Monday, April 21, 2014

SC 24 hour track race, 88 miles and a surprise I'll never forget...

SC24 - 24 hour Track Race at Wilson High School, Florence, SC - 3.15.14 @ 10:00 am - 3.16.14 @ 10:00 am (400 meter track)

At the turn of Mile 87, a pain shot up my foot and through my leg, the duct tape had come off my toe, the huge blister had burst, there was only one thing to do...

With enough time to get in another mile, the bleachers are 10 feet away, I sit down and proceed to remove my socks and shoes. Upon looking at my toe, there's no way I'd be able to get my shoes or socks back on, the next thing that happened was magical.  I handed my shoes and socks to Troy, and I took off running, barefoot. 

The track was cold under my feet, the rain and the "road like" surface really reminded me of being a kid and I just ran. "Eye of the Tiger" in my ear, a smile on my face, and The satisfaction of knowing within five weeks of the first 24 hour race at Delirium, I had another personal record, 83.07 at Delirium and 88 at the SC24.

By 10:30, I was back in the road, driving myself after I had asked Ray if he had any chips in his van. I was hungry, so chips and a Pepsi throwback it was for the ride home, Chris kept me talking on the phone until I got home. 

That 24 hour period in March on the track in Florence had proved to be another one of the best days of my life.  

The morning started, it was nice out, tank top weather for running, with such a late start, I got to sleep in my own bed and just drive to Florence the morning of the event. The Soul had been packed the night before, so all I had to do was prepare myself for what would be an emotional ride that would carry me until the sun came up on Sunday and then until 10:10.

Setting up, I'm by myself for a while. I showed up crewless, at least for the first portion, no pacer is allowed, so these 352 laps were done solo. 

Group pictures were taken, I'm among elites. The thought itself is humbling, and here is what I thought, it follows:

I walked into the bathroom, peed, there was a mirror at the sink, I looked at myself, stared. This girl. From Elgin, where's that? Who started focussing on distance in September 2013.  Was about to step on the track for the first time, ever in her life. With a group of the best runners, world record holders. Me. Pam. Me. Tears started to stream down my cheeks. Proud, overwhelmed, and thankful for the run. The only representative from South Carolina.  Me. 

I was oddly excited about running on a track, mindless running that is lit, for 24 hours, well yea! Who wouldn't love that! (Yes, I'm delusional.)  

So round and round, "what comes around, goes around" (Ratt) but yes what comes around does go around especially on a track...Zach Bitter said he was going into horse mode, and he shut his eyes and ran. 

Google him, he is the caliber of athlete I was on the track with that day. He was passing me one time (of about a thousand) and I stepped off to let him by, he told me to never step off the track, never defer, that I deserved to be on the track as much as anybody else there.  His statement made me smile.

Willy Wonka: "Round the world and home again, that's the sailor's way. Is this interesting?" 

Seems to be the way of the Ultrarunner as well...

Being crewless was different for me, I had had three members at my last 24hr event at my disposal. I showed up, set up and got ready to run. 

David Nance helped me out for the time he was there, filling my water bottle, updating twitter and Facebook for me.

The temperature had gotten hotter than I thought that day, being exposed to the sun for that amount of hours, drinking constantly, I wasn't peeing.  I stopped on a turn and asked Ray what to do. Five hours into this 24hr, I hadn't peed and wasn't sweating.  Walk a lap and drink plain water was his advice. It worked, broke the dam and peed. Small victory, huge victory!

The heat was crippling. So I walked and I walked, around and around, and I ran some but mostly walked just propelling forward. Anxiously awaiting sunset this day as with Delirium, "I just wish the sun would come up." Ask my friend Troy, he heard both sides...and we laughed about it throughout the night on both occasions. 

Troy had messaged me on Friday and asked if I needed to be crewed for the 24hr on the Track. I had told him I was going crewless, he said he would come up in the afternoon on Saturday and help me. 

