She ventured forth again in 2008, but the Evil Rains came and she failed. She knew she couldn't let Evil triumph, so she returned once more to fight the good battle. This is her race report. It's a modern day fairy tale!
Self-Doubt. I don't think I've ever had more anxiety about a race. I was filled with doubts. I didn't believe I had the mental toughness to push through when things got difficult. I didn't want it badly enough.
Problems. I had good reason to feel pessimistic. Since changing my diet to Whole30/Paleo, I'd only had a SINGLE successful long run. The fuel I'd been trying and tweaking only got me so far in each race. The taper was upon me and I'd run out of time to test any other methods. I would be trying an entirely new fueling system in the longest race I'd done in seven years. WHAT COULD POSSIBLY GO WRONG?
Betrayal. My beloved Vasque Transistor FS, the shoes I've worn during all my long trail runs for the past three years, were causing me ankle pain even on short runs. I'd have to rely on my Asics road running shoes and my seldom-worn (and never tested on trail) Brooks Pure Cadence for most of the 70 miles.
Experimenting with Potions. I had decided to try Vespa Junior for my fueling strategy. The ingredients read a bit like a recipe for witch's potion:
- Filtered water
- Orange juice
- Royal jelly
- Bee propolis
- Wasp extract
- Eye of Newt (ok, kidding on this one)
According to the website, it helps the body utilize fat stores for energy, especially if your daily diet is Paleo/low carb. You still eat some carbohydrate during the run, but much less than you'd otherwise need. It also appealed to me because I could avoid consuming a lot of sugar.
The plan: Consume one Vespa 45 minutes before the race began, then every three hours. I'd eat baby food squeeze packets and LARABARS for carbohydrates. I filled my hydration pack with good plain water, and took a page from my favorite American Women's 24-Hour Record Holder and ate pieces of Nuun for my electrolytes. Fizzy!
I reigned in my pace out of respect for the difficult course, and to assess whether my fuel was going to work. I felt curiously optimistic.
There's a bit of climbing in the first 9 miles ...
Magical Occurrences. I started the race not truly expecting to finish, but determined to enjoy the miles I ran. I made a promise to myself to stay positive and not let a single complaint escape my lips. I felt well-rested and strong. My improved climbing ability thrilled me. The temperatures stayed cool. Hubz crewed for me, and his steady, take command style was the perfect fit, as usual. My fuel seemed to be working.
Three Pairs of Shoes. My Asics GT-2000 road shoes worked better than expected on the wet, steep trail. One drawback: I felt every pebble and twig. By Mile 39 my feet were tender, so I switched to my Vasques, hoping they'd work. But they had turned against me. Within a couple of miles, they began to hurt. The next chance I had, at mile 46, I swapped them for my yet-to-be-tested-on-trails Brooks Pure Cadence. They were the good fairy in this tale. Cushioned and protective, roomy in the toebox yet snug enough to prevent my foot from slipping, they delivered me through the perilous woods.
|Leaving Mile 57 Checkpoint. It's not yet dark, no idea why my headlight is on.|
Solitude. I ran alone from Mile 20 on, but for a few short conversations with other runners. I was making up time and feeling good, and enjoying the silence. Memories of my last race here came flooding back as I recognized each section of trail and drank it in. I couldn't wait to see what awaited me around the next bend.
Rejuvenation. All the anxiety, doubts and worries I'd been carrying drained away with my rhythmic steps. A deep peacefulness settled into my soul.
I didn't want it to end. Until about six miles from the finish, I was enjoying every moment. Yes, oh yes, I was sore and stiff and hurting, but what I was gaining was worth all that and much more.
I chose to leave my camera behind. No matter. No photograph can capture the way the waning sunlight sets the field of ferns aglow at Bearpen Hollow, nor the satisfying cadence of running those gentle downhills. It can't convey the cloying scent of the flora and damp grass, the sounds of alternating calls of birds as they settle in for the night, the peeping of frogs in the darkness, the staccato of thousands of light rain drops hitting the tree canopy but never reaching you, the silence in between.
I have often remarked that the Laurel Highlands Hiking Trail is my favorite. Yet I was repeatedly surprised and moved by the surrounding beauty as I ran. I felt grateful to be out on these trails. I was so glad I decided to run despite my qualms.
|A Happy Ending|