Wow! What a race.
I wasn’t proud of last year’s racing season. It caused me to question if I wanted to continue with ultra running, resume triathon’s/duathlons or try something completely different. (Some of those other ideas are still brewing, but that is for another blog). But, the BoB cemented in my mind that not only do I love ultras, but also I love them for reasons greater than just running.
The race really started for me on Friday night. About 20 of us got together for dinner. I know many of these people from racing with them or from their volunteering. Running with someone makes friendships form faster and deeper than is possible in other situations. It was nice to see them “with their clothes on” vs. in race gear. I had a blast! As I drove away that night, I was thinking that I just wanted to skip the race and turn around and hang some more.
As I am currently unable to stop time, race morning did arrive. I reconnected with my friends, but this morning was different. There are many details to attend to and game faces to be put on. I was relaxed and without a pre-conceived notion of what the day would bring. I set no time goal for myself. My only goal was to keep my mind positive for as long as I was going to be out on that trail.
The starting sound (whatever it was) went over my head. Suddenly I realized that everyone was moving. There is a funny picture my friend Jim took with me, a full 25 seconds after the race started, finally getting my feet moving. It turned out to be a blessing. Rather than trying to get a position and keeping a pace that is too fast for me to begin a long race with, I was able to keep my pace. Hey, that’s new for me. Normally I go out too fast, have a hard time keeping the pace, get frustrated with myself by mile four, cry, and then start to run my race. I think I may be on to something.
The other great thing being oblivious to the start did, was it put me right smack dab in with my friends. Normally, since I’ve gone out too fast, my friends catch up to me during recovery from crash and burn. Not this time. I ran with Karen, Chris, Marco and Gil for a full 12.5 miles. I had to keep reminding myself it was a race. We laughed, sang (thank you Marco) and plodded along at a very comfortable pace. It was so nice we more or less stayed together for the 12.5 back (minus Karen—her legs were going to carry her on a very fast race.) We had a very fast first loop.
There is one section of the course where you can see the runners entering the next loop while you are finishing yours. That is when I saw Gary. He was hard to miss with his Stitch gloves, Homer bathing suit, and some sort of green hat that floated behind him when he ran.
Gary joined our herd as well as our pacer Jim. Jim’s heart wanted to be a registered runner for this race, but his hip wouldn’t let him. So instead, he became “that guy”. Not only did he set up tents and man aid stations, but also he organized Friday’s dinner and paced runners. Seems like whenever I needed something, there he was. I am ever so grateful.
Jim took us to mile 37.5. I let Marco and Gary go ahead as (I thought) they both had 100-mile goals. Chris was valiantly facing a foot injury challenge, and moving at her own pace.
I have never had such great company during an event. It made the miles fly by and it felt more like a social gathering. But, now I set myself up for the challenge of running alone. This is the part of a race where it can get really dark emotionally. I wanted to see what I could take, and I was proud of myself. I wanted to test myself. I wanted to see if I could stay emotionally strong without supports. I’m happy to say that I kept to my goal of staying positive for (almost) the whole race. Lessons learned earlier from Karen were put to good use.
I met up with Marco and Gary just before I finished. They looked road weary, but physically ready to go on. And go on they would. Gary, who I thought was running the 100-mile race, was really registered for the 50. He stayed with Marco for an additional 25 miles. See what I mean about friendships formed while running? And Marco---that crazy Chinaman with the Italian name, he went on to finish the 100 mile race. (His second of the year). He is now the proud owner of the “Double Beast” buckle. Congratulations my friend.
As for me, when I crossed the finish line---there was Jim. He set me up with a chair and an orange juice and I felt wonderful. I got to talk to Sam the race director and shared with him that this was my favorite ultra ever. I know my body would have carried me for another 25 miles, as I was not sore (minus a small blister and a toenail I know I’ll be saying goodbye to soon). More importantly, I was ready to emotionally commit to going longer.
I leave the Beast with a rejuvenated feeling. I know that running with friends made all the difference in my attitude and performance during the race. It has given me the confidence that I can and will go longer than I have before.