I remember saying to Troy when I came around the track when he first appeared, all my stuff is the polka dots. He set up camp, canopy, cot, sleeping bag, two chairs and lots of extras that I didn't bring. I was sunburned by this point, had been served slushies trackside by someone who was nothing short of angelic, grabbed one for my friend, Christian (the tattooed kids unite) and ran while drinking slushies. Yea, this is Ultra. 

Joe Fejes offers to dip my shirt in ice water, oh my god. That was a bit of heaven in a pot...the water was in a soup pot...twice that cooled me off and soothed my sunburn. He asked if I needed something. My answer, I don't know. Then he proceeded to tell me that I had already suffered the worst, the heat of the day and that so many hours were behind me, that I could do this. I nodded. And went on. 

David Hale came around at some point not sure when, the day melts together. 

The sun goes down...track lighting, no headlamp needed. (Woohoo!!)

14 hours in, I'm struggling. I have friends on speed dial who I can call, anytime. To get encouragement, usually.  I called one friend, who pissed me off, and that's putting it nicely. And then I dialed another number, the voice on the other end said, you are incredible, what you're doing is amazing, you're going to be fine, I believe in you. Next thing I said was get some sleep but keep your phone close, I might need you again, I'm certain I will.  I was about to cry. I was about on the verge of a second wind, teetering in. I was cooled off, refueled and I was mad. 

14 hours in. I looked at my watch. I made the turn, Ray is standing infield. A big grin spreads across his face, because I'm running, running. He said, "Who lit  your ass on fire? You are girl on fire." Yes, yes I was.

By this point, head phones are in. And I have caught my second wind as Troy had promised. 

Troy yells where'd that come from? 

"Eye of the Tiger" that's where, replay, replay. "Roar" on repeat as well..."Happy" and "Best Day of My Life..." 

"I got the eye of the tiger, a fighter, dancing through the fire
‘Cause I am a champion and you’re gonna hear me roar
Louder, louder than a lion
‘Cause I am a champion and you’re gonna hear me roar..." Katy Perry

I round the corner 12:08 am Sunday morning....52 miles in. I just couldn't quit but what happened next made my entire year.

I rounded the corner and low and behold, the person I had been on the phone with not ten minutes prior was standing there, smiling. My face told the tale.  Chris was standing there, made my whole year. 

He stayed a few hours, time is untraceable during the night, it all becomes a ball of emotion, thrown into hours. 

I took off, I ran more, fast, singing as I went. My heart was happy, full to overflowing and I was doing this, this thing I love, running... 

When I ended up pr'ing there with 88 miles at the end of the day, nonetheless barefoot, I had a sense of accomplishment. Though I didn't reach 100 miles that day, I ran for another 24 hours only five weeks after my first 24 hour race. 

I realized I found my gift. I found my driving force and I found a humbleness inside me with the realization of the caliber of people I was running with, me this girl from Elgin, me, pink sox.

A day and night, I shall never forget. Life is about the people who show up, the people who cross our paths and at the time we don't know why but there is a Master plan. 

"I howled at the moon with friends 
And then the sun came crashing in 
But all the possibilities 
No limits just epiphanies 

I'm never gonna look back...."

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Delirium 24hr...83.07 miles and the most epic day of my life so far...

A journey is best measured in friends, not in miles.
Tim Cahill

To begin with an explanation of ultra family needs to be given. Ultra family is the people and their families who attempt ultras but unlike many other race distances, there are so few individuals who dare test the limits, we are all repeat offenders who become one big old ultra family. 

When I dove head first into the ultra world last year, January 2013, I fell in love with the distance and chasing it further. That day it was the hardest thing I'd ever done, but I have zero quit in me, so I struggled across the finish line. In Harbison Forest that day, I swore I'd never do another one, by the next morning, I had changed my mind. 

There are peaks and valleys, swells,  like in classical music, emotion builds, drops, stretches, broadens, shortens and then releases but in running it never ends, for me any way. In music it ends, as the piece is running you build, each finish line brings the search for the next...never an end point...always another start, almost like the renewing of a day at sunrise.

