Thursday, 3 October 2013

This Blog Post Is Brought To You By The Letters R and H

So it's been over a week and writing about our race has been weighing on me.  You see, it really was an amazing and life changing sort of experience, and I just can't work out in my head what I want to say, and how I want to say it.  I fear that I just can't do it justice.  So I have decided just to give it a go, and I hope that I can convey to you what a wonderful day it was, and maybe encourage you to join us next year!  This will be coming to you in instalments, because as we learned, 100km is a long, long way, and it's going to take awhile to tell this story.

After very carefully overpacking out of fear of needing something we didn't have, and picking Lucas up from school on Friday we headed into Brampton to spend the night at my parents' house.  Our traditional pre-race dinner is pizza, so we hit one of our favourite pizza places, Mackay Pizza, for dinner.  We hung out, made PB&J sandwiches to pack in the cooler, laced our heart beads onto our shoes, and headed to bed early.  As we settled into bed we heard the Rain start.

My alarm woke me at 5am and I was filled with nervous, excited energy.  We showered, because we at least wanted to start out the day clean, packed up the cooler and van and headed out to pick up Jonelle, in the Rain.

We arrived in the dark, and the Rain, at North Hill Park Community Centre where the race would begin.  It was then that we realized that this was different then any of the other races that we have run before.  There were tents set up in the parking lot, light refreshments, a tent to check in, a tent to pick up our GPS pack, cowbells which we grabbed for the kids and a palpable feeling of camaraderie, of acceptance, and gratitude, of team spirit and excitement.  It was an eclectic group of runners.  you could look around and see obviously avid, seasoned runners, beginners, and people who were stepping out of their comfort zone. We love all races, and we love runners and the running community, but there really was something different and special about the feeling there.  So many people coming together for one purpose.
Photo Credit: Patti&Co.Photography

After several nervous washroom breaks, filling my fuel belt, almost forgetting to take some immodium (just to be safe), retying my shoes 42 times (why are my shoes never tight enough, or never loose enough on race day?), and rolling out my calves we headed to the start line, in the Rain.

To be honest I am not sure how the race started!?  We were all waiting there behind the starting line to go, and then we were off.  I can't recall a horn, or gun, or countdown...Not sure if I was oblivious or what.  But we were off, in the Rain, and I was consciously reigning myself in.  That was the unique nature of this race for us.  Many of the people busting a move off the starting line were running that 8.5km leg only, some would be running a couple of legs, but I knew I had to save my legs, because I had a lot of Hills to climb and a lot of distance to cover.  This was perhaps one of the most mentally difficult things, I wanted to bust a move too, I'm a runner, when I see other runners busting a move in a race I naturally quicken my pace.  No one wants to be the only one not busting a move!  But I overcame my natural tendency to race everyone, and stuck with my plan, 10 minute (or so) miles, climb the Hills steady and strong, let my legs go on the downhills, eat, hydrate, and feel strong but spent at the end.

Photo Credit: Patti&Co.Photography

I fell into pace with a couple of other runners on that first leg and we chatted easily through the constant Rain and up and down the Hills, and maintained that 10ish minute/mile pace.  We approached Albion Hills Conservation Area, where transition 1 was (the course had 14 transition points, which is where teams check in and switch runners).  As 50K runners we did not need to check in, and did not need to switch runners, so as instructed by the race organizers we would just run through the transition points and continue on our way.  Thankfully Leigh and Jonelle had their ears to the ground and waited at the turn leading to transition point one to let me know that I did in fact need to run into the conservation area, I did not need to check in, but this transition point was so far off the main route I would have lost 2km had I just run through.  I was glad that they figured this out, but a little less glad when I saw the huge Hill someone accidentally left right in my way.
Photo Credit: Patti&Co.Photography
I continued on to transition two at Palgrave Public School feeling great.  My breathing was easy, my legs felt good, my taper had worked, and all those Hill repeats in training were paying off.  We treated each transition point as an aid station.  Leigh would fill bottles of Nuun, water, or Gatorade and meet me at the side of the road with the bottles and something to eat.  I would try to hand him my empty bottles, which turned into me dropping my empty bottles as I ran by, he would hand me full bottles, something to eat, and ask me what I wanted at the next transition.  It worked out perfectly and allowed me to rehydrate and refuel without having to stop running.  The transitions were also great indicators of progress.  Mentally ticking off transition points helped the miles to fly by.

