Plants First, Fish Next

The original intent of this journal was to chronicle the trials and tribulations of the struggling twenty-something, as I searched for love and happiness in the small city-burb of ManchVegas, NH. Now, I'm thirty-something, I've found love in many forms, happiness in even more, and now the struggle is just... well... life. And finding time to do the million and one things I want to do- including writing.

Monday, October 04, 2010

VT 50, 2010: Run with Love

Sometimes I put too much pressure on myself. It's in my nature. I was training to run 13 miles in the mountains of VT. Not JUST run it, but run it in time for two other people, one of them my DAD, to run 37 miles within a cutoff time so our team wouldn't be disqualified. This was the first race where the finishing time mattered. And it was killing me. I was psyched to be on a team with dad, but half my training runs would involve me breaking down at some point when it was super hard (we're talking 2-4 mile runs here) and sobbing, knowing in my heart that I'd fail.

This same self-pressure followed me all the way to Vermont. Heading to Mt. Ascutney to pick up our race packets, the foliage was gorgeous, the sun was shining through the clouds, and I started crying. The mountains were so high... I'd have to run those... I was cracking under pressure- with all the beauty around me my face was leaking with worry. And I wasn't the only one.

The VT 50 run- it's about family. I crewed My Runner at the VT 50 last year with his Pops. VT 50 is the first ultra My Runner ever did- at the urging of his Pops. 2010 is his 11th year here. Puma had run the 50k twice and was trying for her very first 50 miler. My Runner and Sherpa shared miles here, and Sherpa was here today for what is possibly his final VT run before he and his lovely wife move West.
At Long Trail Brewery, post- first-freakout cry, pre- second.

Pops couldn't make it this year. Depending on the moment it was disappointing and devastating. I was really hoping Pops could meet my Dad and Sherpa and Puma and everyone- we could all share some time. Lil' Bro was supposed to come with Pops, running in a leg of the relay.

As My Runner, Puma, my Dad, his buddy Ed (Dad and Ed and I making up Team Patriot) gathered in the dimly lit tent in the pre-dawn hours on race day, I realized that no matter who was THERE, this race is about family. We run into Sandel and say our hi's, and GillyGirl, who was pulled at mile 47 last year and is back for her vengeance. People who have run with Pops come up to us, recognizing My Runner and tell stories of his Pops. My Dad and I stand around sharing nervous energy. We chat with others who have notable race shirts on. Trail runners- Ultra runners- it's one big, extended family. My mood lightens and it's time to line up at the start.
The Larch.  The.... Larch. 
Nah... it's a Maple.  Or maybe an Oak? Eh.  Lookit the pretty leaves!!

I line up with My Runner, Puma, Sherpa, and GillyGirl. We're all hopping about in the blue light before the sun breaks over the horizon. Nervous, excited, ready to go- runners always remind me of horses pawing the ground. You'd think, from TV or something, there'd be some sort of grand send off- a starter gun or a buzzer or something. Nope. Out here in VT it's just some guy shouting "Go!" "Go?" "Did he say go?" "Are we going?" "Yeah! Go!" and we're off.

Puma's running a full 50 miles. I was hoping to share a few of the first miles with her, but she's conserving and she's back a bit not long after the start. I share the first few miles with Sherpa, GillyGirl, and My Runner, chatting, sharing dirty jokes, and belching up breakfast (blueberry bagel with peanut butter anc chocolate Boost... not so good on the way up as the way down...). One thing trail and long-distance runners have above road-runners is the ability to really share the miles- chatting eases the burden of time and lightens the load. I mean, when you're out there for 12ish hours, you gotta talk to SOMEONE, right?

Sherpa runs on ahead. GillyGirl is a bit ahead, but I keep her red skirt in sight on the straight-aways. My Runner hangs back to urge me on. It's hard, but I'm going. The concern of the last few months is gone- too late to worry now. The fastest way out is to finish my 12.3 mile leg. I chat with some others around me. Met a guy from Virginia up in New England for the first time running. A woman who has been leap frogging with me has run this leg of the relay before with a team from work- she's probably 10 years older and 70 lbs heavier, but she's keeping up with me, if not passing me, a lot. I admire her and vow to train my ASS off... sooon... My Runner waits for me every now and then, giving great encouragement and advice.

