I took a bit of a road trip this weekend, without my boys. It was weird to travel alone again; it’s been a while. I went to Pittsburgh, which is not unusual for me. I used to work for a major health insurer and had to travel there to meet up with the rest of my co-workers several times each year. When I was there, I stayed in nice hotels dahntahn (that’s how they say “downtown”), ate at nice restaurants on the company dime (but I still acted like I was spending my own money, because that’s how I roll), and stuck to running on the roads. It was fun, but I don’t miss my job and I don’t miss the “business” part of business trips.
This time my visit to the Steel City was purely pleasure. I headed out to run my first timed endurance challenge, Hell Hath No Hurry. I signed up for the 12-hour option back in February. I intended to run the full 12 hours as part of my training for my fall 100K race. I assumed at that point that my foot, which had been giving me some problems since December, would be fully healed.
I took just under a month off from running in April and May because it felt like a stress fracture was imminent. I was worried that the darned thing would break (again). My cautious approach worked, and my foot felt a lot better. I PR’d (set a new personal record) in the 10 mile distance at the Broad Street Run and at the 5K distance (4 days ago). Despite clocking fast times, my foot still felt “funky” at times, and I wasn’t logging many long runs.
I had my foot checked out by my podiatrist and had my orthotics adjusted by my physical therapist. No one can seem to figure out what is giving me the pain, aches and discomfort. The good thing is that it isn’t bad. It doesn’t impair me in any way. It doesn’t hurt when I walk or run. It only hurts when I’m sitting down, which really isn’t all that often. If it felt like this for the rest of my life, I could deal with it. But since I don’t know what I’m dealing with, it’s hard to know how hard to push.
I drove to Pittsburgh on Friday afternoon and joined my old co-workers at an awesome bar called the Beer Market. If you are in the Pittsburgh area, and you like beer, check this place out. They have over 500 beers! They don’t serve food, but certain restaurants will deliver to you there. I love the concept. I had a St. Bernardus 12 which is one of my all-time favorite beers. I had never seen it on draft before, so I was pretty impressed. I ordered some truffle fries from the restaurant next door, and they were so good. (I never drink beer or have fried foods before a long run, so this was a bit of an experiment.)
Afterwards my friend Martha and I went out for sandwiches. I got a veggie wrap with a side of veggies. Even for this vegan, it was a lot of veggies. It was good, though, but again, it was not what I would normally have before a long run. More experimentation.
I didn’t sleep well, but got up 2 minutes before my alarm went off at 4:30am. I had my banana and almond butter, stopped for some coffee and showed up to the race by 5:30am. It was a 6am start, but there were only about 20 people in the 12-hour challenge, so check-in was a breeze. I set up my camp chair in front of my car, laid out my stuff, and lined up.
The premise of the race is simple: run as far as you can in 12 hours. To win, you have to run the farthest distance in the shortest amount of time. The race is held on a 5.5-ish mile trail in a wonderful little park right off the interstate and right near the airport. You’d never know you were near all that noise, though; it was quiet and lovely.
My goal was to run until something hurt, or or to hit 40 miles. I decided that I would be happy as long as I ran 20 miles. I wanted to play it safe and not get hurt. I love summer running, and didn’t want to be sidelined with an injury just for the sake of hitting a certain number of miles.
The trail was nice. It was easy stuff, but there were some pretty steep (though short) downhills. I hate steep downhills. I hate, hate, hate them. I suck at them almost as much as I hate them. After a loop or two, though, I was getting used to them. Each loop felt a little easier than the prior one. I wasn’t getting bored, like I thought I would. I was looking forward to the sights I had seen on prior loops. I knew where I needed to place my feet. I knew where the mucky mud was, and where the best rocks were. I knew how far it was until I reached the water and Gatorade. I felt like I could run all day. (And all of my “experimentation” the night before with beer, fries and veggie wraps resulted in nothing out of the ordinary. Woo-hoo!)
I decided after my third loop that I would do 6 loops. I knew I could do 9 (just under 50 miles), but decided it would be smart to stop at 34. Deciding this early felt both smart and like a cop-out. I had never quit a race. Never. I had thought about it twice before – both times when I felt awful. But this time I made the decision when I felt really good. I had a whole list of reasons for quitting early, and I presented those reasons to myself. Part of me thought they were sound; the other part of me thought they were cowardly. My smarter, more rational side won.
I finished my 6th loop (34-ish) miles and told the RD (race director) that I was done. He tried to convince me to keep on going. He looked at the race chart, did some calculating, and told me that I was the first female, and that if I kept going, I could win. Argh! I didn’t want to hear that. I have never cracked the top 20% of a race, and this was not what I wanted to hear. Then I reminded myself that I had my reasons and they were sound. (Plus, first out of five women, one of whom was hiking, wasn’t really that huge of an accomplishment.) I told him that I was on the brink of a serious injury two months ago, and that I needed to play it safe. He understood. Then I said that I had a 2 year old child and 3 year old pit bull at home and an injured mama would not be good for them. A nearby volunteer – a mother to a toddler – piped up and gave me an “amen”. My resignation was accepted. I felt lame, but convinced myself it was okay.
Let me say that I friggin love how warped my thinking is here. I think that pulling out of a race at 34 miles is lame! How crazy is that? 99.xx% of people wouldn’t even try it, yet here I am beating myself up over it. Ultramarathoners are goofy people, that’s for sure!
I finished up the day by visiting my friend Tina, her husband Dave, and their son Henry. (You know you have a real friend when they let you, in your muddy, sweaty glory, walk into their beautiful, clean house and monopolize their shower and bathroom for the better part of half an hour.) We hung out at their lovely house, ate scrumptious Korean food from a local restaurant, got a decadent Starbucks drink (mmmmmm), hit up her fancy neighbor’s party, and sat in their kitchen drinking beer and wine until after midnight. It was fun, but it left me exhausted.
This morning Tina made me pancakes and coffee and sent me on my way home. I stopped at her local Trader Joe’s to fill up my cooler and trunk. I love Trader Joe’s, but the closest one is 90 minutes away. I fill up my cooler ever time I’m near one, and this time was no exception! My favorite buy was the chocolate covered edamame. It has 7 grams of protein per serving. Chocolate + protein = winning!
After a 4+ hour drive home, complete with a ridiculously annoying 30-minute long rest stop, I cooked my dad’s birthday meal. I whipped up a shoo-fly cake (not pie), a big pan of manicotti, and a roasted red beet and goat cheese (for them) salad. We got the house cleaned up, and my mom, dad, brother, nephew and grandmother came over for dinner. My nephew and Little Dude had a fun time playing together, and were especially infatuated with the cheapo golf set I found at Target the other day. It was a lot of fun
As I sit here drinking my Troeg’s Scratch beer (Naked Elf, woohoo!), I realize just how tired I am! It’s definitely time for me to go to bed.
Have you recently made a decision to quit something – knowing it’s the right one – and feel like a wimp for doing so? In hindsight, was it the right choice?