Sunday, April 17, 2011

Tornado Miles in Hampton

“Jay, hi. Do you have a floor?” I called my friend Jay in a flurry of exhaustion.

“Miss Moran, it is past your bedtime.” [It was 9:20 p.m.] “And yes, I have a floor.”

“Okay because I was just running and was going to keep running and then there was this tomato thing…tornado, oops. So I stopped and need to sleep, like on a floor.”

Jay was unphased, because he’s my friend and he just gets me. For some people, I’d probably have to explain, “Yeah, I was running for 83 miles because I needed to train, and then there were tornadoes. And I go to sleep at 9:15 p.m.” But Jay already knows these things, and he didn’t find any of this unusual. I slept on his couch, and left at sunrise. But before this happened, a bunch of things occurred.

A couple of months ago, Shannon McGinn sent me a facebook message asking if I would like to join her relay team this weekend at the Happy Pace Race 24-Hour Run in Sandy Bottom Nature Park in Hampton, Virginia. She thought we could easily break the team record, and—at only 553 miles—I agreed. I needed a low-key build-up run around this time, and it’s tough to convince yourself to go for a 75-mile run on your own. So I signed up, and it went like this:

“Nine ten!” I sang out my bib number as I approached the finish line attendants. I was about 30 miles into the race at that point, reporting my lap completion. Up until that point, I wore a cotton tee, but as I finished this lap, I pulled it over my head to exchange it for a technical tee. I was covered in dirt and inchworms and could taste my red Powerade mustache. “I’m pretty,” I said and bounded into the team tent.

“Guess what!” I found Charles West, our crew captain. “My first marathon was a Boston qualifier, in honor of Boston Marathon weekend.” He laughed and told me I should eat. Shot Bloks and Powerade, check check.

Passing through the aid station, I grabbed a Nuun tablet and some water. I bit one-third of the tablet and took a swig of water, just as I passed a group of boys about my age. I smiled, and foam erupted from my face. I will say this: Never put an ENTIRE Nuun tab into your mouth because you’d probably end up with a cleft palate. They're supposed to be mixed with water. “Oh, great,” I thought. “I am foaming at the mouth, and now everybody is going to think I have rabies.”

I got a second wind, just as a cold front entered and the winds picked up. So much wind took place. It’s like my inner life was written into the structure of the troposphere. I felt confident in my strength. I have been in the weight room a lot lately, and a strong however makes a difference. “However” is a euphemism for “butt.” You’re welcome.

Hours passed, and the runners quieted in introspection. I ran by a couple (holding hands! cute!) and the man nodded toward me, “This girl is unreal.” Probably this was meant as a compliment, but I had been inside my head for so long that it launched an existential crisis. Oh, my gosh. What if he’s right, and I’m not real? There’d be no way of knowing…

When I got into the 70s, sleepy tiredness overwhelmed me. Shannon happened upon me in a root-filled back-stretch of the trail. She asked me if I needed anything. "I'm dreaming of ice coffee," I muttered.

Shannon is an art therapist. I think she's good with emotions. She smiled, affirming my discomfort. "Why is it that...you feel you need ice hockey?" I laughed and enunciated, and a lap later I was chugging an ice coffee, which we had at our aid station! Score! I gulped the coffee, pouring it down my face and shirt as I drank, like a Corporate America version of a Gatorade commercial.

Then the storms came. The course was surrounded on either side by bodies of water and several open field areas, which became flooded. Lightening flashed repeatedly, punctuating the obscurity of nightfall. It was terrifying. On the far side of the course, I approached a glowing phantasm. It was a woman, hiding with her headlamp inside of a pale pink poncho and walking slowly...in the wrong direction. "Come on!" I called, when I figured out she was a human. "This is not safe." The race course was temporarily closed due to lightening and tornadoes touching down in the area.

Inside the weather shelter, Team Awesome tallied our miles and found out we had achieved our goal! We already had the record, 13 hours in, and finished the day with 813.25 miles. With the goal secured and no real individual investment outside of the team record, most of us headed off. Shannon stayed behind and ran, finishing in 83.5 miles. I was later surprised to hear my 83-miler landed me 2nd woman among the 24-hour field. Honestly, what a cool day. Thanks so much to George Nelsen, the RD. It was a fun, well-organized, low-key perfect day. And way to go Team Awesome! :)
(I love this photo. RD George is beckoning us forth to run.)

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Time Out: Hamster Wheeling.

Psychologists often draw a distinction between two people going for a walk together, versus two people walking side-by-side in the same direction. In the first case, there is shared intentionality. In the second case, there is vacant simultaneity. I think about this when I'm on the elliptical next to non-runners, or really, doing any sort of focused training alongside non-competitive athletes. Their pursuits, often analogous in form, differ in telos. Because in the same act, we have different motivations.
Basically, what I'm saying is I miss running with shared intentionality. I need more ultrarunners in my life.

This weekend, I am traveling down to Virginia to run in the Happy Pace Race 24-Hour Ultra Relay. I am SO EXCITED about the ultra-bonding. It is supposed to rain. Bring it. Bring the rain.

The Happy Pace Race is held on a 5K loop course in the Virginia hardwood forests of Hampton, Virginia. The course is flat and about as untechnical as running across your living room. You just run loops for a day. It's like voluntary hamster-wheeling. BRAIN: DISENGAGE. This is so exciting.

I ran it last year for a casual 60-mile long run with periodic fartleks in my mileage rebuild between Umstead and Old Dominion. It went like this. But this year, I'm running as a part of a relay.

Our team is awesome. Literally. Our appellation is "Team Awesome." I did not name us. I'd rather we be called Team Humble and let the other people evaluate us. In high school, I competed on a quadrathlon team called Team Amazingly Good-Looking, and I worried that the people would judge our aesthetics, rather than our performance. The most beautiful quality in a person is humility. The second most beautiful is monster quads.
(No, wrong. Not that kind of quad. I'm talking about leg quads: monstrous leg quads.)

I am especially excited about how this race fits into my upward build toward the summer races.

Last year, my race distances went like this:
(Big guy, medium guy, big guy, big guy, little guy, big guys)

This year, I'm racing like this:
(Little guy, little guy, little guy, medium guy, big guy, big guy, big guy...medium guy)

It is sort of a crescendo. I have lots of little guys early on to grow in racing confidence without burning out. The year will end (if all goes well) on Masochist to try to get a Western States bid again.
Okay, GO. Have a great week, and good luck to everyone racing Boston this weekend!

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Babooshka Monday

Here is an argument for heightened focus in athletics, as depicted by a real incident in my life. (Thanks for capturing this, Anna.)

I was a camp counselor for three summers. It was the best time of my life. On Babooshka Monday (a holiday we invented), my friend Liz and I were singing Fiddler on the Roof out the door of the cabin.
The sun was shining. It was a beautiful day, and we had 15 minutes free before dinner. Liz challenged me to a tetherball match.

1. The match begins.

2. The volley.

3. The distraction.

4. Struck in the face!

5. The apology hug.

Have a very nice day. Please remember to focus.