Monday, July 18, 2011

Back on My Feet Lone Ranger 24-Hour

1st woman, 2nd overall. 137.82 miles in 24 hours. PR by 6 miles. CR (over my old CR from last year) by 12 miles. And I made the All-Time North American Ultra List with that distance!

When Anne Mahlum, the Race Director, drove by me on a bicycle at hour 11.5 and asked me how I was doing, I didn’t know what to say because my reality proper consisted in binaries. I was exhausted but caffeinated. I was dirty, but on the inside I felt clean. I was suffering intensely but probably on the same emotional plane that I might be spinning in a sundress in a field of daisies. My legs felt like cars had struck them, but moment-to-moment, I was detached from the immediacy of that pain. I was somewhere afloat in the noumenon with Kant.

Ah, the poetry of the ultramarathon.

I didn’t say these things to Anne. Instead, I said, “I’m okay probably.” I gave her a thumbs up/finger point combo, while expressing consternation with my eyebrows, and that seemed right.
(One year ago. I was such a child. I remember those days fondly.)

Last year at the pre-race medical check-in, the doctor took my vitals, then shook me and asked if I was awake. This year, he checked my pulse, rechecked it, looked bemused by my body temperature, and then asked if I was alive.

I said yes.

He said no.

Apparently, he had been trying to count the number of breaths I had taken since sitting in the medical chair, and I hadn’t breathed yet. My pulse was slow, but it always is. The whole occasion was curious because I felt so alive at that moment, sitting there on the edge of my favorite environment, a race site, where Gatorade and spandex abound. My heart was fluttering, I think, but he couldn’t track it. I think if you move from "asleep" to "not alive," then that means you've improved your fitness...up to a point, that is, when the opposite becomes true.

The Lone Ranger 24-Hour Run is an incredible event. Last year, I enjoyed the excitement of the occasion and the Michael Buble playing on the backstretch of the course, (admittedly. I will admit that.) I knew I’d be back, and this year, it would be an A-race, meaning I would do focused training and build up for it. So technically, I had only spent a 24-hour span of my life on the course, but I’ve revisited it so many times in my dreams that I knew it more fully, like 24.5 hours worth of course knowledge. (Dreams are short, actually.)
(Pre-race, I chug literature as much as I chug Gatorade because it's good to have something to think about other than running when you're running.)

The car ride from DC to Philadelphia was hilarious and wonderful because those are adjectives that describe my co-passengers, Tala and Nathan. I have the best friends in the world. Carrie, Lauren, Kim, Nathan, and Tala not only gave up their weekends to watch me run but also took care of a lot of the planning. I was able to share this part of my life with them! When I sent them a Details and Logistics email thanking them for joining me “on this metaphysical journey into the cosmos,” they decided to take over the practical aspects of planning.
(My crew: Nathan, Tala, Lauren, Kim, and Carrie. BEST CREW EVER.)

I was VERY excited to run, though not in a camp counselor way—more like in a phlegmatic, placid, anticipatory way—smiling on the inside. And I altogether couldn’t decide if I was enthused about the adventure before me or if I was just chipper in general over the amount of Justin Bieber they let me sing along to on the way over.

Race morning came! I sought out Anna Piskorska in the starting area. Have I mentioned she’s awesome? She is awesome.
We hugged, wished each other luck, and were off. FOR A DAY. Twenty-four-hour runs are simple in concept but difficult in execution. This training season was very strong, with 5 peak weeks at over 150 miles/week, so I knew one of two things would happen:

1. I would do well and be happy.
2. Something awful would happen to me.

Both 1 and 2 occurred, actually. But I landed more on the happier than the awful side.

All was going well for hours. I was jubilant and just taking it all in. People kept giving me sweet, feminine nicknames, like "Monster Child," "Beast," "MorANIMAL," and, my personal favorite: "Freak of Nature."

No, I have changed my mind. My favorite thing was when they yelled, "Oh, wow! You're the FIRST LADY!" And I would say, "Aw, yes. It seems I have been confused with Michelle Obama again." This happens all the time. Every time I am winning a race, people think I am married to the president.

Then my stomach went south. And suddenly, I was 13 hours into the race, doing what the yoga people like to call “Savasana,” but that I like to call “prostrate abject failure.”

(Here is a cat I found on the internet, demonstrating. Apparently its name is "Sweet Tater Cat." You're welcome.)

Things eventually corrected themselves. I just got sick for several hours and lost momentum. It was awful, but it happens. I threw up on the bushes! And I wasn’t alone. It was quite the occasion out there on those bushes. This is acid deposition, and the plants will die. I don’t know what happened to everyone else, but I know I got sick because I am not used to eating so much processed food—Gu’s and such things. But I have learned. I wished for a nice spinach salad of pure, unadulterated lettuce.

Twenty-one hours in, I got the record and held a pow-wow with my crew. Rockstar Phil McCarthy joined. I considered being done, leaving room for myself to easily beat myself next year to re-secure the cash bonus, but Phil recommended I pound it out to see what I could do. I went out again, finishing the day with 137.82 miles. Thank you for being a great friend, Phil.

Also, thanks to Inov-8 for equipping me in excellent clothes and sneakers. I spent a great deal of time in my Road X-233s and loved them--strong and supportive--much like my team. I wanted to run for Inov-8 because I love those shoes, but in joining, I also got a family of runners and friends. I love my team. Also, thanks DryMax for the awesome socks! This is the first summer ultra where my feet have come out unbattered. It is actually remarkable.

Mom, Dad: I just confused you guys for buttons. Why? Because you're as cute as them. You're as cute as buttons!

Serge and I are collecting our plaques. Awesome job, Serge.

