Posts Tagged ‘#runcareless’

 

With my Trail WhippAss team mates and friends. L-R: Matt Gerowitz, Juliette Ciacca, Stalina Gibson, Moi, and JC Sta. Teresa.

With my Trail WhippAss team mates and friends. L-R: Matt Gerowitz, Juliette Ciacca, Stalina Gibson, Moi, and JC Sta. Teresa.

A week ago today, around this time, I was in the Appalachian Trail, either run-walking up or flying down the beautiful downhills.

But before that even happened, I must say, I came to JFK 50 with fear. I have run and finished 2 50-milers before and I knew I CAN FINISH 50 miles. But then, as the cliché goes, no 2 races are the same. JFK 50 has a 12-hour cut-off for those starting at 0700 and 14 for those toeing the line at 0500. So far, one of those 2 50 miles I’ve done, I finished under 12 hours. But that was at Beast of Burden, which was flat as a runway. The other, TARC 50, I finished at 15 hours and 50 minutes of running, after I got lost at mile 48.5 or 49, sat, cried, and then given the chance to finish. So technically, I didn’t have a good history to bank on. On one hand, I thought that while BoB was flat, it was cold, I had my period, and went to the bathroom a million times. So maybe, there was hope that I can actually finish under the cut-off.

Still, the assurance was not enough. I freaked out.

And then, there were the whys. Why did I let Stalina talk me into this? Why did I even think I could do it?

My husband ran it last year and finished under 9 hours but that was him. Why did I even think I could do it? Or may be I could. But then, wait, was I even trained enough? Not in my opinion.

Since TARC in June, I had 2 DNFs. Two 50Ks— what would’ve supposedly been “training runs.” One, a week after TARC (who was I kidding?) and the other, in October. So talk about confidence. Then, I guess all the other “trainings” involved running some “hills” in Central Park, walking on 35-40% incline in our treadmill, probably 1 back-to-back 16- and 11-milers, and Steamtown Marathon followed by a 10-miler the next day. The only other essential part in my so-called training was trying to train/run on empty. So far, I’ve only managed running without nutrition or hydration for the longest distance of 10 miles. So was I ready? Not exactly. But I had to convince myself I was.

Fast-forward, November 21 came. With my family, we packed 2 more runner-friends, Stalina and Juliette, in our car and headed to Hagerstown. I was thankful the husband came because I could not imagine driving a day after the race. That Friday, we picked up our bibs at a hotel after eating Thai food. Then at dinner, we headed to Ledo’s Pizza (and their pizza was awesome!) where I had the quasi-mandatory dinner of vegan pizza and pasta. I swore I’d never eat that much before. Following dinner, we readied in our room. I skipped the FlatKat, the “traditional” laying down of race attire for photo-ops. I was scared as f#ck that might jinx me.

Then fast-forward race day November 22.

I had a good night’s sleep. When I woke, I had coffee and a wonderful bathroom visit.

That's my best poker face at the bib pick-up.

That’s my best poker face at the bib pick-up.

It was a cold morning. There were frostings on cars at the parking lot. I was wearing shorts. I had settled on a long-sleeved tech shirt with my Trail WhippAss (my running team) singlet over it. But I’ve also a loose tech running shirt over it for throw-away, then my Ultimate Direction Jenny vest.

After a quick stay in the gym for some last minute race announcements, we were heading out to the start. Jun’s (the husband) last words to me in our dialect “Don’t DNF.” Boom.

Gun went off just right after I used the porta-john, where I actually tripped and hurt my ankle.

Just as expected, it was crowded, but that was good. With over a thousand (?) runners, I figured I could never be the last person.

The first five miles were just relentless uphill on pavement. As soon as I heard a volunteer say “last uphill and you’ll be in the AT,” my eyes lit up. That trek uphill ate up so much of my time.

Soon enough we hit the AT.

I had to make a mental note about what how my ultrarunner, badass friend, Elaine Acosta told me to go slow in the AT, because per her experience, she was fascinated with it that she ran too fast and bonked in the towpath. But that wasn’t a problem for me; I can’t run fast, anyway.

But yes it was beautiful. I managed to run smarter, walking the uphills mostly. (I have been warned by a random runner and Jun to not run the uphills because they burn me out but I feel I can run better uphill than walking uphill.) Then I made up for time by running downhills, even in the most technical ones and along the switchback. At one point I twisted my ankle really bad and heard a snap and I was worried for a while but that didn’t do harm.

