Originally I wasn’t going to run this race. But then I started hearing about how much fun it was, how great it would be to run a race the day before my birthday (instead of being happily inebriated), and then Sarah Duncan tempted me with a birthday cake. So I caved to the pressure (of cake!!) and signed up knowing that it would be my last race of 2011. Well, maybe my last race.
My goal for Autumn Leaves was to have fun and run this 50k faster than I ran Hagg Lake back in February. I ran that race so slowly I knew I could do it. After the Bend Marathon, I didn’t run all that much. I hurt my knee three weeks ago when I fell at the bowling alley. That really concerned me because my knees were really starting to hurt again. And then there was the plantar fasciitis that was starting to develop in my left foot.
Friday evening, I got all of my stuff ready including my drop bag and food. I ate my usual dinner of pizza and beer and was in bed before 9pm. I actually got a great nights sleep thanks to the sleeping pill I took. Usually I can get to sleep but will wake up several times during the night and at least one hour before my alarm is set to go off. I got up at 4am and ate my banana, hard boiled egg, and cheese. I drank my large cup of coffee and met my ride: Kristin.
It was foggy at 5:15am. Really, really foggy. We finally found Champoeg State Park and were greeted by two enthusiastic members of our running group: Gina and Travis. It was colder at Champoeg than at my house. Thankfully I had brought a pair of long stretchy pants, a jacket, and a long sleeved shirt for after the race. I put the pants on and ended up wearing them for 95% of the day. During check in (number 212), we saw so many people we knew. It was like a big party…with running…and fog.
It was a 50k and 50 mile run. You ran out 3.x miles and then ran back. So each loop was 6.x miles. To get my 50k in, I needed to do this 5 times. 90% of it was on asphault with 10% of it on trail. There were a few hilly areas but mostly it was flat. We started off running with our headlamps on and it was so foggy you couldn’t see much. So we all joked that it would be great because by the time we woke up and the fog cleared up, we’d have at least 2 loops in!
There were so many supportive families and friends that parked their cars in the lot. It was almost like a tailgating event but without the face painting and beer. Someone even had a fire in a little pit. It was pretty awesome. The aid stations had the best food: Paydays, Coke, candy, sandwiches, fruit, chips, gels, etc. I felt very confident in my decision not to carry anything with me.
The first two loops, I felt very slow and sluggish. My legs just didn’t want to go any faster. Kristin’s pace was faster than mine so she ran ahead. Poor thing was suffering from some type of intestinal distress so there were quite a few porta-potty stops for her. She would run ahead and visit the porta-potty and by the time I got up there, she was ready to run again. By the time we hit the 3rd loop, we had lost each other. The third loop was definitely my best loop. I had grabbed my iPod, dropped my long sleeved shirt and was making a pretty decent pace. A lot of my friends were out volunteering at our running group’s own aid station which was also stocked with cupcakes, bread, chips, etc. (This race had the BEST volunteers of any race I’ve ever run!)
By the 4th loop, I was starting to feel the mileage in my hips, legs, and specifically my knees. My pace had slowed but I was still in good spirits knowing that I had less than 13 miles to go. I kept chanting to myself “This is better than being at work, this is better than being on the couch.” I kept reminding myself how good it was going to feel to sit down and drink a beer after I was done. I constantly checked my watch it see where I was at goal wise. In my heart of hearts, I was hoping to finish the race in 7 hours. But as I finished up my 4th loop, I knew I wasn’t going to make it.
For my 5th and final loop, I ditched my iPod, hip pack, and pants. Thank goodness Rose Bak was there to let me balance against her while I was taking off my pants. A good friend helps you take off your pants after you’ve run 25 miles.Sarah Duncan asked me if I’d like her company during my last loop and of course I said yes! I love running and hanging out with her. She’s such a laid back person. She’s awesome. Then before I knew it, Lynne Gibson was out there with us after finishing her 50k!
Sarah and Lynne were fantastic. They kept up lively conversation which really helped pass the time. We gossiped and joked about a variety of topics. They kept telling me how great and strong I looked. I was so happy to have them with me. The last mile of the race was super tough. The finish line seemed to get farther and farther away!
Finally I started seeing cars and then friends cheering for me. Honestly, hearing people cheer your name is one of the greatest things in the world. At that moment nothing else matters. It doesn’t matter how you feel, how slow you are, or how exhausted you think you are. You actually speed up as if drawing from their enthusiasm. And I sped up. Not a lot but I sped up. I also starting smiling again because damn it, I was going to finish the race with a smile on my face (thank you Anna!)
Then I saw Andy. And my heart leaped up into my throat. I wanted him to see me finish the race. I wanted him to see me accomplish this.
Everyone who volunteered was awesome: Anna, Garth, Travis, Gina, and Sarah. My fellow runners were inspirational: Amy, Liz, Lynne, Sarah, Karen, Dorothy,Mark and Steve Walters. I don’t usually want to run the same race twice but I’m going back next year! And hopefully Jodi Cullen will be there too. You were missed Jodi!
And yes, I hit a personal record with this race with an official time of 7:35:13. So I beat my Hagg 50K time by an hour and ten minutes.