Delirium 24 Hour Endurance Race
Start: Saturday, February 8 8am 
Finish: Sunday, February 9 8am

Hannah Gainey: Crew Chief
Team Howell: Pacers and Sherpas Extraordinaire

I embarked on a journey...a journey that would change my life, no doubt and maybe a few people who surround me were affected as only hope.

For months leading up to Delirium 24, I did no less than 100 mile weeks, mileage spent on the road, with great joy. I love running so that time on the road is cherished and definitely not a chore. Most of the miles are done alone, no music, just the symphony under my feet and the melody in my head, or voices, depends on the day.

Running is my saving grace.  Having been told about thirteen years ago that I'd never run again, as I was thrown on the oncology ward to die, I was in the grip of anorexia...a horrible, horrible disorder. I had done damage to myself through starving myself for long periods of time, stress had gotten to me. I had given up on myself. It's interesting what happened to make me fight again...I saw my chart..."failure to thrive" at 5'6" and 87lbs...those damn doctors had given up on me...what? They could not win, anorexia could not win...I had to fight, and dig deep to find that "no quit girl" who was broken and put her back together. And that is exactly what I did.  

Friday, February 7th

Packet pickup done. dinner done. Off to sleep for the next 24 hours will be...wait for it...EPIC.

Saturday, February 8th

Best Day of My Life was my alarm. 6:15 am. bathe. get dressed. Coffee. Phone call. Get the hell scared out of me, call Greg. Head over to the race site...(((hallelujah chorus))) 

Ultra Village is all a buzz...we are all about to embark on a journey, one into the unknown, one that we cannot help but return changed.  

"Lose your mind, find your soul."  Either you leave a piece of yourself on the course or you find peace within yourself throughout the course of the next 24 hours."  I did the latter and actually, I found a bit more of my soul during that 24 hours.

We all started, all of us special idiots, those distance chasers, seeking something inside us that cannot be explained except by saying an iron will, staying power and the inability to quit. Training had been going on for months actually years as what we go through either makes or breaks us so our conditions form us to who we are, who we will become. 

In a marathon, "the wall" is the dread point, in an ultra...I really don't think there is one...I haven't found it yet, though I'm not looking!

Here is my recollection of the day, it follows...most epic day of my far any way. 

The race started, 8 am sharp and you'd think an intimidation factor would be the clock counting backwards starting at 24:00 hrs., but no it is motivating, challenging and awe inspiring. 

I was like a kid at Christmas. I was so excited to begin this journey into the Unknown, the uncertainty, that the smile on my face couldn't have been slapped off. Up until this point, I had never surpassed the mile 31.5, imagine that. And yes, really! 
Honestly the first 50k was great, Greg joined me at some point and the real running began. I remember saying to him after passing the 50k mark, I've never been here before, and my grin broadened, then I said I felt great! 

Somewhere in the mix I got a huge blister on my pinky toe, due to it having rained for hours and my feet getting wet. However in my mind it was sunny and 70 degrees, nobody was raining on my parade that's mind over matter. So Greg, Other than a pacer and friend, company and distracter, encourager, he became a doctor, Laura, an assistant and Hannah, a gopher. We needed duct tape to fix the blister. He started to explain to me what he was going to do, I simply said fix it! And he did. Overcorrecting caused me another small one which we fixed too. (My only injuries from the race!!!) 

Mile 50, I looked at Greg and squealed 10 hours and some change. And here comes 100k soon after but before that I said Greg, I just ran double marathons. I grinned from ear to ear, said all those hundred mile + weeks have paid off.

It got dark. Flashlights in hand, the motion makes me nauseas. So I walked, the mud was horrendous. Just keep moving forward. Greg is still walking, Laura and he trade off. 