The AT was a beauty. Unfortunately, we only had about 9 miles of it. I have memories of the picture-perfect scenery but only in my mind because I turned my phone off to fight the temptation to take pictures.

It was sad when the run along the AT ended. I especially loved the view that overlooked the river when we started the switchbacks and the AS by the rails where we actually had to stop for about 5 mins for a cargo train to cross. But I didn’t really stop long in these ASs as I was constantly making sure I had enough time. I breezed through them just to get water to mix with my Drip Drop and a spare bottle to drink. Other than that, all I picked up at the AS spread apart were 2 PB&J Uncrustables and 4 pretzel sticks. Other nutrition only composed of 2 dates and 4 or 5 V-Fuel, which I took along the way.

Finally, we hit the 26-mile stretch of the towpath, almost flat as a pancake. Contrary, however, to the Beast, at least, there was some fall foliage to see. Fine. I’ll take that.

So it was the most boring part of the race. I was dragging my feet. I was only thankful I was wearing my Hoka One One Clifton as they were the lightest bunch. I also had to make sure I relaxed my hips because more than the legs and feet, they are the first to give up. But boy, did that hurt. Same muscles for 26 miles. But then again, if there was one thing I learned from pacing Gerald in Badwater 135 in the middle of the night going up Cerro Gordo, pain has its limits. You can always push past the pain. Because if it didn’t have a limit, the pain scale that we often use at work would not be a scale of 1-10.

A lot of things go on in your mind when you’re running 50.2 miles. Especially for a back-of-the-packer like me. Because that’s a verrrry looongg time. But the goal is to stay away from surrendering.

On the towpath, mind wandered from where my ovaries are relative to the fact that since they’re no longer anchored to a fallopian tube and/or uterus, where could they be? Are they bouncing like me? That question kept me going for quite a bit. Then there were thoughts of inspirational words I had received days leading up to the race like “Believe” and “Have Faith” from 2 of the best ultrarunner friends I know, Stephen Bandfield and Paul De Nunzio. And everytime my mind went off on a tangent, I had to override it with some thought I had from Michele Yates’ interview: stay focused.

I would also discover, my GPS was off by close to a mile at this point. And I had 2 Garmins on. My old 910xt was the one I relied on, as my 620 stupidly did not start until 8 minutes into the race. I had calculated my pace to never exceed 14:11-min/mi if I wanted to make it to the cut-off. But with a GPS reading that was skewed, it was hard to say what my actual pace was. So I mostly relied at elapsed time.

And of course, there were cut-offs I had written on my arm and covered with tegaderm. They came in handy. And yes, I only looked up and found out about the cut-offs the night before. And that’s when I freaked out. This is one bad habit I need to overcome: I don’t read instructions.

I had about an hour of buffer on the first cut-off time, even with all the walking that happened the first 5 miles. But the numbers just thinned out as the day went on.

Then boom, we were nearing mile-38, where, in my opinion, the strictest cut-off was. For some reason, nearing it, my GPS said we were close to mile-38, even with the GPS being inaccurate. But behold, we almost didn’t make it past that Aid Station.

The volunteer there blurted out “even if you continue now, you will not make it to the next cut-offs.” This, even with 3 hours to spare to finish 12 miles. For some reason unknown, or may it was exhaustion, I almost quit and call Jun to come pick me up. But for some reason, as well, I felt lazy about taking my phone out and thought that if I stayed, I would be cold. Stalina, my Russian friend, was feisty enough to talk me out of it, so we, along with 2 others went for the last 13.2 miles. Of course, I was a bit miserable when we left because I didn’t realize until later that in our haste, we had not gotten water. I only had about 6 ounces left. Good job.

And then, Stalina left me. And I couldn’t find her. Without looking at the cut-off chart on my arm, part of me thought that I may not make it to the next AS on time. I only remembered Stalina saying the night before that the last 12 miles of the whole 50.2 will be like doing negative splits, aka running for your life. While you are exhausted.

So I took my time, took my dates from the back of my pack, and ate those 2 dates. “Ahhh… Real food, finally.” In my not-so-hasty trek, I was surprised that after only 2.8 miles, there was another AS not far ahead. In my mind I was saying “Wait, what? 3 miles with an hour to work on?” I crossed that AS with about 10 minutes to cut-off and that was with walking. This time, I had more FAITH and I BELIEVED more that I could actually do it. My friend, Stephen, told me to have the same faith when I ran Steamtown Marathon where I PR’d by 15 minutes. My faith resurrected and I knew at that point finishing was possible.

