Not really that attractive… somewhat raggedy looking… none of the trademark appeal of Ironman… no carbon fiber… or high end zoot components required.
In training for RATS http://geminiadventures.com/DesertRATS.html I had decided to do a few Ultramarathons… for training and to have some type of longer distance running experience.
My 1st ultra had been a 35 miler on the beach… extremely small and low key… and I’d loved it… but that’s the beach… I’m a beach kind of guy… having spent most of my adult life living in a beach community.
My 2nd ultra had been a 50 miler on an abandoned rail line… double out and back… I learned a lot but remained aloof to the charms of the ultra… It’s just a long day I told myself…. Running fast is more fun
So Guana… a race in my own back yard so to speak was to be my 1st actual trail run… and first 50k. The race is basically 4 - 8 mile loops in Guana State Park.
Just because there is no real high end gear… that does not mean that logistics is not a requirement… and now that I am such an experienced (ha!) ultrarunner I came well prepared…. I had a backpack full of junk… gels… crackers… Gatorade etc…
My friend Susan accompanied me to the race… on the trip down the coast I asked her what her goals for the race were… she turned the question around on me immediately (she is an attorney). I answered rather boldly that I wanted to do the race fast enough to be able to catch up to her on her last lap and run an extra loop… She just looked at me and said… I’m just going to finish… and the way she said it… and the way she looked at me made me feel dumb…
See Susan had done a something like 12 Marathons and a couple of ultras since October… she was understandably tired and also a shoo in to finish whatever she started.
So… we get to the race site.. and the RD shined his headlamp on the big trail map and started explaining the course and giving specific directions… I listened anyway but I was sure that there would be someone to follow…
At 0700 with the sun just peeking up over the dunes the RD lined us all up… and said “Is everybody ready?”
I heard one voice pipe up… “Wait! I don’t have my satellites yet”
The question, as it turns out was rhetorical… and he almost immediately shouted “Go!”
Now I had on my Garmin too… and I did not “have my satellites” either… but… WTH we started running.
I ran the first mile or so with Susan… and I was quite surprised at how quickly the pack thinned out…
Susan urged me to get on up the trail so I picked it up a bit. For most of the first lap I was catching people… but they were pretty few and far between… I found myself alone a few times racking my brain for the race director’s words about engineer’s flags and out and backs, and turns. I managed to find my way until I happened upon Matt
Matt is in the navy… I asked if he’d ever done an ultra and he said no… with a cautious smile… About that time we picked up Jim… a seasoned Ultramarathoner that I had met at the start line… nice guy… the three of us chat and run the rest of lap one together.
The clock… my only indication of pace so far… read ~1:17 when we completed the lap… I ran off to hit the duce… and thought my companions would disappear up the trail while I stopped.
When I started my second lap I could see a runner ahead… a ½ mile later I caught Jim again… and soon thereafter a heavy breathing Matt caught us as well. As Jim and I chatted about marathons, ultras, and cycling in traffic, Matt yo-yoed off the back…
I slipped away from them both at the water cooler placed at ~4mi… roughly the half-way point… I didn’t really want to stop… just run…. So that’s just what I did for the next loop and a half… I mindlessly ran… completely alone for the most part… just me… and my feet and the trail… and I loved every step. Lots of smiles to myself. Especially on the single-track part… roots… weaving… tight corners. I saw an armadillo… and a snake.
As I started my 4th loop I noticed that the clock read 4:0X… 4:07 if I had to guess… and with that knowledge I knew that I had a good shot at sub 5:30… so I just kept running…. Saw another armadillo… I was getting tired and I guess not picking my feet up… so a root got me at one point… like a hammer hitting my big toe. I caught myself with the other leg… slightly hyper extending it in the process… probably looked like sasquatch stumbling thru the woods for a few steps. Soon after this I could feel the wheels falling off a bit… and for the first time all day I was tired and beginning to slow.
About a mile and a half from the finish I caught Susan… She admitted to not having a great day but she was still in good spirits. We clowned around and laughed a bit then I set off again on my quest to catch 5:30. I wanted to finish strong but had no speed left. I even got passed by a couple in the last mile.
But finish I did… and in ~5:27… and that, my friends, was the end of the race… but not the end of the story.
To say I was spent would be an understatement… but I knew I had one more lap to go… So I ate some… and drank some…trying to pull myself together enough to not slow Susan down on her last lap.
All too soon the break was over and we set out for one more… more walking than running but that was fine by me… Nice day… good conversation… the miles while difficult passed quickly… Soon it seemed we were on the back part of the course along the Intracostal… We rounded a corner and pulled up to the beach right in front of us were two boats… one Sherriff’s boat with lights flashing and a civilian boat…
Susan wanted to go see what was going on… I vetoed that idea and insisted that we keep moving. 10-15 minutes later we hear sirens in the distance… piquing our curiosity about what might have been going on back there… a mile or so further on we meet a park ranger headed towards the far side of the island… He stopped long enough to tell us that some people had found a body floating in the Intracostal… so that’s what all the commotion was about….
Well we finished… then hung around to help clean up the site a bit…
We ended the day… sitting with friends… drinking beer at a bar overlooking the Intracoastal.
I think I’m in love with this trail running thing in spite of myself…
I had an absolute blast… like a rollercoaster at an amusement park… I want to get right back in line and go on the ride again!