Monday, February 6, 2012

Rocky Raccoon 100

Here she comes, Miss America.

I am wearing a dress and brushing my hair right now. Just so everybody knows because I thought I was irredeemably dirt-covered and would have to be a mud-ball for the rest of my life after the race on Saturday. Oh, look. It's the dirty girl in class. She fell too many times in mud puddles one day and never recovered. Worst nightmare.

The first 3 miles, the pack started out very quickly, so I settled into my own rhythm and finished the final 97 miles, at which point I left because I was done.

That’s the summary.

Caution: Wet floor
CAUTION: WET EVERYTHING ACTUALLY.

Race morning, my crew and I awoke to torrential rains and thunderstorms that would continue on and off all day. It was an oddity to find myself on a starting line next to so many people I didn't know, but I have never raced in Texas. I found a spot next to great friend, Montrail's Jill Perry, and we were off, headlamps catching the sheets of rain to form illuminative sheaths at every step. Lightning turned the sky pink. I told approximately 40 people that I was overwhelmed by the beauty. Within thirty seconds of the start, I was offered a hearty greeting from Liza Howard. We were both fairly loquacious for the early morning. (Dear Coffee, thanks for making me more extroverted beyond my organic capacities. All the introverts of the world are nodding, silently.) And we exchanged introductions. Liza moved forward, and Jill and I had a chance to catch up between miles 15 and 35.

That first lap, we picked our way through mud pits and over roots, tripping often and enjoying our time on the trails. I say "we" because early in the day, it's still a shared endeavor. You're just running with friends. Later, it becomes a lonely pursuit, around the time when you hurt the most and need friends. I did have a pacer, though. His name was Michael Bublé, and when he sang, "I've had my run, and baby I'm done, I've got to go home," I totally understood, probably in a more robust sense than Michael did because he meant it metaphorically. Then I dropped my ipod in a mud puddle and said goodbye to my running partner.

Starting the run, I realized my legs didn't have the same zip that they typically do entering a run. I felt sort of lethargic and wondered if I had lifted too deep into my taper. I decided to just hang on and enjoy myself for the first 60 miles, not letting Liza slip too far out of sight. At 60 miles, I assumed, everyone else would feel similarly poor, and there would be 40 miles of racing. I didn't think a PR was possible, but I did show up to compete and would try to do that.

We ran, and we ran. I tripped a lot. I found a turtle. I looked for alligators because maybe Texas has them. People ran by and yelled, "Looking good!" I assumed they meant metaphysically because............................

Photo by Bob MacGillivray of DryMax Socks. Thanks for coming!

......I didn't look like a part-time model, at least on the surface.

As the day went on, the presence of the 640 runners re-running the same wet loop made erosion a reality. There was one particular incline, where you would run up and slide back down so the net sum of your efforts was zero. It was like Sisyphus. I wished we had been pushing boulders up the hill to make it more real like in the story, but alas, we didn't get that opportunity. I like when the things I've read for homework become real life.

Sixty miles happened, and I thought that was really great because everybody else would feel bad like me then. At 61 miles, I took the lead...and held it for the rest of the day, uncontested. I later found out that several top runners had dropped, but at the time, I didn't know and still assumed I had a target on my back. Thus commenced 39 miles of paranoia. I ran conservatively and held onto an energy reserve in case someone should arise to challenge me. It was not a fast day, but sometimes, winning an ultramarathon is about survival and monitoring the forest for alligators and dropping Michael Bublé into a mud puddle.

The aid stations were marked by Texan hospitality, and volunteers did everything they could to make our experience enjoyable. I also had a fantastic crew. It was their first ultramarathon experience, but they were the most attentive, efficient crew I have ever had. Thank you so much, Littles, for everything.

Maybe you've never considered running 100 miles in Texas. I think you will after you see this:
GIANT STATUE OF SAM HOUSTON. It's right alongside the highway. I am never leaving because I love Texas.

The best part of everything is that my feet are not swollen or battered by the weather. Often, I go buy new loafers after 100-milers, not because of any intrinsic connection between the two but because it always happens to be about the time when I need new loafers. I buy them too big because my feet are swollen, so then all of my loafers are half a size too big. But not this time. Thanks, DryMax and Inov-8. I've got normal feet.
So pretty. I like your hair.