I was just 9 miles away and I think it was when we were donned the “vest of shame,” the vest that was to protect us in the next 9.2 miles because we were running on a road with actual traffic. But I didn’t mind that. I figured way before that if wearing the vest of shame meant I would finish, then so be it. I wore it with pride. And well, with my headlamp.

Again, I was reminded by what Elaine had said about how the last 9 miles are helpful because while it was rolling, you gain time in the downhills. So that was what I exactly did. I walked some incline and just ran the downhills. Ran some inclines and ran some downhills. Repeating the pattern in the next miles.

Along the line, it got a bit tricky staying safe. Because we were in a highway or main road, there were no shoulders to work on. In some areas, I actually had to stop because there were trucks coming and there was nowhere to run. But then knowing there were other runners made me feel safer. And I met John the Irish (I would find out his name after from Paul Grassie). He kept on giving encouraging words about how we were almost there. This went on for a few miles. And finally, when we hit the mile-44 (or 46?), I heard someone say “boiled potatoes.” I found that ridiculous because I have been looking for potatoes all day and never saw any. Now seriously, what will boiled potatoes do for me at the end of the race? So I brushed it off.

Finally, I hit the last few miles and there were mile markers, counting down. I could already smell the finish. And my family’s stench of fear that I may not have finished. Haha. It was also at this point I heard Mr. Incredible, on his bike, playing a boom box. “September” was playing. My heart was racing and when he was finally beside me, I asked him if he was the sweeper. He laughed at that and said “No! There are actually about 25 runners behind you” and he biked along.

I lost John the Irish somewhat and I had a sudden surge of energy as I passed some runners infront. I finally caught Stalina, who I saw had to do a double take and say“Oh, my god. I’m happy you made it.” I went and ran and at this point, I saw my pace was still under 14. But I knew that was no longer accurate because when we almost stopped at Taylor’s Landing, I paused my watch and we stayed there for 5 minutes. So literally, I didn’t have much time left. So I just ran, passing a few more runners. Until that final left turn on the highway where I was finally told the finish was waiting.

Sure enough, I saw the blown-up arch that said finish. It was slightly under 12 hours at this point but I was happy. I heard my name as I was approaching the finish. And I heard one of the announcers congratulating runners. The same announcer I heard talking last year, when Jun and finished.

I found myself making the sign of the cross and thanking God and thanking the Holy Spirit for helping me through it. The same way I had been praying so hard to just be guided in the past 50 miles, to know when to run, to pause, and to run again.

And with the intention to be photographed with my Trail WhippAss singlet, I took the vest of shame off about .1 mile away. And a few feet from the final timing mat, I saw Jun and Mariska and I jumped what was supposedly my jumping pic (unfortunately Jun missed it). And in Maggie Guterl’s words, I “pranced” to the finish.

Oh, my Lord. The clock read 11 hours 48 minutes something. I survived JFK 50. I finished under 12 hours!

With Herman Nichols Gilbert Gray and Paul Encarnacion.

With Herman Nichols Gilbert Gray and Paul Encarnacion.

It was one of the happiest finishes in my life.

I was ecstatic. I received my medal and then ran to the side to see Stalina finish and some other runners finish. Just like we all do in Ultras. But we had to walk out of the finish before the 12-hour mark sounded off. It was cold and I didn’t think I could handle seeing runners not making it to the cut-off. That would break my heart. But I’m not quite sure if anyone did not.

So I survived JFK 50. My thoughts and fear of having bought a JFK 50 hoodie and magnetic car sticker dissipated.

Sure enough, by the time we reached the public school cafeteria, there were no more ramen noodles. Back-of-the-packer problems. But who cares? I could very well survive the next days with just the runners’ high.

In retrospect, JFK 50 was a journey, a reflection. This is why I run ultras or why I sometimes DNF ultras. In my own twisted thinking, it is the experience that matters. When you’re happy or in pain but are able to digest things in life. Because if you can’t do that, then what’s the point?

Run careless. Run free.

Advertisements
Say "RUN!!!"

Say “RUN!!!”

I will never be a fast runner. But I can be faster, relative to how slow I am. That may sound confusing but it really isn’t. Simply put, I will never be fast like Boston Marathon-fast. I hate speed work. And it doesn’t help that I only started running 2 years ago.

Lately, however, I’ve been trying to push better at some of my runs and tried not to settle with a comfortable pace. So I think setting a PR in Philly’s Dirty German 50k is a testament to that.

