Monday, April 29, 2013

My First (and Last?) Ultra

I am sore, bruised, and have pain in areas that I never knew could hurt. I don't mind any of that. I wear it as a sign of pride. There is much to be proud of from yesterday and I'd like to share that before explaining, making excuses and whining a bit. I was excited to try an Ultra. Having run a whole bunch of marathons, I was curious if I could handle something longer. Besides, I love trails and challenges, at least the ones that I select and control for myself.

Before the race- There are a lot of trim dudes and dudettes hanging around. I try and make the usual deep small talk that permeates these situations. “Have you run this before?” I ask. “Not this race, although I've been on the AT.” He replies. “The A-Team? I wonder. This old white guy was clearly not the BA Barracus character”. Too afraid to probe further, I move on. Later I discover that we will be running on the Appalachian Trail, known by its friends as the AT.

The race director explains that we will be going through a section of boulders, where it will take us a half hour to go less than a half mile. I am less than excited to hear this.

Mile 1- There are, indeed boulders. Picture huge boulders with rabid mountain lions on them. Take away the lions, and that is what we go through and over and over and around...

Miles 2-4 Even once we are off the boulders there is less running than I've hoped. The climbs up the mountains go straight up. Apparently, switch backs are for wimps. Some older dude blows past me as we walk up the mountain. For the first time of five, I trip. A mere flesh wound.

Miles 5-7 When the downhills are rock free, I try and really open up. My fragile pride having been wounded by the faster hikers, I greatly enjoy running past them. For the first of a dozen times, we cross over and through water.

Mile 8 I wipe out but good. I am covered in dirt and chocolate gel. It is like I have been sacked by Lawrence Taylor. I don't think I blew any snot bubbles, but I think he'd have felt pretty good at watching me go down.

Miles 9-11 I meet a nice couple, who are also road runners. I get them a bit lost on the trail, but not too bad. They say they are doing the 20 miler and ask me what I am doing. When I say the 50K they react in a way similar to what a person in the hospital for an ingrown toenail would react, upon meeting someone who is getting their gall bladder removed, and a brain transplant. Something along the lines of pure pity.

I look down and see blood running down my leg.

Miles 12-14 The scenery is great. At the moments where I am running, I am really enjoying this.

Mile 15 Bathroom break. Based on the color of my urine, I think I'm a niddah. (Sorry, I know I shouldn't have gone there). No wonder all these folks have those backpacks with the five-course meals.

Mile 18- . They really are quite lovely. Running through them is kind of like being attacked by adorable porcupines; better than the alternative, pleasant even, but a bit painful.

Mile 20- The moment of truth. We are right near the parking lot. I can end it here. I get a drink, refill my water bottle and head out for part two.

Miles 21-22 Another hike up a mountain. I am being attacked by skeeters as if I am smelly, sweaty and dirty. Wonder why.

A fellow sufferer (who I later learn is named Jeremy) informs us that he's read the map and this is the last climb. I am very relieved.

At the top! This is Pole Steeple, the gorgeous, scenic top of the mountain with a great panoramic view. Only thing is, I trip, as I get to the top. I fall. Hard. Bone on rock. As I start to feel sorrier for myself and contemplate quitting, a woman reacts towards me with pity. This is exactly what I need. I will not quit. I will show myself and my kids that when I commit to do something, I finish it. I limp off down the mountain, forgetting to even look at the view.

Mile 23- I almost miss a turn. Luckily, Jeremy tells me before I get lost. With today being Lag BaOmer, I wonder if before the day is over, there will be a new yahrtzeit.

Mile 24- I am trying to channel Daniel Day-Lewis in “The Last of the Mohicans” but the soundtrack keeps getting interrupted by a different song in my head. Note to self. Never listen to the Maccabeats before running an Ultra, especially the song with the dancing jelly beans. Damn you Maccabeats!

Mile 25- There's a narrow bridge over the water (The water's not troubled, but I am). No railing. Wobbly bridge. Fear of heights. Not happy.

Miles 26-28- More hills, more rocks, more hiking. Jeremy gives and Jeremy taketh away. Damn you Jeremy!

The End- I finished. Or maybe, it finished me. SIX AND A HALF HOURS (the winner was in the low to mid fives).I am tired sore, proud, humbled, happy and annoyed. The non-Kosher barbeque sure smells great. Instead, I skarf down 32 bags of Utz potato chips, starting a one day love affair with hydrogenated oils and trans fats.

I really didn't mind the challenge. I kind of like the blood and bruises, so why am I so annoyed? It's not the slow time. I've run slow races before. I am frustarted by the amount I have walked, and climbed. I thought I was signing up to run, and too often, due to hills and rocks I was unable to do so. I trained a lot for this race. I ran a lot of hills and put in a lot of time and sweat. This is not what I expected. In earlier emails, we had been told that the section with the boulders would not be part of this year's race, yet there it was. According to my Garmin, the course was less than 30 miles. Finally, if I'm going to suffer like that, I'd at least like a shirt that says that I did a 50K instead of a generic one without any mention of the ddistance. So is there another Ultra in my future? Perhaps, but if so, it would have to be one where I can run. I love running on trails and can imagine trying to take on a50K again some day, but not like this.

1 comment:

  1. Pesach, I remember (fondly now) after I had completed my 61K, my comment was "I didn't do the trail, the trail did me. Chewed up and spit out." That evening, walking like a nonogenarian in ski boots, I said to my family "I am not doing this to my body again."

    It took me four months, and an advertisement for a 100K was posted. My reaction? I murmured "Oh baby! You will be mine!"

    Pesach, If I didn't warn you in advance, I'm really sorry about it, but ultra-marathoning is a highly addictive sport. Truly, there is no turning back; you're one of us now. One of the self-inflicted few who view 42.2K as a "training run". Welcome to the asylum, brother.