I went into the Croom Fools 50 Miler knowing without a doubt that I would finish, I just wasn't sure how well I would run. I had set some soft goals for myself of 8:20 (10 min pace) and top 10. So here is how the story unfolds:
I headed up to Brooksville with Shanna early Friday afternoon. We went to packet pickup to save time in the morning. I am so glad I did because I was already trying to get all my aid station stuff ready in the morning to have one more thing to worry about. Then we went and checked into the hotel where they had a nice little happy hour for us. Then the friends started to show up. I got to finally meet Kellie Smirnoff who came down from Jax to win the 50k just three weeks after a solid 100k in New Zealand! Brad and Will then Krystal, John and Toni arrived and we hung out for bit before Shanna, Kellie and I headed up to eat the pasta that we had brought with us. It was just easier to eat in the hotel room and relax. Then we made up some bottles and rearranged the cooler for the morning and off to bed for a solid 6 hours of sleep! Man, 4:30 came awfully fast! But it was up and outta there.
We got to the start line around 5:30 and got the most perfect parking spot. I had just enough time to make sure all of my GUs and bottles were ready. I have myself believing that I wasn't nervous about the race but making sure that I had all my ducks in a row. Who knows if that was true, as I headed to the start line with my shirt on. Ummm....it was 70 degrees at the start, so I ran back to the car to ditch the shirt. I met up with John, Brad and Will at the start and Andy Matthews introduced himself as a co race director and that we were almost ready to start. He asked if anyone needed a lamp to which one poor soul said he did. Andy made no promises as to how long it would last; that got a laugh from the field. And then we were off. About 6 or 8 of us started down the road at a very comfortable 8 min pace. The course would go .7 of a mile down the road and make a left on a fireroad. The first loop was 5 miles followed by 3 loops of 15 miles each. I felt great on this 5 mile loop which was primarily flat with the exception of the climb up Tucker Hill back to the start line (main aid station). I also had my only fall of the day around mile 4. I got my foot caught on a root and went down on one knee and caught myself with one hand bottle. I popped up instantly and never missed a beat. As I came up to the car to grab my 2nd bottle, a GU and headphones, all of the runners in the 50k and 16M races were starting to gather as they were starting 1 hour after us.
Marc St. Angelo was there now too and assured me I could ditch my headlamp. He ran run a solid 9 hours last year so I trusted his advice and ditched it. Boy am I glad I did that, I would have hated carrying it for a lap or having to leave it at the next aid station and not pick it back up after the race. My only problem as I started the first big loop was that my headphones were tangled and with two bottles and not enough light, I wasn't about to slow down to get that situation straightened out. So I just shoved the headphones in my shorts and kept crusin! There was just enough light to really embrace the darkness of the trails up there. Next stop, Beaver Gulch. This gulch drops down fast with many roots and downed trees. This is also the place that just three weeks ago, I bashed my head on a low tree that goes across the trail. I was paying enough attention this time and was able to duck under it, as I was the next two times on the day! Climbing out of Beaver Gulch is easier than getting into it and then it was on to Camp Donkey, where Mark Jackson and his awesome family have an incredible aid station. He asks what I need and I reach into my shorts to ask if he can untangle my headphones. Tae is also there and refills my water as his waits for his father, the amazing Jim Schroeder to come through.
Full bottles and music playing, next stop, 5 miles to the road crossing station. I ran most of this way with Will Glover. Will is a pretty awesome dude that I met the night before with Brad Lombardi. Will was a little undertrained with a business to run as well as familial obligations but he was giving the 50 his best shot. He looked very strong at this point. We swapped back and forth for about 20 miles and it was great talking to him each time. I got to see Andrea Risi and Bill Slow Twin at the road crossing.
Full bottles and a GU down and I was off again. Three more miles to the Bundy's Pit AS. Quick in and out of there and it was 4 miles of hills back to the top of Tucker Hill. I walked most of the uphills because it was the smart thing to do. I felt great on the downs and flats so I just kept crusing at an 8:30ish pace, I think. Mile 16 was the last time I looked at my watch. It was at this point that I started to question how good or bad I felt. I had no problems getting back to the car but I wasn't sure that I felt great. All of the runners were out on their first loop by now so I just swapped out my bottles, left my trash and grabbed some new GUs.
Twenty miles down, 30 to go. I felt solid leaving, with Beaver Gulch and Camp Donkey only 3 miles away. Got there no problem but wanted Mountain Dew and/or Coke. Mark had Coke and he asked if I had been taking electrolytes. I had not but I had my baggie and grabbed two right then and at every AS after that too. I also had a potassium tab and an orange slice. I felt the need to sit a minute so I asked if I could sit. Mark told me I could but not for long. I sat for about 2 minutes and asked about the Labatt Blue that he had advertised on FB. He said he would have a cup for me on the next lap, that I had to earn it. So I got up and said I would be right back!
