Saturday, October 30, 2010

"Please don't throw me in that briar patch, Brer Fox!"

Once again, I headed to Bell Buckle, TN, but this time I would get to run on the trail I had previously helped clear on Labor Day Weekend.  I was looking forward to this 11 hour and 1 minute race and looking forward to seeing the trail once again.  I left my house at noon with Penelope saying my ETA would be 2:40.  Perfect- the walk thru was scheduled at 3:00.  Unfortunately, a wreck snared me a little bit, but I still managed to pull into Laz's drive a little after 3:00.  After being in the
bus for four hours, I was a little tired, grumpy, and stiff.  I'm sure I did not look the least bit friendly when I rolled out of the bus, but I think
I fairly managed to post a smile on my face as I walked up to the table to sign in.  I got my bib and cool t-shirt from Gary Cantrell (aka Laz), the race director and creator of this crazy race.  Then unloaded my cooler before parking the bus at our parking area for the weekend, which was just a 1/2 mile from the start.  When walking back to the race area, I was met my 2 gnarly pit bull looking dogs.  Used my firm "No" and hoped they stayed- they did.  Friday night's plan was to walk thru the trail and then a brat roast with some trimmings.  As soon as I arrived back, we set off on the walk thru of the North Loop (5.5 miles).  The North Loop began with a 2.5 mile jaunt down the black top road.  Only two dogs came out to greet us before we reached a gravel
drive that we turned down, that would lead us to an uncut hay field.  There we followed along the tree line on the outskirts of the field.  We cut through a couple of wooded sections before coming upon our first fence crossing.  There was a nice rectangle cut out for us to bend over and step through, or some did step over.  Me being on the vertically challenged side, I had to bend and step thru.  Back down the  
field we go before reaching, yet again, another wire fence.  This one was a nice circular shape that you had to step up on a rock to crawl through.  No stepping over this one.  Finally, we are in the woods and headed on the trail.  The trail was very, very well marked with pink ribbons.  There was no way to get lost.  Lots of rocks, especially at "wobbly rocks".  These were like a giant's jigsaw puzzle after he  slammed his fist down on it.  Between 3-5 foot crevices between the jigsaw shaped rocks.  One section was too far apart to jump, so we
were guided down into the crevice, and then back up some perfectly built rock steps.  It was absolutely beautiful.  I had not gotten to see this section when I was here on Labor day.  After wobbly rocks, we went through cedar lane and then over a long forgotten rock wall.  We continued traveling around Laz's backyard.  I was still a little lost and unsure if I was on parts that I had helped on or not, until we came upon the fallen tree.  The tree was too large to move off the trail and why go around when you could go over.  The rule, since there was a nice rock step on one side, was the last person over needed to roll the rock to the
other side.  I think everyone broke that rule.  Now I recognized some of the trail.  We soon came upon the cave, which meant we were near the old sewer line road.  We followed it down the hill and then started around and again into the woods. This was the area we had tried to reach the corner and was unsuccessful.  Laz was successful and we were soon back on some familiar areas to me.  The trail circled around again and then cross the sewer road again, close by Laz's house, and then around.  Nearing the end now.  Cross another downed fence section, cross the driveway, and finally out right by the start/aid station.  
Yeah food now.  Laz had the bonfire going and we were invited to get our own sticks for the brats.  I sat listening to conversations around me and wondered what in the heck am I doing there.  I was surrounded by very accomplished runners; 100 mile finishers, Boston qualifiers,
transcontinental completer.  Even worse, I am not a social butterfly.  Socially awkward is more like it.  I guess some would call it shyness.  I call it torture.  I don't even consider myself a runner.  (At the Air Force Marathon there were those cute 'Runner Girl' stickers, and my husband had to practically force me to buy one.  I consider myself a plodder.)   So I spent the rest of the evening beating myself up for attempting this race and wondering why I do stuff like that.  I eventually excused myself and headed to the parking area, chatting with a very nice couple from North Carolina (Joe and Amy).  I headed to my great friend's house, Lina, who was putting me up for the weekend- once again.  I quickly fell asleep and awoke around 5 the next morning.  Feeling somewhat much better about the day after a good night's sleep, I headed back to the parking lot.  I unloaded my small cooler and drop bag, wondering if I was gonna be a total geek for having too much stuff.  When I walked
up though, those fears were unfounded.  There were chairs and coolers, drop bags scattered everywhere.  Soon, time was upon us and a quick countdown and we were off on the North Loop.  My goals were 1) not to get injured, 2) keep moving the entire 11 hours, and hopefully, fingers crossed, 3) reach 40 miles.  (I have never been farther than 35 miles and that was last October on a park path.)  So I was nervously excited to see how I would do.  I settled down into my plodding pace which was somewhere in the middle of the pack I guess and was able to continue on the road part without walking.  I figured I'd be walking soon
enough.  I eventually reached the trail part of the North Loop and caught up with a couple of other runners (Mike P. & Ilena).  The rest of the loop was pretty uneventful and we soon reached the aid station and the flat slab of rock in front that you had to tag for completion of each loop.  I quickly filled up my two bottles (one with water, the other with gatorade) and headed out to the South Loop, the unknown.  As I was coming into the AS, I saw a couple of other runners on the South Loop, so I felt better about which way I was suppose to be going.  I crossed the road to Laz's neighbor's driveway and came upon the
