Sunday, June 4, 2017

Cayuga Trails Marathon 2017

Apologies in advance. This is not going to be a very exciting race report. I don't have anything funny or insightful to say. But the Cayuga marathon is an awesome race and I'd highly recommend it. The trails are gorgeous and challenging. There is also the 50 mile trail championship option, for those superhumans out there. I have no idea how anyone can run 50 miles that fast or even at all, but they do, and it's fantastic to witness. Plus, you don't get many chances in life to run next to waterfalls on a sunny June day while a bagpiper plays, so you've got to relish those opportunities.

The weekend itself was fun, and not just because I love any excuse to go to Ithaca and to see so many of my favorite people. Pete and I drove to Ithaca on Friday night, went to packet pickup and dinner with Alison, Bob and Todd (delicious ramen and super cool ice cream rolled up into tubes and topped with whipped cream and candy!), then went to sleep in a fancy Marriott. In the morning we headed to Robert Treman State Park and stood around talking to everyone while we waited for the race to start.

At a little after 8am, the ram's horn sounded and we were off. From the get-go I didn't feel great. I'd had bad poops in the morning (TMI, sorry. But if you're squeamish about poop talk you'd do well not to read anything written by runners). My stomach held up for the first half of the race, though my legs felt heavy right from the start and my brain was not into it at all. Luckily I somehow managed to keep up with Alison, Todd, Danielle and Anne for most of the first half and this made the internal struggle worthwhile. It had also gotten pretty warm, though there was a nice breeze so I didn't feel too sweaty. I did go through all the water in my hydration pack, but the TrailsRoc aid station at Buttermilk Falls was just ahead and I knew I could refill my water and refresh my spirits there. The whole first half I'd been thinking just get to the TrailsRoc aid station and then you'll have no choice but to keep going to make it back to the car. That's the good thing about out and back courses - once you go out, you have to keep going in order to get yourself back.

I knew it was going to be a long, slow slog back to the start/finish at Robert Treman. And it was. I had started the race emotionally and physically depleted and 13 miles of running over logs, up stairs and ridiculous hills and through some sections of especially putrid mud had not helped the situation. I felt guilty for not running with Pete. I had been training so hard and I'd wanted to run my own race, but then I just spent the whole race feeling like a selfish and shitty person. My stomach hurt on the way back, but that probably would have been fine if I'd been in a better mood. It was a constant struggle to keep a positive attitude during the whole race, but more so in miles 13-27 when I was mostly alone. My Dude brain was all look at all these amazing trails and these amazing people! Waterfalls! Pine needle forests! Some guy in a tree! A dog! More dogs! Did I mention waterfalls?! But then the mean voice would be all everything is amazing here but you. Why are you even here? You don't belong here. You need to drop from Many on the Genny. You can't run 40 miles, even if something was chasing you. And then the Dude brain would be like yeah, totally. I'd just give up and be like okay bear, go ahead and eat me. I don't wanna brag but I'm seasoned to perfection over here, I mean check out this dried salt all over my neck.

Important aside: Super Infinity of thanks to the incredible volunteers and spectators, especially Jeff, Amy, Sheila, Eric, Picasso, Barb, Jim, Ron, Sean, Dave, Katie, Tim and Diesel. Every time I saw a friendly face it was like a hit of the best pain-relieving and mood boosting drug.

Thanks to Sheila for the pic! And being an awesome sauce spectator/volunteer!
I had an unusual pain in my left foot (when taking off my shoes after the finish, I found a stick in there so I'm hoping that was what caused the weird bruise I found on the ball of my foot), my stomach was crampy and my legs were fatigued, but nothing hurt that much. I've definitely run through worse. Sometimes the runs where you feel less than stellar are the most valuable. You learn that things can fall apart and you can still keep going. I don't think I ate nearly enough during this race, but I just didn't feel like eating. I did drink coke and that helped a lot. Though when I say drank, I really mean spilled all over my face and legs, as apparently I am incompetent at drinking from a collapsible cup. I was purposely trying not to look at my watch and just focus on forward motion. My brain was getting a little foggy and I kept feeling paranoid that I was lost. The course was super well marked and there were flags all over, it was just mental fatigue and my own terrible sense of direction taunting me. I was being hypervigilant about looking for flags. I didn't get lost. Actually, I even corrected this one guy ahead of me who took a wrong turn. I did however, almost die no less than 8 times during this race. There were so many times my foot caught on a root or slipped in the mud, my heart and several expletives leapt into my throat and I was sure I was going to go down hard. But every time, my body adjusted and righted itself. Effortlessly. Like it was nothing. Stabilizer muscles for the win. I am just a middle of the pack runner. But I am so thankful that I get to do this, that my body is capable of doing this. Even on the days when it feels kinda shitty, it is still awesome.

I almost cried at several points during the second half of this race. Especially when my watch said 24 miles and the volunteer holding the flag on the bridge said "Only 3 more miles back." Fuck. So I guess this is going to be a 27 mile day instead of a 26 mile day. Stupid trail miles. Can't just be 26 miles. Gotta be 26ish. Ish gotta be a whole other fucking mile today. Of course it does. I told myself I could cry when I got to the car, for now I needed to save that oxygen for breathing. I did finish. And I did cry in the car. Until I had to run to the bathroom. Except I couldn't run, so I had to hobble to the bathroom and spend some very uncomfortable minutes there. While also being thankful there were real bathrooms here so I didn't have to do this shit in the woods or a busted porta-potty. I washed my face and hands, cleaned the mud off my legs, hung around at the finish line with friends and felt almost human again.

Pete finished strong. I always tell him he's a better runner than me. I train incessantly just to be a mid-packer. He can run a hilly, stair-y beast of a marathon even though his longest run this year has only been 12.5 miles. He asked me how I'd done and I told him my time and he said offhandedly "Oh, I thought you'd do better this year because it wasn't as hot." Even though rationally I knew he didn't mean anything by it, I started to cry. It was like someone had voiced aloud what I'd been thinking in my head for 27 miles. I thought you'd do better. At friendship, at life partnership, at human-ing, at life. You should be better. We left shortly after Pete finished, as we had a long drive back to Rochester and we were both tired. My stomach was still unhappy, which was kind of a blessing since it's more socially acceptable to excuse yourself by saying my stomach hurts instead of my heart hurts. I was sad to leave my friends. And ultra finish lines are so inspiring. People do these crazy, impossible things and make it look easy. But I also needed food and rest and home. We stopped at a store to get crackers and chocolate milk, then to pick up a pizza for dinner. The much needed calories vastly improved my mood. After sleeping for 10 hours, and a short yog Sunday morning to reassure myself that my legs still worked, I felt much better.

My finish time was not entirely terrible. Pretty similar to last year, though that's a silly comparison since it wasn't the same course and I'm not the same person as last year. I am admittedly disappointed at myself for being in a funk and not enjoying it more (I did however thoroughly enjoy wearing my toucan shorts for so many miles. Thanks to Chris for being my outfit twin! He looks much better in the shorts than I do). But that is running, that is life. All I can ask of myself is to do the best I can with what I have and keep going, keep trying. Because I'm so unbelievably lucky to be here, in the presence of the awesomeness that is all of you.

Lyric of the moment: "If you're lost you can look and you will find me, time after time. If you fall I will catch you, I will be waiting, time after time..." ~Cindy Lauper "Time After Time" (Because it came on my iPod right after I almost fell for the final time and I was like Fuck, almost died again. Thank you body. You're the best.)

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