I’m sorry for the delay in posting my Free State race report, but there were several factors involved in this and one was definitely school. But there’s a little more order now, and I’ve got a few minutes to spare so I’ve decided to type it up.
This race was amazing. Amazingly marked; amazingly organized; amazing volunteers at aid stations; and amazing people participating in the race. Definitely off the scales if I had to rate it. I never went into the race thinking it will be boring, but some of us know the course so well that I thought it’d get a bit tedious out there. That totally was not the case.
We started at a turn-around point for 15 or so miles when we run it on Saturdays. This was cool because it’s a small, narrow gravel road that takes you down to the lake and it’s on an incline (up or down, depending on where your point-of-reference is; if at the start, down. If on the trail, up). The nifty thing is that because it’s on an incline from the trail, I could never see over the top so I’ve always wondered where the gravel road leads. SoI was a bit excited when we started the race and I discovered that it was our 15-mile turn-around point. It was nice to know where I was, that’s for sure.
So we actually started where I prefer to run: the back half of the course. There’s just something more relaxing and more “trail-like” (whatever that means) and therefore I always prefer to run that portion if given the choice. So the first several miles were awesome, to say the least. Initially hung out with the group consisting of Coleen, Nick, Jonathon (the guy I’ve met a few times running on the trail–great guy, btw), Danny, Pat, and Debbie (I think both Debs). We were shootin’ the breeze for well over a mile and finally Nick said to step it up a notch and so we took off. For a few miles, it felt as if we were alone and everyone had taken off like a bat out of hell. But a few more miles into it, when we got the red trail which is very technical and full of large rocks near the lake, we caught damn near everyone, I believe. We are slightly experienced with the red trail, so we figured people would be going pretty slow in this area. Nick and I weren’t truckin’ it, but we ran it comfortably until we could no longer run because there were so many people walking up an incline near the first aid station at Land’s End. Those people took care of me, no doubt. Rick Mayo, an incredible ultrarunner, was my man for the day. That dude really made sure I got what I needed and saw to it that I felt great the entire race. So that first aid station I didn’t need a thing, so I ate some oranges (those things were the best thing since the invention of the MacBook Pro) and Nick and I were off. I don’t like spending time at aid stations; 2-3 minutes and I’m out.
Made it to the second aid station which is where we normally start our Saturday runs–the Army Corp of Engineers parking lot. This was also where my drop-box was located. When we got there, who do I see? Phil and Stacy Sheridan! These are the RDs for my recent Rockin’ K race. I can’t express in words how awesome and friendly they are. It’s almost ridiculous how awesome they are (in a good way, of course). So I shot the breeze with Stacy for a second while Mark and refilled my Nathan bladder (thanks again, Mark. You’re the man). To be honest, I had forgotten that my drop-box was located there, so I ate some oranges (let me again express how awesome they were) and then Nick and I were off again. It was no issue since I didn’t need anything from the box.
Heading back to the Land’s End aid station, there was nothing to report. Things were smooth and we had a nice pace. Once we got the the aid station, which was about 16.5 miles into the race, I ate, yep, you guessed it, some oranges (!!) and my boy Rick asked what I needed. He refilled my bladder with some cold water and said I had goose-bumps so I was low on electrolytes. I popped a few that I had on me and then he asked if I wanted some Coke. I agreed to the half-cup of caffeine and sugar. Moments later, Nick and I were off again. Three-and-a-half miles left to the start/finish (one loop; 20 miles).
The run there was, again, nothing out of the ordinary. We pulled in at a time of 3:30:00. So I was quite happy with our pace for the first loop. I thought for sure we’d get a sub-8 finish if we even slow down a bit on the second lap. When we brought it in I again had a few slices of oranges, dreamt a bit about the beer brats I’ll be tasting in a few hours (the ones Sophia had actually offered me while I was there! Tempting, but too early in the race for such solids. I told her the beer brats will be my prize for finishing, so please hold off on that idea ;-)), and we were off again.