Flashback August 2013. I ran my first 50k at the Wildcat Ridge Romp’s under Rick McNulty’s NJ Trail Series. That was a horrifying experience that I swore I will never do again. That took me 11 hours 6 minutes. I was close to being dead fucking last. And almost hit the cut-off. This first attempt at running an ultra came only 3 months since running my first marathon. Who was I kidding?

I ran Dirty German 50k on May 18, 2014 on a whim. More like unplanned.

I was off that weekend, supposedly, because I was going to bandit a race in Minnesota on a course where my first attempt at running a 100 was going to be. But because I am broke from all these races, I opted to stay. Instead, I agreed to go to Jun (the husband’s) race in Virginia for the Massanutten Mountain Trails 100. But as fate would have it, we would argue over license plates  and I declared I was not coming to watch him.

So I decided to do the Dirty German. Luckily, while the online registration was closed, there was a race day sign-up.

Race-day sign-up was not something I am used to. I was nervous about driving to Philly and not being guaranteed to run. So I emailed the RD, who assured there would be same-day registration, just minus some swags.

Fine by me.

Thank you, AS volunteers!

Thank you, AS volunteers!

Now, I think I may be lucky that I have races almost every month. I had just finished running The North Face Endurance Challenge’s Bear Mountain 50k 2 weeks prior to Dirty German. I kinda figured, my legs may be capable of running the same distance, minus the highly-technical stuffs, the climbing, the scary decents. Also, I quite figured that since I had also run Bear Mountain 6 days after pacing NJ Marathon, this might be something doable.

And so I went to Philly, drove alone on race day. It was not something usual I’d do. I thought about inviting some other friends to go but I also decided, I wanted to give this my best shot, so I didn’t want to run this alongside anyone. I also decided to run this as a marathon and not an ultra; not quite sure if you get what I mean but what I am trying to say, I thought I was not going to hang around and chit-chat and take my time.

So off I went. Thankfully, a friend agreed to watch the kiddo. I drove, got to Philly early enough to have some spare time in case I get lost. And get lost, I did.

It was in a park called Pennypack Park. Its just funny how you go to one side of Philly and see signs that would say Pennypack Park and actually fail to find the entrance there. I must have a driven a good mile more on another side of town when I saw another sign that said the same: Pennypack Park. I needed to pee so bad at this point that I could barely stand when I got out of the car to ask a stranger  in a parked car for some directions. He didn’t know, either. Then decided to call my friend, Ken, who finally directed me to the right address. Note to self: read race instructions on addresses. Siri doesn’t know everythin

Beauty!!!

Beauty!!!

So I finally found the entrance to the park. I couldn’t hold my bladder so soon after I parked on the highway, I ran down a semi-ravine and peed right there. My logic behind this is I am a trail-runner; I could pee anywhere.

It was so great to finally relieve my bladder. Soon enough I went to where the race would start and saw my friends, Violet and Maria, then Talisa. Then Ken and Christine and Evy and Lisa. Somehow, I didn’t find Maggie, who was one of my missions in coming to Philly (note: an autograph signed by Kara Goucher that I needed to give her). It was going to be a beautiful day of running with friends, I thought.

I had some time to go back to the car about .2 mis away to retrieve my drop bag with Talisa.

I barely finished fixing my hair— aka my bangs— when the gun finally went off.

And so we ran. Into the woods.

It was beautiful. I felt good, I think.

The race description was, in fact, right in saying that it would be a race within the city limits, but that runners will not be seeing cars or traffic. Spot on.

The first few miles went fine. The race followed a loop that formed an 8 and you had to do that twice for the 50k. A couple more for 50milers.

It was beautiful to see streams along the course, some random strangers. I do not have much memory from what I saw mile to mile to mile. I remember running through some mud. I remember seeing runners trying to avoid them while I just plunged into the them. I figured, whats the point? That was when I finally decided, I love some mud. Not TARC 100 2013 mud but yeah, some mud. It makes running fun.

Mile 7-ish, however, after I hit the 2nd AS, I felt my stomach cramp. It was not a bad cramp, but I’ve never had an abdominal cramp before while running before. I thought it must have been the Hammer or Heed that I took at the AS or the combination of that and my secret electrolyte drink that messed me up. I dashed to the porta-johnny, thinking I may just need to poop it out (that was a scary thought because I have never pooped in a porta-potty) but it wasn’t. All I had was gas. I made a mad dash out of there and ran. Then I had the cramp again, that I had to stop one more time.

I decided this might actually be my first DNF.

This was painful aka The Pavement.

This was painful aka The Pavement.

