Monday, August 13, 2012


You reach a stage in your life when "firsts" don't happen as frequently as they used to. You need to make specific goals in order to get those firsts rather than rely on the momentum of life to get you there. (i.e. your first kiss vs. your first 10k).

Well, yesterday morning at around 6:15 a.m., I did it. I got to my goal of 50+ kms in a registered event. I actually completed 56 kms in total - a first for me! That is the furthest that these legs have ever taken me before. I knew I could succeed at Dirty Girls and I did just that. I ran/walked seven 8 km loops!  I didn't have a crew, no one helped me, and I didn't have a pacer (which wasn't allowed anyway for the 12 hour race). I did the entire race by myself.

I prepared well for this race. I ran. A lot. I ate the right way - no junk. I still have a problem drinking as much as I should but I did OK. (Water people, w-a-t-e-r!).

I'm going to be honest here; it was hard. Besides childbirth, it was the hardest thing I have ever done. I was mentally and emotionally fragile before the race. I wasn't sure I had trained enough. But the added stress of a full "night run" really kicked in. Running at night, even with flashlights, is not the same as running during the day.

Case in point, I fell twice during the first three loops. And not just one of those "oops, I tripped but regained my balance before I actually landed" kind of falls. We're talking full on hit the dirt with every part of my body. I was actually lucky during both falls. I landed on my left side first and my right side second. No scraped knees or major cuts. My upper left arm, which took the brunt of the first fall, is sore today. And my right knee is pretty swollen. After the last fall though I scared myself because I was completely alone. I decided that running was probably not a good idea until I hit the road portions of the race. Looking back it was probably one of the smartest moves I made. I fell on my right side and left side so the next fall would have probably been a face plant!

After my falls, I slowed way down. I had twelve hours to get to 56 kms so there was no rush. And if I really injured myself then getting to the goal would have been jeopardized. The 8km loop is a real mix of nicely flat, runnable sections with a few (ha!) rooty sections to force you to focus on what you are doing. There are at least two "swearable" hills to climb. The last major one called "A Runner's Pain" is just that. It starts out as a nice, meandering climb and then turns into the steep end of hell. I hated it but loved it too because I knew once I got to the top of that hill that I was only about 2 1/2 kms away from the start/finish. It's a great motivator!

Although the second and third loops had my falls, I would have to say that the fifth and sixth loop were the most mentally challenging for me. I was tired. I was hungry but nothing seemed appetizing. I was mentally drained. Funny thing though because as my brain was pointing out all the reasons to stop, my body just kept going. It simply over-rode all the negativity and just kept moving. There's something to be said for kicking on "autopilot". Around the same time I looked up through the trees and was shocked. The stars were out. The moon had begun to rise and there was some light in the forest. It had rained nearly non-stop for 48 hours before the 12 hour race and now it was clear and breathtakingly beautiful.

By the time I finished my last and final loop, the world was waking up. Unlike other races, there wasn't anyone at the finish line to hug me or take a photo - my kids stayed behind with my parents. But the race director was there with a ton of support and good wishes! It was a rather surreal moment. Part of me wanted to squeal with delight and the other half wanted to fall down and sleep. Part of me wanted to run around yelling "look at me! look at me!" and another was already mapping out the drive home to bed.

I will tell you this; such a huge allotment of time alone gives one an opportunity to think about a lot of things:

a) You know the whole "if a tree falls in the woods, does it make a sound?" question. Well, I'm pretty sure I answered it. When I fell, I heard the "oof" come out of my mouth. Pretty darn sure that a tree makes a lot more noise though.

b) Roots are a LOT bigger at night than during the day. They stick out a lot higher too. Not sure if they are trying to trap objects for consumption but I swear they melt back into the ground as soon as the sun rises.

c) Never, and I mean, never lift your white water bottle to your mouth so that your headlamp shines off of it. Instant blindness. Only took me about 8 or 10 times to remember this.

d) The one nice thing about starting a race so far behind the 24 and 48 hour races is that you actually pass people. Damn it, but that feels really good for a change!

e) Leaves hold a great deal of rain water. A slight breeze can bring what feels like a short shower even hours after a rainfall, so you know those leaves are holding a LOT of water!

I love the Dirty Girls race. There are many participants but the race feels small. The support is just amazing! Everyone from Diane Chesla, the race director, to all the volunteers are so welcoming and incredibly kind. I like it because you know what to expect; it's a consistent race. The trails are well-marked, the condition of the trail is awesome (even with all the rain we had), and the aid stations are fully stocked with everything one could want.

So what's next? I have one more race for the 2012 season. I'm starting to dread fall! I am doing the 50 km race at the Haliburton Forest Trail Race. After that, I may try and find some smallish road races to carry me through to spring.  I think I'll try and join a running group over the winter too - it would be good to run with people who will push me hard. For now though, I have less than four weeks to get ready for another 50 km!

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