I hate cold rain. But at least it's not raining all that hard. And at least it's not all that cold. And at least it's not too windy.
I'm here in Door County, Wisconsin with about 150 of my best friends, as the gun goes off. It's foggy, drizzly and gloomy, but last night's downpours have subsided. And it's in the 50's. All in all, things could be worse.
The fast guys - and with the Fall 50 being the USATF Road 50-Mile National Championship, their number is relatively legion - take off right away. They're gone. We won't see them again until the finish party. I am running with Michelle Wolff, and we have a similar goal: to finish. It would be nice, I think wistfully, to run this race fast and to be competitive, but then a dose of reality occurs; those days are pretty much in my distant past.
Debbie and I had driven up here yesterday, and we drove a good part of the point-to-point (Gills Rock to Sturgeon Bay) course. Debbie was concerned about finding her way from aid station to aid station, where she would try to support me. After seeing how well-marked the course was, even including the support vehicle detour routes, she was mostly reassured. We bumped into Andy and Michelle at the check-in / packet pickup in Sturgeon Bay near the finish line. We then all had dinner together at Villagio's, an Italian restaurant along the course that sponsors the "half-way buffet".
Door County is very tourist-oriented, and no wonder. It's the panoramic peninsula that extends into Lake Michigan, north of Green Bay. The Fall 50 is advertised as "the most scenic distance run in the Midwest", and although they could have possibly added even more qualifiers, Debbie and I did marvel at the beauty as we drove it yesterday. Too bad about the gloomy weather.
I only ran a mile and a half with Michelle before we became separated. Pete Schwanke, another MCRR member and one of the fast guys, ran up ahead early on.
I had been counting my blessings with the weather, but now, at Mile 11.5 or so, I'm pulling into the second aid station, and it's pouring really hard. And it seems colder. And more windy.
But I'm doing okay. I'm probably averaging between 9:30 and 10 minute pace, and I'm fine with that. I'm spending too much time at the aid stations, but that should improve later on. Debbie won't begin meeting me until the fourth one at mile 24 or so.
Yes, the sun is out. And the breathtakingly gorgeous course just became much more-so. I'm running through Peninsula State Park, and thinking that the race just couldn't be more scenic. The reds, oranges, yellows, golds, and every color in-between, combined with views of Green Bay (the bay, not the city), are simply spectacular. I think my pace is improving with the now favorable weather.
My Achilles tendon is talking to me.
I emerge from the park right by our hotel in Fish Creek, and there's Debbie to meet me at the aid station. She gives me some Hammer Perpetuum, and I kiss her and take off again. I hope that she asks those around her - as she's done on other occasions, "Who was that guy?"
Did I mention that it's raining again? The sun didn't last long.
Half-Way, A Marathon and A 50K
Debbie continues to hand me Perpetuum and gel, and I continue to run. There had been a monster hill coming out of Fish Creek, but it's not the only one. I'd say that there are five or so Effie-type or bigger hills strategically placed along the course, and the biggest one, Monument Point hill, is yet to come.
I go through half-way in just under four hours, the marathon in something like 4:08, and 50K in just under five hours. I'm happy with all that. There's only one teensy little problem: everything hurts. Yes, everything.
The rain stops, then starts back up again.
I'm still moving pretty well, even despite the Achilles Tendonitis, and all the other pain. I've been alone a lot, not that there's anything wrong with that. I pass a couple people, but we runners few and very far between. The first and second relay teams go by. The relay teams started later than us solo runners. They tell me how awesome I am for making it this far. Not able to utter much more than a mumble of thanks, I also think, "The day ain't over yet."
At about mile 39 or so I come to Monument Point hill. Of course I walk it, as I've done for all the other large hills. I have this crazy fear that I won't be able to start running again when I do get to the top.
I do manage to run again, but it seems slower still.
I have finally reached the final aid station, and now have less than five miles to go. I'm not entirely sure, but I believe I've kept things at a fairly steady 10-minute pace. Debbie tells me that I look great and I'm going to finish in a great time. I think, not for the first time, that the day ain't over yet.
For the last ten miles, give or take, I've completely ignored my watch. I had decided that I only needed to get to the finish. Yeah, the sooner the better, but knowledge of my pace and the mental math to determine potential finish times are now just too much for me.
I keep moving, and the pace still doesn't feel too much slower than it has been. There's a guy on my tail, and I can't shake him, even when I do pick it up slightly. Although I can't be sure, I don't think anyone has passed me since about the first aid station. But that changes as he goes by at mile 48.
Yes, now I've slowed down. I know I will finish, and I can only hope that the fellow who passed me is not in my ancient age group.
The rain stops. And then it starts again.
Crossing the line
I cross the line in eight hours, thirteen minutes. It's faster than the other two fifty-milers I've done, but I don't know if I can call it a PR because I've done the first 50 of a couple 100K runs faster. What do you think? Discuss amongst yourselves.
I see Debbie, and even more than usual, she's a sight for sore eyes. She helps me get around. I have no idea how I can run 50 miles, but then not be able to take a single walking step afterwards.
We see Pete. He ran an outstanding race. I try to change, and after an extreme amount of time, I'm somehow successful. Debbie and I have cold pizza and some beer and wine. I'm not doing too well. I want to wait to see Michelle finish, but I just can't. Debbie helps me back to the car.
But not before I look at the results. I won my age group! That means I'll receive a neat USATF medal and a National Champion patch.
But everything hurts. And the day ain't over yet.
The rain stops. And this time it doesn't start back up again.
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