Tuesday, November 29, 2016

North County Run 2016: The Prelude to an Epic Adventure

Still the biggest medal in all the land. It finally stopped raining
and here I am smiling through the pain and shivering.
There is a time for everything and sometimes everything needs to happen simultaneously. 
The North Country 50 mile Trail Run 2016 was my time to prepare, suffer and dig deep. Practice for the big game. It left me cautious for what was coming next. This is the short tale of North Country 2016.

This race was one of the toughest, darkest races for me including asthma, pain, and torrential rains that produced grey screens like wax paper inhibiting my vision and washing out the trails. At one point I was yelling, "This it Ultra!" through the woods. I ran through flowing creek-like paths hiding the roots and rocks beneath. There was no other way but to run through it. Sounds extremely safe, right? Aid station #5 was referred to as Lake #5 on the second loop. It was a mess, and I kept imagining the fall I might take with my face submerged in water and mud.

Aid Station #5 referred to as Lake #5. When I stood in front of this table
to get something to eat, I was up to my ankles in water, and another runner
thought I should step out of his way as if I was in a shallow spot. I think
I replied something like, "We are all in the same lake."

The race started with a delay due to thunder and lightening which protocol is that the start time shifts
30-minutes after each lightening sighting or strike in the sky. But once the race starts, you are on your own. I suffered an unusually bad breathing issue within the first 14 miles which I felt miserable and unable to catch my breath efficiently. I worked my lungs so hard that they hurt for a week after. I felt like I attempted 100 miles! My doctor then prescribed Singular which helps block allergens from the lungs and I have been on it ever since. So far so good. Whew!

I would have dropped this race like many did after the first 25 miles if not for a few things: 1) I didn't want to be quitter. It pissed me off thinking of that word, 2) I needed that damn thing to qualify for Grindstone100. My last true 50 was just over the 2 year span requirement and 3) Evie caught me at mile 25 changing my sobbing shoes for 10 miles of dryness. I kept telling her she saved my ass. I just followed her feet with my asthma thick lungs for the next 25 miles while trying to assist another runner with his upset stomach and misery. Ginger? Pepto? Tums?

I finally hit a DEEP mental dark spot with 8 miles to go and walked away from the Lake #5 Aid Station for a moment alone. There was a pain cave in my chest and mind and I had enough of being soaked. It was just about then that our male runner mate we had picked up (guy with stomach issues) started talking in detail about his diareah from the pre-race dinner the night before. And on cue, I forgot about my mental misery and will never think about cream sauce the same way again.

I doubted if I even belonged in GrindStone100 for most of the race due to the breathing issue that I just couldn't figure out, and an IT band strain that was creeping in by mile 20. I tried to stop thinking about it, but I couldn't. I kept pushing with the thought that there is nothing I can do about Grindstone, but I can do something about this race in the now. It was during this race that I found my mantra: "We Go."

In a storm, with breathing issues, in mental darkness, through creek trails, with IT band pain for 25 miles, with a guy talking about diareah... "We Go"

We finished with hardly anybody waiting out this full day of storms at the finish line. It finally had stopped raining! I had placed 4th in my age bracket (at least 5 had dropped behind me due to the stormy day) and I received a small award while lying on a table getting stretched out by the physical therapist. When he was done, my IT band felt new and better than the other leg! Where does this man work?!

Evie looking at the little boy right next to me blowing the airhorn.
The rain stopped but not the torture.
Evie and I grabbed a beer and some food and shivered over to a picnic table to eat and cheer for any runner who may be coming through. If they were out there as long as we were, they darn right deserve some cheers!!! Unfortunately, some little boy went rogue and had an airhorn he kept firing off near us and what ever parental units he had, weren't claiming him. That sucked. We didn't stay too long and shivered on back to our car shortly after our ears couldn't take anymore.

I continued to ponder, "What the hell and I thinking going to Grindstone100?" This was one crazy 50mile training run.
How does this race apply to GrindStone100?
Because this race was the prelude for what was coming. It scared the hell out of me with doubts and physical challenges. I am grateful that it did. And I was even more grateful that day to chase Evie's feet through flowing water to get the hell out of there before dark.