I switched to warmer clothes as the night got cold. 6hr finishers were off the course, 12 hr finishers were too, now the only few that remain is the ones of us who want to see what we are made of.

Lights remind me of fireflies, Blairwitch Project like, The Walking Dead... Anything creepy, that's it when you're on the trail, all through the night. 

Fog drops at some point, it's cold. 5 shirts, two pairs of gloves, a beanie, a jacket with the hood up, wool socks. 18hrs and 24mins in to the 24 hrs, 71 miles under my belt, I was falling asleep on my feet. I came off the loop, Laura was with me, Hannah and Greg were standing by the fire pit. Greg asked if I need a break. I said yes. My mind was clear, I had had no stomach issues, had still been peeing, and was in no pain, I just was sleepy. No clue why! 

I went down for a nap. 2:24 am. I got into my car that Hannah had warmed and I went to sleep. As I was trying to settle in, Hannah and I had a pivotal conversation.  

I digress for a moment...

When I decided to sign up for the 24, she was as excited as I. At the mention her face would light up like a Christmas tree. Somethings as have been shared have been going on in our  so have her the option out of going. Her response was that she had been waiting on this race as long as I had and she was definitely going.

During our conversation in the car, she said mom, you should do a 12 hour and race it. Next year that's what you should do. Then listen to what my baby girl said next...ready for this...she said she wants to sign up for the 6 hour in 2015 at delirium. I told her I'd do it with her. She asked if I thought she could do it, I said you can do anything you set your mind to. I was overjoyed. Honestly that was worth every bit of those 24 hours at Delirium 2014.

After sleeping for about two hours, Hannah asked me if I was ready. She said here's some orange juice, accompanied by a very stern drink it. 
She asked you ready to walk mom? I said I can't quit Hannah. You're not quitting mom.  I'll go with you. We grabbed the flashlight, she got her rain boots and she walked for four laps with me. Every lap getting me oranges, eat it she'd say, it helped you earlier.  

We talked about the dog, about the barefoot runners, about what will make the next 24 better for her, there's a list by the way and at the finish she wanted to know when my next one was.

We walked and talked. Her fourth lap, she said mom the sun is coming up, I'm going to pack up camp while you finish up. You'll be ok right? I had two more laps to go and with the sun rising I knew I'd be ok. Sunrises restore life, a new day.

That little girl, was my saving grace. She was my rock when I needed her to be. And she was beside me during the toughest part of the race, the dark hours of 2:30 to 6:30.  As I've told her many times, I couldn't do it without her.

I need to interject, I never stopped smiling. Even falling asleep on my feet, I was still happy and enjoying myself and never regretted having signed up for the 24hr distance.

I had three final laps as Hannah went to pack, team Howell assisted with the packing up and as I passed heading out on my third  and final lap, I didn't stop.  As I made the turn to head into the finish, I see Greg  coming in from  the finish and I was still smiling.  The clock was down to 00:00:00, I looked at Greg and said I've got enough left to run it in, he smiled and said Hannah and Laura are at the finish. And I crossed that finish line, got hugged by my sweet girl who was smiling, my best girlfriend Laura, Duct tape Extraordinaire Greg, after Tim put my medal around my neck. Hugs all around. 

And guess what...I was still smiling. 49 logged laps...83.07 miles in 24 hours with a two hour nap. 

Then I smelled pancakes...made to order. Best pancakes of my life...

Hannah put her arm around me and said that the car was warm for me and camp was packed up. I said, gosh I smell. She said come on, I'll run you a bath. 

Then she asked if I hurt. I answered no, I'm just sleepy. She smiled. 

Best day of my life so far...
I have never experienced so much joy, ever. Runners infinity and beyond on that best described as euphoria. 

The human body is an amazing machine, the mind, powerful. Never backing down, will for sure insure your doing anything your mind is set to do. 

Thanks to my crew for assisting me in reaching a goal that I had set. To all the supporters I had, especially the one who stayed up all night with me. Thanks to all the volunteers who were at the race and to Tim Waz who is a great race director.