My run/walk "strategy" from here to the finish is pretty much a blur but I will try to chronical it to the best of my ability. From here, I ran when I felt I could run and I walked when I felt that I needed to walk but I took on the motto of ABM-Always Be Moving. There were many times over the next lap and a half that I really wanted to just bend over and put my hands on my knees, especially at the top of hills, but I resisted all of those urges. The only time I ever stopped was at an AS. So, on to the Road AS for the 2nd time. This was just a quick refill, orange slice, Endurolytes and a GU (which I think I only ate half and left it on the top of the water jug). Andrea also noticed that I was shaking pretty bad. I am not sure what that was about. Maybe cause I didn't take enough endurolytes early on, maybe the heat, who knows. My deal with the heat was not the same as anyone else in the race. I heard runners complaining left and right about the heat. I never once thought that it was "too hot." I knew that there wasn't really any humidity and a breeze most of the time so I had no reason to hate the heat. I put sunscreen on twice too and didn't even burn!
So from here it was run/walk through AS #3 and up and down all of the hills. There was a lot of run/walk in here and my feet were in some serious pain. I was wearing the Saucony Peregrines and I love them but my feet just don't want to cooperate with this kind of mileage. Oh well, up Tucker Hill to have a seat at the car. Shanna swapped out my bottles and asked what I wanted. I was in 1 word answer mode right then. I said "Red Bull" and then "Skittles." Looking back, I felt like Dorothy at the end of Wizard of Oz, I am looking at these people and saying "You were there" and "you were there too." My Dad walked over and said hi. I was pretty sapped of emotion as I responded hello back to him. I also threw a half eaten GU and said "I can't GU anymore, I'm F'd" and Sissy thought I said I can't GO anymore and was about to kick me back out. I could not take in any more GU and Chomps didn't taste good either. I was gonna have to rely on AS food and my bottles. I was always carrying one water and one gatorade.
Last lap, the bell lap, haha! I left out of there running and I think I made it a mile, maybe two, still running before the walking hit me again. Anytime I sat or walked for a longer period of time, I was able to follow up with longer stretches of running. Walk/Run seemed to be the plan this lap. I made it to Camp Donkey for the last time and there was no way I was asking Mark for the Labatt Blue. I just refilled bottles, ate a little bit and stumbled out of there. I ran/walked with Andy Barrett for a while in here, which is always amazing to do. He is the man and has helped me out a lot early in this career.
On my way to the Road AS for the last time, Stephanie Miller blew by me like I was barely moving. I just said "Great job, way to defend your title." Which she did in Rockstar fashion. She was still at the Road AS when I got there but she left quickly and I never saw her again. Wendy and Sally were there. Wendy helped me get some stuff together, bottles, food, endurolytes, introduced me to her boyfriend. I looked up, said hi and crashed back to my hands on knees (remember, I was allowed to do that at aid stations).
I left out of there for the last time and I think I was running 30 seconds to 60 seconds of walking the rest of the way. Somehow I made it the next three miles to AS#3. They were pretty cool people, I sat and had some coke, topped off bottles then get on my way again. By now, my theory was that the quicker I got to the finish the sooner the pain would stop. I just kept plugging away, running downhill and some of the flats and walking up the hills.
I was probably less than 1 mile from the finish when I turned a corner to walk and Sissy was coming towards me with a gatorade and tons of support. That gatorade was so good. We ran a little and then I had to walk some. We laughed about the cat sign, which is an inside joke, sorry folks! Then we hit that camp w/ picnic table and it was time to climb Tucker Hill and cross that finish line. I was able to run the top of Tucker Hill and out the trailhead straight into the finish. They handed me my finishers mug and I just sat down, completely spent. I just sat with my face in my hands, nearly crying, not really sure what was going on. Thinking back, I was laughing and joking with Sissy just 2 minutes before and then I had nothing in me. People came over to congratulate me but I can't completely remember who all was there. Shanna sat next to me and wanted to know what I needed. I had no answer for her. I had no idea what I wanted. Kellie did come over with a piece of cake on a plate so I did eat that. And my face wore some of it. Other than that, I could not function.
After a while, I was able to move over to the gathering area where the Speedsters had been hanging out for the hours they had been done running! Sissy and Keith dominated the 16M Fun Run in their first Croom race and the will be back again for sure! Patsy, Jami, Bob, Angela and Jim all ran the 50k. We toasted with champagne and I sat around like dead weight. Shortly after I finished, my mentor in the sport of Ultra Running, John Pyle, came through looking stronger than ever. I somehow was able to stand up and made my way over to share congratulations and get a picture with my hero.
It wasn't long before we decided to start heading home. Nothing sounded better than a hot shower and a comfortable bed. I got in the pool for a quasi ice bath, then got that hot shower. Then dinner and crashed on the couch to watch a movie. Not really sure how I stayed awake for it, but then that comfortable bed was calling my name and I was out cold until about 8:30am Sunday. Woke up and legs felt quite a lot better. Still sore but not crippling. Looking forward to Wickham Park Memorial Day Weekend! I want to thank all of the people that worked the aid stations and supported me. I also want to thank Andy Matthews and Jim Hartnett for putting on such an amazing race. Also need thank my Dad for coming to support me. He saw me run a 5 mile race about 2 1/2 years ago when I started running but this was a whole different story.
Lastly, Dear Shanna, your support is unreal!
Finish Time: 8:49