It is hard to believe that it has been two years since I ran my first ultra. It is hard to believe that I am now in a new age category, yes, 30. I have made some improvements since 2009 like learning not to race in red cotton shorts, consuming meat again (after five years vegetarian and two vegan), but I still have my doubts, anxieties, and many more obstacles to overcome. Yesterday, I was more nervous than I was at the start of 2009 Way Too Cool 50k (or at least it seemed like it). Coming back from an injury has proved to be difficult. I don't trust my body like I did. Over the last few months there has been low back pain, quad numbness, twinges, SI dysfunction, chiropractic, physical therapy, massage, way more treadmill running that I planned on, and in the end, doubt about whether I am in fact healed. In the last month I've been feeling more like myself, but there are occasional hitches in my step. I'm trying to patient, but I do find it really fucking frustrating. My hips are rotated and twisted. So who can magically fix them? Not quite that simple when it's years of habits, maybe too many plies, maybe getting thrown from a horse at a young age, maybe too many times sitting cross legged, maybe sleeping on my right side too much… in the end, it doesn't matter. The body is mysterious and amazingly intelligent. It learns to adapt. And I am learning to adapt to it.
At the start of Way Too Cool I tried to put all doubt aside. I tried to remember what I was grateful for as I gave Sam a kiss and my warm-ups. He stood at the start, left foot in boot, and right hand with cane. I knew how badly he was looking forward to this race, but there he was with broken toe supporting me (Note: we're both upping the calcium and vitamin d just in case you were going to mention it). A few minutes before the race started a couple more people said hi and mentioned it was great to see me back running. That meant a lot, thank you! Then it was 8:00 and we headed off. It was great. The first 8 mile loop was on mainly new terrain (with the exception of the same paved road start). After slightly over a mile there was a gorilla that jumped out at us. I thought that was the coolest addition and I would have liked to see him more frequently throughout the course particularly around goat hill. Anyway, in the first 10+ miles Peter, Will, Joelle, and I were cruising. There was mud, river crossings (I need to learn better technique… currently I stop, stare, and then clumsily walk through the water), and beautiful single tracks. Around mile 10, Joelle eased up on the decent, and Will and I headed off with Peter quickly catching up. Around mile 16, Will mentioned that we were on a 7:12 mile average pace. That's pretty ballsy for your first 50k race post-injury, but, I felt good, so we kept trucking. We trucked right up dead truck hill. We lost Will at the top, but Peter and I kept running and chatting here and there. I had the lovely experience of a jammed up SaltStick dispenser and I will blame the last 5 miles of muscle cramping on this little malfunction. Well that and pure fitness base. As soon as I hit goat hill I knew Joelle would be close. I had to walk that damn thing. In 2009 I believe I ran most of it… how the hell did I do that? And that's when I started to feel like absolute crap. My muscles started cramping. My body was ready to shut down at mile 26, 27, 28, and I thought I was going to have to walk it in at mile 29.5. When Joelle came up the last climb after highway 49 there was absolutely nothing I could do. I had nothing. I didn't have my usual speedy legs. I literally had zero. In fact, I questioned if I could actually jog it into the finish. I wish that gorilla would have carried me in or scared me shittless so I would've gotten a move on it. Oh well as Peter said to me, "you either have it or you don't." For the first time, I really didn't. Numb left quad and tight crampy legs I made it to the finish in 4:04. That will be my third fastest 50k, but the most terrible feeling finish (ok I lied 2nd day of 2010 TRR, 14 miles on a stress fracture was far worse).
Once I came through the shoot I congratulated Joelle. She ran an amazing race (Note: all you ladies running Western States better watch out because that girl can climb and no matter what she says, she has leg speed too)! Then I just stood there hugging Sam and crying. Plain and simple I felt like crap mentally and physically. I expected more from my body, but ultimately accepted my limits. Ok so I'm not quite where I want to be, but I'm here, I'm running, and I have amazing friends and the nicest competition. Plus, I am getting one step closer to trusting my body again, one of my biggest obstacles to date.
(Note: Thanks to all the great volunteers and Julie for an amazing race at Cool! My favorite = the gorilla... he's a keeper!)