"In an ultra you should eat like a horse, drink like a fish and run like a turtle."
The night before....
Andy and I pulled into Hell Creek Ranch along with over 1000 other hippie runners Friday afternoon. You would have thought we were camping a week for as much as we had packed.
It looked like a hippie compound. The band was jamming a very unfamiliar tune in the background, peace symbols and tie dye decorated every corner of the ranch. People were coming and going. Due to the heat you saw a lot of skin and with this weekend of runners they were very tone bodies. The bare skin, big smiles, groovy music, venders, campers and laid back atmosphere really set the mood for a Woodstock running weekend.
Claudia, Maryann and Jama arrived just as we finished. This worked out good so we could help the girls set up camp.
The evening was pretty chill. The race is very organized. We checked in, picked up our bibs, walked around and then all separated for dinner.
Airhead moment: I purchased the Lasagna dinner when I registered.
Andy and I said "Goodbye" to the girls and went to look for my dinner.
After searching everywhere for the Lasagna dinner and only finding pizza, I retrieved my voucher out of my pocket to take a closer look, Oops, Lasagna dinner was for Saturday!
We left looking for dinner outside of the compound, somewhere in Pinckney. Locating a dinner place was as equally difficult as it was looking for Lasagna!
And our dinner, it sustained life. I didn't think you could screw up BBQ chicken. So much for that thought! I ordered BBQ chicken, baked potato, salad and vegetables. I am NOT a picky eater, I grew up on Government cheese and powdered eggs, however, my half baked chicken was being drowned in this thick brown gravy. I don't do gravy.
In a very quiet voice, "Ma'am, I am so sorry but I thought I ordered BBQ chicken...." It went well. My new chicken came and it was actually really good. I didn't think you could screw up BBQ chicken, so much for that thought!
The camp was on and popping when we got back. Even with the rain scheduled, I was shocked to see so many campers.
The 100 milers and 100K runners took off at 4pm, it was still dry out.
Before we turned in for the night, we all sat outside laughing and chilling out. The rain was coming, you could feel the moisture in the air. It wasn't a matter of "if", it was when. The radar showed a lot of rain coming.
I knew I wasn't going to get much sleep. The air mattress was cozy but the temps were hot. I wanted to open the windows in the tent but with the rain coming it was not an option.
I can not sleep in sleeping bags. I have issues. Like feeling like I am in a straight jacket. That might be due to so many people calling me CRAZY. But I am not a peaceful sleeper. I am a leg spreader. I like a pillow between my legs and I love the feeling of sheets. I bring sheets to sleep on. That is all I slept with until the rain came about midnight. At that point, the temperatures dropped and I grabbed a fluffy throw blanket.
Between the guys sawing logs snoring next to us, the motorcycle at midnight and having to pee in the middle of the night, I never fell into a deep sleep. But I LOVED the sound of the rain on the tent. The crickets and insects outside was like a lullaby. It was so peaceful. I never wanted to come out of the tent.
4am Andy jumped up and hit the top of the tent. It was raining so hard that the water started pooling above his head. Every 20 minutes he had to drain it because it started to drip, or so he said. I never felt a drop!
We were all up and at it. It was still misting out at 5:30am. Everyone gathered under MaryAnns awning tent we set up right next to ours. I made a kettle of cowboy coffee on our little Coleman grill. Jama and I shared a cup. Everyone was chill. Andy stayed back as us girls headed to the start.
THE RACE: FREAKY 50K.The girls had planned to run together.
I was using this as a training run. I was going to race it moderately fast.
My goal was between 6-7 hours but closer to 6hours.
It was part of my training for Cloudsplitter October 1st.
The 6am start was spot on. I was starting with the girls but quickly made my way closer to the front.
"SEE YA, ANITA!"
One by one the girls started yelling at me as I separated. This then got other people yelling my name.
"RUN ANITA RUN"
Suddenly everyone knew me and I knew no one.
TIP FOR RUNNING WOODSTOCK:
You NEED to get closer to the front of the pack before you enter the trail head or your going to be stuck behind twice as many people walking. This makes for a really REALLY slow start. I learned this the hard way last year. It took almost an hour to run 3 miles!
ENTERING the TRAIL.
The camp had enough light that you were not completely aware of the darkness that was about to encompass.
