Sunday, November 6, 2016

Mendon 50K: Because why not?

I pity the fool who signed up for Mendon 50K on a whim at the very last minute. When she hadn't trained for it. And then she promptly got her period and was like fuuuuck, well this is not ideal. Oh yeah, right. That fool was me.

I hadn't planned on running any races in November, as I needed to be free to make a short notice trip to Virginia to meet Pete when he returned from Afghanistan. But when I found out he'll return stateside later in the month and the forecast for Saturday predicted perfect running weather, I thought about registering. Then I hesitated. This wasn't one of my goal races for the year. I hadn't trained for it. Though when I say I didn't train, I don't mean that I didn't run. I run 4-5 days a week year round, plus strength training and cross training. Had I planned to do this race, I would have upped my mileage a bit, but regardless of my race calendar, I try to stay in decent enough shape that I can run 20+ miles whenever I want to.

Mendon was my first 50K, two years ago. It rained the entire time. I enjoyed the race but I remember thinking never again. Five loops is just too many. Last year I ran the 30K, loved it, yet again thought never again. But then I turned 35 and I started to get that time is running out and I'm still not good enough at any of the things angst. And Pete's return was rapidly approaching and I had failed at my plan to become super awesome in his absence. I only managed to do one chin-up, my chainsawing was mediocre at best and my attitude towards cooking had only improved slightly, from "never!" to "meh, sometimes." Plus I still don't have abs. Because cookies. There was a lot going on in my brain. And Saturday seemed like an ideal day to spend hours in the woods, so I did.

The adventure began on Friday night, when Alison, Bob and I went to packet pickup at Medved, to Core Life for dinner (Thanks Bob!) and to Red Fern for cookies. Most importantly, I introduced Bob to the awesomeness that is TLC's "No Scrubs,"which he has somehow never heard! (Next time we'll advance to TLC 201: "Waterfalls").

Bob and Alison picked me up at 7am on Saturday and we headed to Mendon. At the starting line I had the typical Oh shit, what have I gotten myself into? moment. And then we were off, down to the beach, around the shelter and up the long sloping field that is in my opinion the worst hill on the whole course. I've run this 10K loop so many times over the years. But the conditions on Saturday were ideal. Dry, cloudy with hints of sun here and there, not too hot, not too cold. Basically it was the Goldilocks of days. Just right.

The first two loops felt like just another Saturday long run. I was running with Sam and Jeff and races are always more enjoyable with company. Sam and I were chatting away about life and politics and slippery banana peel jokes, ticking off miles without my realizing it. I knew I wouldn't be able to keep up with Sam for the whole time, since he is much faster than I am, and partway through the third loop, I lost sight of him. I kept trotting along at a fairly decent (for me) pace and was never alone for very long without passing or being passed by another runner or seeing someone I knew at an aid station (the volunteers were amazing as always!).

As I started the fourth loop, part of me wished I had signed up for the 30K instead. My calves started to cramp up on some of the hills, but I figured out that I could ease the cramping by adjusting my gait. So I was doing this weird swagger-waddle walk up the bigger hills. Downhills and flats were fine so I tried to go as fast as I could on those. A woman passed me and randomly said "Have you tried the pickle juice here? It's amazing." It seemed like some kind of a sign so I made a note to get pickle juice at the next aid station.

The fourth loop was very emotional for some reason. I kept thinking about Pete and then I had to tell myself "don't think about it, don't cry." This has been a challenging year, but I felt like I was making the best of it and the time was passing quickly. Now I am thisclose to seeing husband man again and it's like suddenly time has slowed to an infuriating crawl. I am so ready for this whole deployment thing to be over. It's just not the same to cross a finish line without holding Pete's hand. As I was heading up water tower hill, a little white dog ran over and started licking me. He was so cute, like a miniature Mozzie, and my heart exploded in feels. When I turned to continue up the hill, I lost it and burst into tears. I may have to rename it waterworks hill. But that is how feelings work I guess. Sometimes the only way past is through. Once the tears came out, I felt better and kept going. I made it to the aid station, where the lovely volunteers filled my hydration pack with water while I did shots of pickle juice. That seemed to do the trick and I finished the fourth loop with my legs and brain back in the game then headed back out. For One. More. Loop.

This is the point in every race where my brain rationalizes, the faster you go the sooner you get to stop. I was going as fast as I could on flats and downhills and hiking as fast as I could uphill. It was not actually fast, but I was moving steadily and ticking off the miles, only 10K to go, only 5K to go. To me, the last 5K of this race always feels longer than the previous 4 loops combined. But then I saw Valone! And then the Lopatas! Things were looking up. I finally made it back to the fence, crossed the road and cruised across the field to the finish chute.

Thanks to Todd for the photos!

My stomach was a mess for the rest of the day, which was not cool. But otherwise things were good. I was filled with the tiredness and happiness of another beautiful day in the woods with some of my favorite people. This is my life and it is the best. But seriously Mendon, never again.

Lyric of the moment: "Well I'm pushing myself to finish this part. I can handle a lot. But one thing I'm in your eyes. In your eyes, in your eyes..." ~Rogue Wave "Eyes"

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