Monday, November 30, 2015

Dream Big


I started out 2015 by signing up for a few ultras and a bunch of marathons, hoping for some PR’s and a few new shiny medals and  belt buckles.   I’d like to say I achieved all my goals but that didn’t happen.  At one ultra, I quit at mile 50, crying because of a combination of pain from an injury and frustration from being lost on the course.  At another ultra, I had to forgo finishing my race to help another runner in distress.  I’ve had a few highs and lows with running this year, these are two examples.

       Hallucination 100 Mile Race: I threw in the towel at Run Woodstock.  I turned in my race bib at the 50 mile mark of the 100 mile race.  I gave up, just quit.  I thought I was in too much pain and was too cold to keep moving.  I was not on pace to finish the 100 mile race, but I could have kept going and got a 100K finish at least.  My brain just said quit and I could not resist.  What was worse was that I likely dragged my friend Jeff into quitting with me.  I think that talking about quitting only made it easier for him to quit as well.   And that is exactly what we both did.  If you are going down, why not drag someone with you?  A few hours later we were both rested, fed and warm.   Then the hurricane blew through.  And by hurricane, I mean Matt.  Matt is a firecracker of an ultra runner.  He stopped by our RV to get some gear and found out that I had quit.  He was taking none of my excuses and told me in the nicest possible way to, “Get your ass back on that course and finish something.”  He shamed me into going back to the RD and persuading him to let me have my bib back and to finish the race.  Surprisingly the race director didn’t take much convincing.  Well, if I was going back out there, I wasn’t going to do it alone.  I figured if I was likely the fault for Jeff quitting, then I could also be the reason he went back out there.  I gave him some of Matt’s tough love and he said he would finish that last 16.6 miles with me even if we walked every step.  We saw Matt about 5 miles later and the smile on his face made it all worth while.   Another three miles later Jeff and I reached an aid station.  He had been in a real low spot, I gave him his space but kept an eye on him.  We sat at the aid station a while and he ate some soup.  I filled his water bottle with coke to help give him energy and wake him up.  He looked like he didn’t want to go on.  I told him that there was no way I was going to let him DNF (Did Not Finish) the same race twice in one day.  He let out huge laugh and I knew we would get it done.  Looking back I am still so disappointed in myself for just giving up. I asked Jeff to read this before I posted it, his comment was that I didn’t cause him to quit at 50 miles, I caused him to finish the 100K.But I am thankful for friends like Matt that push you and friends like Jeff that will stick with you through the good and the bad. 

       The Great Allegheny Passage Marathon: Even a marathon finish is hard earned some days.  After not finishing the C&O Canal 100 Miler in Maryland, I searched for another race in the state so I can continue my progress on finishing a marathon or ultra in every state (currently at 32 states done.)  I found this reasonably priced marathon that landed on a Friday and signed up.  The race was capped at 75 people, which included a half and full marathon.  Some of the full marathoners dropped to the half after seeing the course.  It ran alongside a railroad track on a crushed stone surface.  It was 6.55 miles out and back, repeated twice.  It was all downhill on the way out, which felt wonderful- but the uphill return trip was rough.  The total elevation gain/loss for the marathoner was 2,072 feet.  Forty-nine of us started the race.  Twenty-four of us finished the marathon and twenty-five finished the half marathon. The first out and back of the race went by pretty uneventfully.  On my second trip out I started paying attention to how many runners were still on the course.  I realized that there were not all that many people ahead of me.  Now I’m not a fast runner, I’ve done a few good times at marathons, but this wasn’t going to be one of them.   I was within a half mile of the turn around point and a person running the other direction said to me, “Way to go first lady!”  I gave him a puzzled look.  At the next water stop I saw the race director.  He said the same thing to me.  I still didn’t get it and asked him what he was talking about.  He informed me that I was leading the race for the women’s division.    Well, now that is a new one.  Never had that happen before.  I ran along to the turn around and with shortly over a 10K left in the race I saw the next female runner and she was only a mile behind me.  Then I saw another lady right behind her!  It occurred to me that this might be my only chance to win the female division in a marathon.  So I ran as hard as I could to the finish.  I could hear the crunch of gravel behind me.  I didn’t want to look back.  I was afraid it was another lady runner, so I just kept pushing.  I crossed the finish line and a few seconds later so did the guy behind me.  He thanked me for being a rabbit for him to try to catch and pushing him along.  I was told that I was indeed the first female finisher of the marathon and fifth place overall!  Everyone asks what special award I got for finishing first.  I tell them that I didn’t get anything but the bragging rights.  I laughed later when I realized that the first place finisher’s time was two hours faster than mine.  

To sum up my year for 2015, I finished 8 marathons and 2 ultras this year.  I DNF’d two races.   I had a personal worst time at the hardest trail marathon east of the Mississippi River and I won a marathon.  I learned that your friends will push you and pull you along when you need it, even if you don’t deserve it.   I’m looking at new races and distance for 2016.  I have high hopes and big dreams.   If anyone says I dream to big, I just say they think too small.  If people aren’t laughing at your dreams, then your dreams aren’t big enough. 

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