Anxious to complete my first 50k and wanting to get out of Dodge, I drove four hours to Brooksville, Florida: a small unimpressive town with little to do. They have a nice trail though where Croom Zoom and April Fools Croom Race are held. I was met by ten of my Down to Run friends for pre-race packet pickup.

It is ironic that I planned my meals for two weeks prior to the race carefully, focusing on the proper ratio of complex carbs to protein. The night before, we ate at the one “safe” looking restaurant in town. Limited with options, I was forced to have chicken Parmesan with pasta and garlic rolls. I had a cannoli as well just to play safe and top off the carb reserves.

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(This image of chicken parm. is strictly for illustrative purposed, twas not the one I consumed)

8 PM: The night before the race, I got back to my room and started flipping through the channels. I got through all 20 about five times.

8:30 PM: Gave up on finding anything good to watch and settled for something mediocre.

9 PM: Fell into slumber.

9 PM-4 AM: Pee, Drink Water, Pee, Kick Corner of Bed

5 AM: Race Day. I woke-up and traveled across the street for a Waffle House waffle, purposely not thinking about whether I was in the mood to run 31 miles.

Mistake #2 or lesson #2, 5am stomach+waffle house+ running= no good.

The waffle was only in my stomach for a short period of time. My next stop was a 40 person line at the race for the 2 restrooms which had no lights. It was a great way to start the day.

The race started well. It was in the upper 50’s with light fog cover. I felt good and passed a bunch of people. At some point, it almost feels like it takes more effort to go slower than your comfortable pace, so I pushed past some people that maybe I shouldn’t have.

The first 13 miles were relatively effortless. The course had some elevation, likely more than I was prepared for. I didn’t really have a walking plan. The plan was to walk when I felt I absolutely needed to. I had to walk some portions of 14 to 16 as my hips starting killing me, and I was running out of gas. Somewhere between mile 13 and 16 I kicked a root and fell to my face like Humptey Dumptey. I think the person behind me yelled “timber!” That was fun. Nothing like being covered in dirt and having a face itch.

By mile 16 (the end of loop 1 of 2) I had waves of nausea. I should have been eating more looking back, as I tend to start feeling sick when I need calories. The aid stations were not even really setup until the second loop, so I was limited to eating and drinking what I had, or else waste precious time. I was having a salt capsule an hour, and trying to have at least 100 calories per hour, but I lost track of everything. The only thing I could think about was to continue moving forward. At this point, it was around 80 degrees and increasing. The sun was beating down.

I had told myself that when it got tough my mantra would be “you are a machine,” “you can do this all day.” There was no doubt in my mind as to whether I would finish. I had decided previously that I would 100%.

After filling up with water, eating a quarter of a peanut-butter and jelly sandwich, and getting told my Jen I needed to move vs. dig through my bag for some little piece of crap that I didn’t need. I felt good enough to run another mile, before my legs started cramping to the point I felt I had to walk or else I would land on a limp leg and fall over. I got to the aid station and had some Mountain Dew for the caffeine and pickles and potato chips for the salt. That actually helped a lot and I was able to run another mile. When I started fading again I was hopeful for more Mountain Dew and pickles at the next aid station. But silly me…there was no more to be had.

After 18 miles I had to remind myself that this was a running race, and not a hike, as I found myself unconsciously walking. My entire body was so exhausted that I didn’t have many thoughts. My hips hurt viciously, especially on the uphills, so I had to stop running and walk, but I turned off the pain. There was a minute where I asked myself “this is physically painful, why are you doing this? Never do this again!” While every step hurt, I did a good job of not thinking about it, after the moment that I promised myself I wouldn’t put myself in the same position again. The pain was more bearable than the cramps that just shut my legs down. There was more walking towards the end of the race than I would have preferred, but I did the best I could given how my body was behaving that day.

Looking back at what I could have done differently:

  1. Eat better the night before and the morning of
  2. Walk before I absolutely needed to (when to walk I still have no clue because my body usually tells me to stop the entire time I am running)
  3. Force myself to eat more during the race

I have been pretty down since the race; nothing sounds fun anymore. There was so much anticipation and effort that went into training, now what? While my finish was not all I could have hoped for, at least now I will have greater room for improvement and a reference point.

I am looking for another race to hopefully knock off some time. This running thing is a love hate relationship. Hate to do it, love it when it is over.

A few of us stayed until Sunday went to Rainbow Springs over in BFE Florida.

The water was crystal clear, and the perfect temperature. After a quick dip, a canoe ride down and back up the river, lunch and a few cups of coffee, the trip was over.

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