The start of the second lap was going well until we were getting close to the Land’s End aid station again (26 miles into it). I started getting that hamstring/muscle-behind-the-knee pain again. Damn, I thought. “What the hell is this going on?!?!” Rick said to stretch it out while he refilled my bladder and I ate some oranges. I did and Nick and I were off again. I felt relatively good, although the pain was a pain in my a**. But I pushed through it and we made it to the CoE aid station again. This time Stacy had refilled my bladder and my handheld bottle while I was grabbing some Hammer gels from my box and also was trying to stretch out my hamstrings. By the time we were ready to roll out (this was mile 30), I knew I took too long at the aid station because when we started running again, my legs were stiff as a board, especially my problematic hamstring area and behind my left knee. Climbing at this point was the killer for me. Nick and I ran a few miles and I told him to take off because I was only holding him back with this pain of mine and my need to walk it off. So he did and I had time to dig deep and find out what I’m about. I’ll be honest, from that point I walked quite a bit, perhaps a good 5 miles because running was not happening for me. I was passed by several of the people that we had passed some time ago, so this wasn’t making me feel good. I kept thinking “time, time, time…” Then I finally said, “Dude, to hell with time. Just finish this thing.” I obviously had to walk the uphills, but every chance I got on the flat areas I ran, even if for 50 or 100 feet. I would tell myself, “Let’s make it to that tree there and then walk it off.” This happened until Land’s End. There, I came across Brett and Caleb. Brett is an incredibly great guy and he gave me the moral boost I needed since I only had 3.5 miles to go. He had mentioned when I was about to leave that I looked more energized on my way out than I did on the way in. I was broke down on the way in. And Caleb is another amazingly fast ultrarunner. He had helped me stretch out the pain in my hamstrings, I ate some orange pieces, and then Caleb said he’ll start out the run with me for a bit. His encouragement helped me as well. So thank you to Brett and Caleb. You guys rocked it when I was pretty low.
I was in pain, but I must have blocked it out because the last stretch from Land’s End I pretty much ran the entire time. In fact, I even caught up and left a dude that had passed me way earlier. This, too, helped my morale. I felt like a beast at this point (a beast in pain, mind you). The best feeling was coming over a slight hilly part of the course and seeing the gravel road indicating my uphill trek to the finish line! I felt amazing at that point. Before this point, I was envisioning coming into the finish and I would crash. In fact, the opposite happened. I came in and I felt great. I could’ve pushed several more miles if I needed to.
And here are some photos after coming in, also taken by the official race photographer, Dick Ross (we had forgotten the camera when we left in the morning, so these are the only ones I have, sorry).
So I finished the race in something like 8:35:00 or so (my watch was off and the results are not yet posted so I don’t know for sure). When I get the time, I’ll post it. But although it wasn’t a sub-8 I had hoped for, I’m happy because I pushed hard and suffered out there and got through it. That, to me, is what’s important. I can always focus on improving my time(s), but you can never improve on quitting due to your lack of pushing through the mental and physical pain.
If you were to come up to me in early January when I started running and said, “Dude, in April you will run a trail marathon (Rockin’ K of all to choose from, too!) and a 40-mile trail race,” I would’ve said you’re smokin’ some heavy stuff and you need to lay off of those drugs. Not a chance in this world I thought this would have been possible. But I want people to see that in not even four months you can transform into something you never even dreamed was possible. And how? Yes, with some training, but mostly with your mind. Like with anything else in this world, you must want it bad enough. You must want to do whatever it takes to get through it and not complain about it because you know it’s something you need to do, not for others, but for yourself. We all want to know what our purpose is on this earth and, maybe more importantly, what we are capable of accomplishing. But how does one do this? You test your limits, then you push them. When you push them, you’ll surpass them. And when you do that, you’ll feel like anything is possible. When you feel like anything is possible, your mindset immediately switches, as if it were a light switch and someone turned it on to show you the possibilities you have in this world as someone who has a healthy body, two arms, and two legs. If people who are less fortunate can surpass these limits, what is holding you back, the person who is healthy and has nothing to cry about? Yourself, that’s what’s holding you back.
I’m very happy to have done and finished the race, even though at the end there was some bad weather. We had a tornado warning come through at about the 10-hour mark. The tornado never touched down, but Clinton Lake got hit pretty bad with a storm. Fortunately everyone was safe and were all taken off the course in time. It is unfortunate that the 100k and some of the 40-mile people did not have a chance to finish.
Thanks to everyone at the race who had volunteered and thanks to my blogging friends who support me as well. You are all incredibly important in the journey we are all on, namely that of ultrarunning.
By the way – I essentially ran in the Vasque Blue SL’s out-of-the-box. No problems. In fact, they are awesome shoes. Way lighter than my Salomons. I may be hooked on them now. It’s pretty impressive to wear shoes out-of-the-box and immediately run 40M in them and be okay. They’ve got my vote of confidence.
EDIT: Time for the race was posted.