I really can't put into words how much that hurt.
Brief Synopsis: This is fun. This is OK. This is starting to hurt. This really hurts. Oh my God! I'm going to drop out. I'm feeling a little better. I'm OK. I'm moving along. This hurts. I'm walking. Why won't this end? Ouch. Just get to the finish.
Team Sonic Death Monkey Assembles
Starting on Friday night, our friends starting rolling into town. We had 5 other friends running the 25k and 1 dumbass running the 50k. We, well me, decided to dub our team "Sonic Death Monkey." (Ed note: Couple F-bombs coming up.)
Since "High Fidelity" is one of my favorites movies, I thought it was appropriate, and somehow, everyone was cool with it. We are Sonic Death Monkey!
We arrived at Pineland Farms over an hour before the start of the race. Well, the 25k, anyway. The 50k had started at 8:00am, which meant that Nate was out there somewhere. The yahoos running the 50 Mile had started at 6:00am. ugh. We had plenty of time to get everything in order before the race, but somehow I forgot to put my number on. You know, I've only done 8,000 races in my life, so naturally, I'd forget this. I scrambled back to Camp Death Monkey, fished it out my bag, and got it pinned on just as the race started.
My plan was to go out really easy. The first 3 miles are mostly downhill, and I didn't want to charge out and pay for it later. So, I started way back in the pack. As it turned out I ran the first 1.5 or so with Mike and Vicky—our friends and esteemed members of Sonic Death Monkey. Shortly after this, Mike pulled ahead and was never to be seen again. Vicky and I chatted and ran easily through 3 miles. I was feeling really good at 3, and we went through in around 24:15ish. (There were no mile markers, so all my splits were a bit of a guess based on my course knowledge.)
I bypassed the first aid station, since I was wearing my Fuel Belt. I had one bottle of water and one bottle of water/Hammer Gel mix. This combination had worked really well me on all my long runs. At some point around 4.5 miles, my stomach started rumbling, and I was burping a lot. At this point we were running through one of the many wide open fields. The sun was hot. Then my stomach started to cramp. Not good times. I tried to ignore it. At 5 miles, there's a decent climb, and my "race plan" was to maintain my pace up this climb, figuring I'd move up on a number of people. As it turns out, this is exactly what happened. I ran the hill well, and Vicky was trailing along behind. At the top of the climb, the course heads back out into another field, and I really started to feel bad through here. My stomach was killing me. Cramp, cramp, cramp. As we exited the field and back into the woods, Vicky went by me, and that was the last I would see of her. In fact, a number of people passed me from mile 6 through mile 8. I was hurting.
At mile 7 the course goes back out into another field. Between the heat and my stomach, it was brutal. I knew that I was getting dehydrated, so I tried to drink some Hammer Gel and water. But every time I did, my stomach felt much worse. In fact, I couldn't really keep the Hammer Gel down. I never exactly threw up, but I would burp and Hammer Gel goo would come up along with it. Acidic, raspberry yuk. Things were not going well. I was also starting to hunch over from the pain in my gut, which isn't exactly conducive to running. Since the course is so twisty, at different points, you can see other runners that are either ahead or behind. At this point, I saw D, and I think all I said was "Ouch." Going through the 8 mile point, I was really hurting. I was seriously thinking about dropping out. It was through here that I was getting passed on a regular basis. Up until my 7 or so, I was doing all the passing because I'd started so conservatively, but now I was getting crushed. Every so often, I'd come upon a 50k-er or 50-miler who was going slower, but it was little consolation, since they were running twice as far. There's an aid station at 8.5, and I stopped here to try some water. I hoped that walking and drinking would help, as opposed to trying to drink on the fly...or on the crawl as the case may be.
I'm Not Dead Yet
The cold water and the walking helped. That was a really good thing, since from 8.5 to 10 miles the course is basically all uphill. There are two steeps sections, which I walked, but even as I was walking, I was passing people. These were small victories, but I think they helped. My stomach was still cramping, but back down to a manageable level. Then I was basically alone. I ran from about mile 9 to mile 11 by myself. At 10 miles, the course passes through the start/finish area, and I actually was feeling pretty good. Up until this point, my stomach had felt so bad, I failed to do any mental checks of my legs, but they felt pretty good for running a hilly, rough 10 miles on a hot day. Again, the stomach was still cramped, but slightly less angry. I'm sure the adrenaline of going through the start/finish/festival area gave me a boost. I stopped at the aid station at 10.5 for more water and motored on. At this point, I was really glad and I didn't drop out, and I wasn't going to be put on the cart.
