It wasn't really in my pocket, but it *was* a real banana. I'd been trying to run her down for the entire third 5-mile lap of the Buckeye Woods 50K, and almost caught her before we reached the aid station. The trouble is, she most assuredly *did not* want me to catch her. She knew that if I did, I'd leave her with some smartass remark that she wouldn't like. That's pretty much what happened during other races when I've managed to pass her up. You know, the ones where she had just run a grueling 100-miler the week before.
I had organized the Buckeye Woods 50K (BW50); it was *my* race. And dad-burn it if I wasn't gonna run it well. We had about 20 starters, and many others showed up later on to run a lap or two. The weather in early December was frightful, however. The snow never let up, although it didn't accumulate to more than an inch or two. But the snow-covered trails weren't much of a problem. What *was* much of a problem were the wind and the cold. Temperatures never made it above 24, and the wind chill was in the low teens or worse.
Despite the conditions, everyone was running well and having fun. Ahead of Connie were Jon Brenenstuhl and Bob Pokorny. I didn't care about them; I just wanted *her*. We talked briefly at the aid station, and she tried to pry open a tupperware type container of bananas. "Here, let a man do it", I said. When I couldn't do it either (my hands were freezing), some nice volunteer did it for us. But by that time Connie had spent all the time she could handle at the station, and took off sprinting into her fourth lap. The volunteers mumbled something about how would they ever get the half-banana to Connie. "Don't worry, I'll catch her and present her with the banana", said I.
All of this transpired within a few seconds, and before I knew it, I was sprinting after Connie with half a banana between my fingers. As I mentioned, I never really put it in my pocket, but I did joke about the whole thing as I passed Debbie, Brad and Ladd coming the other way. I was going full-tilt, but I never made up any ground on my prey. Shortly after I passed those three, I felt it. The pulled calf tugged again.
Until that point, each lap was getting faster than the last. But now I had to slow down drastically in order to keep running at all. Connie was long gone. I was left with the banana, so I eventually ate it myself so as not to let it go to waste.
Now the fourth lap was done, and I was struggling. I bumped into Rachel at the aid station, and we began the fifth lap (her fourth - she started a little late) together. I had thought I'd never get back into the groove again, but whilst running with Rachel, somehow I did. We ran a pretty decent lap.
By the time I started my sixth and final 5-mile lap, I was hurting again. This time it wasn't the calf so much as *everything*. I let Rachel go by and ran slower and slower. Then I came upon Dan, who had been walking. "Let's jog together", I said, and we did. That sure helped me get through it, as did the couple cookies he shared.
My last 5-mile lap and the final mile were excruciatingly slow. But despite everything, I got myself a PR at 4:46. I won't mention that that time should have easily been more in the neighborhood of 4:30. Finishing fourth amongst this group of ultrarunners, is quite an honor however.
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