After one very energetic loop around the camp, we headed single file into the blackened trail. You could not see your hand in front of your face. You slowly entered the darkness like a horror flick, a 50K horror flick. I had my head lamp on but unfortunately the position it rested on my hat it wasn't much use to me.
The trail was a soggy mess due to the 6 hours of rain we had gotten. The mud was as much as 6 inches deep. It wasn't the mud from a dirt road, it was the swampy black mud that was slick like oil. It was sloppy and thick.
It was about 30 minutes and we were out of the trail onto the road. I was able to pick it up. Everyone picked it up. My socks were squishy between my toes as I enjoyed my legs just being able to move faster than a snail crawl.
The sun was slowly coming up.
It didn't take long to confirm that running in a tank top was a very wise choice. The dampness in the air felt as wet as my toes in my socks.
A conversation brewed about what everyones goals were for this race. I mentioned it was "A training run for a run I was doing in October."
The gal in front of me responds "Oh, what ultra are you doing?"
"Cloudsplitter." I replied thinking she had never heard of it.
Then after her response I wished I had never heard of it.
"Cloudsplitter, OH, I ran that last year. I hope you trained hills, a lot of hills."
She was full of energy as she continued to go on and on about how hard it was and all the HILLS.
Getting frustrated I replied, "Well, it is what it is, You can only run so many hills in Michigan, and at this point there is nothing more I can do with 3 weeks to go."
With only the back of her head to look at she didn't hesitate to continue on about the elevation.
The end of the beginning with this girl was when she said "Yeah, I planned on running a 16 hour 100K, it took me 21 hours...."
All I could think was "I have got to get away from this girl, if I have to run behind her for 6 hours this really will be a horror flick."
HOWEVER, the interesting part was the 2 guys in front of her who questioned what race she was describing. With a even LARGER audience she began her frightening rendition of her Cloudsplitter experience. These two guys were not biting.
"AWESOME! Isn't that why we do ultras, to be challenged? Sounds Like FUN!"
It was too late to respond "Yeah! What he said!"
And it was to late to find those guys to try about meeting up with them. They took off. Probably for the same reason as I wanted to get away. This girl was not real encouraging about Cloudsplitter.
It was barely light enough to see the Gracie aid station and I was no where at all in need of aid to stop. As much as I wanted to see Ken I ran right through.
I spent a lot of time at the Aid stations last year. This year I was going to shave some time by managing my time in the aid stations better.
I reminded myself I trained all summer. I worked hard for this. I didn't want to throw away all my hard training runs for a fun run. I could have fun and still push it. Too many Mondays in 90' weather with Matt and Ken reminding me it was "Good Training."
I felt like I was accountable to my running partners to run strong.
JOHN and STEVE: He was the first guy I met and ran with long enough to remember his name! His goal time when we started running together was 5 1/2 to 6 hours. I met John about mile 13. He was running without a watch. The more distance we ran the more I heard him say "I am going to just run this on feel."
John and I picked up Steve before reaching the Hell Creek aid station. We looked for one another before we headed back into the trail.
I remembered Steve from last year. Him and I ran the 50 mile together. The 3 of us had a lot of fun. We laughed about how girls that run ultras really take femininity to a whole knew level. Between squatting in the woods to smelling like a filthy animal, woman ultra runners take being ladylike to a whole new level!
The 3 of us separated for a little bit when I came to the Gracie aid station all ramped up. I came in hooting and hollering "KENNY! WHERE is KEN!!" I needed that big old smile to juice me up! The crew at the aid stations looked at me like a crack head. "WOOT WOOT! WAKEY WAKE!" I smiled at them all. Ken came out to greet me! I gave him a quick hug and smile. He asked how I was feeling and I said "..so far so good!" He gave me caution to be careful and not run this to the point of injury. I needed to hear that. I needed the reminder from a seasoned runner.
Not wanting to loose Steve and John I quickly headed out.
You entered onto a dirt road with a slight incline. I could see them up ahead as I slowly picked it up.
It wasn't too long after entering back unto the trail that Steve got a phone call. He dropped back. John and I picked up a girl who was running a ironman just a few weeks later. She picked up the pace, I picked up the pace, John lost the pace and he too fell back never to be seen again.
She was running strong. She ran through the mud without hesitation. I continued to tip toe through it trying not to do a face plant. I would jump up on the top of the trail, tearing my body up with thickets and pickers. I could feel the needled tear into my skin and grab my clothing.
But I was not going to loose this girl. After all, she looked like she was in my age group!