As I entered the Oak Hill section of the course, which is the final 5 miles, I was starting to see people in front of me. I was actually gaining on people. At this point, I didn't care if they were running 50 miles, I was actually moving faster than someone. (That being said, quite a few of the 50 milers ran the same pace I did for 15.5.) Of course, the point where I could see people was around another field. The fields were so hot. It was the hottest weather I'd run in all season, and it was really draining. I could feel my feet getting hot. My energy was waning. I knew that a little Hammer Gel would help, and I tried one more sip. Bad idea. More yuk. But, only a handful of people passed me from miles 11 to 14.5. It was weird because I was mostly alone in my suffering. Someone would close on me and go by quickly, or I would do the same to someone else. I never really had anyone to run with through here. I'm using the term "run" loosely, as I did a fair amount of walking on the hills through the last 3 miles. The pain in my gut had really taken a lot out of me. In fact, every time I reached a downhill, my pace would naturally quicken, which would knot up my insides. It was really draining, both physically and mentally. I just wanted to survive. My goal was to keep it together and finish strong. I knew that my legs had enough in them to keep me upright through the finish. Although, they were starting to get heavy. Not a lot of spring left, which was no doubt a combination of the lack of training and energy sucking pain in my gut.
At 14.5, you have to run out into another field...just a brutal way to finish. One guy passed me just before we hit the field, and somehow the competitive runner in me kicked in, and I stayed just behind him until the finish. I even passed a couple people in the final mile. Mike and Vicky were just up from the finish to give me a final cheer and push to the end. My watch read 2:19:02, and I feel like I felt every second of it. I nearly fell over when the nice volunteer tried to take the tag off my number to record my finish. I spent the next couple minutes in a daze. Too tired to get water or Gatorade, and my gut too angry to make think I wanted to drink it. Now, it really started to hurt. I slowly sipped some water and groaned.
I'm not really sure what caused the stomach cramps. I had some yogurt for breakfast. Maybe that was it. I've eaten yogurt tons of times before runs, though. Maybe it was the heat. It was really hot in the fields, and I hate the heat. Maybe my stomach does, too. Maybe it was the meatloaf I ate for dinner two nights before the race. I have no idea.
All that being said, I'm actually fairly happy with my race. It was slower than I had hoped, but I'm really pleased with my effort. I pushed hard through the tough periods. After not running for all of April, my body felt pretty good. My quads are a bit sore today, but not bad. Also, 15.5 is the longest I've ever run. That seems a bit strange to say, but it's true. Somehow, I never managed to run that long. I think I did one 15-miler in college, but that was it. Obviously, I really wish my stomach hadn't been so cramped, but looking ahead, I don't imagine that I could possibly feel any worse for such a long period of time. Basically, I felt bad for 10 miles. That's a good percentage of the race, yet I was still able to hang in. And, really, I figured that 2:19, which is 9-minute miles was a realistic goal. I was really hoping to break 2:10, but I'll take it.
Sonic Death Monkey Rocks the House
As far as the team goes, it was a great day. Official results haven't been posted yet, but I'll link to them when they're up.
After starting out in the back of the pack with Vicky and I, Mike worked his way up through...well, everyone to finish 4th! He ran 1:48 and change, which I can barely comprehend. I think he cheated. He finished first in his age group and scored a sweet trophy.
Vicky, who wasn't even planning to run the race, finished in 2:14. She's running the Covered Bridges 1/2 Marathon next weekend, and she decided that after this race that is going to feel like a piece of cake.
D had a great race. Her goal was to break 2:30, and she crushed it. 2:25/2:26 or so. Right on my heels! I need to get rid of that stomach cramp.
In her first race since birthing out Finley, Shannon ran 2:42, and said it was "fun." I'm not sure she was running the same race.
Willow snuck by us at the finish, and I can't recall her time. But, she said she couldn't believe how hard it was.
In the last few yards, Tank told me I was "evil." That may or may not be true, but he ran a really strong 3:03. As he put it: "Having someone on your team named "Tank" doesn't really improve your chances." I beg to differ.
NateDawg was next to come into the finish as he finished the 50k. He finished in 5:15, and was not a happy camper. He said to me afterwards: "I think the 25k would have been a wiser choice." Hopefully, he got a good night's sleep and has actually eaten something by now.
Team results have yet to be posted, but I think Team Sonic Death Monkey will fare pretty well. We have the coolest name anyway.
What a great race. Pineland Farms is a great venue, and the race organizers did a fantastic job. Great atmosphere, and a great post-race barbecue. Well, once I managed to be able to eat. All in all, a first class race. We stayed until about 5:00 watching the 50k and 50 mile finishers. A lot of fun.
The course, however, is brutal. There are no breaks. None. It is relentless. It hates you. It's by far the hardest race I've ever run...and I wouldn't even call what I was doing racing. I'm really impressed by all the 50k and 50 mile runners. I can't even imagine doing more than one lap of that course. That being said, I'm certain I'll be back for the 25k again next year. I'm such an idiot.