Fast forward to the real world now:
Today at work, I was washing dishes in the bathroom with my co-interns, and I volunteered to be the bouncer to keep people outside. "What are you going to do?" one scoffed. "Run at them? ... For a day?" Maybe. I don't know. Sometimes, I'm in the grocery store, and I think that if anyone were to challenge me to a game of freeze tag, I might win. I'm beginning to feel more like an athlete, rather than just a philosopher in spandex. The world is opening up before me!

Congratulations, everyone! Great day, you guys. I truly enjoyed meeting all of you. I hope you reached your goals and are recovering well.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Sophie's Death March


When my boss asked me what I was doing this weekend, I hesitated to say “Death March” because it sounds so final, and I have several outstanding office assignments to complete. Nobody else can do them except for me. It takes a special girl to enter data. I’m going to go ahead and say that I am the only one capable of data entry. Some people say chimps, too, yes. But that’s likely because they’ve never met a chimp. Or me. No chimp, even the most skilled chimp on the planet, could perform data entry with comparable enthusiasm and vigor.
So I told her I was doing a Death March but that I am not actively seeking a premature demise or anything; it’s just a cute little nickname. If I were to name a run, I would call it something like “Runnity Run Lalala Mountain Bippity Bop,” which is why they never ask me to name things.

Dear Diary,
It seems I’ve embarrassed myself at the office again. My boss thinks I may be dying, proactively and pre-meditatively, over Fourth of July weekend and that I’m not going to finish inputting my data. This is probably less embarrassing than the day she found me dancing at the fax machine.
Love and Fondness,

I left the DC area at 4:30 in the morning because I figured I’d get lost, and I did. Anticipate and account for my flaws—Check. GPS units are pernicious to society because they give you an order like “turn left,” but you have to wait two miles to obey. “Turn left in two miles.” Obedience should be immediate, like it was in the old days. So I ended up on the far side of the mountain at a gas station, and an affable older gentleman in a jean jacket sent me in the correct direction. I made it.

The group Sophie assembled was huge, 40 or more. It was exciting to see a lot of familiar faces and catch up briefly before we were off. I trotted up front with Neil Gorman and Ragan Petrie (both of WUS!) and a few others. It is important to, at all times, be fit enough to run up front because there is the highest likelihood of encountering a bear. We did get lost for a bit, though, and got in some extra credit miles. It felt good, as extra credit often does. When we re-passed a group, they sassed us and called us lazy. I love the VHTRC.

As we ascended the first set of inclines, Neil scolded me for running with my head down and reminded me to look around. His reminder changed the rest of the run for me. The higher we climbed, the more magnificent the waterfalls. We scurried over boulders, across creeks, and through single-track footpaths of verdant profusion. Some might call certain areas of the trails bucolic or pastoral, Bobby Gill. We climbed mountains and overlooked the entire world, it seemed. I felt adequately re-contextualized within my environs. Living in DC, you start to think that you are big and important, but you're NOT. Just kidding. But on the mountains, you feel small and lose track of your personal affinities and agendas. You are just wholly present, taking it all in.

The day was clear and temperate; it never grew too hot. The trees provided us with shade and respite, but every time we reached a clearing, we were flooded with a resplendence of white light.

Resplendence is on the list of words I am not allowed to use in my blog. My blog editor/little brother wrote down several words I have used too much—i.e. resplendence, obfuscation, salubrious—and banned me from using them because he says they are my comfort words. But in this case, it’s the only word that fits. Deal with it, Teddy Moran!

*Upon editing, Teddy just notified me that I forgot “unadulterated” on my list of banned words. “But maybe that's because you wanted to continue using it in your blog, pretending it's not a comfort word,” he said. So restrictive. I am now accepting applications for a new blog editor with a greater allowance for repetitive diction.
You're fired, Teddy. You and your bear can leave. What do you know?

In the quiet moments, I rewrote the lyrics to BeyoncĂ©’s “Halo” song. “Baby, I can see your Hegel.” Because sometimes you’re on the dance floor up in the club, and you want a more substantive lyric, something with richer content. So you’re dancing and ask, “What is that feeling pulsing through my body? It is the stereo?” NO. It’s edification. And it is altogether the best feeling in the world.

So I was thinking pretty hard about the BeyoncĂ© song, and in my inattention, I wiped out on a root. I cut both of my knees, really only superficial abrasions, but there was a lot of blood. As I ran by people, they clasped their hands over their mouths and gasped. Ragan told me to clean it off in the river, but I decided it wasn’t worth stopping. There were only 6 miles left. Furthermore, every trail run includes falling. Recall the middle-finger-to-the-world hand blood incident on New Year's Day and the how-did-those-rocks-get-into-my-sports-bra? misadventure in May.

Also of note: I ate a Gu! It was the first of my life. Gross. Gu’s are basically sugary, caffeinated gelatinous amalgams that dehumanize you upon consumption because they’re not real food. That being said, I will eat them every run for the rest of my life now because they are portable and have a high assimilation efficiency. Right away, you feel better.

Okay, go! I have to get some faster miles in today. Tomorrow, I may do Gary's Browntown Loop. "Chances of a bear sighting are 58% - if blackberries are ripe along Mt. Marshall Trail the odds bump up to 84%." Okay, awesome. And then my BOMF taper starts! Ahhh!!! It's my first A-race of the year. Thanks again, Sophie Speidel for organizing yesterday's trail run. It was a ton of fun.

(Two weeks away from BOMF 24-Hour run. I could not be more excited. I feel strong and healthy, and I've put in more high-quality distance sessions this year. It will be fun to see my Philly running family again!)

Whatever you do, GO BIG. Happy trails.