Scatter my ashes here...

Scatter my ashes here...
scatter my ashes in the desert...

Monday, July 23, 2018

Summer Urban Adventure: DIY 50 Miles

The race I'd signed up for on July 21, the Lactic Acid Trip 24 hour, in Bailey, on a track, got postponed until October. Since I don't know that I can make it and the weather could be an issue in October, I decided to make my own 24 hour run. I asked around for some places where I felt I could run safely all night in a loop that would allow me easy and frequent access to my aid station. My friends Crisann, Felix, and Joanne all live in a quiet neighborhood in the north part of town and Crisann offered to let me use her house as my aid station and bathroom.

The benefits of this run would be a safe place to run alone in the dark, multiple short loops for variety yet easy aid access in case of hot weather, the availability of a deep gravel path similar to the conditions I'll encounter at Across the Years, and little traffic.

I sprained my ankle in June when blinded by the sunrise, I stepped on a pine cone and rolled forward. It had been about 6 weeks since the sprain and I was doing well with it, until last Wednesday Crisann and I were out hiking near the Rawahs and I misstepped and rolled over on it again, re-tweaking it. It only hurt at the moment I did it, and then it seemed to be okay after some ice, ibuprofen, and rest for a couple of days. I was a bit concerned about the ankle but I taped it the morning of the run and it held up fine other than getting puffy the day after the run.

I woke up at 3 am, unable to sleep very well, but I had a good five hours of sleep- which is enough to get through another 24 or so hours. My car was mostly packed with my supplies, all I had to do was load the coolers with ice, drinks, and food that I'd prepared in advance. I threw everything in and drove to Crisann's, set up my table, coolers, and junk in her driveway. They left the outdoor lights on, and I was set up in 15 minutes and ready to go. I started at 4:30 am on the nose.

It was cool but humid, 69 degrees at the start, and I began by doing the short loop around her neighborhood which was about 1.15 miles according to my GPS. Once the sky got a little lighter, I went out the other two loops, one of which I called the fork, and the other an out and back to the main street leading to their subdivision. One was about 1.65 miles and the other was 2 miles. Both of these had hills and climbed a little less than 50 feet each, but I knew the vertical would feel good for variety and would add up over the day.

The sunrise was worth every second of sleep deprivation. Looking east toward I-25 across the plains, the sun was a huge orange globe and the light reflected pink on the silos and buildings at the Budweiser plant.
Once the sky got light enough, I planned to do about ten percent of my miles on the gravel path that winds through the neighborhood. Most of it is loose, deep gravel, exactly like the Across the Years course. I want to condition my feet for Across the Years, which I plan to run in December, and last year the gravel portion, which is about ten percent of the course, killed my feet. I need to be ready for that if I want to make it through a couple of days of running on that course.

My goals for the day were to run 80 miles or 24 hours, whichever came first, to get 8 miles of gravel running, and to run for 6 hours of the time out there.

About two hours into the run I got a text from Felix, who lives around the corner from Crisann, asking me where I was in the neighborhood. I happened to be at my table at the moment. Felix came over and met me, and we started running together. He also took me on a loop around the lake in their neighborhood, which was a nice distraction from the usual loops. Along the way we ran into Joanne, who was out on her run, so the three of us did a few miles together including some of the gravel path.

Felix and I have been friends for many years now, and he's an amazing athlete. He's an ultraendurance cyclist, swimmer, runner, climber, and I'm probably forgetting something. He was on my crew for the Badwater Double, and he was there during the infamous SpongeBob hallucinations. He always seems to show up at the right moment, whether it's for joining me for my birthday runs or arriving in the middle of nowhere in the desert with pizza or ice cream, or coming up with a conversation topic completely out of the blue that distracts me from whatever discomfort I was thinking about at the moment. He always makes me laugh.

We spent a few chunks of time reviewing Spanish vocabulary and conversation, and talking about assorted topics that at this point I can't even remember. The day got progressively warmer and the shady spots fewer, and there was a lot of humidity. Big thunderheads were accumulating over the foothills but the sun was blazing until we got a little cloud cover toward the end of the day. The temperature was in the 80s and got up into the low 90s by mid-day, but the humidity was steady.

We knocked out the 8 miles of gravel before noon, and I got two solid hours of running in by late morning and decided to throw in minimal running the rest of the day until it cooled down in the evening, then I would focus on getting the full 6 hours of running in. I was drinking plenty, taking in S-caps and peeing enough, and I filled my bandana with ice, keeping a big ice pillow on my neck to stay cool.

