Having fun?


So, the night before Oil Creek, I leaned over to Roger and I said, “if one more person tells me to ‘have fun’, I’m going to lose it.”  He looked at me, like I had lost my mind. It didn’t take him long to realize that I HAD lost my mind. 

Oil Creek gets in my head like no other race.  I train hard for it, and it is in my mind during every race I do.  Heck, I even dream about it.  Have fun?  Not a chance. 

I was obsessing about pace, and gear, and weather, and bears.  I was going to attempt the 100-mile distance, and KNEW I could get the job done in 34 hours.  The problem was that I was only given 32.  (Roger—you know you were out of your mind telling me 30, right?)

The race started at 5 am.  Rog had been telling me to stay on his shoulder from the start until sunrise or AS1.  I stood right next to him, and lost him immediately.  Dammit.  I was worried (imagine that) about the condition of the trail, as it had rained much of the week prior.   Things were slick, and I saw lots of turned ankles and heard many cuss words.  That’s okay, I was totally focused on the set of calves in front of me, which I directed my headlamp at.  Pretty quickly, I arrived at the first aid station.  I was with a group of runners, and I yelled out, “has anyone seen Roger?”  There he was, right behind me. 

We stayed within a few minutes of each other for the first 15 miles.  I was envious of his trekking poles  (I left mine in the car) and he taught me how to run with them.  We arrived at the aid station and soon found different paces.  I knew he was running about 15 minutes ahead of me, and I finished the first loop right on target. 

I saw Rog heading out on his second loop.  He was in his zone.  Way to fly, Superman!

I made (the wrong) decision to keep my poles in the car.  The one was acting temperamental, and I thought it would give me more trouble.  I had a slow start to section 2.  Food was going in slowly, and I knew I had some climbs right off of the bat.   I muddled my way through and ran pretty solidly until Aid Station 2.   (First bear sighting, about 15 feet from me, kept my pace solid).  I picked up a walking stick, which helped immensely.  I wanted to get some decent nutrition in me and finish the Heisman Hill climb before sunset.  Okay---easily done.  

Section 3 is LONG!  It is almost 9 miles without aid.  I had been alone on the trail since about 9 am and the only humans I had spoken to were aid station workers. It was getting to me, and it was getting DARK.  It was a new moon, and a cloudy sky.  My world was limited to what I could see in my headlamp.   I went down a couple times in this section and I have the scars to prove it. 

Finally, section 4.  Up Cemetery Hill (I friggin’ HATE that hill), over Roc’s Revenge and 6 miles of trail until the 2 miles of road to complete the loop.   If I could make it back by 11 pm, it was all systems go, for loop three.

Then I looked at my watch, and I panicked.  It was getting close.  Dammit.  The thoughts in my head went wild; I was constantly calculating pace (as I had been doing all day) and really beating myself up.  Finally, at about mile 58, I decided I needed to take control of myself.   I stopped.

I just plain stopped.  I stopped moving.   I stopped thinking.  I just stopped.  I did a sun salutation, and centered myself.  I decided I would let my running decide the race for me.  If I gave it all I had, and got back to the aid station by 11, I would go on.  If not, I was going to get too close to the cut–offs, and I would call it a night.   Game on---second bear sighting---sigh. 

I got off of the trail at 11, with 2 miles to go.  Dammit!  I missed it, but it was close.    I was really conflicted during that time as to what to do.  I had to follow where my heart was taking me.  Almost as a gift from Mother Nature, the sky opened up--big punishing raindrops.  Okay, 100k it is.

I got to the final aid station, and told them I was out.   They tried (as they always do) to talk me out of it.  Then the EMS guy came over, looked at where the trail had kissed me and said, “Dear, I think you lost this fight”.  I needed those words.  They let me off of the hook.

I realized a few things camping that night.  I realized that I know what I am doing.  I did a lot of things right.   I know how to run the 100-mile distance, but, I am better at flat courses.  I have done a trail 100, but I wasn’t chasing the clock.   That damned clock.  Even in this race, it wasn’t the trail that beat me, it was the clock. 

I’m by far not done with 100’s, even trail 100’s.  I’d rather try ‘em and see how I can do, than sit them out.  As for OC 100---outlook cloudy, ask again later (ROGER-At least a DAY, geesh!)

The next morning, I got up and watched my friend cross the finish line.  I was so very proud of him.  One of the first things he said was “that was the hardest thing I’ve ever done”.  He was beat up, with some pretty serious gashes.  He smelled, he was exhausted, and frankly my friend, you've looked better.  But, his eyes sparkled, and (I know I shouldn’t share this) he smiled! It was then and there I realized, this IS fun!

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