The plan changed at the second aid station of the 50K on Saturday, when I realized that I'd already made two wrong turns that would add an additional 3 miles to the 31 mile course. I could have turned around right there - it was the turn-around point for the shorter 25K distance course - I still would have ended up with 20 miles or so and could have been good to go for a bike ride and swim Sunday. But that would have been lame and my fellow weekend warriors (Rudy, Steve, and Christine) might not have let me back in the car. So I trudged off towards the back loop of the course and promised myself that if I just toughed this out, I could lay on my couch all day on Sunday. God must have heard that plan, laughed, and thought "Ok, then I'm going to get what I can out of you right now..." And he did. For 7 hours and 20 minutes.
The back half of the course was brutal. They must have imported mud from somewhere that actually had rain this winter, because it was everywhere. And I'm still struggling to figure out how they created terrain with only uphill and no downhill to match. Oh, and there was one additional wrong turn and one additional mile. (That makes for a 35 mile day for the math-challenged readers) I wanted to cry. And maybe I did a little, but I'll never tell. What happens on the trail, stays on the trail.
It still amazes me that a long trail run like that has so many ebbs and flows to it. There were moments that I reminded myself that I love running - like when I turned a tight corner on a switchback and found two deer staring at me no more than 25 yards ahead of me. And there were moments when I scoffed at the idea of a runner's high and decided it must have some expiration point, and I was definitely beyond it. Moments when jumping off that bridge at mile 29 seemed like a pretty good plan.
I didn't feel pride or jubilation at the finish line. That came later. I was dazed, confused, and pissed. They didn't even hand out coasters at this event like they do at a lot of 50Ks. No medal, no handshake. Just a can of soda and some chicken soup if you wanted it. I didn't. We were in the car within minutes of my finish. We celebrated with a quick meal at McDonald's in Lodi. I splurged and super-sized the Chicken McNugget meal.
Back in Fresno, I changed into my 80's garb and rushed over to the running club's annual banquet. I danced the night away with the only people in town who would understand why I didn't turn around at that second aid station. (Scott Ramirez, resident bad ass, even told me I was 'insane' - it doesn't get much better than that!) A perfect ending to a perfect day, in a really twisted world.
I made good on my promise to myself and laid on my couch all day yesterday. Ate a greasy burger for lunch, ventured out the house only for ice cream and to see my friends' brand new baby. I woke up today feeling worse than yesterday. I might have to miss a few more workouts on my Ironman training schedule as I let my legs recover from Saturday's adventure, but that's all right. I did extra credit - not just in miles but in mental toughness. And I'm gonna need it - because 7 hours and 20 minutes is probably less than half what the clock will say when I finish this thing in June. But I'm gonna try better not to make any wrong turns on that one..
|The Before Picture...|
|The After Picture - Still Smiling!|