I sipped the Water, but was denied the Drink at Nueces 50 Mile
Straight up, this is a hard blog to write right now. My feelings are swinging between stop racing all together and I want to attack one, two, several races over the coming year. To be honest, Alison hears this somewhat often. Though, I feel at an even more unstable place than my normal mental and physical strain of racing. Yesterday was the USA 50 Mile Trail Championships at Nueces 50 Mile Trail Race. I was 3rd again. That is now ten 3rds at USATF trail and ultra championships. Plus I've been 3rd at many, many of my other races. Third is better than fourth, but...
As for yesterday's race, things were going quite well for a while. Nueces consists of three 16.67 mile loops. My split for the first loop was fast and I came through in a group comprised of 2nd through 5th. This pack was comprised of myself, Cody Moat, Brian Ruseicki, and David Brown. Paul Terranova had ran off early on and had about a 3 minute lead. On the first big climb about 5 1/2 miles into the second loop, I broke away from the pack. Only Cody was able to reel me back in after things leveled out. Around 11 miles into the second loop, we hit the second big climb of each loop. Paul was in sight. This climb is around 1 1/2 miles long. By the top, I had gapped Cody just a little, though Paul had surged a little upon seeing us. I was feeling good and moving. I came through this loop with another really good split, on track to break the course record. I was about 40 seconds behind Paul and almost 30 ahead of Cody. I could taste the cool waters of a win coming.
That did not last very long. Just a couple of miles later I was starting to struggle. I wasn't diagnosising my issue very well, I just was beginning to have problems holding pace. Had I pushed too hard, too soon? At least I had chased the win. Was this some new back issue? I didn't think so. I saw Cody closing on some switchbacks. We were together for a little ways. He moved on and I would not be going with him. I knew that was the end of my race to win. That was hard. I had really wanted to win; for myself, for friends at home who encourage me, for those who read my blog, for my sister in really bad health, for runners I meet in my travels and cheer for me at races all over the country, and all the folks who'd been encouraging me during yesterday's race.
My struggles increased and I eventually noticed that my watch was really tight. I looked at my hands. They were really swollen. I loosend the watch a notch. It had gotten warm and I just realized that I was not sweating. Soon my hands were so swollen that I could not straighten my fingers and the watch was tight again. I could tell my legs were swelling. Had I miss managed my hydration, fueling or was this just my issues with heat as I have problems adjusting to heat every spring? Those are questions I'll consider in the coming days. I was now walk/running the flat sections. I was ready to DNF, but 10 miles from the finish, still in third and first master. I had to just keep moving my feet and focus on the next step. The walking allowed me to cool a little, then run, heat up, and walk again. I would not be running any hills now, which is normally a strength of mine. Just walking the hills was over heating me plenty. I was trudging. Somehow I finished 1:50 faster than last year, but the last loop was my slowest loop ever.
I have to admit to being frustrated. I thought the win was going to happen. Some may say that I should just enjoy running and the beautiful places that I go. I think I do, but I have a competitive personality. Several who know me and my ablities would say, do say, that I am overachieving anyway. If you look at my PRs listed along the right, my times compare better to the elite women than the men. In fact, quite a few of the women have faster PRs than mine. And before you think it, yes I've trained and tried to run fast on the roads. I am often asked about running in college; I went to NC State, the coach told my high school coach that I was too slow to train with the team. I DON'T CARE. This is trail and mountain racing. I have a strange talent for the trails and mountains. All I know is to keep fighting for that big win against competitive fields. At the end of the day, there is something about the struggle that keeps pulling me back in regardless of how frustrated or despondent I feel. There is some truth in knowing who you really are that can only be discovered in some struggle. Does self-pity swallow you? Do you fight to the end? There is that something about the difficulty of these races that strips one bare of all your self protections. Again this is me probably being too honest, but that is me and the point of my blog. But I have won and could win more races somewhat comfortably. Granted you never know who will be at any given race, but I could pick what are typically less competitive races. I am drawn to competition that pushes me to the very limits of what my body can do. How will I repond to each struggle. I must say that writing this has been quite cathartic. I may ready for the next struggle.
A final positive for me from yesterday came from Big Chris who mans the Texas aid station. He told me after the race what he thought as I approached Texas aid station for the last time. He said I was the picture of suffering and thought to himself, this guy really knows how to suffer. I do like to think suffering is one of my abilities and appreciated his comments. I wish I could have won for Chris too.
1. Cody Moat 6:26.03 Course Record
2. Paul Terranova 6:32.10
3. Jason Bryant 6:46.09 1st Master - Masters Course Record
4. Brian Ruseicki 6:55.22
5. Brandon Ostrander 7:08.46
1. Michele Yates 6:53.25 Course Record
2. Melanie Fryar 7:33.58
3. Pam Smith 7:39.19
4. Sydney Pitt 7:53.16