Thursday, August 28, 2014

Success, Failure and Perseverance

Over a month has passed since last communicating with you, my loyal readers. In that time, I have logged 3 races:  100M, 5K and 100K. Quite the span of distance. And over the course of them, I have been broken many times to come out with personal victories. Maybe not the accomplishments I wanted to achieve but I came out with something I could look back on and be proud of.

Of these, my 100 mile debut is the race I am still recovering from. Early this year, I decided to make my 100M debut at Viaduct on the last July weekend, the site of my ultra debut at any distance. While I had planned to do a great race report on this event, I was so broken by this race mentally and physically, I am struggling to move on. I thought about of even speaking how it breaking me down is humbling (it is) and that I’ve bounced back. Truth is, I have not. In the end, I merely survived it thanks to wonderful friends old and new. In brief, what happened was that I ran a terrific 90 miles in 13:30 right where I wanted to be before everything shut off and I could not go another step. I had to get a ride to the start/finish. Eventually, I decided I wanted to do the other 10 no matter what. And I did with a large overnight break. Thanks to Maggie’s friends Dylan and Ken, both who I met the night prior, I was able to accomplish finishing 100 miles before the limit. For that I am honored and so appreciative. It means a lot to say I finished a 100 miles. However, my mind is not always my friend and reconciling how I finished by getting a ride back to the start/finish and then another to where I had stopped doesn’t feel right. And since I believe in myself I can do it and be one of the best is tough. Obviously, my thoughts turned into where can I run another 100 miler? If you read my Facebook feed, you know I was a bit all over the place. Eventually, I realized I needed to be responsible about jumping into another 100 because of fiscal responsibility. But I needed to move on somehow…..

So I opted to run a 5K. In the past, if I have had bad short races, I go run another short race. (Sometimes the very next day.) Always, I risk a double whammy of bad but it is helpful for me. Years back, I ran to 4th at the Harrisburg Marathon a week after running a horrible 10K. With it now being the beginning of August, races were scarce in the Philadelphia area. After searching, I was able to settle on a race the week immediately following Viaduct with a good cause (always important) and that had been established. Feeling I could run a time faster than last year’s winner helped. The race: On Your Marc 5K benefitting Small Steps in Speech. Come race day I got to the site, registered and warmed up. I was nervous especially as I saw some young speedsters sporting college and high school singlets. This was going to be tough. The course also was not going to make it easy with an uphill finish and lots of climb. Hills…oh yeah! Ron Horn of PCS was timing and on that day, I could not have asked for anyone else given his humor really calmed my nerves. In the end, I eeked out a six second win running a 16:24. It felt good to run such a time a week after putting a 100 miles on my legs in such a short span. While, happy, I still felt off. So I decided to possibly skip both a concert and annual 5K for a 100 miler in north central PA in early September. Looking at all my other options, Virgil Crest is too close to Steamtown and going out of the state would cost more than I could comfortably afford given it was going to have to be turn and burn. That left Pine Creek. My call…..see how my 100K goes since GLER is two weeks prior to Pine Creek.

Which now brings me to GLER (or the Green Lakes Endurance Races) up in Fayetteville, NY. I had signed up for this race after contacting Tim Hardy, the RD following my aborted 100K effort at Lake Waramaug to see if I could get a comp. He thought it great I asked and offered the comp as one of the event record holders. He also expended this offer to other course record holders. (Winners would get a hefty discount.) Tim does a great job putting together a wonderful event. He wants GLER to be a first class event and I can say it is. Originally, my plan for lodging was to car camp. However, three days before the race, the park put the hammer down. Absolutely, no car camping. Thankfully, through friends and Facebook, a fellow runner, Joe (running his first 100K and his first above 40 miles) was camping in the park (an option I would have done but all the sites were reserved) and allowed me to share his site. Friday night before the race was the first time I met Joe. If anything the ultrarunning community is wonderfully supportive and helpful, my experiences with Joe, Dylan and Ken are a testament to that. A humorous camping note is that Joe camped in his minivan while I pitched a tent. I think I had it up and down in record time. (Many thanks to Peg for the sleeping pad to use! Even when she cannot be there, she is supporting me.) Saturday morning felt just right for 62 miles. Before the race, I knew I was going to set up my gear along the stone wall next to the aid station. I did this last year and knew it was ideal. Great height and with a more efficiently organized bag, pretty much set it and forget it. The time before the race passed quickly and before I knew it all the runners were being called to the starting line. This was the first chance I got to say hi to the RD. Also, I said hi to Jason Mintz, who finished second last year in the 50K and was taking a shot at my record. One person I did not see was Daven Oskig, who I expected to be my main competition in the 100K. Once the official start was given, Jason and I were off. For the majority of the first couple of loops were always rather close. On the 3rd loop, I passed Jason as he was having a rough patch. A loop later he would pass me on his way to the 50K victory as I was experiencing not so nice left knee pain. (On the way home from work on Wednesday, while riding my bike, I had a collision with another cyclist on a paved bike path after he made an abrupt left. The impact injured my elbow the most but did bruise my left knee.)  I considered dropping out. My head was in a dark space that I would battle for the majority of the 100K. What kept me going was not wanting to have another race that I might regret dropping or quitting. After hobbling beyond the 50K mark, I told myself, take some ibuprofen and if it does not help with the knee during the 5th lap, call it a day.  On that 5th lap, a nice rain was falling and that calmed my nerves. There are few things in this world that I love more than running in a slight rain through woods. Before I knew it, I made it through 5 and was on 6. I was still having on and off pain causing some powerhiking of an hills and brief walk spells. Then on the 7th lap, I was clear headed. I was losing my shot at sub 8. I needed to throw in a big lap. I did. I dropped a lap I needed. I just needed to get through the last one in 1:04. However, the stairs out of the aid station were no longer agreeing with my knee as I got a return of sharp pain. My hopes of a sub 8 were slipping away. In fact, this moment did it in. I did my best but I was losing time….and in the end, I was a shade over 2 ½ minutes slower than I needed. However, I did manage to run a win and new CR. And I will say it was really nice that Tim was there when I finished announcing the new record. As a matter of fact, I was able to hear him from the other side of the lake less than a ½ mile from the finish routing me on.

If I did not have tickets for a concert, I would have hung out more than the hour I did post race. My drive home involved lots of rain and I did not make the concert. It was ok because I made it home safe and ended up sleeping really well.

Due to the knee discomfort I had, I have decided to put an 100 mile plans on hold for a bit. Pine Creek would not be wise and really risk overracing long distance, which is one of the thoughts I had looking back on the 100K. So for now, down to 5Ks and other shorter races as I get ready for the Steamtown Marathon later this fall.

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