and tougher than I am. Pushing me out the door, through the hard miles and up the monster hills when I am feeling lazy or want to give up. Some people have "real" training partners, coaches and support crews. My team is ALWAYS with me and helps me to keep my eye on the prize and not veer off the track. Sounds crazy- Yeah, probably is.........
Sunday, April 18, 2010
Crying? Theres NO Crying in Running
When I decided to sign up for the Ouachita 50 Miler, I had no idea the impact it would have on my life. With any long distance endurance event you learn a lot about yourself through the training hours and the actual race. This time the learning curve was beyond any of the usual self discoveries of the hard miles on the trail. From last Monday through the race, I discovered that sometimes one small change can make a HUGE difference. Adding the Honor Scroll to the mix brought a new level of emotion, motivation and inspiration to really push through the HARD parts.
When I approached my friend Karla about the idea she was very supportive and got involved immediately. From setting me up with the Relay For Life account to spending many hours getting the word out and the late nights making the Scroll, she threw herself into this effort with amazing dedication. I can't thank her enough for this. Once we got the ball rolling on Monday things really started happening. I had originally thought that 50 names and hoping to raise $100 was going to be a stretch. Boy, was I wrong.
The response to the 50/50 project was absolutely unbelievable. Within hours the dollar amount was surpassed and by the end of day 1, it was clear that 50 names was not enough. The emails and FB messages were pouring in with heart breaking stories and so many well wishes that it was difficult to keep up. It became apparent that this was no small task and became very time consuming trying to sort through all of it too make sure we had it right. By Friday, the list was 180 strong and the donations, from some very generous people, were up to $1600 and growing. Friday night, my wife worked until almost midnight to add all the last minute names to the Scroll. We wanted to make sure that nobody was left off. One more name was added on Saturday- but I had to carry that one in my head because it came in so late, but rest assured EVERY NAME requested made the journey.
My friend Charley and his wife made the trip to Little Rock with us. Charley is my good friend and training partner. There have been very few events that we have not run together in the last few years. Charley is a special person that works for the MSHP and is very supportive of the Special Olympics. Like me he got in the game late but did manage to raise $600 and growing for this cause since Tuesday. He ended up trading his technical running shirt for a cotton Subway shirt with several business cards from various sponsors safety pinned to his shirt. I KNOW this had to be uncomfortable to wear for 50 miles but like I said, he is a special guy.
After driving around for hours on Friday to find the 3 aid stations that our “crew” (our wives) could meet us with clothes, water, Gatorade, ibuprofen and blister kits it was time for the pre-race dinner. Ended up at Lone Star for streaks and beer – the perfect fuel for a 50 miler. After dinner, a last minute stop at the Sports Authority for a new hydration pack (the one I ordered came in the mail on Saturday, figures) and a few more energy gels. Finally by midnight we were able to lay down for a few hours of restless sleep in nervous anticipation.
4 a.m. Saturday morning came early but a quick breakfast of oatmeal and the usual last minute freak outs of race day and we were off to the start. It was still dark when the gun went off and of course- no flashlight. Luckily the first 2 miles were on a paved road and by the time we hit the trail the sun was coming up. The very first few steps on the trail and Charley took a spill after tripping on a rock, signaling that this might be a long day.
Around mile 5 with the lead pack way ahead, we were leading the middle pack up Mt. Pinnacle. This was a crazy steep ascent up to the top. There was no running here and really not any walking, it was more of a slow crawl, climb up some very slick rocks, no, more like huge boulders. ¾ of the way up, I looked behind me at the line of climber/runners following and said a silent prayer that I was still on the right trail- I didn't want to be responsible for leading everyone off the course. Finally after climbing for about 25 minutes we reached the top. A photographer was there to snap a picture and I wanted to give him a hug- because it signaled that not only was I on the trail but also the CLIMB was over. Checking to ensure the Honor Scroll was still in place we set off on the trail to begin the descent. This was almost as brutal but a very welcome challenge.
The next few miles were all about trying to get back on pace. We knew that to make the 50 in 10 hours it would take a 12 minute/mile pace and after the climb we were WAY off. At this point the garmin read about 13-14 min/mile so we had to step it up for a while. I asked Charley about 1,000 times if the Scroll was still riding in my pack. He was great in keeping an eye on it for me. Somewhere around mile 12 or so it was my turn to trip and fall. I went down hard, twisting, turning and flopping like a fish. No real harm done- a few scrapes and very little blood but the Scroll did shoot out like a missile down the trail. Charley grabbed the Scroll as I pried myself up from the dirt and brushed off – a few laughs and we were back to running.
The first check point was mile 16.6 and we made it well under the 4 hour 50 minute cut-off time. More than half the field actually missed this cut-off and had to call it a day. The next 10 miles were uneventful until about 2 miles before the turn around. This is where we started seeing the leaders on their return trip. The 1st place runner was zipping right along looking like he was on an easy training run. The guy was an unbelievable runner. About ½ mile behind were 2nd and 3rd and another mile 4th though 7th. This let us know where we were in the race- WAY BACK- is what I thought. Reaching the aid station where our crew was waiting we got refueled with PBJ's and I had a cup of coffee, changed my shirt and socks- then it was time to head back. We spent more time that we should have here but it was worth it.
We ran hard to the next crew stop, mile 36.6, where we could see at least one runner that was ahead of us. We didn't spend much time here- just enough to refill the water and grab a few boiled potatoes. Running hard up the trail we came to an unmanned aid station that had a few essentials. Water, Gatorade and YEE-HAW a cooler of beer. Charley passed on the beer but there was no way I was passing up an opportunity like that. It was GOOD too. Throwing some more hard miles in and constantly bugging Charley about the Scroll, we managed to catch and pass a few runners. Charley had a few more spills on this stretch and twisted his ankle a little making it difficult for him to keep up the pace. We talked and he told me to keep on trucking and do what I can. Reluctantly I did pick up my pace and went for a hard finish.
I passed a few more runners and found the mile 46 crew stop where I was informed that I was now in 3rd place. Wasting no time, I was quickly back on the trail with my wife yelling, “Run fast!” I was trying and did pick up the pace for the next few miles to put some distance between me and 4th place. Coming down the final 2 mile stretch I grabbed the Scroll and carried it in my hand. Thinking about all the positive energy the Scroll represented brought tears down my cheeks and goosebumps to my body. This lifted my spirits and allowed to pick it up a little more allowing me to run the FASTEST mile of the race – 7:20 pace on mile 50. My wife was cheering and taking pictures as I crossed the finish line in 8 hours 47 minutes for 3rd overall. Charley came in 8 minutes later for the 5th place finish. We both had a great race for sure- especially considering the neither one of us had ever ran more than 31 miles.
It really was the race of my life. I have never felt better in a long distance race than I did that day. Never bonked, hit the wall or felt like quitting. It could have been pure luck but I believe it had more to do with the power within the Scroll. Unrolling the Scroll at the finish line brought more tears and many positive remarks from the crowd. It still amazes me how a little idea that seemed far-fetched and a little crazy less than a week ago could snowball into something that brought so many of us together. Thanks to everybody involved- you are all a part of my “crew”. Without you, WE could not have made such a difference. The fight is not over and likely will not be for some time. I will continue to collect donations but will not beg anymore......for a while.