Sunday, January 12, 2014

Tybee Island, The Hunger Games, another 50k and a peace only a fellow runner would understand...

What a weekend, it began with my youngest daughter, Hannah finishing up her last day of high school which I might add she graduated half year early.  

Friday morning we packed everything to be ready to go on a weekender that would consist of a race for me and then some time, just the two of us, getting some relaxation.

When I got off work, I picked her up, and we were Tybee Island bound. Neither of us had been to Tybee so our trip was going to be nothing short of fun, and an adventure.    

The drive down to Savannah first, I had to pick up my packet at Fleet Feet, was rainy, sometimes downpours. But it was beautiful, Savannah that is, Hannah loves the Spanish moss and the old trees as do I. Her face lit up as we drove. 

Such a pretty place, Savannah and then Tybee, Hannah and I also liked Beaufort when we were there a few weeks ago for Mad Marsh.  We decided we could surely live in the area.

We got onto Tybee, had spotted the Fort Pulaski National monument, where the race began and ended and checked into our hotel. Such nice people there as well, we had been upgraded to an oceanfront room, even though rainy and foggy, can't really go wrong with an ocean front room. 

Hannah picked the place for dinner, a little dive around the corner from the hotel. We ate and went back to the room, curled up in bed and watched TV until we fell asleep.

Alarms set, race gear ready...checking the weather...not looking good. It's only rain though, builds character. 

Race Day:

It started later than when I'm used to, so sleeping til almost six was kind of a small luxury.  The first alarm went off "purple rain" was blaring on the radio, the second one, "lost yourself" yep, yep, going to be a great day regardless the weather. Opened the shutters and threw back the sash...kidding, opened the sliding glass door and what appeared? Rain and fog...and wind...oh joy. 

Hannah opted out after I gave her the option, so she relaxed while I ran my race. I knew I'd be fine to drive back after any way. Couldn't much blame her!

I drove to the race venue,  parked walked to the start line. Saw a bunch of people from other ultras (other special kinda of idiots) and just chit chatted for a bit.

Pre-race meeting, National Anthem and we were off. 50k distance on a foggy day, temperatures hovering around 65 and humidity out the wazoo with a strong wind that only got worse but that wind is the very thing that kept the rain away. 

I have six laps to complete. My best 50k time at the start of Rails to Trails was 5:53:13. I wanted in under six hours for this one, I figured out what I had to do each lap under in order to reach that goal. Game plan set. And remember a slow jog is faster than a walk and you don't need to walk the last lap, that's psychological, actually it's the last mile according to Ray but, I meant business today. 

I love the course, especially the bridge part because I love a hill and running on the road. After three laps, I was at 2:43. And I felt good, really good. No falling apart, no bonking. I am growing my super power of thinking. Sugar is my friend. Gummy bears, coke and full strength Gatorade, my race fuel. 

The next three laps were pretty much the same, didn't walk any of it either on the course, just while passing through the aid stations.  Support was fantastic. Support on the roads was fantastic.

Somewhere between miles the cannon on the fort fired as I passed by it, first after I was scared enough to jump all over, I began laughing. No what my first thought was? Another one has died! (The Hunger Games) don't get all upset, it's in a book! Later when I mentioned it to Hannah, she asked me did my first thought go to someone dying, I said yes it was! She said though it would have been. She laughed!

I had a great race, and imagine that I had decided that if at the third loop, if the rain started I may not complete the race. Once I got past the third loop, there was no way I was going to stop. The wind kept picking up. Over the bridge, was becoming more challenging every time and I love a walking. None. Don't even think about it. Slow jog, no walking. Push, go, over halfway. And I did. I felt good.

I felt strong the whole way. Not something I'd experienced at the 50k distance, caught my rhythm at mile 22, I've learned that after about 18 miles I double my sugar intake, no water, just Gatorade or some electrolyte drink, nothing void of calories. 

