Sunday, June 5, 2011

Quite Possibly My Favorite Racing Thing of All Time, Part I

I might sell my bikes, give away my adventure racing gear and throw out my road shoes -- I am thinking I might spend the rest of my racing life running 50k after 50k.

The North Face Endurance Challenge Washington D.C. 50k (fortunately the whole name wasn't on the race shirt ... would have taken up the whole thing) was sort of fantastic. I want to do it again immediately.

I've never been less stressed before a race, ever. I had to work a full day on Friday. And the day was sort of crazy. As I was running around the job attempting to help eliminate some of the crazy I kept thinking the following thought: "This time tomorrow I will be running 31 miles. All at once. Hopefully. And instead of getting ready I am dealing with (insert a crazy situation of your choice here)."

Finally it was time to go.

The ride to Northern Virginia took forever and ever. Traffic in that area is so amazingly terrible. If there was ever a World Championship of Tailgating I am absolutely certain that some bobo from NoVa would win. Anyway, I finally pulled into the hotel just as my Mom and Dad did. I think they were more nervous than I was. My lack of nervousness almost made me anxious. I packed up a small bag, mapped out where my parents would meet me along the course (at the 15.1 mile mark) and I slept like a lump.

We made our way to the 7 a.m. start about an hour early. There were six races over the course of the weekend (50 miles, 50k, marathon, marathon relay, 13.1, 10k and 5k) and the 50-miler wackadoos had started two hours earlier.

The morning was beautiful -- a bit on the cool side and the misty Potomac River made a sweet backdrop to the 332 runners preparing for the day ahead. Basically my own personal playlist of running favorites was being pumped through a sound system. What a great morning!

Then I made the mistake of looking around. The crowd was amazingly fit. Lots of muscles and little fat -- I felt lumpy and slow and I hadn't even made it to the start line yet. Great! Nerves started to kick in. What if I am last? What if I don't finish? What if I hate it? What am I doing? Do I have to pee again?

We were called to the start line right on time. And then it was time for Dean Karnazes to officially kick off the race. So not necessary. Just let us run. I am sort of not a fan -- a few years ago I only made it through the first few pages of his book before I began to gag a bit. But, the dude can absolutely run far quickly.

Feeling pensive, lumpy and slow.

The Machine and I listening to Dean Karnazes yammer.
Do you know he just finished running from L.A. to New York?
 I do because he mentioned it about 8 billion times.
 At least the guy seems to like his job.

I lined up toward the back of the pack figuring that if I DNFed it would be on my own terms, not because I was trampled out of the gate. We were suddenly off -- no start gun, no ready set go -- the crowd just started moving forward. Or maybe I was just too far in the back to hear what was happening. I waved at my Mom and Dad and the field trickled across the start line.
Play Where's Waldo with this picture. But instead of finding Waldo find Laurie.
The first mile or so was around a flat field and then onto a wide gravel trail. I was keeping a comfortable pace and slowly worked my way past a bunch of runners. The course turned left and after another mile or so the single track started. And so did some shoving and pushing. Grr. It wasn't terrible and I tried to stay out of the way but a few people were bloodied by falls before we were 30 minutes in.

Eventually the crowd began to thin out and I found myself in the company of only one other person. We talked a bit (it was her first 50k too) until she took off like she'd been shot out of a cocaine-fueled rocket. She ended up coming in 5th, I think. What an overachiever.

I was all alone in the woods and I was loving it. I slowly worked my way up the first climb -- it was short, but it was steep and lead to a screaming downhill. I let it run and hoped I wasn't beating up my legs too badly too early on. At the bottom I actually passed a few people and started to feel not entirely incompetent. I stuffed handfuls of chips and M&Ms into my face at the second aid station (I'd skipped the first) and continued on my way.