All day I struggled mentally, I wanted to get into a rhythm and zone out, listen to my tunes and keep a steady walking pace. But somehow I couldn't do it. I was constantly distracted, the neighborhood had too many twists and turns, things to look at, and there were no "blank" areas where I could just tune out and lose myself. Felix was cognizant of my need for alone time and he sort of did his own thing, loosely following my route but giving me the space he thought I'd need, and that was great. But somehow I could not get my mind in the place I needed to be, to enjoy my run. It was like my brain as constantly being called on to look at something, notice something, and I felt overstimulated in that setting. Maybe it's just where my brain was that day.

Felix and I had talked about recent events and how we cope with them. I felt pretty traumatized after the past week between the news of how the President botched things at NATO with our allies and then the Helsinki summit where he looked like an oversized kid who had just been berated, punished, and sent to his room by Putin. Felix told me his strategy for such things- by tuning it out and not listening to the news. I told him how I need to find a better strategy for dealing with all of it, because it upsets me so much.

I was hoping this run would be a chance to reset, clear my mind, and let go of all that worry and frustration. Even though I didn't think about those events during the run, I still could not get my mind into a calm, relaxed place. I started to think about cutting it short for another day, but decided to keep going until the temperatures cooled down in the evening, to see if I could get my mind off things in the dark. After about 30 miles my mental struggle was overwhelming, despite my attempts to zone out with music and run the least stimulating parts of the course.

Whenever it's humid I tend to chafe badly and often get heat rash, and by afternoon I was greasing my legs where the seam on my shorts was rubbing. I didn't see the extent of the chafing until 11 hours in, when I rewarded myself for reaching 40 miles by changing my clothes and re-greasing. I had an outline of my running bra that was chafed- under my armpits and across my chest, and a few spots on my shoulders. I knew I'd be screaming when I finished and took a shower.

Felix would run with me and whenever I stopped at Crisann's to get more food, drinks, or ice, Felix would run over to his house to get his own supplies. Then he'd come back and find me on the course. Usually I'd see him sprinting toward me as I continued in my slow, steady walk.

After my clothes changing break, when Felix found me, he was wearing a "Team Beef" shirt. At that point I was at about 42 miles and it cracked me up. I don't even know why it strikes me as so funny, but if you knew Felix, it would make you laugh too.

I was really craving ice cream sandwiches at that point, and Crisann made an attempt by stopping at Trader Joe's earlier and picking up some ice cream sandwiches. Except they were soy ice cream sandwiches. I tried one and it actually wasn't bad for the first few bites, but then the chalkiness hit me. Not the same. I thanked her but explained there's a reason why I wear a tiara that says "Princess".

I called Dennis around 5 pm and asked him if he could bring me a real ice cream sandwich and maybe some food around 6:30. After another half hour I changed my mind. I'd had enough. I decided to keep going until 50 miles and call it a day. I just wasn't having fun, and I needed to save it for another time. I called Dennis back and told him my plan, and let Felix and Crisann know. I kept going until 50, it wasn't quite sunset, but I'd been on my feet for a little over 15 hours and it was enough. I felt like even in the dark, there were enough things I'd have to watch out for- like cars parked on the street, cracks in the sidewalk or road, corners, curbs, and the usual neighborhood activities that would continue to be a distraction- my brain would never be able to get into a relaxed state.

The official name of the run changed from the DIY 24 Hour to the DIY 50. And Felix, in his usual state of awesomeness, had completed 50 miles too. In about 2 hours less than it took me. Crisann and Felix helped me load up my car and I was soon home to Dennis, the girls, and food.The ice cream sandwich had to wait until Sunday, but I finally got my indulgence.

So... I got a decent 50 mile training run in, with a good portion of gravel, in the heat and humidity, with lots of mental distraction. I'll have to look for another opportunity for a long training run in August. But it was a memorable experience, shared with my great running buddy, and will go down in the history books as another urban adventure.

It was like turning lemons into tepid, sun-fermented, bug protein-infused lemonade, served on the rocks over neck bandana ice cubes and a sweat-crusted rim.

Afternotes: Worst heat rash I've ever had maybe with the exception of Badwater. Feet were fine other than heat rash, terrible chafing on my upper body, and my left ankle looks like a baseball tennis ball. But nothing hurts! No problems going up and down the stairs, walking, or moving. No blisters whatsoever. What's next? Bring it on!!

Photo credits: Felix Wong

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