We've all been there. Haven't we? You sign up for a race and lay down the grass roots of how you'll get it done. All your long runs and the optimal training plans are strategized well in advance. I even signed up with the Health and Performance team back in November, so, I was sure, this year would be a success. Last year, I hung up my shoes at 100k, but, it was damn hot, like hell hath no fiery hot and I was determined to come back and finish it this year.
Well, then shit happens and all your plans head up the creek. The creek my Mom use to reference, where you had no paddle. To start it all off, I ended up with a stress fracture at the beginning of the year at the 6 hr Frosty Trail Run. I had also planned on racing (I think I can call it that) at the 70P2A again this year, so as soon as the weather got nice, I needed to get out on the bike. I also never made it to a single H & P track meet (still haven't). Those guys are fast and Coach Sean really lays down the grass roots or so I can attest by their results. I caught a cold right after P2A and as usual, they always seem to linger and get comfortable by settling into my chest. Good thing I gave up smoking when I did. My longest training run ended up being 36km the weekend before the race. Am I an idiot or what for even attempting this?
Well, this year was different. I had Richard, the guru of long distance running as my pacer. I just had to reach the 100km mark. He had done the math and worked out a plan for me. Something I hadn't even considered the year prior. I just thought I'd sign up and run and that was all I needed to do. There is so much involved when running your first 100 Miler, it's complex. With the plan, each loop was a success. I had even earned some time on the first 4 loops. How empowering that turned out to be. Equally empowering or even more so, was watching the athletes compete in the 200 Miler. I thought if they can survive the course, especially after all that rain, then surely, I CAN. My first loop was a little fast, but, I was with a couple of younger runners and the stride felt good. It ended up working out perfectly, as Cornel and Claudia were running the 50k and the timing worked out for Cornel and I to run the entire second lap together. I felt so good. Could this be happening? I also did something I don't normally do, but, Richard recommended taking an Advil on every loop. In all my years of running, I had never taken Advil, not even when pain set in. It must have worked as I was relatively pain free. I had my new Altra Torins, more for road then a slick trail, but, my feet felt great and only one small blister to speak of (which happened on the first loop with my La Sportivas). I took care of it right away by threading the needle and leaving in the thread for it to ooze out slowly. Richard with his tackle box of supplies took care of it professionally prior to my 5th lap and no further issues. How fortunate am I to run a 160km with no real foot issues.
I think I met up with Andrew on the 3rd lap and we had the same pace relatively. We may have ran that loop faster than expected as I recall Andrew had a work colleague coming to meet him with a sub. Beer makes me run faster, so I can definitely relate. Now food, that was a bigger issue than my feet. It was difficult to get anything down of any substance. I was nibbling and it was sustaining me. I was just worried whether I was taking in enough to get me through until the end. I changed my clothes on the next lap and it was exhilarating to be in fresh clothes. If only that feeling lasted. We were running the hermitage loop and if I hadn't mentioned already, the trails were a muddy mess. We were passing through that narrow section down to the creek and next thing I know, Andrew is slip sliding away. I made a quick move to try and grab him before the edge and my foot hit the mud and before I knew it, I was vertical in the air before slapping flat back into the mud. The entire slippery slope meaning was never so true at that moment. I knocked the wind out of myself but got up as quickly as I could. Mud is cold. Poor Andrew had continued to ground ski almost to the bottom of the hill. He recovered and we both made our way to the creek to wash off the mud as best we could.
The sixth loop was a bit of a blur. I was maintaining a consistent time, but, don't recall much of that loop. Richard had supplied me with a can of caffeine. Nice and strong and gave me the pick up that I needed. Not surprising that my mental clarity was revived after the jolt cola. Cornel had returned after going home and eating and showering. What would I do without his consistent support. It makes all the difference in the world having someone there cheering you on. Due to my earlier fall, my back was starting to seize up and with night falling, so had the temperatures. Richard had a ThermaCare heat wrap for my waist and I dressed in warm layers and got ready for my 7th loop. I swear, if you had asked him for sand from the Sahara, or a rock from the Andes, he would have had it. He completed The Marathon Des Sables and held the Guinness Book of Records, for a marathon in all 7 continents in under 30 days; which has now been surpassed. He has quite the repartee of accomplishments and I was lucky to have him as a friend and pacer. We had always planned to walk this entire loop and that we did. We were still good for time. At the beginning of the loop, Richard had got me some chicken noodle soup as I changed and the broth and noodles were amazing, but, I didn't have enough saliva to break down the pieces of chicken and almost choked. I don't know who made that soup, but, it was delicious. That brings me to the volunteers. They are amazing. Most of them are out there for the races entirety and help to get everyone to the finish line. They are truly incredible and we can't thank them enough for all that they do.
Well, we made it back around just as the sun was coming up....that means, only one more loop and I was done with this. I was actually going to complete this 100 Mile journey. Although, I had a negative split on this loop, it was still a slow and painful run. As my legs were requiring more oxygen, I had to stop 2-3 times up the 3 Sisters in order to breathe. They were anything but a nicety, more like the 3 Effin Bitches at this point. Boy, was I glad when I had climbed them for the last time. Just after the dirty ladies, my second favourite part of the course ensues. The Hermitage loop being
Happy Trails my Friends