electric fence.  Being my graceful self, my plan for the day was to stop, drop, and roll.  I figured a little roll in the grass was better than being zapped.  I made it, no extra zing, and headed counter clockwise on the south loop.  The rule of thumb for the south loop was to keep an eye on the fence line.  If you were inside of it and in eyesight, you were pretty much on the path.  Sort of.  I would see a pick ribbon go about 15-20 feet and go "crap".  Then take a few steps and see a pink ribbon.  Go
15-20 feet, think "crap", take a couple of steps, then see a pink ribbon. 
To me it was like orienteering without a map.  Every pink ribbon was my control point!  My little victories, until I came upon the first hill.
OMGosh!  My calves immediately began to seize, so I tried to step up as flat footed as I could going up the hill, avoided saw briers all the while keeping an eye out for those blasted pink ribbons.  I kept moving and I eventually heard some voices.  I soon caught up with Mike M. and Mike S.  Yeah- it was nice having 2 extra pairs of eyes watching for ribbons and saw briers.  We soon caught up with John and Steve and close to the end of the South Loop.  Another stop, drop, and roll and I
had completed my first full loop (9.5 miles).  Refilled at the AS and headed clockwise onto the North loop.  I have to say, I can't really remember the second loop of the North loop- except thinking I liked running that way better than counter clockwise.  I also did use my inhaler though.  Even though the weather was great, my chest felt hollow and I didn't want to take any chances.  Same on the South loop- except it was just as relentless as counter clockwise.  Not too mention I got tired of hearing my heart beating in my ears on all of the uphill climbs.  I met up again with Mike M. and as we were heading to the trail section of the third loop of the North loop, he left me in my dust.  I was dragging a little.  I seem to around 15-22 miles.  I was glad that he didn't feel like he needed to hang back.  Go Mike go.  I kept
plowing ahead, really not looking forward to heading back on that 3rd loop of the South loop.  I was really letting it get me down.  Plus, I was trying to calculate in my head running 4 total loops within the time limit, plus the out and back after 3 laps for the 50K distance.  I wasn't sure I could get it.  I eventually got my second wind and refilled, another stop, drop, and roll, and headed to the South Hell loop.  Two good things happened.  Mike H. came up from behind asking if I wanted company (heck yeah) and there was actually something resembling a trail taking shape.  Although some areas were almost better to slide down on your butt to get through, the third loop of the south side was great.  Mike even pushed me to run some more, dodging the cow patties, to finish that loop pretty strong for me.  I went into the AS ready for the road out and back to bag my 50K.  Still calculating in my head if I could get one more full loop in or not.  Also, I decided that I would change my socks and take a quick potty break before heading out on the fourth loop of the North side.  Oops...I immediately felt my fresh comfortable clean socks rubbing on a blister on the side of my heal.  Dang..not a good choice after all.  I continued on the 4th loop of the North side with no one in sight.  I was soon wishing I had taken the time to hunt out my ipod.  I can't imagine a worse song to have stuck in your head than, "I'm Henry the 8th I am, Henry the 8th I am, I am.  I got married to the widow next door, she's been married 7 times before.  And every says Henry.  Henry!  I'm 8th old man named Henry.  Henry the 8th I am, I am."  Over and over again I sang that blasted song.  Oh
my, I'm losing my mind, but I felt pretty good.  I was trying to get in the  AS with at least an hour 45 minutes left for the south loop.  I made it in 1:33 I believe.  I didn't feel I could make the south loop in that time.  Laz gave me my times for the previous laps, but I wasn't sure if I should trust him or not.  LOL  I should have paid better attention to my times.  Alas, I did not trust and decided to do just do the longer road out and back (1.25 miles).  When I completed that miserable lap on the road, Laz informed me how sluggishly long it took me and I wouldn't have time for another.  I could try the shorter 1/2 mile out and backs.  I decided to get another 1/2 mile in.  When I reached the AS, Laz informed me that one more 1/2 mile would give me 40 miles. goal.  I wanted to sit so bad, but to reach my goal.  I actually ran all of that lap.  Looking at my time, it took me a little over 5 minutes to complete that half mile.  Well, I least I finished strong.  I went and sat in my chair, but then I made the mistake of looking at the clock.  There was still 20 minutes or so left.  Second goal was to continue for the full 11 hours.  I got up out of my chair and plodded my way back out again.  My right foot, the fifth metatarsal, felt like it was broken.  The
road was winning.  I figured I was going to have to have the doc x ray it Monday.  I could hear him banning me first from ballet at 27 y.o. and now running at 35 y.o.  I touched the slab of rock and just immediately turned right back around to get one more lap in.  Everyone was happy and cheering everyone else on.  Abi's son, T.J., was looking so strong still running.  It was a great ending to a perfect day.  At 10:55:25, I finally called it a day with 41 miles completed.  My farthest distance ever to date.  I even ended placing 7th.  Not too mention meeting some really wonderful people.  I am really glad Laz came up with the race idea and his wife, Sandra, allowed him to put it on.  I'm still not quite ready to call myself an ultrarunner, let alone a runner, but I am so happy that there are events I can participate in and see such beautiful places.
South Loop souvenirs!  Plus, some kind of funky rash one week later.

1 comment:

  1. Excellent report, great to meet you Shannon. Way to get 41 - tougher than me :)