Between transition points three and four TJ, Lesley, Eliza, and Grace (my brother, SIL, and nieces) drove by honking their horn.  This could not have come at a better time.  This portion of the race was on a Hilly, winding, unpaved road.  Because it had been Raining for so long, parts of this unpaved road were very mushy.  My feet would get pulled into the muck as I ran, sucking strength and energy out that I couldn't spare.  The car horns, and cow bells and cheering out of windows was awesome throughout the whole race, but when I realized that it was my people I was super excited!  I came into transition 4 and saw the girls holding their awesome signs.  I stopped for a quick hug and kiss, got new bottles and a handful of peanut M&M's and headed off again.  M&M's were not sitting well, so most of them got tossed to the side of the road.  I apologize to the mama birds and field mice for feeding their babies junk food.
Photo Credit: Patti&Co.Photography

Photo Credit: Patti&Co.Photography
I would next see Lesley et al. at exchange point five where Lesley was very generously waiting to run two legs with me.  At this point in the race I was really grateful for the company.  I had been running  by myself for quite awhile.  It was nice to have someone to chat with.  Lesley's physical and emotional presence, and fresh running legs helped pace me through that "I have already run so far, but I still have so far to go" part of the run.
As we approached exchange point six I realized that my Mom, the boys, and my sister had arrived.  I was thrilled to see my adorable boys standing in the Rain at the side of the road, ringing their cowbells like crazy people.  It was such a sweet sight and SO encouraging.  Stopped for a quick hug and kiss, because I can't resist them, and made a port-potty stop that I also couldn't resist at the time.  Luckily the people in line graciously allowed me to cut in when I explained that I was running 50K and going straight through, not waiting for a teammate to arrive to start a leg.

Coming into exchange point seven was when I really started to feel the strain of the distance, the Rain, and the Hills that I had conquered thus far.  I was nearing marathon distance and my quads and knees were telling me so.  When I talked to Lesley about it later she said that she knew that I was hurting because all of a sudden I became very quiet.  It was much like that long runs that Leigh and I had done together in training.  At some point near the end the conversation would stop, we would begin to conserve all the energy we could, and become singularly focused just to continue to move forward.  Being an awesome running partner, Lesley knew that at this point all that I needed was for her to be there, and she ran silently beside me, willing me forward.  We came into transition seven where everyone was standing at the side of the road cheering.  I squatted for a few seconds to stretch my knees and quads while Leigh gave me two full water bottles.  At this point I was feeling VERY pukey and knew that water was likely all my stomach would tolerate.  I had jelly beans in my Fuel Belt that I would use if I needed anything to eat.  As I ran off Lesley shouted after me "only 8.9K to go, you can do it."
Pain Face
Everyone loaded into their cars and after a few minutes my caravan of supporters drove by me cheering, honking horns, and ringing cowbells.  After they passed I burst into a full on ugly running cry.  I was so close to reaching my goal, and I was so overwhelmed with all of the support I had received along my way.  I was able to pull myself back together.  I had 8.9km to go and it was going to take some grit and determination to get there.  My pace slowed a bit, the upHills became more difficult, and my quads screamed on every downHill.  One runner passed me with a chipper "hi" on her way by.  I reminded myself to run my own race, to remember how far I had come (literally), how many Hills I had climbed, and decided not to get down on myself because someone had passed me.  The last 2K were hard.  My breathing had became rapid and loud.  The race was no longer a physical challenge, this was all mental, it was all an exercise in mentally overcoming the pain, and mentally willing myself to go on.  As I literally approached the realization of my goal I reflected back to where it began.  I thought about that afternoon on December 12th, 2012 when I sat frantic on the couch the day before Cooper's surgery, that was when I found, that was when we started on the path towards this goal, that's when we decided this was how we could give back.  I thought about all of the fear, and pain, and dedication, and passion, and love, and perseverance, and commitment, and support that all came together to make accomplishing this goal possible.  Finally I saw them in the distance, it was just the push I needed, 50K was right there.  I ran/hobbled as fast as I could right into Leigh's arms.  I had done it.
Stretching out my arms, not adopting a new running style.  Even my elbows were sore by the end

My bib did not survive the Rain!
p.s.  My Garmin read 5:11:17 when I was done.  I can proudly say that I ran the whole 50K with no walking breaks.  With 2 quick hug breaks, 1 quick potty break, and 1 quick stretch break we figure my official time would be around 5:14.

p.p.s.  It Rained for every second of that 5:14.

p.p.p.s.  In case you can't tell this post was brought to you by R for RAIN, and H for HILLS

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