Monday, January 2, 2012

Freedom Park 24-Hour

Do you know what the lamest thing is? When you decide to celebrate a new year by running for a day, you're celebrating a new year with one less day because you've already spent one. It's 0.274% less of a celebration than everybody else gets who didn't spend that day celebrating the year.

About a month ago, I saw this sign on the school bulletin board. After doing a double take, I realized I had confused the term “sedentary” with “dysentery.” You can’t be healthy and have dysentery. You just can’t. I re-read it and wondered if I qualified as sedentary.

I don’t, it turns out. ‘Sedentary’ is unambitious and sets its floor lower than the 10-30 miles per day I had been running, but I was more sedentary than I have ever been in the past. I was certainly on a mileage cutback, without any over-distance days, which was enough to make me doubt my training. Fortuitously, about a week later, Annette Bednosky emailed Anne Lundblad and me and asked if we would be interested in competing with her at the Freedom Park 24-Hour race. Girls just want to have fun, and Annette and Anne are some of the coolest people you could ever run with for a day, so we all agreed. I knew they could kick my ‘however,’ though.

‘However’ is a euphemism for ‘butt.’ They could kick my butt. The problem with euphemisms is that you always think of the original thing that you were trying to avoid saying.

On New Year’s Eve day, the three of us stood side-by-side on the starting line. Anne (an Inov-8 teammate) and I wore matching uniforms. The three of us are about the same height with similar temperaments and dark brown curly-ish hair, so I wondered whether we had chosen ultramarathoning or if ultramarathoning had chosen us.

We started the race together—the three of us—plus Jonathan Savage. Anne is a very tactical, smart runner, so she soon broke off into her own rhythm. Annette and I plowed ahead, letting the early hours of enthusiasm guide our pace in a conservative, but lively, trot. It was wonderful to catch up. She is SO GREAT. I always start off faster in these events and anticipate a positive split. It’s because I’m not a lady of the evening. That’s a euphemism for ‘street walker,’ but I only meant to say that I prefer going to sleep at 9 p.m. and am demoralized by the nightfall. Annette hung strong, then cut back, and I began a back-and-forth circle crossover with Anne, who was just a couple of laps back. I knew I was leading the field—men and women—but don’t count your chickens before they hatch. Anything can happen in a twenty-four hour run. Actually, so many things happen during a 24-hour run.
I got a sunburn over winter break. Take that, Connecticut.

Central happenings

There was a man with high-waisted pants that flared and an orange and blue modification of the Union Jack on his helmet. He biked, facing us, making us run around him. There was also an agility tire in an open field that appeared to be levitating at dawn and at dusk. Maybe it was. There was a man in the grass, lying there and taking pictures of us. I have been reading Orwell’s 1984, and in my mental fatigue, I assumed he was affiliated with Big Brother. I got mud on my sneakers and immediately looked down and said, "Aw, you're okay. You're okay." That is so attentive and motherly. Or incorrect and anthropomorphic? The race field was small but wonderful. There were many friendly exchanges all day long. An older man tipped off his hat and said he couldn’t keep up with me on a bicycle. People were affirming. There wasn’t any compulsion to be nice either. It was not like, “You’re pretty...Can I borrow your Hegel notes?” or “I like your hair...Do my calculus?”

The week before Christmas, I visited Dallas and was lovingly persuaded in the direction of being more attentive to my allergies. (Thanks, Littles!) I have never felt physically better during one of these events. Typically, after 70-80 miles, my stomach goes south. This time, I avoided gluten, nuts, and soy and never became ill. Imagine that.

Hours 4-15, I maintained approximately the same pace, and at 15 hours, 30 minutes, I crossed 100 miles. This felt special because it was a PR by 45 minutes and the 6th fastest 100-miler by a woman in North American history. So I’m not actually sedentary. But mentally, I fell short this time.

By the time I crossed 100 miles, I had been inside of my head for a long time. I’ve become the master of sublimation and am the most industrious when life is hard. But though I am fairly adept at keeping my mind busy, I couldn’t do it yesterday. Conversations had long ago ceased, and many runners had headphones on or were plodding through quietly. I ran another two miles and motioned to my brother. I told him I was thinking about our mom. He put a blanket over my shoulders, and we walked and talked for a mile. Mentally, I was out of the race. I felt dignity in what I had completed and decided to step away from the run, at the time still in the lead.

