|Early on Pat Dooley photo|
They truly are among my best friends. I see many of them only one long day a year: this event. Others are more frequently familiar because they live closer by. Regardless of proximity, I love them all dearly. I've said this before and I'll say it again now: ultrarunners are the best people, period. Too bad we are not in charge of the planet. It would be a better place.
The horn sounds, and I begin running in the morning rain with Frank Dwyer, Ladd Clifford and Phil Apel. They have high hopes of big numbers, and they're smart enough to be patient about it. Me, not so much. I only want to go as far as I can before the Achilles Tendonitis (AT) Pain begins to take hold. I know from experience that once it does start, it only gets worse as time, and miles, go by. This pain point usually commences between an hour and an hour and a half (6-10 miles) into a run. If today's run is to follow such a pattern, I may not get very far at all. I figure that even under the very best of circumstances, 50 kilometers will be today's upper limit. Regardless of how I manage today, my plan is to then go home, get some food and rest, and then return in the morning to possibly walk a few more 0.90075 mile laps. Those will be tough no matter what.
The rain stops, and it gets warm and very humid. Although the humidity will be tough for everyone, I'm not too worried. I will be leaving at some point, so it will affect me less than the others. Speaking of others, I continue to talk with many old and new friends along the way. Sometimes this requires me to slow down or speed up a bit. But that's okay. I'm feeling fine.
It's great to see this event coming together under the new leadership of Brian Polen. From my perspective - now that of a runner/participant - everything is just fine. I talk with Brian now and then. I also talk with Michelle Wolff, who's manning the aid station. As with all ultras, the organization team and especially the volunteers are wonderful.
The AT pain begins at about mile 20. At least that's where I first notice it. This is really great. It's the most consecutive pain-free miles I've managed in months. But now I have to slow down and accept that it's going to get worse, mile by mile.
And of course it does. It also doesn't help that I'm woefully under-trained. That's due to the AT as well.
I had been running at a decent pace. Although the AT doesn't allow me to run very fast, it doesn't appear to help when I run super-slow or walk either. Most of my miles have been in the 9:30 to 10:00 minute per mile range - about what I train at. But now that I'm slowing down, everything is getting tougher. The marathon distance is achieved at about 4:27, and then I slow down even more. Michelle runs a lap with me as she's finishing her shift. She mentions that I look very much like I'm in pain. Others, like Blondie Hinton, say the same thing. I guess it hurts just to look at me. Funny how that works.
Now that I've only got a couple to go before my wild 50K dream is achieved, I stop to ask the medical folks for an ibuprofen tablet. I know they don't like to dispense them because they're somewhat dangerous for ultrarunners, but they do give me just the one.
And that does get me through it. I'd begun to walk, but now I can run, albeit slowly, my last one or two laps. I get to 50K at about 5:45 or so. It's hard to say exactly because I run an extra half-mile to finish the entire lap. I am absolutely euphoric about getting this far.
I go into the medical tent, and they stretch me out and we discuss my AT. heading to the car, the pain is still there, but things are definitely better than they would have been had I not stopped.
I drive home, shower, then along with Debbie, travel to the Winking Lizard to meet some friends for dinner. They have a special clam bake dinner for a couple weekends, and boy is it (and the beer) good! Maybe food tastes better after you've run, and eaten only junk all day. Afterwards we convene at our place a while longer. We laugh about how I am in the middle of a run.
Sleep does not go well. It always surprises me that I don't sleep like a log after a hard running effort; quite the opposite. I'm not sure why; it seems to defy logic. I wake up between 1:30 and 2:00, and that's it; I'm up for good. After some coffee and other preparation, I'm on my way back to Edgewater.
At 3:30 AM, I'm back to running around in circles. I go extremely slow at first, but then a funny thing happens. I begin to feel better, and I pick up the pace. The second (or third?) ibuprofen in the last 24 hours probably helps as well; I'm not in too very much pain.
My stomach doesn't feel so great, however. Maybe it was all that food. Or beer. Or the pizza, toasted cheese, and other junk that I sample here. Most likely, it was the ibu. Although three or so in this extended length of time really isn't all that awful, I virtually never take this much. And as mentioned, it's best to do none at all.
I continue to talk with friends that I see. There aren't so many out during these wee hours, and some are like zombies. But others are happy to talk. I also see Brian, and he is highly positive, encouraging me and everyone else to keep going. As these new miles begin to take their terrible toll, I begin to think about what the heck I'm trying to accomplish here. Maybe I can get up to about 20 miles for this day, giving me a grand total of 50+ for the event. I've got plenty of time.
Although the AT pain continues to be manageable, everything else is beginning to hurt, and I'm starting to feel just plain exhausted. After 10 or 11 miles I take some breaks, and also begin walking. This is just as others are waking up and getting going. It's just starting to get light.
The humidity never ceased. In fact, it's probably worse now than ever. I'm having some chafing issues, but I'll spare the details.
After running with some more friends along the way, I make it to 50, and even a mile or two more. It took me about as long to do this 20 as it did to do 31 yesterday. I quit just a little before the final horn. I've now greatly exceeded all my mileage goals. I should be extremely happy at this point, but mostly I'm just tired.
I am in awe of some of these other folks, elites and local friends alike. How in the world can they do two and three times the miles that I did? My 52 nearly killed me.
And now it's time for a break. A long one.