Somehow, however, I decided to go back and run. It wasn’t helping that I also had other GU (read: genito-urinary, not GU the gel) issues going on. I ran, paused some, and just continued running. It was also around that point that I felt something weird, something painful on my L knee, where I had surgery on for a torn meniscus in 2010. I was almost, almost, almost convinced I was going to DNF it. I texted my “little brother,” Dylan, to tell him about the knee pain.

I guess somewhere in that state, I just decided to push past the pain.  And intermittently heard Tom’s voice in my head, asking me, “why? are you bleeding?” My answers were no. That must have been what made me just run and suck it up.

It was not a perfect run. Especially not in those sections of running pavement. That was AWEFUL. I decided to run off the concrete road and into the grass or sidewalk with gravel whenever they came up on the course. It was horrible. It was one of those times when I confirmed I belong on the trails. Apparently, I wasn’t alone. This is what we talked about during dinner after the race.

But you learn to suck it up.

Like I said, no race is perfect. You do not always find satori in races. But you need to learn to overcome the negative thoughts. There were times when I actually walked little uphills, just to get through it.

And I tried to enjoy the downhills, which I think I have become quite good at. I even tried to enjoy that part of the course that formed a crazy spiral in the woods, the switchbacks, where you actually feel like a little mouse, trying to find the cheese at the end.

I tried to live by what Otto once said, run it “aid station to aid station.”

I finished the first loop and started my second loop pretty soon. At that point, I was a bit exhausted. I assumed I ran my first loop too fast for my standard. Regardless, I decided to go out right away after retrieving some nutrition from my drop bag. (One of the things I learned and did on this race was actually pack a set of nutrition and electrolyte supplements in a small ziplock bag just so I can do a grab-and-go and not have to scramble).

I went out for my second and final loop and yes, got lost on the way out. Thankfully, someone guided me to the right way. Sigh.

I think somehow I forgot about the abdominal cramp. Somehow, the knee pain disappeared. And after being in this course once before, I kinda knew what to expect.

Now, let me say that before I came to run this race, my goal was just to finish. Then to finish within 8 hours. At that point, I thought my 50k PR from another course was 8:06 or something (at the Greenbelt Trail Ultra 50k, which, by the way, still does not appear on my Ultrasignup race results). So I figured I wanted to beat that PR. Apparently, as I learned few days ago, my 50k PR is prior to Dirty German was at Badwater Cape Fear 50K at 7:48, which also, does not appear on my US race results. Ugh.

The Maggatron, finishing her 50-miler at an awesome 7:40ish time.

The Maggatron, finishing her 50-miler at an awesome 7:40ish time.

So at some point, I finally decided I actually have a shot at finishing under 7.

There would be times when I doubted that I would. The biggest shadow of doubt came when, few miles nearing the finish, I felt that it took forever to see the last AS. We passed it on the first loop, which had a sign that said “1 mile to finish.” I ran and ran but could not seem to reach that final AS. I doubted more and more that I would I actually finish under 7 hours when I failed to get to that AS soon enough. But then the course became so familiar and reminiscent of the final approach to the finish. A stack of horse manure eventually would prove that.

 

Soon enough, I could hear the noise and cheering from the finish. I gave it a mad dash. It was probably a mile away or less when I just ran for my life. I was dry-heaving. And I had not taken a puff of Albuterol that morning to fight some allergy-induced asthma that I self-diagnosed myself with, which I often get during the allergy season. I thought while I was gasping for air that this must be how runners struggling and fighting for their lives to qualify for Boston must feel.

 

 

Failed jumping pic. Not setting up to kick someone.

Failed jumping pic. Not setting up to kick someone.

=I just ran like I’ve never run in Ultras before. I saw my Garmin and thought I didn’t want to just finish under 7 hours; I wanted to finish under 6:50, otherwise it doesn’t count. It was cutting it close.

So through my heaving, I sprinted to the finish. My mad dash led me to a 6:45:08 finish on my watch. And I didn’t forget to stop my watch this time.

I crossed the finish line under 7 hours. No, under 6:50, my lofty goal. Right on.

By fast runners’ standards, thats not fast enough. But considering how my first 50k had turned up the year before, I figured I did so well. I was happy.

And then it was time for  a jump. I always have the energy for that.

I went home back to Jersey that day after some beer with friends at the race venue and late lunch at a Cracker and Barrel. I had a great time with everyone that day. I knew I was happy. To know all these great people that have become friends and who were actually proud of me for finishing with a good time.

 

In retrospect I think of Dirty German and say my stars have aligned.

