Saturday, October 6, 2012

Sufferfest AKA MRTR 50K Trail Run 2012

Magical McKenzie River Trail
First hour:
Whoa! Where is everyone going?  Why so fast?  What's the rush?  Don't they know about the bottle necks, the hills, pacing themselves?  They'll be sooooooooorry!  I will catch up with them.  I will pass them.  They will curse themselves for going out too fast. 

HEART PALPITATIONS!  Short of breath.  Step off the trail.  Please don't let me pass out and go home in an ambulance.  I'm too young to DIE!  Breathe. Breathe.  Brrrrrrrrrrreathe.  It's your heart murmur.  Your heart will remember how to beat.  Your lungs will fill with air again.  You. Are. Fine.

I'm running again.  I have no business running this race on such limited training.  Sure, I got my long runs in, but I neglected my speed work, hill work, trail work and any semblance of a consistent training plan.  I was lucky to get three woggy (walk/jog) "runs" in a week.  Glance at Garmin.  I've only run 4 miles so far?!  This. Was. Going. To. Be. A. Long. Day.

Other than a guy in his 60s that's run this race 26 consecutive years (rock on!) and a couple chatty catty women behind me, I'm all alone.  Their conversation sounded more like one I'd hear from someone high school aged as opposed to from someone in my 40-45 year old age-group.  "She's not even that pretty."  "She just has lots of pretty friends.  They go out and she gets far more attention that she deserves."  Um, really?  Wow.  As if my run wasn't bad enough, I had to listen to this drivel?

Second hour:
My race goals:
1. Do not get stung by a BEE!
2.  Do not fall.
3.   Have fun.
4.  Finish race (preferably in between six and seven hours).

These all seem like rather lofty goals now.  I was still waiting to loosen up and find my rhythm.  Usually things started clicking after mile 4, definitely no later than mile 8.  No such luck today.  This was work.  I was having one of my crappy, this-run-sucks-ass-moments.  Get me to an aide station.  I want a cookie.  I've only gone 10 miles?!  21 more to go!!!  Is there possibly any way I could finish this race?

Why do I feel compelled to do these crazy things?  Why can't a be a normal person? I loved training on these trails.  Couldn't that be enough?  Why race?  Why pay to suffer?  *World's smallest violin singing a sad, sad, song* My suffering was so palatable, I couldn't even appreciate the natural beauty.

Lava Field (photo courtesy of Laura McClain)
Third hour:
I'm in bee territory admist the sneaky rocks that trip runners, make them bleed, require stitches and get terrible scars.  Had to pee.  Didn't want to step off the trail onto a bee nest.  Held it.

I'm running. I'm running.  I'm running.  I'm running. I'm running.

Eyes peeled.  No bees sighted, but I was 99.9% sure I could hear those evil little buggers.  Next aide station at mile 14.5.  I was having such a long miserable day.  My IT hurt.  It took so much effort to run.  I was ready to call it a day.  I think I'll pull out of the race, have someone drive me back to my car and go home.  I have better things to do with my time.  Aid station volunteers, trail angels warmly greet me.  They lie tell me I look great, strong.  I'm not dirty like the other runners and geez, did I have cute hair!  They filled my hydration pack and fed me Bugles, melon and oranges.  They were so kind. I guess I'd keep going.  For now.

*Singing Bob Marley*
My feet is my only carriage
So I've got to push on through
But while I'm gone...

