Peak 53. Wow.
I went into this race undertrained. I didn't think of it that way, but really I have only been running regularly again since March and this last month has been the first real *training* month I have had in a long time. It was really important to me to FINISH this race...I have not been able to complete an Ultra since last May. I did the Peak 50k, after having dropped down to it from the 53 mile. Looking back, it is when I started my slow decline in health. I was able to hang on until the fall, but when I really think honestly about it, VT 100 should have never even been on my radar, and I was not able to finish any other Ultras thereafter. We won't discuss what last winter was like...needless to say, I was feeling really depressed and worried that my short-lived Ultra career was over. This LDN that I am on has saved my life. I know I m not *cured* but my body is working again and it has given me my life back. And, it has given me my running back.
On to Peak... :)
I had a healthy amount of fear of this race, for good reason. There is a bit of elevation, to say the least, and it is supposed to be one of the hardest 50+ mile races on the east coast, if not THE hardest. I was prepared as best I could have been, given the time I spent preparing :).
I slept over in my car at the start of the race and awoke to CHILLY temps. It was not supposed to get above 70 degrees for the day, plus the tree coverage, made for perfect weather for me to attempt this race.
We went off at 6am and my intention was to run a 14ish hour race, given what I knew about the terrain, and the dreaded Bloodroot loop. I wanted to bank time knowing that Bloodroot would eat up a huge chunk of my day.
I felt great, settled into a good pace running whenever I could and hiking the hills. My poles were THE best investment and worth carrying as they helped tremendously. We came to the first chin-scraping climb that basically ended the race for me last year. It is somewhere in the first 5ish miles(I think) and I headed into it nice and slow. I came out of that feeling great. I hit the first of 3 stops at our major aid station and was feeling wonderful! I headed out on a 6m loop that would bring me back to the same aid station and I have to say this was one of my favorite sections of the race. I met a new running friend and we spent some enjoyable time on this loop chatting and passing the miles.
At mile 18 and the aid station, I met up with KZ which was a pleasant and welcomed surprise as I didn't expect to run with him at all. We got to head out to the *dreaded* Bloodroot together and actually ran the rest of the race together as well, which was totally the best (for me, though he may have regreted his decision when I hit my breaking point...but I digress)Off we went.
Bloodroot was what I feared the most. As it turned out, the nettles and other prickery-type brush had not had a chance to grow, so there wasn't much at all! The climbs though...holy moly. I love hills, I love to climb and actually enjoyed Bloodroot for the most part. The climbs were relentless though, and if you weren't in the right headspace, it could do you in for sure. That loop is a bit of a mind f*ck too as it is labeled as 19 miles but it turns out to be more, and the aid isn't EXACTLY where you expect it to be(understandably...it isn't exacty the most accessable place, lol) I ran out of water once and food once which was a bit sketchy as I started to get weak but we made it out of the loop and to aid at 37(or 41) miles just in time. It took us 7 hours to get through 19(or 23) miles. That is a long time. We weren't strolling in the park either, we were moving at the best clip we could, given the terrain. We were the last runners at that point.
Off we went for what I figured were about 15 more miles. Food helped and we were able to run(or fast shuffle, in my case) for a bit. I forgot my poles at the aid station which I soon regreted as we got to another insane cimb. It wasn't too long though, and sticks found along the way helped.
I don't remember a WHOLE ot of the remaining miles. I know once we got to the final 6-7 miles I had reached my emotional limit. I had spent some time really thinking about the race, knowing I was going to finish, how important that was to me after being so sick for the winter...I went from not being abe to get off the couch to running one of the hardest 50's...I was overwhelmed. I usually start thinking about my kids around this time, which always makes me emotional...then we hit the top of the mountain....Last year when I hit that point I cried. You come out into this clearing, surrounded by mountains and nature and it is so unbeievaby beautiful...I sob. Well, this year was no different. Somewhere around this time I also let KZ know I was done. D.O.N.E. I wanted to finish, I wanted to be done and I was toast.
And, it was getting dark.
I do not have the best headlamp, and I am a little iffy about night running in the woods(which I am DEFINITEY going to practice before pacing at VT!) so not only was I tired at that point but I was not in the best headspace to deal with the night running. Not being able to see where I was, I had no way to know when we hit the final switchbacks. I simply followed KZ's feet. We ran when we could, shuffled when we couldn't and finally hit the last bridge...and I knew we were almost home. Overwhemed again, I got teary as I was going to finish! For real! We heard everyone yelling for us and around the bend, up the last hill...and we were done!
I was DFL, in 16:28. Not a stellar time, by any stretch, but it was never about the time for me. It was about the finish. And I finished.
It is still sinking in. :)
I have to say, I really don't know if I would have finished without KZ with me. We have run together at races before and we have the awesome ability to run long amounts of time together. I don't know if I can say that about anyone else, but we can do it. We intuitively know when to talk, when to shut up, when to lead and when to follow. We space ourselves apart a bit when we need to get in our own heads, and we can be there when we need to encourage. I only hope I can and do help him as much as he helps me. I know he got how much this meant to me, how important this race was and I am so glad I got to conquere this with him :) Love ya, Dude :)
Aside from some stiffness in my legs, overall I feel great. I love my Hokas, they were so totally fantastic to run in, I felt NONE of the normal leg pain and fatigue I would have expected under those circumstances. I think I didn't lube my feet enough and shoud have changed socks once and didn't which lead to the horrid blisters I have on my right foot. It is also rediculously swollen and painful. My overall fluid retention is pretty normal, and I think its because I have been now drinking during long runs(race) to thirst instead of worrying about drinking too much. My weight was pretty good once I finally checked it, and switching back to Scaps worked wonders on my elecrtolyte stability. I probably should have had a few more things to eat but I managed.
Overall, I could not have asked for a better experience. I am totally happy with what I did and feel so great about any upcoming races I plan to do, having conquered this beast. :)
Congrats to all my other running buds who kicked ass on this course this weekend...Loni and Josh you guys rocked it, and Christine....3rd female...you are IT! :) Michelle is was awesome to see you out there, especially at 37 when a friendly face made a HUGE difference :)
Now...back to eating anything that isn't nailed down... :)
Oh, and Lyme Disease? You can kiss my ass. :)