We both were about to pee our pants. We were going to be fighting for the bathroom. We were doing a mini loop back to Gracie. I was in the lead trying to get into the bathroom first.
"WOO HOO!!" I screamed as I heading back to see Ken and his crew. "I'M BACK Like a HEART ATTACK I screamed!" Laughing I ran to the port a john. This time I grabbed Ken for a quick picture.
He looked real stern at me. "NITA, Remember this is NOT your goal race. You can not get injured on this race." He was right and I knew it.
That girl took off. "OH HECK NO!" I was determined to catch up to little miss Ironman. I was able to run a steady pace keeping my eye on the back of her compression socks. I knew she was competitive by the way she bolted out of the aid station after running so many miles with me.
I was just a few yards behind her as she entered the trail. I let her lead. I decided to let her push the pace, allowing her to do all the work. My good friend "Jeff" taught me to do this. I would just stay behind her and let her wonder what I was made of.
She was not as strong on the trails. By the time we came to the Richie Aid station she was done. I never saw her again on the trail.
My body still loved me. I felt great. The mud dried up a bit. Every so often I would see a 100 miler. I never saw the face that read "Do this, it'll be fun!"
I counted down the miles. With just a few miles to go my body was still footloose and fancy.
I couldn't remember if a 50K was 31 or 32 miles. Kris posted a pic on Facebook that showed Woodstock was 32.23 miles on her Garmin. I thought it was 31 miles. But I didn't want to take any chances and decided to treat it like a 32 mile race.
With about 3 miles to go I met this guy full of energy, BOB. He reminded me of my brother. He was laughing with me as I was coming to my home stretch. He was running the marathon. He had farther to go than I did. I belted out some obnoxious cheering noise as we came up to another runner on the trail. Very slowly the guy turned around in the middle of the trail and stared at me like a serial killer. It sent chills up and down my spine. I diverted my eyes to his bib, he was a 100miler and he looked like he was off his rocker. Bob stopped to check on him. A couple minutes later Bob caught up to me. "That is why you should not be running a 100 miles without a pacer."
I replied "Is he going to be ok?"
Bob continued to tell me that he helped him up and told him he was almost to the aid station. The 100 miler wanted to lie down in the grass. Bob coaxed him up and encouraged him to stay upright.
"Come On BOB, Bring me IN!" I giggled.
He laughed, You are doing great, You Bring me IN, you just have a couple more miles."
Getting more excited I sang "I can almost hear the COW BELLS!"
Minutes later I really did hear the cowbells. I could see the light literally at the end of the trail. The hippie music was bellowing in the background and I lost myself. All my senses were stimulated running unto the campground. I picked it up with my hands in the air hooting and hollering. I could hear BOB laughing at me and cheering me on from behind. "Go Get Em!"
I pumped my right hand in the air like Arsenio Hall pumping up the crowd. Andy was right there with a big smile cheering me on and running next to me. "GO NITA GO!"
I found that next gear and turned it over laughing and riling up the crowd with each step.
I finished all smiles. I was filled with gratitude. God was so good to me. He kept me strong and safe.
My distance was actually over 32 miles. I forgot to change my watch off autopause, confirming this race is longer than 31 miles!
This time was good enough to get me 1st place in my age group. I held my little VW bug trophy in the palm of my hand shocked that I felt as good as I did and still placed.
It didn't take long for the adrenaline to fade away and the soreness to replace it. This was a polite reminder I wasn't superhuman like I thought I was!
I cheered BOB on as he ran through the aid station. And about 15 minutes later the 100 miler guy came through. He didn't go through the aid station though, he went to the station you can drop down or DNF. I am not sure which he did.
I loved the section Andy was in. He was sitting with Andy J. and Justin in their tailgating chairs, taking in the whole Woodstock experience.
I just wanted COFFEE. Andy got up and went back to our camp site for another chair and my coffee, as we all waited to the girls to come in.
About 2 hours later, in the midst of the temperatures dropping, rain, then the sun coming back out they came out of the woods.
We had all finished. And we all had FUN.
The fun wasn't over. Packing up to go home was a whole other work out. It felt like twice as much work breaking everything down. Andy was a gem. He packed most of it up while I was chasing after some Mediterranean trailer for food.
CONGRATS TO RACHEL WHO WON CLOSEST TO THE HOLE.SHE GUESSED MY TIME AT 6:17!