When I left, Anne looked incredible. She was strong and moving well, and from what I hear, she continued that way and had a big PR. I was happy to get to know her better and to meet her husband Mark, another Inov-8 teammate. Wonderful people, incredible athletes.

When I have a little more distance from the mess of the fall, I will be running a race as a fundraiser for the National Ovarian Cancer Coalition. Information will be posted here soon.

And here we go.

My body feels unstiff, and I'm motivated! I have mixed feelings of accomplishment and incompletion. Sometimes you run 103 miles and feel kind of lazy. But that’s ultramarathoning, and mediocrity is contextual. This is an encouraging way to open January. My focus of 2012 will be 100s and 24s, with a possible 48-hour (if I can get over the fact that after 36 hours of wakefulness, your neurons start to die). I am going to find another race to parlay the fitness acquired here into. I am so thankful for my brother and my dad. It was really fun to travel down there with them. Thanks, Inov-8, for letting Anne and me look cool and have stellar footwear. Thanks, DryMax, for miraculously keeping my feet undamaged. Thanks, 2XU, for quad compression. Thanks also, David Lee, for putting on a fun, well-supported race. I will be back. Others should, too. The Morganton night sky is clear. You can see the Big Dipper.

In the words of my brother, “Surprisingly, this sport is more boring than NASCAR.”

No, seriously, you guys. Everybody [who is a preteen girl] does self-takes in mirrors.

Happy New Year! Happy Trails.


  1. 15:30!!! Wow. Just wow. You are so beyond incredible. :)

  2. Fantastic! That's one heck of a way to ring in the new year! Congratulations!

  3. what gentry said! seriously, so happy for you sabrina! hope to see you soon!! ((HUG))

  4. Wow! Great run!! So good to read your report and hear that you're doing well and that the run went so well. 100 miles in 15.5 hours, AMAZING!! Best wishes in 2012!!

  5. Congrats on an amazing run record, and good for you letting go when you knew it was time. Can't wait to see what 2012 holds for you.

  6. ...and I'm sure, in some way, your mother was thinking about you. How inspirational. Congratulations and Happy New Year.

  7. Spectacular way to start the year! And it's good to hear Anne's back in form. Plus, now there's another race to add to my list, if I want to get royally chicked. ;)

  8. Jeez, Sabrina-How can you keep making me laugh, even through tears as I read your blogging?
    You are a courageous woman with a generous spirit and a hell of a lot of spit fire and tenacity. Congrats on your super speedy 100 mile run...I thought of you and Anne all drive back home and each time I awoke before Sunday morning.

    Sounds like FP was an important day for you and your processing missing your Mom. Loosing a Mom or Dad changes your life forever and it is only when you are most vulnerable that you are open to the experience of beginning to integrate the change.

    You are wind and sunlight and a vehicle of magic and life that transforms in wonderful way those you touch. I wish you well with all the craziness of school-yet am very appreciative and blessed you touch your kindred spirits in the ultra running world.
    Happy 2012!

  9. I thought I had something to say,but Annette said it way better. You and she are both amazing people. Keep it up!

  10. Hi Sabrina, I was one of the runners you lapped several times at Freedom. I was honestly shocked when I learned you had left because you were running so strong, but as they say, "Sometimes, the dragon wins..." Anyway, I wanted to wish you well in your future events and explain the odd guy with the bike you kept seeing. Well, sort of explain. He is apparently a living tribute to the Dukes of Hazzard, a TV show that predates you. The "01" on his bike was the race number on their orange Dodge Charger and the music you heard was the theme song to the show. I don't know the guy, but having grown up during the show's run, I could figure that much out.

    As a member of the club that hosted the event, I'd like to thank you for participating and for making it a special day. I got to watch some of the greatest ultra runners (you, Annette, Anne, Jonathan) compete.

    I'd also like to compliment you on the black/silver "Tron" running gear you went with at one point. That looked really cool and reflected the machine-like effortlessness with which you ran.

    Take care,
    Mark Rostan

  11. is it bad that your mentioning of 'dysentery' reminds me of 'the Oregon trail' game

    as for your running to say it's inspiring is an understatement, i ran the Texas marathon on Jan 1st, and thought that was worth...