I volunteered at Ontario Summit Trail Marathon (and half marathon) on Saturday. Watched my crew and other great people run, crush, and suffer through a brutal course and ridiculously humid and hot day. Hung out in the woods for 8 hours. Tried to keep hydrated while hydrating others. It was awesome.
My stomach was not awesome. As Saturday went on, my stomach felt more like poop. It became the only thing I worried about for Cayuga. If my stomach could feel normal again, I’d be good to go. I eventually left Ontario Summit Races to drive to Ithaca and picked up my race packet. Matt B followed me. We then drove to the motel (Grahaven) which was super awesome, and the rest of the crew eventually arrived. Next step was food. I was scared to eat because of the state of my stomach. But burritos happened anyway.
I convinced Matt to drive us to wegmans. I bought some Kambucha and pepto. Kambucha does amazing things. Sleep happened sometime around 12am, or later… don’t remember.
2:30am came fast. Got ready. Coffee and oatmeal. Left for Robert Treman State Park by 5am.
Race start: No time goals. The week coming up to this day consisted of me figuring out what my goal should be. I needed a simple a goal. I wanted to think about it as little as possible. So I decided I wanted to feel good for more than half of this race. That was the goal.
Matt B taking pics of me at the start.
I started easy. Felt comfortable through the first 2 aid stations. Just after getting through the underpass aid station, you run through some water. I proceeded without caution. Unknowing that it would be 3 feet deep. I fell. Both calf’s cramped up. I couldn’t move. I sat in the water holding my legs, while I was surrounded by photographers, and runners asking if I was ok. Apparently my face of pain, looked like I was laughing. Two guys behind me grabbed me by the arms and helped me up, told me I had to keep moving. People are awesome. That was mile 7/8ish. I was convinced my race was over, I was in for a day of suffering.
About a mile or less later, you come to the first huge climb. My calf’s were still tight. I used the 550 ft climb to stretch them out, which actually worked really well.
First 8 miles. (GPS was off by 3 ish miles by the end of the race)
It’s hard to remember little details after that. Around mile 12 you go down the 500 ft of stairs. My only thought was that I would eventually have to go up this twice. Great.
Eventually I stopped being conservative, and would run hard when I felt good. Walk hills when I had to. Walk stairs.
I found myself being able to run for long stretches. There were long periods of downhill running, which was super fun. Most of the course was completely runnable. All of it was beautiful. I took in every second of it – loved almost every minute.
My goal of feeling good for 50k was succesful. But barely made it. I fell apart between underpass aid station and Buttermilk the second time. I wasn’t looking at my watch at all until now. I looked and expected to see 36 or so miles. My watch said 32. It had to be wrong.
There was a distinguished moment where I felt tired. Sleepy. I knew it was a food thing. It started pouring. I got cold. I got sad. Where was Coach. Where was buttermilk? Why is this taking so long… I thought about my crew. I thought about #trailsroc. All I wanted to do was stop, and curl up in a ball and cry.
I was a mess. I really didn’t want people to see me like this. I knew any minute I would get there, so I’d pull myself together, but fall apart again. Things started looking familiar, I heard things. I was close. I turned a corner and Mike was waiting for me. He asked me something, I managed some noises and tried to smile. Saw Matt B next, then Chris and Jeff. There was one thing I kept thinking about coming up to this. I think this is a Dean quote.
“The ultramarathon doesn’t build character, it reveals it…. no communication is ever more real, no expression ever more honest.”
I thought of this when I felt good, when I felt sad. And every time it made it hard to breath. Everytime I thought about Mike Welden. Matt Bertrand. Chris O’Brien. Jeff Green. 4 people who were following me through the woods all day. Made it to every aid station – Twice. Never missed me. Overwhelming amount of love I feel for these people.
The cheers from #trailsroc made me totally forget I wanted to sit down. I told Ron I was freaking out. Told Matt I think I needed my gloves. Mike ran and got them for me. I stood there holding them with useless swollen, and wet hands. Matt failed at putting them on for me. Danielle Snyder succeeded. I don’t remember much of what was said there – but I remember it being pretty hilarious. I stole a salt tab, pickle, m&m’s and a couple of oreos – and was on my way again. It was gonna be a long 13 mile walk back to the finish… so I thought.
The trail back from Buttermilk aid station was pretty much all down hill. At some point I started running, and didn’t stop until I got to back to underpass. I was feeling good. Mike gave me the last salt tab. I think I had a few terra chips. Probably some more Oreos. Crew told me I could break 10 hours. I wanted to. It’d be close, but I knew the stairs were coming up soon. I told the crew I was about to go crawl up them – I was serious.
I ran most of the way to the epic stair climb. I hugged the side of the stairs, using my hands to take the weight off my legs. Walked up sideways. Told innocent bystanders to not mind my ridiculousness. Where were photographers now? Why didn’t I crawl up the first time? This was so much easier, and the stairs flew by.
I couldn’t remember if there was another aid station after the stairs, or if I was in for the home stretch. But soon enough I was at Old Mill aid station. I flew by the crew. Heard Mike say some words like “take it” or something. Ok. I didn’t stop. Ran by the aid station. These last few miles were all downhill… supposedly. I wanted sub 10. There were hills. I ran up them. Then there were more stairs… I looked at my watch. Not gonna happen. But I tried to get as close as possible.
I had passed this guy from Toronto after the last aid station – and he eventually caught back up to me. He asked me what I ate at the last aid station to make me fly by him. I said nothing. But I said I had a pickle earlier. We ran together for the last 2 miles, and I pulled ahead of him for the finish. Finishing didn’t seem real. This day didn’t seem real. Finish time said 10:08.
Photo by Matt B
Things I fueled with (I can’t remember what order):
Picky bar was first (after 45 minutes).
Water. A chocolate cliff gel. Half of another picky bar.
Oreos. M&M’s. Salt tabs and more water. Lots of water.
1 pickle. Terra chips.
Things I learned:
– Being able to laugh at yourself, and find humor in the hardest obstacles is a powerful tool. The minute you feel sorry for yourself, you lose.
– I recognised that my emotional state was a lack of calories.
Knowing this helped me keep moving, and once I replaced the sugar and salt,
I was good to go.
– Make simple goals.
Things I should have done different:
– Eat more pickles.
After I finished I went to return my tracking chip. USL.TV had live tracking and broadcasting of the event. They asked if I would do a quick interview. I struggled with the idea of talking… but sure. Why not. I did plenty of embarrassing, and ridiculous things already… whats one more.
Photo thanks to creeper Chris :p
I’m overwhelmed with the amount of support I had at the event and from home. I learned that Kyle and his parents were all watching the live tracking, and videos. His parents had seen me on the screen a few times.
If Facebook could explode – it did on Sunday. I wanted to sit there are “like” every single comment. Thank every single person. But a “like” and thank you didn’t seem like enough. Instead… no words. No words can describe the weekend, other than … Not real. Rochester is awesome. #trailsroc and Medved, Roads are poisen, Trailmethods – Thank you – I’d be a lonely runner without you.