I decided to run the Blue Springs 50 miler awhile ago, knowing that if I were going to go for 100 miles at Rocky Raccoon in February, another 50 miler or two under my belt would be wise. My first and only other 50 miler was at Rocky this past February - I crossed the finish line after months of training and in a time of 11 hours and 20something minutes. Blue Springs 50 mile was on Sunday, Oct 30. The Saturday before was Lake Perry 50k which I ran almost an hour faster than any other trail 50k I've done (thanks to being led by Ultraphia), and every minute was bought with extreme effort. The weekend before THAT was the KC Marathon and a hilly 9.5 the day after. I had been hitting it kinda hard the previous couple of weeks, not tapering. The next evening after Perry (less than one week before Blue Springs), I was unable to run up my driveway. I was going out that evening and had to come back to my house for something I forgot. I left my car at the bottom of the driveway, got out, then had my brain tell my body to light jog it up the driveway. I'm no medical doctor (I'm a doctor of love, baby), but I can feel my powerful brain neurons firing over synapses, sending the signals to all body parts involved in the task. However, my leg muscles were so thick with soreness/overuseness/lactic acid/I'm done with running juice, that even the forceful signals sent by my strength-of-the-Gods brain couldn't penetrate through. My foot kinda came up off the ground, but wasn't exactly propelled forward with the necessary force and just plopped back down a couple inches in front of where it started. I started to try again, but then pain became a factor and I just walked up the drive, trying to remember what I was going back for (although an almighty brain, the short term memory part has been compromised with age and various recreational drugs). I was actually kind of proud of myself, as it was further proof of the greatness of my accomplishment from the day before. I was also very glad that besides the 50 miler on Sunday, the race also offered a 50k, marathon, and half-marathon distance. I knew I'd be better by Sunday, but let's face it - the last time I ran 50 miles, it was a target race that I trained months for. Circumstances were slightly different this go-around.
I planned a 2 mile run on Monday. If you don't find this strange, let me introduce myself. My name is Erica and I am a fucking beast and I can't be bothered to run 2 miles. My shortest run in my repertoire is about 4 and I only use it when I'm hurting or when I desperately need extra time in the am. Both instances are rare. But sometimes I'm able to do what's actually good for me, and I knew 2 would be plenty. I had the "light and smooth" mantra in my head, but it was clunky. Did yoga a few more times that week and half-assed a boot camp class. I also made plentiful good sleep a priority. It'd been a long time since I've done so little running in a week, but I wasn't itching for a run. I was trying to rest, recover, and have all my muscles grow stronger like steel. I would be as adamant about getting rest and some active recovery as I usually am about getting in the miles. That was going to be what was going to work.
You can choose to start at 6 am or 7am. A couple of days before the race, I had people (Brian and Ammanda W this means you) bugging me about when I was going to start. I chose 7 am. This pretty much cut out me going for 50 miles. There was an 11 hour cutoff, and if I wanted to run 50 miles, I needed to start at 6 am, considering my 50 mile time was 11 hr 25 minutes and we've established the different circumstances wouldn't be helping any. I told MY Brian (we will call him Lucky B to differentiate him from Brian W) that if I didn't do 50k, or did 50k and was hurting (like injury hurting), I would be unhappy. If I did 50k and felt ok, even pretty sore, I would be happy. Lucky B didn't say anything at the time, but afterward he told me that he knew that if I did 50k and wasn't hurting, um duh, no way was I going to stop.
I wasn't anxious at all for the race; I had a very HB "I'm just gonna do what I do and it's all good" attitude. Lucky B and I went to packet pickup Sat night, but we went to the wrong place and ended up going mattress shopping for him instead. Which meant extra rest laying on beds for an hour for me. Go home, eat it up, go to bed, wake up and go. So I get to the race and a great close parking spot and register and hang around for the start. I had an awesome drop bag packed, perfect outfit on, full waist pack, etc. I couldn't be more ready. I saw Brian and Ammanda and she said something about doing only the marathon and Brian didn't say anything, especially when Lou came over and asked for some help moving the porta potties. I believe Ammanda volunteered him for that. Later on Ammanda asked him - You didn't really want to help Lou, did you? -- To which Brian replied "Of course not". Then Ammanda says she knew that. I love that shit.
I talked to Dick Ross, ace photographer, then walked over the newly-placed porta-potties, wondering why Dick wasn't following to take my pic in front of them. I was still in line when I hear someone say they started and looked up to see a group of people running away in the dark. Oh well - I abandoned the porta potty and trotted after them. I got my brand new Timex Ironman fancy watch with GPS and heart rate monitor going (I've only used a heart rate monitor before - this was a big step up) and things are feeling good right outta the gate. I realize there is no Brian or Ammanda to be found. They went back to their car for something and I figured they missed the start too. The easygoing, laid-backness of Lou's races blankets everyone I guess.