Post-race dinner selfie with Talisa, Mary, Maria, Violet, and Eric @ Cracker and Barrel.

Post-race dinner selfie with Talisa, Mary, Maria, Violet, and Eric @ Cracker and Barrel.

 

 

Photo-ops before the race right infront of Old Baldy.

Photo-ops before the race right infront of Old Baldy.

Quite inconsistent with my impulsive attitude, it took me this long to write about Badwater Cape Fear experience. Not that I had to. Tonight, however, as I went for a quick 4-mile run, I thought   about BW Cape Fear. I don’t know why. Maybe because my knee hurt a bit as I pounded on the road tonight. The pain just brought some memories from the BWCF experience.

But it was not all bad, thus, this writing.

Let’s turn back the clock.

January 2014, I was at a runner-friend’s birthday. My two other runner-friends mentioned running BWCF. I had asked for the date. As soon as I found out it will be on March 22, I decided I   was signing up for the 50-mile race. Or 51.4 miles. That was part of the impulse that led me to decide. Part of the reason was spite. I have a very spiteful attitude. Of course, I did that to spite Jun, who was running a 100-miler the same day at the NJ Ultra Fest. Boom, done. Before even registering, I knew I was in and traveling to North Carolina in March.

Fast-forward some weeks after. I did some training. I kinda figured, having finished Beast of Burden Winter 50-miles that January, there really wasn’t much training needed. Well, at least, I thought I could only improve on it and knowing I had finished 50 miles before, I had some sort of a guage that I CAN actually finish running a 50. So I trained some. Part of the training was, in fact, driving to Long Branch to run on the beach. I drove alone and managed to run 10 miles.  Somehow, I had the delusion that the “orientation” to the sand in Long Branch parallels running in Bald Head Island in March.

Wrong.

Come March 20 at night, my friends Gerald, Luis, Donna, and I travelled to North Carolina. It was a long drive. But did I care? No. I was not driving, at all. I just slept.

Being in the south in March was not bad, at all. The weather was almost perfect for running, in my opinion. We arrived in North Carolina early, about 10 in the morning. Thankfully, after lounging in the lobby, the hotel staff allowed us early check-in. Phew! What a relief.

Then we headed to Bojangle’s. I had to explain to my friends, you know you’re in the south when you see Bojangle’s. But being the vegangster that I am, all I could have were fries. Boohoo.

No introduction needed.

No introduction needed.

Afternoon finally came. After some sight-seeing by the water with some jumping-picture-taking, we headed to BHI, where the race was to take place. In the ferry we met some new friends, mostly, from all over the place. Some were nice enough to remain friends. One of the amazing people I met was Keith Straw. As Gerald would explain to me, he is a multiple Badwater 135 veteran. Being the experienced runner that he is, I found him to be the very humble, down-to-earth.

Soon enough, we got to BHI. Had our mugshots taken and had some photo-ops with Cris Kostman, the Race Director. Of course, at that point, I knew so little about BW, but Gerald insisted it would be good for me to rub elbows with Chris, in case I decide to run Badwater 135. Huh? Me? Run Badwater 135?! I don’t know about that.

But yes, I did.

One of the most beautiful things that happened, however, was meeting Jessica P. Jess is a  runner-friend’s friend. Now this runner-friend, Andy, is someone I met from BoB. You know, perhaps, by virtue of running a small race like BoB, fellow runners become some sort of family. I think, Andy will never realize it, but he is part of my BoB family or maybe, I sort of assimilated myself as part of that BoB family, being the newcomer to the race.

When Andy told me about his friend running BW, I actually though this friend would merely be an acquaitance. Writing this now, I can say, Jess has become a good friend, despite the distance.

Fine, I’ll also talk about Laura. Hahaha. Laura is another one beautiful thing that happened in BWCF. She is the crazy woman from upstate NY, who also ran BoB. I had to admit here now, before BW, Laura and I became Facebook friends, but I did not remember her from running the Beast. (Sorry, Laura). Maybe because back then we were covered from head-t0-toe. Duh, its Buffalo.

Anyway, this crazy women, coupled with some crazy Filipinos were almost a disaster. Or ended up as a disaster when seven of us squeezed inside a golf cart and skidded off our path. Six of us may not have run the race the next day. Thankfully, through some divine intervention or something, we survived. (And yes, Jess had some alcohol while driving the cart).

Chris and Laurie Kostman at the pre-race shindig.

Chris and Laurie Kostman at the pre-race shindig.

 

 

Anyway, fast-forward race day.