In a moment of mouth-diarrhia the previous day, I noted that Vermont was a "bumpy" state. On race day, I got to know just HOW bumpy. The hills were HARD- even though I was fast-hiking up them rather than running. Still, looking at my watch I was making great time- getting into aid stations before the time that would mark a 12-minute mile (my super-goal; my realistic goal was 14-minute miles). I was about 3-2 miles from the end of my leg when I started cramping up in my torso on the downhills. I think I was tensing so I wouldn't fall and hurt my ankle again, but man it made breathing hard. I ended up walking a great flat running stretch just to let the cramps subside.
GillyGirl and me heading up one of VT's "bumps"

I got into Skunk Hollow (the 12.3 mile aid station) having done 11:40-ish minute miles. As I came in I saw my Dad, raised my arms up high, and shouted with joy. Seeing his big smile as he snapped a photo was awesome! His leg was next, so I grabbed his jacket and camera, we hugged and high-fived, and he was off. My Runner had grabbed some food and water and was ready to get back out for the rest of his 50 miles, so I gave him a quick kiss and sent him on his way.
Me and My Runner heading into Skunk Hollow.
Please don't sue me.  I'd pay for this photo if I wasn't touching my boob by accident.

Team Patriot had a great day. My Dad achieved his goal time for his leg of 19ish miles. He was thoroughly back in love with New England as he finished his leg. The spectacular views from the course and the almost peak foliage combined with a cool clear day would have made ANYONE fall in love with New England. Ed was our ace-in-the-hole, though, passing something like 5-7 relay team runners in his 18 mile leg. I'm a little sad I didn't get to see him finish, but My Runner had asked me to run him in the last 3 miles.
oooOOoooo.... purdy....

As I reunite with My Runner he's thinking he can hit a PR. I'm happy and proud of him. We head up the back of Mt. Ascutney to some truly beautiful trail, and My Runner, who's just run 47 miles, is KICKING MY ASS. I do my best to keep up and not slow him down. He seems happy for the company and wants the time to keep him going. We chat, I pant on the uphills and recover on the downs. We pass a LOT of people- he's shifting into gear.

I feel the downhill cramping but fight through it. As we emerge onto the ski slopes and start doing the backs and forths, My Runner asks, "Is that Sherpa ahead?" I grunt agreement (cramping) and he plans to sneak up and pass him- the finish is about half a mile away. Though I can't see his face, I know all too well the impish (ok, shit-eating) grin on his face... as Sherpa turns shocked to see My Runner there. Smelling blood he kicks it in and zooms down the slope. I know I can't follow at even a respectable speed so I duck out of the course and go straight down the hill, meeting up with My Runner, my Dad, and Ed in the tent near the finish.
My Runner smelling blood.  He's ready to kick some ASS!
 
I managed a smile for this one.

I've reunited with my team. There's a lot of family here, as Mr. and Mrs. Strong have come to watch people finish. Puma's here, having run strong 31 miles before missing a cutoff and being pulled. She seems a bit disappointed, but more so determined to do better next time. We head back to the cars and Dad breaks out some beer for us all to share while we catch up on our experiences and wait for GillyGirl to finish.

In the parking lot sharing some beers I could see how well I really did- and how much I stressed unnecessarily over this run. It drove me forward in my training but I directed energy to worry rather than to powering my body and readying my mind.

VT 50 was WAY outside my comfort zone. But my family had my back. They always had. And while I knew, I didn't really KNOW. Like doing a trust falls, I just had to relax and know that no matter what happened, win or loose, "fail" or not fail, they've got me. I'll never truly fail as long as I keep the love.

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1 Comments:

  • At 4:28 PM , Blogger Heather said...

    Hahaha. "lease don't sue me. I'd pay for this photo if I wasn't touching my boob by accident."

    Good job, girl. And remember, you're doing this for fun and fitness. If it ever starts feeling shitty, you need a serious "Come to Jesus" talk with yourself. Or me. Or Jesus.

     

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