It was a good day. Though foggy, humid, gloomy, the sun was shining on me. I was running, I was filled with peace while in motion. Stillness in motion, my mind was calm, still, and for close to six hours I was able to escape, to go to my special place in the quiet of my mind while exerting energy, propelling forward.

The melodious sound of my feet pounding the pavement while my breathing is in rhythm, the sound of birds, the water, fellow runners smiling, and the overwhelming feeling of accomplishment. It doesn't get much better than this...or maybe it does. 

I finished this race with a 9 minute pr, 5:44:38. Felt strong and smiling. 

I finished up the weekend with a two mile jog Saturday, 3 mile beach run Sunday before breakfast. 

Hannah and I spent so quality time together. Eating, getting tattooed and just talking. 

We finished off our Sunday spending part of the day with my mom and then ice skating with my cousins. What a fun weekend!


Sunday, January 5, 2014

Another 50k, Spiderwoman, Fraggle Rock, Sugar galore and a 10 year old little girl...,

Well another one is in the books, no tears as of yet. No mourning the run finish. A conversation was had on trail yesterday, I don't even remember with whom, however, a guy who I'd been running with a while said something to the effect that he couldn't wait to finish. I quickly said, I hate the finish. He looked at me like I was in some state of delirium. I explained that I enjoy all the hard miles so much during the training process, I get sad when the finish comes. 

Thankfully this time as I finished yesterday's race, I have other goals, near by and in clear view. Certainly helps my emotional state, well the day is still young so we shall see if I continue without the full on sob of mourning the run.

Yesterday's race was much different. So much has been going on in my life, I started the race alone, finished alone, nothing negative but just a thought. As I was running I was having such a great time, felt free, like a ten year old little girl running through the woods. I braided my hair that morning, so I really did feel like a kid.

 I giggled many times during the day as once I was running by some pine trees with droopy needles, immediately thought of the characters off Fraggle Rock. 

I laughed too as I was getting food from the aid stations. I remembered Ray telling me do not waste space in your stomach with liquid void of calories. So the food and beverage of choice, coke, gummy bears, and Gatorade (with sugar.) I kept my wits about me, brain needs sugar to think and the muscles need glycogen to function. One word: sugar. I may have "ability to think" as a super power. :)

At about mile 22 I caught my second wind. Started going around a few people. A guy way walking, moved over on the trail and said "girl, I guess you caught your second wind." I had. 

I ran, kicked Spiderwoman and Spiderwoman II in the butt, fell twice as it had rained so the trail was slick, laughed a lot, met some really cool people and had several hours of stress relief. 

My phone died somewhere around mile 10, which made me angry at first but then I was relieved because I couldn't be bothered. 

How in the world could putting my body through 31 miles be relaxing? Running is the only time that I am able to focus on the present, live in the moment, that's why. 

Life is so full of what ifs, planning ahead (I'm a schedule junky) and so much grown up issues (thumbs down) that when I can escape to the trail or road for a chunk of time, I can be free, concentrate on nothing but the run and have some natural Xanax. 

Running is my drug of choice, adrenaline, sweet adrenaline, the thrill of the challenge, and showing others that with work anything can be done.

No, running is not for everyone, though would be a shame not to give it a go, but find your own calm. Your natural Xanax.

I find so much peace in the physical, the motion, the taxing of the body, the release. There is great comfort and stillness in motion. 

There are days when I know that if I don't get to run, I will lose my mind, so I find a way to run, whether at night or super early in the morning. Running is my passion, distance, I love, pushing the distance, my goal and chasing the distance...a lifestyle. 

Harbison 50k was the beginning of my quest for ultra glory (joke btw) it was an attempt that I completed. It's the 5k in the ultra world, so of course my quest is to go further (but I'm sure that is evident) how far, I don't know yet. But one thing I can promise myself, I will make sure to have fun, that's the most important thing. 

Life is good. What a way to kick off the New Year, doing what I love best, running.