The course is pretty much like paved - pea gravel and pancake flat. I had gaiters on so never got a pebble in my shoe. Things are uneventful. I keep checking my Ironman, figuring it out, changing the display, marveling at all the information it provides. What is cadence? Anyway, I still had to go pee, but we are out in the open alot - fields on either side, some woodsy parts, etc. I keep scoping out spots, but end up dismissing them all before I reach them. I finally found a good one - I see the tree and brush I'm going to hide behind and head for it. I go pee. And poo a little. But I don't have baby wipes in my waist pack - that steel trap mind forgot them. So I pick up a couple of leaves. I've never wiped with leaves, but decide they will be better than nothing. So I start to wipe my ass with the leaves. But once the wipe process starts, they crumble to pieces. Really? That's what happens? Now I've got little leaf pieces in my buttcrack and nothing to get them out with. So I just spread my cheeks apart and kinda jump up and down and move by butt around to shake them all loose. It reminded me of shaking all the loose coins and lint out of your empty purse (or sporran if you're Shawn Walters). I was worried I didn't get them and would have some weird monstrous chaffing issue, but all was well. Gross part concluded.
This pic is Shawn and Jarod - it is the day before Halloween, folks. I saw Jarod twice. The first time was right before 26 miles - I looked up and he was there and then he was gone. He said hi to me like he knew me, but it took awhile to figure out who he was. The Born To Run sandals gave him away. The second time was maybe 10 miles later and even though I knew what was coming, it was very disturbing and surreal to see. I knew it was Jarod, but my brain wasn't able to completely reconcile Jarod with this huge weird why is his face like that in a nurse dress heath ledger suicide creature running at me.
Great costume. I never had good costumes. A couple of years ago I put on blue scrubs, glued cotton balls all over them, and carried a water gun. People had to ask me "What are you?" and I would squirt them with the water gun and answer "Partly cloudy with a chance of showers". Kinda clever. I would really like the skank early pregnancy stripper with c section scars and that's why she works the Wednesday afternoon shift costume. THAT would be fun.
Ammanda caught me about Mile 6 I think. Brian ended up turning around and doing the half marathon. There were aid stations every few miles, but the only thing that looked good to me was fig newtons. I grabbed a few at each aid station. I also got candy corn around mile 12ish, but they almost broke my teeth and I threw them out for the squirrels. I was going slow - not too long ago I listened to an ultrarunner podcast with Lee McKinley and picked up some tips. He's run alot of 100's and he said he doesn't allow his HR to go over 70% for the first half. So that's what I was doing. Ammanda had caught up with me, so she had to run slower to stay with me. Starting slow for a long long run is key for me. I feel good, I wanna go faster and if I don't have a "rule" like the 70% in place, I'll let loose in my really fast turtle way, putting the dreaded DNF in my sights. I felt good that day but kept my HR no higher than a certain number. The miles just kept churning away. Once Ammanda came on the scene, I stopped listening to music. We just talked about all kinds of shit until we saw Brian, who had finished his half marathon and came back to run with us. He brought a jacket for Ammanda in case she was cold, but made sure we all knew he did it. I had alot of fun running with them - the time and miles flew. Next thing I know we are at mile 25 and Ammanda is pulling ahead. She finished her first 50k without a hitch, which is awesome. I am eating gels every half hour and no caffeine for the first half (also a McKinley tip, but I already learned that one from Brad Bishop). I am eating alot of real food too. Except it's all in the form of bananas (which are all gone by now) and fig newtons. Mel, I too hoarded fig newtons and pulled them out of my clothes like a squirrel. I keep eating them even though there is no epicurean pleasure in them at all anymore.
So back to the start/finish. 50k down. Around mile 26 my phone rang and it was Ashley. I heard it so of course I answered it on the fly and she asked where we were 'cause her and Matty were coming to cheer us on. Trail Nerds and Mudbabes are the best ever. They brought PBR for Ammanda and Brian and Dr Pepper for me. My first caffeine and it was fucking awesome!!!! That little thing was so big - no soda around, and all I had were caffeinated gels. It went down smooth like whiskey.