The time ticked by and I felt like I wasn't working amazingly hard but I didn't want to push it, either. I didn't want to STB in the first 10 miles and have a miserable time for the remaining 21. Gus, Shot Blocks and Stinger Waffles, Peanut M&Ms and water fueled my way. It got a bit hilly but, fortunately, reminded me of the terrain in Wissahickon Park. The hills were similar to those I'd trained on but with fewer rocks and roots most of the time. Hooray!

On my way down one hill footsteps came up behind me, fast. "Passing on your right!," the runner behind me yelled. We were on 2-foot-wide singletrack with a sort of serious drop off to the left. I didn't feel like falling off a cliff so I didn't move, I just picked up the pace. Plus who the hell passes on the right? Apparently the a-hole in a red shirt flicking sweat all over the place right behind me does.

The hill leveled off and I pulled over to let him pass. Red Shirt got in front of me and basically slowed to a walk. Sir, please know that I wanted to beat you with sticks at that point. We were dumped to on a flat fire road and I took off, hoping to never see him again, ever. Except I didn't push hard enough and he did the exact same thing on the next downhill. Instead of telling him he was being a weiner I decided to be passive-aggressive and vowed to myself that I would absolutely finish before him. Except just as I had that thought he decided to sprint away and I soon lost sight of him.

Well, shit. And then, actual shit. Horse poop everywhere. It was unavoidable and I was mostly amused and partially disgusted. That's when I got a song stuck in my head, a song that would stay there for the rest of the race. Thankfully, I liked the song -- Dog Days Are Over by Florence and the Machine. Most of the time what was stuck was the part that goes like this: "The horses are coming, so you better run."

Ok, Flo, I will. I picked up the pace a bit. A shoutout to the horse poop for triggering my race inspiration. I actually started to feel sort of great. I had no idea what mile I was at -- six, eight, ten? I had no idea what my pace was either. I just knew I wasn't even close to being done. Fine by me because, Red Shirt aside, I was loving my day so far.

The giant mug of red wine I decided to have with my dinner of Cheerios and mac & cheese (they weren't in the same bowl) and two days of waking up before 6 a.m. are knocking me out. Plus this post is already too long. Plus I have to go try and get my race shoes to stink less before the entire house smells like mud and feet and funk. So you will just have to come back for the exciting conclusion.


Jeff said...

"Do you know he just finished running from L.A. to New York?
I do because he mentioned it about 8 billion times."

Great line! Can't wait to read about the rest of your race!

Running Ricig said...

so many people ran this race and loved it! It's almost enough to make me consider doing one...but probably not :)

awesome job!

Anonymous said...

My favorite part of the post: "50-miler wackadoos had started two hours earlier", because obviously the 50K "non-wackadoos" were doing something totally normal! :-P Now excuse me, because if you are feeling lumpy and slow, I need to go find a hole to dig and stay there... I'll make you wait for the congratulations and stuff just like you make us wait with the description! :-)

Elizabeth said...

Can't beleive you stopped right there what a teaser, can't wait for the rest. This race is on my to do list and I also really enjoy running 50k

ATTrio said...

I am excited to read more about your 50k. Nice work!! I think as runners when we scope out the competition we can all feel lumpy and slow =) BUT, I am a small person and people are probably thinking oh look at her, she'll probably be fast and then when they pass my ass they are like... "Hell ya I smoked the skinny chick!" and then I am like, "oh dear, there goes another someone faster".... but either way someone will always beat us and competition is good. It is good motivator.

Anyways, I'll be back for more. =) -Jen

Laurie said...

Mrs. Ricigliano -- Who else did it? I want to be their friend! Or at least read their blog if they have one. It was a very well-organized race and so fun. Do it next year! There's a 50k about an hour or two outside of Philly that I am thinking about doing in October if you feel the need to do one ASAP.
And Melie, 50 miles is so much longer than a 50k! Nineteen miles to be exact.

Abby said...

"Feeling lumpy and slow" - says the girl with biceps blazing.

Julie said...

You sure know how to tell a story.
You sure do.

Come back soon to finish this, pretty please.

Laurie said...

Abby -- You've seen me in real life. You know I don't actually have biceps.