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Stephanie promise land 50k++ 20...
promise land 50K++ 2010 RACE REPORT
(FYI: the ++ is because the course is actually 34-35 miles)
Warning: the reason this is the first Race Report I have ever been able to write is because I can’t edit my experience. One thing leads to another and everything is so intertwined that I end up tell too much…so….this is long.)
I signed up for Promise Land 50k++ as an anniversary present to myself. I have only been running for one year as of April 1. So, to celebrate, I decided to do my second Ultra, and I wanted to do one with some Real Elevation changes. I did Holiday Lake back in February and was quite pleased with my results….given the Snowmegedon course conditions. But, I had this nagging feeling that a REAL Ultra involved mountains, and climbs that you had to walk, and downhills that thrashed your quads. Well, Promise Land offered all of that…and more!
I did both of the training runs in the weeks before the race. It was so great to have seen the course, take pictures, enjoy the scenery, and train my body on the rough terrain. I was very pleased with how I trained for the race. During the two weeks of training before the taper, I had my second highest weekly running mileage AND threw in a bunch of bike mileage both weeks! My body was ready…so I thought!
I ended up with some sort of sickness two weeks before the race. I went to the doctor with swollen glands and sinus junk. He gave me a round of really strong antibiotics (z-pack) and I started them on Thursday. On Monday, the last day of the 5-day regime, I got really sick to my stomach. By Wednesday I had a full on cold, sinus, stomach bug…maybe even the flu. Seeing as how I had just come off of a pretty strong antibiotic, I knew that whatever I had was a virus and that there wasn’t much I could do other than rest and hydrate. I spent the week before the race constantly starving and wondering why I was sooooo hungry all the time. I just figured that my body was fighting a Bug, so it needed extra energy. So, I ate, I hydrated, I rested. But, quite honestly, it never once crossed my mind to NOT race! I did have a few premonitions about possible DNFing, but I never considered not starting! I just kept thinking, “even on the worst of race days, at least I am out romping in the woods!” And, man, do I love being in the woods!
Friday night I drove out to the starting area to camp out. The ride out alone is worth doing the race! It is absolutely gorgeous! Everything was so green and lush. I had turned my minivan into base camp, complete with a queen sized air mattress and everything I would need for race day. I had a lot of fun chatting with other runners, a few DailyMilers, and even meeting some people in real life that previously I had only known online. I could tell as the night progressed that whatever nasty, phantom illness I had was getting worse. I started to lose my voice earlier in the day and I tried NOT to talk too much so people wouldn’t know I was sick. I think I just wanted to pretend I was fine…to somehow talk myself OUT of being less than 100%. But many people commented on my voice (or lack there of) and the cat was kinda out of the bag. I didn’t want anyone to try and talk me out of running. Of course, being around a bunch of ultra runners….nobody tried that! I even got some good advice about running MORE than I thought I could on the uphills! I took that advice, too.
I didn’t sleep well the night before because The Illness was starting to creep lower and lower…starting out in my nose, trickling into my throat, and by Saturday morning it had set up camp in my lungs. I spent most of the night awake and coughing. But, when Horty (the race director David Horton) sounded the Get Up Now Cow Bell at 4:30, I had already been up for a half hour.
I was ready to go! I really wanted to run this thing! Like RACE it! Like leave it all out there! Throughout my first year of running I have been very conservative, just trying to make it through longer and longer distances. This time…I wanted to race. The course starts out with about 4 miles of climb, with the first 3 miles being pretty much straight UP. I am a very slow walker, so I did a little run/walk combo. I walked for 2 minutes then ran for 30 seconds. I played little games to see how much longer I could run and got up to a minute a few times. I pretty much ignored the first aid station, knowing I had everything I needed on my back. I was feeling pretty confident when I ended up running with a lady that I knew was a strong and fast road runner at around mile 3.
Around mile 4 a downhill started. As soon as I started down my right knee/ITBS flared up. The ITBS started giving me problems on my last training run, so I bought a ProTec IT band stabilizer a few days before the race. I whipped that bad boy out of my pack and strapped that puppy on really tight and flew down the hill. I was in some pain, but nothing compared to my last training run. I knew the next 4-5 miles was all downhill and that is when my knee hurt the most. I don’t recall the next aid station around mile 8.5 per se, but I know that I filled up my hydration pack with more water.
Some time after 9 miles, I came across Casey. He had a cool tattoo on his leg and we started chatting. He is stationed at Fort Bragg in Fayetteville, NC. I guess I had passed his running partner, Chris, at some point too because Casey said he was right behind us. From miles 8-12 it’s all uphill…not like the ridiculous incline of the first 3 miles, but a steady, annoying, upward slope that just irritates you. But, it is gorgeous! The terrain is basically a wide grassy road on the side of a mountain with spectacular views. It was an overcast, grey, and very humid day, so the views weren’t quite as lovely as they were on the training runs. But, just knowing the potential beauty was good enough for me! As this 4 mile leg stretched onward and upward, Chris caught back up with Casey and I and we all had a great time chatting. Casey would bound ahead of us, fueled by his head phones and Miley Cyrus, while Chris and I ran and walked when needed. Right before we hit Sunset Fields (mile 12.5) there is a great, steady, gravel road downhill. Chris and I let it loose and had a great time flying down the hill. It really helped open up my hips and my knee didn’t hurt at all! -
I did a really good job getting in and out of the aid stations. I didn’t want to waste any time. And, secretly, I really liked pushing Chris and Casey, too. It was kinda fun waving goodbye to them while they were stuffing their faces with Twinkies! ;) But, as I hoped they would, they always caught up with me. I started down the very technical path and was still chomping on some pretzels when they arrived behind me. We had a complete blast running down that rocky section! I was having so much fun at one point I just yelled out, “Damn, this is fun!” When we got to the aid station at around mile 18 I got to see Frank and Todd’s wives! I was so happy to see them! They are so supportive and energetic. I knew I was going to get to see them again, as we were about to do a big loop. So, I waved goodbye to my Army boys snacking away on DingDongs, and flew down the gravel road. Again, as I had hoped they would, it wasn’t long before my Pink Sparkle skirt had them flying up behind me. Because really, it’s pretty bad if you’re an Army Guy getting Chicked by a girl in a Pink Sparkle Skirt! I really wanted to push the next 3 miles because I knew it was a good opportunity to make up some time. It was a slight downhill on grave and paved road. We clocked between 9 and 10 minute pace on this part! I was pretty stoked to feel this good at this point in the course. And running with Chris and Casey was so much fun.