Everything's gonna be alright
Ev'rything's gonna be alright
Ev'rything's gonna be alright
Ev'rything's gonna be alright
Ev'rything's gonna be alright
Ev'rything's gonna be alright
Ev'rything's gonna be alright
Ev'rything's gonna be alright

No woman, no cry
No, no woman, no woman, no cry
Oh, little sister, don't she'd no tears
No woman, no cry

Blue Pool really is that blue

Sahalie or Koosa Falls. Both ridiculously beautiful.
Fourth hour:
Can't believe I was so close to DNFing!  What the heck was I thinking?  That would mean I would have to train ALL over again.  Enter the lottery and get my slot ALL over again.  And RUN all over again.  Let's do this! Let's git 'er done so I never, ever have to do this ever again ever.  The hills and the highly technical portion of the trail were pretty much over.  I found my running rhythm.  I finally loosened up around mile 20.  I doused my head and washed my dusty face in the river.  I hadn't gotten stung by a bee (yet).  I hadn't fallen down (yet).  I hadn't had fun (yet).  I hadn't finished the race (yet) but  my resolve was renewed.  Only 11 more miles to go!  Was it possible?  Could I do this?  Would I finish?

Gnarly trail is like totally technical, dude.

Carmen Reservoir made me want to be out doing some open water swimming
Fifth hour:
I'm speeding up!  I'm passing people.  Someone called me "Speedy" as I ran past them up a hill.  SPPEEDY! Me!  By golly, I was running my first (and last!) 50K today!  Fellow runners sure look hot, sweaty and dirty.  "Why are you so clean?!" a fellow runner yelled at me as I passed her and a friend.  At this rate I was going to run my first negative split race.  Only 10K left!  I have eaten SEVEN packets of GU!  SEVEN!  I thought about my friends running ahead of me  and/or waiting at the finish line.  I thought about celebrating with them.  I thought about soaking my legs in the icy McKenzie River waters.  I was going to finish!

Amazingly awesome MRT training run with friend Laura

FREEZING. Foot cramp!
Sixth hour:
Some folks predicted that I'd finish the race in just under 6 hours.  Sounded frighteningly fast to me.  I didn't want the pressure.  I really hadn't trained for this thing.  It was my first 50K.  Any time would be a PR.  This was my litmus test for potential future feats of endurance.  Was I an ultra-runner?  Were 50 mile races in my future?  Perhaps even a 100K?  Would I sign up for an Ironman in November?  A resounding NO, NO, NO! echoed in my brain throughout those last three miles.

My endurance days were over.  My girls are young, but quickly growing.  It is time to support their athletic endeavors.  Swimming for one daughter.  Soccer for the other.  As a full-time working mom, I wanted to spend every non-working-waking moment with my sweet girls.  Then there's the fact that my house was a wreck.  My yard is a weedy, burnt-to-a-crisp jungle.  I used to have hobbies and free time.  I used to have a life!

Now I find myself registering, training, racing ad nausium.  This just isn't normal.  I could spend all that time and money doing other things like traveling, learning to play a musical instrument, learning to paddleboard, turning my house and yard into a places I actually want to spend time.  Only 5K left.  Then NO more races for me.  I was booking that family trip to Disneyland.  I was planning my 20th wedding anniversary trip to Hawaii for once and for all.

First grade teacher by day, soccer mom/swim lesson chauffeur/homework helper by evening, endurance warrior by weekend
6 hours 32 minutes:
I. Am. DONE!  50K in the books.  I never have to do that again. 

Running pal Laura and I after we stuffed our faces with burritos.
That's a wrap.
24 hours later:
I feel GREAT!  What's next?


The woods are lovely, dark and deep.   
But I have promises to keep,   
And miles to go before I sleep,   
And miles to go before I sleep.

~Robert Frost


  1. You are such an inspiration, Leah. Thanks for sharing your trials & triumphs. I am contemplating changing up my exercise routine & you motivate me to go ahead & make the change. I have been doing Jazzercise, walking, and a little jogging. I think I may join Oakway to take some other classes & think long term what is best for my body. Way to go on your 50K. That is amazing & makes me want to better at what I do!!! :) Thanks again, Brenda!!

  2. Thank you so much Brenda! That's very kind of you. I love changing my programs around. If you join Oakway, I will probably see you there. Great gym with lots of options for keeping that variety. Thanks for reading!