Boy, I hate waking up early. But do I have a choice? This was even earlier because we had to board the ferry to Bald Head Island again. And oh, did I mention I thought it was ridiculous that I paid $49.99 for that ferry ride for 2 days?!

Race day morning, I donned some SportSkirts. Put my TrailWhippAss singlet, my Altra Lone Peak 1.5, my DirtyGirlsGaiters, and my UltrAspire Spry Vest on. I was ready. Or so I thought. Somewhere in one of my drop bags was my Hoka, which, even at this time, remains my biggest regret. Why did I not wear it?

The start line was at the Old Baldy Lighthouse. We were there early enough that I was still able to munch on some purple yams, as if the gas I passed the day before was not enough.

We met some more of the people we met at the ferry and the packet pick-up the day before. Of course, there was Keith in his pink tutu.

I, on the other hand, managed to change into my usual Asics running short (which, by the way, I have 3 of exact same style and color, which I almost always use in races). I figured, my thighs were too big and with a skirt, they would be rubbing each other and would equal to a bad chafe. So that I changed.

Not much later, Chris played the national anthem on his iPhone and finally, the gun (or was it the bullhorn) went off. And we ran.

Laura Makey at the entrance to the trail section.

Laura Makey at the entrance to the trail section.

 

The first 9 miles or so were on pavement, along the mostly desolate roads of BHI. People were just waking up and regardless of how the island was not touristy, we got some cheers from the locals. From the above was a drone for some reason and being the annoying soul that I am, I waved and waved at it.

So I ran those 9 miles. But those 9 miles were hell. Running on the pavement was just way too much for me at that point. I decided to run on the loose gravel by the sidewalk. Somehow that helped. I thought I couldn’t wait til I get to the AS and change shoes. Or get to the sand where I can still wear my Lone Peak and have the sand for cushion. That was my motivation at that point, but early on, my legs and feet were already dying.

At some point towards the end of those 9 miles, my poor, dying soul was revived when we finally arrived at an entrance to what was to become the trail section. I’m not too sure how long that was but 1 mile or 5, that was pure bliss to me. I was just running through the woods with childhood candor, only, manifested in my feet. It was there that I decided, I love trails. And I belong in the trails.

Holy F#ck!!! Imagine 40 miles of this.

Holy F#ck!!! Imagine 40 miles of this.

Now some of my friends joked that the reason I was flying was because I am a midget. Maybe. But a midget that can run careless, run free.

I was sad when that section was over and I neared the AS.

I went and had some water and nutrition. This girl at the AS, who looked like some elite runner had the nicest attitude and helped me with my bladder.

And of course, I remembered the adage “beware of the chair.” Instead, I walked to my drop bag and ate some of my vegangster food. My Hokas were there but for some reason, I did not even bother changing shoes.

Soon enough, I was heading to the sand. It was supposedly the start of the 40 miles of sand. It was an out-and-back-course times 2, meaning, each way took 10 miles to the far AS (where, by the way, if you don’t come back for your drop bags the next day, all your belongings left there will be discarded and I had left quite a number of really good vegan snacks there. And I regret that.)

When I said the 9 miles of pavement was painful, running on this North Carolina sand was torturous!!! It was hell. Or what’s worse than hell?

My definition and description of it would be (and I have maintained this description when people asked me about BWCF): The sand was either too soft or too packed, it was like running pavement.

And it really was like on cement.

It was just difficult for me finding my state of “satori,” as Jurek would say. My mind was working too hard on trying to figure out whether I should run on the soft or on the packed sand. Add to that, trying to elude getting wet on the waves.

It was one of the most agonizing runs I had. I think, comparable, to my first 50k at the Wildcat Ridge Romp. Maybe worse. The stretch of sand just seemed endless that it, somewhat, created a mirage. At some hallucinatory state, even, an oasis. Or maybe that was the middle AS.

So clueless about the pain.

So clueless about the pain.

 

Whatever it was, the feeling of pain didn’t leave me. It was at that point that I started to question whatever happened to the training and to the words Nicklaus Combs had said “At least its sand; not pavement.” Then I felt hot with the tailwind and decided to take my singlet off. The heat was another issue I had to contend with, although at that time, it was not so bad.

Then I started to have regrets. I started those dreaded words “I should’ve…” And I am not one to regret. I hate I should’ves. The biggest I should’ve was— I SHOULD’VE STUCK WITH MY HOKA. I don’t know why I allowed myself to be talked into such assurance as “You don’t need Hoka. The sand will be your cushion.” Cushion, my butt. No. It wasn’t.

