Monday, February 14, 2011
Dig the Pain
I have never listened to an IPOD while running like some runners do... but that doesn't mean I don't hear songs in my head from time to time while running. This past Christmas I bought myself a present (even wrapped it and put it under the tree).... It was the latest CD by Chicago bluesman Charlie Musselwhite. Musselwhite is one of my favorite living harp(harmonica) players. He plays Chicago style blues but heavily influenced by his Mississippi Delta heritage. He plays much like "Little" Walter but now and then you can hear a bit of "Big" Walter which is more the style I play (or so I'm told). Anyway, I was listening to his CD "The Well" on my way up to Appomattox to run the Holiday Lake 50k++ and somewhere about 23 miles or so I couldn't get the tune Dig the Pain out of my head.
Can't let it go
Can't hang it up
I dig the pain too much
I pay a price in misery
It looks good to me
You tear me down
When you build me up
You know I dig the pain too much
I feel the pain
Don't need no crutch...
Tired of suffering
Tired of pain
Don't expect me to explain
I'm overwhelmed by your touch
I dig the pain too much!
It's been said that in ultra running you just have to "embrace the pain" when it inevitably comes during your run. I'd hit a bad patch somewhere around 22-24 miles and when I felt that discomfort of the effort, the tune started playing in my head and it wasn't so bad. I guess it was the song and possibly a double shot of Clif Shot gels that got me to feeling good again. I don't think "embrace" would have worked quite as well as "dig" for a blues tune!
As I took the 3 hour drive up to the Holiday Lake 50k, wasn't quite sure what to expect. I didn't plan to taper at all and had taken a 4 hour mountainous run last Sunday but by Wednesday my nagging knee pain was very evident. I'm not sure exactly what my problem is.... feels a bit like IT trouble but bottom line is I get sporadic very sharp pain on the outside of my knee and my whole left leg feels like it's going to collapse. Sounds a little similar to what Anton Krupicka mentioned in his Rocky Raccoon race report: "Over the course of the rest of this loop my knee would worsen to where it would spontaneously give out on any downhills" So I cut Wednesdays run a little short and didn't run at all on Thurs or Fri. Very unplanned. So went into HL not knowing how my knee would act but also feeling unusually rested.
Holiday Lake is a really nice setting for an ultra. Deep in the Virginia woods with somewhat rustic cabins, bunkhouse, bathhouse and dining hall. I picked up my race packet and milled around, ate the pre race pasta and hung around for Horton's pre race entertaining breifing. I saw a lot of familar faces from Masochist but didn't really know any of the folks assembled. I was shocked when Horton asked for all the first time ultra runnners to stand and it seemed like it was half the room. I headed back to my room in Appomattox around 8:30 p.m.
I didn't get the greatest nights sleep but not sure why. I wasn't nervous or anything (other then concern about my knee). I was up at 4:30 and did the usual what do I wear when the start will be in the low 20's and the finish in the 40's. After much internal debate decided to go with tights rather then shorts. I just don't really like being cold, so I wanted my legs covered. As we sang the national anthem, prayed and all that jazz I found Rick Gray in the crowd and figured I'd follow him out since we are of similar abilities and age. I leap frogged a bit with Rick early and joked with him that I couldn't let him get too far ahead since last weekend he had run Uwharrie and I had "only" done 4 hours at Pilot Mtn.
The course was hilly but nothing terribly tough or long. So very very runnable and the single track sections weren't overly technical even for a somewhat newbie trail runner. Pretty much the whole day I didn't get into a good rhythm and felt a little choppy. The trail wasn't rough but with the rising sun in my eyes, frozen rutty sections I just didn't feel real smooth. I got to the two loop turn around before expected and realized I should be able to get under 5 hours unless I fell apart on the second loop. There were two female runners ahead of me and I figured a couple of "old guys".
On the way out on the second loop I was running much of it alone but probably the best section in terms of feeling really comfortable and smooth. The runners coming in from their first loop were all inspiring with everyone encouraging one another. So great to see Jenny Nichols heading in with a big smile and a shout out. She was in control for sure. As I stated above, somewhere around 22-24 miles or so I hit a bad patch and really felt terrible. I thought, UH OH, this could be a long day. But some fuel and songs dancing in my head got me back on track. With maybe 5 or 6 miles to go Bethany, 3rd overall female, caught me and we ran together a bit.... she hoping no girls caught her and me hoping no one with gray hair might go by. She really pulled me along until I took a spill with a couple of miles from the finish. I was fine, just muddy and aggravated that I'd made it 31 miles without a fall but couldn't make it in without a dive and letting Bethany pull away. The last few miles I felt really strong and felt like if needed I could have run further or cranked it up a bit. Finshed in 4:56 (about what I expected) and was 48th place, chicked by 3, and behind 3 50+ year olds. My knee hurt now and then on the second loop but it held up well. Maybe I put the knee issue behind me???
Very much enjoyed the post race atmosphere. Great fun to cheer on friends and strangers that either have big time relief on their faces or joy. Highlights post race were seeing Rick Gray slip in under 5 hours by 15 seconds with his wife screaming and Horton hooping it up and then one of the younger mothers finishing with her 3 children running in with her, and of course the joy on the faces of every first time ultra finisher. AMAZINGLY there were 305 finishers out of 317 starters!!!!!!
One final observation. After I nibbled on some food and drink at the finish I walked over to my car to put on dry clothes and "clean up" a bit (if that is possible after 5 hours running in the woods without a shower to do the cleaning)... well I looked in my rearview mirror to check my nose and I had dried choclate Clif Shot gel caked all the way around my mouth! Yikes, I bet that was impressive. I hope next time that Rick, Tammy, Jenny or someone will say dude go clean up no one wants to talk to you looking like that.
So now to decide do I actually try the Beast and run a 50k the week before Umstead AND do that crazy Hellgate thing? Nah that is absurd....