At the next aid station, I was starting to wane a bit. The next leg was a lot more climbing. At some point the boys got ahead of me and I was ok with that. I was still trying to get at least 30 seconds of running in on the uphills. And I was great about running fast on the downhills. But, something was happening. The wheels were falling off. I tried to eat. I had been drinking A LOT. I mostly drank to calm my sore throat. I had been good about GU gels (or so I thought). Finally, I decided to take out my headphones. Generally, I think it’s sacrilegious to wear headphones in nature. I mean really, what more amazing sound could you possibly want then the pure sounds of nature? But I knew that I was not getting through this on my own power at this point, and I wanted to praise the One who would see me through. So, I put on some great praise and worship songs and pounded out the miles. All I could think about was seeing Frank and Todd’s wives at the next aid station. It was like they were pulling me in with their love! I ran into the station, flagging them to come to me. They hurried over and all I could say was “pray over me, please pray over me!” I was crying and just needed their prayers and support. Todd’s wife talked about God being my refuge and I had been thinking of Him as my Strong Tower for the past few miles. As soon as the prayers were done I was ready to roll! I knew I was feeling bad, but I had no idea why. My stomach was nauseous, my hands were swollen and this next 4 miles was THE CLIMB! Seriously… 2,200 feet of climb in 4 miles..all rocks…big rocks, little rocks, medium rocks….there would be NO running for 4 miles. Quite a few people passed by me as I was just surrendered to the fact that things were starting to fall apart. I was in Relentless Forward Motion Mode.
When I reached the top at Sunset Fields I immediately found my favorite aid guy and had him check out my hands as I said, “is this bad?” They were really swollen. He checked me over, asked me a few questions and announced that I had been drinking TOO MUCH water! What the!? Can you even do that!? Obviously, yes, you can drink too much water and that was precisely what I had done. He gave me some saltines and sent me on my way. I knew I only had 5 miles to go, but I knew they were all downhill. Not the easy kind….but the bone crushing, quad ripping, IT band burning, kind. When I was leaving the aid station, my favorite aid guy yelled, “run when you can.” Well, I did, and that was only about 30 seconds at a time. It’s fairly demoralizing to have to walk DOWNhill. My IT band on my left knee was so painful I cursed myself for not buying two of the ITBS support straps. I was so sick. My voice was gone, it hurt to swollow, and I couldn’t take a full breath because my lungs were screaming. Every now and then if The Illness would allow me to take in a full, deep breathe I could actually taste a hint of blood. I had lost my voice around mile 24 and my breathing was shallow. All I could think was, “wow, I am pretty sick.” So, again, I just surrendered to what was happening and did my little shuffle down the mountain. At the last aid station I picked up some more pretzels and I already knew that I wouldn’t make the 10 hour cut off. But, honestly, I didn’t really care about those silly finisher’s shorts. Now, if it was a shirt, or a medal…that would have been different. I was more worried for my husband and mom who were waiting for me at the finish. I knew they would be worried. I seriously considered dropping out on several occasions, but then I would just have to wait around at some aid station for some random person to cart my sad carcass down the mountain. I just couldn’t imagine rolling up to the finish line in a car. After the last aid station I only had 2.6 miles to go. I found an interesting George Jefferson Type waddle that seemed to please my knees and still keep me moving forward. So I waddled…all the way down the mountain. I actually had to stop and pee TWO times in that last 2.6 miles! And I started feeling a lot better, too. Obviously, my body was starting to level things out a bit. With about a half mile to go I saw Todd and a few of his and Frank’s kids. Apparently, the kids were asking about me and wanted to come greet me! So, they ran me in the last ¼ mile! Todd had already run the race and was running beside me in flip flops to see me through to the end! It was so amazing! I made a bee-line for my Horty Hug and was so happy to see his smiling face. I honestly don’t think I want to do any other races that don’t end in Horty’s encouraging arms! His love and passion for the sport is contagious, inspiring, and simply lovely.
So…what have we learned? Well, I know now what it means to Bonk, for the Wheels to come off, to Blow Up, and all the other euphemisms that mean you feel like your gonna die….but you don’t. In retrospect I realized that all that fun I had blasting down the mountain was about 2 hours with NO GUs or electrolytes. Ooops! I learned that you can, in fact, drink TOO MUCH water. I learned that those Ecaps and Scaps thingys that everyone keeps talking about are probably going to have to become part of my nutrition plan. I also learned that I have gotten so much strong just in the past month. As I type this, the day after the race, I am not even that sore! I am actually quite surprised at how well I feel. The Phantom Illness is still lingering and has introduced a cough into the mix, but I never expected to feel this good! I was sorer after my first training run on this course! I can tell that every training round and race is making me stronger and faster. I can’t believe all that I have achieved in my first year of running. And I am pretty stinkin proud of me! ;) And, I am excited and encouraged as I move forward to my next Ultra goal.
edited to add: hey, check it out! Chris joined DM! friend him up, yo! http://www.dailymile.com/people/cervelodementia