Friday, June 23, 2017

AETR race report - part 2

So, in my last post, I talked about the details of the race. It really was a fabulous race, so I didn’t want to cloud that post with my own inner negativity. Thus, I decided to write a second post about what was going on in my head, and where I go from here.

I went into this race spectacularly undertrained. Due to craziness at work, needing to spend time with my family, and letting the crappy weather be an excuse to not get my long runs in, I only managed 1 run over 20 miles prior to this race. I rationalized a lot, saying that I ran every day, that I had run lots of long runs last summer, and I couldn’t have lost that ability over a winter of relatively short runs, etc. But in the end, it was all just excuses and justifications. The thing about excuses and justifications is that they don’t get you the training or the mental toughness that you need to keep going when things suck. But somehow, I had convinced  myself that I could keep going for 24 hours and get 75 miles in without training for it. In a nutshell, it didn’t work.

Those last 2 loops were terrible. My feet hurt, my legs were refusing to run, and probably worse, I wasn’t drinking enough water. I almost quit after my next to last loop, but at the decision point, I decided to get back out there and do another loop. I knew I would probably walk most of that loop, which turned out to be the last one, and I did. I pretty much walked all 6 miles of it. I even say down at the aid station at the halfway point and rested. I should have drank a water bottle full of water while I was there,  but I didn’t. But I finished it. A couple of other runners passing me were nice enough to ask me if I was ok. By the time I came into the finish line, I had tears running down my face.

During those last two loops, my mind was in a consistently negative state. I felt like a failure, like I couldn’t do it. I reminded myself that I got into running ultras because I am not fast and would never place in road races. Then I started thinking that I clearly can’t  succeed at running ultras either. So if I can’t run fast, and I can’t run long, why am I even running? I should just admit to myself that I suck at running and just quit running altogether.

During that last loop, I decided against signing up for any more races, especially long ones. Why should I keep running distances that don’t even feel good? Especially if I can’t even keep running the whole distance? I also decided that I wasn’t going to run Kesugi on the 24th, and I wasn’t doing Angel Creek 50 in July, and I wasn’t even doing Resurrection Pass 50 in August, that I would email the RD and tell him to take my name off the list of runners. Because clearly I can’t go that far, and I am too slow and the volunteers and the RD and everyone would just be waiting around for me finish so they could pack up and go home.

I’m really, really glad that my friend Travis wasn’t pacing me for that loop, because he would have had to listen to all that garbage. By the time I got to the finish, those thoughts and more had been circling in my head for 3 hours, so I was not in the best frame of mind. I told the RD that I was done running, even though there was 6 hours left in the race. My wonderful friends, Susie and Travis both tried to get me to rest a bit, then try to run some more, but I had already convinced myself that I couldn’t. And at that point, actually, I was probably right. If I had rested and taken the opportunity to force down a bunch of Tailwind, some apple, another popsicle, and rehydrate myself, looking back, I might have been able to switch from my handheld bottle to my hydration pack, and get another loop in, because I’m pretty sure that being dehydrated was my biggest physical problem. Instead I didn’t drink hardly anything because it all tasted repulsive and sealed my fate.

I think I said in my earlier post that I learned a lot from this race. And oh boy, did I.

1. DRINK MORE THAN YOU THINK YOU NEED. By the time you realize you are dehydrated,  you’re pretty bad off. And dehydration clouds your brain and makes it really hard to make good decisions. And carry more water than you think you are going to need, because if you don’t have it, you can’t drink it.
2. TRAIN. Who knows? I may have been able to reach my goal if I had trained for it. Without the proper training, not only didn’t I have a shot, but the last part of my race was way more miserable than it needed to be.
3. Don’t make any decisions when you are at a really low point in the race. Long races are known far and wide for putting people through the lowest of lows and the highest of highs. Don’t trust your thought process during either extreme, lol.
4. Listen to your friends. I wasn’t at my best after loop 8. My friends were pushing various liquids on me, all of which I pretty much ignored  and were advising me to rest and get back out there. But I had convinced myself I was done. If I had listened to them (especially about drinking, Travis even gave me some of his Tailwind, which I promptly rejected because it was gross to me at that point), I probably could have finished at least one more loop.
5. Popsicles taste amazing when you are dehydrated.  Don’t turn down a second one because you don’t want to seem greedy. It’s not greedy if you need it. That’s what it’s there for.
6. You can do more than you think you can. When I first started running, I never would have thought I could run for 48 miles. Even by the time I started running half marathons and even marathons, the thought of running farther than that was CRAZY. Like, there’s no way I would ever do that. I had planned on making the Marine Corps Marathon my first one, and wound up running one a couple months before that just to see if running the MCM would even be possible. That was 2015. 2 years ago I didn’t know if I could even run 26 miles. Now I’ve run upwards of 30 miles 5 times, so far.
7. Celebrate your successes, and be proud of your accomplishments. Every time I think about this race, I think about the mistakes that I made, or that I didn’t run the full 24 hours, or that I had to walk the last loop so maybe that one doesn’t actually count because I didn’t run it, or that I only got 48 miles, officially. But HOLY CRAP.  I officially ran 48 miles!!! On almost no training! I ran for 18 hours!

So… where do I go from here?

Well, I’m not going to quit running. That was just crazy talk. I’m still running every day. Today will be day 310 of my second running steak. And I’m not done running long distances. Tomorrow I am running the Kesugi Ridge Traverse,  a 30 mile trail run up, onto, and along a ridge line in Denali National Park. There is a 4 hour cutoff at mile 15, and frankly, I’m a little worried about meeting it, since the first 3 miles are all uphill, and hills kick my butt. If I don’t meet it, I will be DNF’d and will  “only” be able to run the half traverse, 18 miles total, counting the trip down the mountain to the trailhead. I’m going to do my best to meet that cutoff and be able to finish.  If I don’t meet the cutoff though, I still will have had an amazing day of trail running.  I’ll let you know how it goes.

I’m also using this run as a decision point about Angel Creek 50. I hadn’t signed up for it because of a schedule conflict, but that conflict has disappeared.  If the run goes well, I meet the cutoff and finish in the allotted time, and I don’t feel like I want to die, I will most likely sign up for AC50. If I can’t make the cutoff, or it becomes clear during the race that I’m not going to be able to manage the AC50, I’ll put it off til next year.

Either way, I am doing Resurrection Pass 50 in August. I have almost 2 months between now and then, and if I stay focused, I think I can make some progress and be ready for that race, especially since it has much less vertical gain than AC50 does. I feel pretty confident that I can do that one if I can stay focused on getting ready for it.

And with that, onward!!

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