Sunday, April 26, 2015

Brazos Bend 50

Brazos Bend 50
25 April 2015

I Guess I Am Human After All

I get excited for every race that I do. They’re like opening presents; you can’t wait to open them, but at the same time, you don’t know if you’re gonna like what you see once they’re open. This race was just like that. There was a lot to live up to after last year’s race: I was third overall and finished in six hours forty minutes and felt great almost the entire time. It’s hard to have another perfect race. And I haven’t felt quite so superhuman ever since Rocky Raccoon 50.

Mel and I finishing lap 2
Last year’s 50-miler was when I ran with some random people at the beginning and Melinda Coen just happened to be in that group. We started this year’s race together as well. One of my favorite things about ultra running is talking with people. Shorter races are so fast-paced that it’s kinda hard to talk to people other than to say “On your left!” before you pass them. But ultras are laid back and slow, which almost encourages talking. Conversation pace—If you can’t hold a conversation while running, you’re running too fast. It’s my favorite way to run. And even though Mel and I didn’t talk the whole time, just having someone next to you is such a boost. When you (or they) are feeling like stopping/walking/giving up, they’re right there, not verbalizing anything to you to keep going, but because they’re still going, you feel like you probably can too. I’m pretty sure we shared a number of those back and forth during the race.

There was plenty of rain in the forecast, but I was hoping that the rain gods would realize that we had a race and then push the rain back to Sunday. It drizzled a bit over the first eight miles. Nothing much. I complained that my socks were already soaked (the trails were still dry at this point) and I considered changing them after this first of three laps. The rain gods must have heard me and laughed at what was in store for us runners. We hit the turnaround (11.5 miles) and a little bit later the rain started. And then it got really dark. And then the wind picked up and the clouds opened and it poured on us for about twenty minutes or so. There were a few times I thought I’d start freezing if the wind stayed like that. I heard that it hailed on others, though I was under tree cover while this storm passed over. The rain slowly died off, but the trails were definitely not the same. A lot of what was dry the first time around was puddles for the rest of the race. One section was really muddy, but small baby steps seemed to do the trick in traversing it.

We came across lap one in about 2:18, and I felt ok. Not too good. And not looking forward to two more laps. After a few more miles we saw fellow teammates Jeff Ball and Tracie Akerhielm. They were only doing the 50k, and we 50-milers had an extra two-mile loop that they didn’t have. So we would see them again as they were coming back heading toward the finish. I told Mel that if we had also only signed up for a 50k, then we’d be about an hour away from finishing too. She wondered why she had to be so “bullheaded and always sign up for the longest race.” I laughed because I knew exactly what she was talking about. I’d feel like I was less of a person if I didn’t max out every race. And this is not to say that I look down on those that do the shorter races. I think it’s awesome to see so many people out on the trails instead of sitting around at home watching TV. But I just can’t do less than whatever the longest race is. And when a new local ultra comes up, I have to sign up for it, even if it means that I run 512 race miles in three and a half months. I’ll have to see where I’m at for the bombardment this October will bring (a 100k, a 24-hour timed race, a 100-miler, and another 100-miler).

The second lap wasn’t much better than the first. I still didn’t feel good, but I was able to push along (or splash along) with my teammate. Knowing that you have another 17-mile loop to complete seems rather daunting at this point in a race. It’s best to break it up into much smaller distances. About a mile or two into the last lap, I started feeling much better. I cheered on Mel and everyone else I saw. I told Mel that saying all the silly things to people just brings my spirits up so much. And then I want to cheer on the next guy and the next. And then I realized that cheering others on is really just selfish because, although it may seem like you’re being nice, you’re truly just trying to make yourself feel better so you can finish the blasted race. After another mile, Mel and I said our good-byes and good lucks.

I was now in no-man’s-land—where you see nobody (at least not running your race distance). I didn’t know where anyone was in front of me or behind me. So I just kept running. I had many random thoughts going through my head, and then I saw this lady in front of me, and she kept pointing at me. Then I realized she was pointing past me. “Did you see him?” And I’m thinking, ‘Who?’ So I turned around and saw the 10-foot gator sunbathing right on the side of the trail, about five feet from where I had been, and laughed to myself. Surely I’d have seen him if he was moving.

 Knowing that when I got to the next aid station would mean single digit miles to the finish was great. At the turnaround, I sponged a bunch of ice cold water over my head (it had been rather warm for this entire lap) and felt great as I left. As I came up to a certain corner, I knew that the last aid station was really close and that feeling was coming on strong. At the final aid station, I only took right-side tires (just a water fill-up) and was quickly on my way. I was feeling the best I had all day. Each next spot that I recognized was another lift (where the other trail came in, the bench, crossing the road, etc.). Finally, the windmill. This is where I’ve wanted to be for a long time. As I was about 100 meters from the finish, I saw a kid start running toward me. I was certain it was my oldest son. Come to find out, he said he was faster than me, and my wife told him to go prove it. So he ran out to me and we ran the last 100 meters to the finish.

The muddy puddles were done. Finishing time was 7:46:16; 8th overall and 5th male. Thanks to my wife and kids for the love and support. Thanks to #TROT for the camaraderie and great races. And to #TrailToes for keeping a lot of special areas from chaffing. My #UltraSpire handheld was great to have along, especially when the sun came out. #TROT buffs are great at keeping sweat out of your eyes.

Thanks for a fun race, coach

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