Finally, after some painful manuevering up and down, back and forth from the soft to the packed sand, I reached the far AS. I ate some and for some reason, my butt sat. Fortunately, like some spikes were on the bench, I got up immediately. It was not long til I was running again toward the finish line, where I would jump off again for another out-and-back for the final 20 miles.

I think the perfect storm just crumbled me right there. I started to walk more. Now, I ran BoB Winter 50 walking only as much as 50 feet max, maybe. But this, I walked much.

It was then that I started to think that if I can just see the middle AS, it would be awesome and I would be, at least, halfway.

But that took forever. It just dragged that not even the encouragement from others and the lie we always hear that goes “your’e looking good. keep it up.” didn’t work.  I knew I looked like shit.

So after passing the middle age station (finally!), I pulled my phone from my vest. Dialled my team-mate and good friend and TWA co-prez, Dylan’s, phone. Or maybe I texted him first. I’m certain I was cursing. I was so mad that it took me forever to reach him. Actually, I never reached him. I knew he was at the NJ Ultrafest at the time, watching the other TrailWhippAsses and friends run. Bastard.

 

Race morning ferry ride to Bald Head Island.

Race morning ferry ride to Bald Head Island.

So I walked or maybe ran. Finally my phone rang. And then I cried. I had asked Dylan if it was okay to DD (drop-down) to a 50k. And I cried some more.

I cried because it was our quasi-slogan to never DD or DNF unless you’re hurt or injured. And I had DD’d on 2 races prior to BWCF on a whim. I thought this was a whim again. Technically, I estimated that once I get to the AS at the finish line, I would have another 6 hours to finish the last 20 miles. I thought that was doable. My mind said so, but my body just disagreed.

Thankfully, Dylan talked some sense that day (maybe because it was not time to drink wine yet and he was sober). He told me, it was okay to drop down because I was still dropping down to an Ultra distance. That made sense. Of course, I had forgotten that. But I think part of me that didn’t want to give up was because I was still on a delusional state at that time, thinking if I finished another 50, I would make a friend proud. Boohoo. Sucker.

So finally, like a child, I wiped my tears and hung up, decided on dropping down. It was around that time when I finally saw Gerald and Luis again. Apparently, they had discussed my “fate” in the race and came up with an idea that I would have a better prognosis if I DD’d to 50k. Or maybe, they just didn’t want to wait for me so long in the cold. Hahaha.

Whatever their intentions (and I know they were good), they were right in affirming and confirming for me the brave decision to drop down.

I went and run feeling freer at the thought that I would no longer need to save some energy for another 20 miles stretch. The support about the decision to DD was overwhelming that finishing at 50k didn’t really hurt that much— besides the fact that I had my eyes set on the buckle.

Finally, I neared the finish. And let me note that for some reason, another runner running the 50k was mostly behind me that day but managed to pass me, nearing the finish. We finished by only a few seconds or a minute apart.

Little did I know that that would be another (minor) regret I would have running that race. Apparently, if I had not let her pass me, I would have ended second in the women’s category for the 50k. I landed 3rd, instead. Not that there was any award, but that would have been a good headliner when I get home.

At the AS, Donna met me. I could never be thankful enough to finish a race. It was pure agony at its best.

At some point, I gathered myself and received my medal from Chris.

Thankful for the vegan option.

I swore my usual lie never to run that race again.

Then I devoured on the hot vegan bean soup. And then some. And then some more.

I was home.

I raised my leg.

Watched my other friends finish. Or pass out, as in Jessica’s case.

Yelled for our new friend, Brad, to finish as soon as the lightning started to come.

And it was time for the ferry back to the mainland.

Looking back, Badwater Cape Fear remains to be one of the hardest races I’ve done. Not that I have  a lot under my belt. I would say, it was even worse than the slickrock of Moab. But then again, it would not be BADWATER if it were not hard. It would be some other other name.

 

I guess, as an addendum to all these introspection that I did while running those 4 miles tonight in Jersey City, it is worth to note that it was in BWCF that I realize my love affair with road races has met its demise. It is dead.

I will still run road race (and have, in fact, signed up for one road marathon), but it is in the towpath or the trail that I will spend most of my years running careless, running free.

But Badwater Cape Fear 2015? Well, it IS already on my calendar. I am coming back to claim that buckle.

 

It's not me if I don't jump. No kidding. This was at the start of the sandy stretch. No idea what was waiting for me.

It’s not me if I don’t jump. No kidding. This was at the start of the sandy stretch. No idea what was waiting for me.