A group photo (alot of my day was spent with a fig newton in my mouth) and I was off. It was back down the path we started on (which I liked better than the path we had just done) - down not to the end, but just 10 miles, then back. I still wasn't sold on the idea of running 50 miles. There's a part of me on any ultra that knows the bonk is inevitable and will happen. Even though that's not true. Anyway, I had my fancy watch with GPS and knew exactly how far I'd gone, so I figured if I turned around after 5 and got a 40 in, I'd be happy. Except I never didn't feel good. Let's reiterate this. I ran 50 miles because I was never not feeling good. Entire time. Huh - who woulda thunk it? Anyway, McKinley also said that because music has so much affect on his mood (same for me), he doesn't use it for the first half. Ammanda ran with me until about mile 26 so I ended up kinda unwittingly following this advice too. I'm running by myself most of the time (almost all the other 50 milers started before 7am, so they were coming back on the path I was running out on, but other than that and the errant non-racer using the trails, not a whole lot else) and the music just carried me along - I got alot more out of it than if I had been listening to it the entire time. Rick T was at the first aid station you come to and I loved seeing him. We have a special bond, what with me almost not saving his life and all. I passed 35 miles somewhere in there and just kept going - I was gonna do 50!! I had walked a little bit throughout, but starting about mile 31 I was trying to keep a schedule of power walking one minute every ten minutes. It's hard to practice walking, but I need it 'cause I'll be doing alot of it during my 100m attempt. Maybe only once or twice did I walk sooner than I wanted, which is not usually the case. I'm glad I had my fancy watch, 'cause after the second aid station, I knew the sign for the turnaround was coming up -- I had seen it on my way out the first time. I got to some water jugs, and didn't see the sign. I remember it being just a little further up. But it wasn't and if it wasn't for my watch telling me I wasn't at 40 miles yet, I would have convinced myself someone had taken it down already and I had passed it, and been in utter frustration and misery and confusion. Familiar, but not pleasant. As it was, I just noticed how fucking slow I was going, thanks to my pace glaring up at me from the face of the watch. Finally, this:
I am giddy. By now, I noticed that when it was time for a caffeinated gel, I would get all excited. 2 more minutes!! YAY!!! It reminded me of the feeling I would get anticipating drugs. I even had a little gel ritual set up just like fiends do -- changing my grip on my water bottle, getting the gel out of my pack without stopping, counting how many I had left, then ripping it open, eating it and squeezing it all out, then putting the empty package back in my water bottle pocket and enjoying the high until it was time to do it all again. Duly noted.
So I see other normal people on the trail, riding bikes with their kids, other runners, whatever. I love them and want to tell them how great it is to be almost done running 50 miles especially considering what I've done the past few weeks. Instead I just grin like a loon at them, spreading joy without Elliot (who was spending the day with Mandy over at Lucky B's eating people food and watching football). The pic above was when Rick T ran out (his first jog since that Tahoe insanity) to meet me. I know, I was going slow. I really tried to pick it up. Now everyone is out there just because of me (I ran 50 miles faster than a few other people, but they started earlier, so by now I was the only one left out there chugging along) and I felt bad but knew they didn't really care that much and I'm so glad anyway. It's worth noting that Rick T had the last aid station of the run and for the first time that day I grabbed some pretzels instead of fig newtons. It's also worth noting that it didn't matter in the least, as those tasted just as much like nothing as the fig newtons.
After Rick, I think only about 3 miles. I texted Lucky B a couple of times. At the very end, you see this overpass bridge ahead. All you have to do is run to the bridge, turn left and run over it, back the other side just a minute before the finishing stretch on a gravel path behind a shopping center. I remember coming out and seeing the bridge and telling myself "I'm almost done and I'm fucking walking just one more time goddamit". So I started to. Then I saw Brian and Ammanda and had to start running. Not that I wasn't so happy to see them, but. . . fuckers. So they had gone home and cleaned up and saw I was almost done and stopped by to see me!! Like I said, the best. So we were running the last little bit and I was all giddy and then they stopped and I ran down the last stretch alone. I sprinted. It probably didn't look like it, but that was sprinting baby. 50 miles down - 10 hours, 49 minutes, just under (just barely barely itsy bitsy under) 13 minute miles. I'm down with that, considering. A few others that had finished stayed around until I finished (do I have to keep saying THE BEST??) and I got pics with the boys. Lotsa boys. First, me and Brent (this was his first 50 miler):
Then me and Shawn (I don't know if its his first. I know the results say he beat me by 4 seconds, but that's not enough in my book and so I'm telling everyone I really beat him, using my start at the porta potties for defense):
And here is Brian and Ammanda too and Lou on the right, just seconds after the finish of the day:
And finally here is Lou and Sadie because DOGS RULE!:
I ran a smart run, especially eating from the very start to the very end and starting slow. That's why I was able to do 50 miles and why I am an ultrarunning beast in the making. I had to drive Lucky B's old stick shift home. I left a can of soda on top of the car that exploded on the ground as I lurchingly shifted from reverse to drive off, completing the Erica Experience. That evening Lucky B and I ate good home cooking at Niece's on Troost - corn, boiled cabbage, bbq beef tenderloin, yum. I took it easy the week after and was out at WYCO for a winter loop Saturday, just me and Elliot. Blue Springs 50 was a great run and I'm happy it went the way it did and I didn't feel miserable or cry and snot all over myself, and finished strong and ready to run another day and great training under my belt for my 100 miler, but it was really everyone there that made it such a great day - I couldn't help but have alot of gratitude for the people out there I knew. Like I would see someone and think - I am so glad I know them and if I didn't know them, I am so glad they're here. That feeling is always there at ultras, sometimes not as apparent, but everpresent. That's part of the lure of ultrarunning and something I never think of when people ask why I run the way I do.
In closing, I would like to say how happy I am to have beat Shawn Walters.