Friday, August 26, 2016

Leesburg 20K Race Report

I wasn't in a good mood for much of this summer, with my running severely limited to shorter distances. Thanks #PITAChat


Not that I was bitter.

Now August was winding down, and I was preparing to move to the west coast at the end of the month.  It was time to begin a Very Different Life than what I've experienced for some time.  Not feeling like myself as a runner was having side effects on my mood.





Because I'm into symbolism and marking important events, I REALLY wanted to do a kind of "farewell to DC" race, but just couldn't make it work with all my various goodbye trips. Plus goodbye happy hours, goodbye luncheons.  Goodbye time for racing.


So many Goodbye Speeches

In the meantime, I'd marked my LAST Nats game as a DC resident, my LAST time running the Mall, my LAST time on the Mount Vernon Trail . . . etc.  Between my penchant for marking "lasts," and all the goodbyes, they were having quite an effect on me.

Looking back, the wallowing probably wasn't doing much good for my well being.

I was packing in the symbolism.  I had to.  Because I wouldn't even BE in DC all of August.  was going to be in Philadelphia to see an old buddy before I headed to the west coast. As a couple of Gen Xers, we figured a boozy weekend might be fun before I headed out.  NO, NOT THAT KIND OF WEEKEND.




All of a sudden, early in race week, I got a message -- he's having a baby soon (well, his wife is), so he felt he had to bail.  Ok, fair enough.  Out of all people *I* ought to get making sacrifices and choices for children.

What then, to do??

I didn't even have to think about it -- the Leesburg 20K, set for August 21, 2016. It was perfect. It was a low-key, good distance race.  It was in DC, at least in the exurbs.  Ok, fine, it felt like the moon, but it was a DC (area!) race and I could do it!

I just hadn't trained.  20K is 12.4 miles.  I hadn't run farther than 6 miles with the literal pain in my ass.  In fact, most training runs were just over 4 miles.  BUT DID I MENTION I WANTED A SEND-OFF RACE??


Safe to say SHE has a pain in her ass now too.

Fuck it, I'm in. Let's run! I registered online, and was already giddy at the prospect of a farewell run. Plus, Leesburg is where my daughter moved to back in 2013 (that's related to SOME of the personal/legal/family drama I experienced that year).

My daughter is my partner in crime. We go see movies together, assuming the movie is animated, or has a superhero, or a hobbit. This race would take me right by her high school, so that was a nice touch, too.

The day before the race, instead of resting, I took her to see "The Secret Life of Pets," at her request.  It meant that I had to drive an hour out to Leesburg from Capitol Hill to be with her.  We did dinner, dessert, and the movie. It was worth the haul out there, even if I'd have to make the same round trip in about 12 hours.

  
It was a sweet movie.  Not great, but sweet.  But, towards the end, this song plays as a little montage of pet owners come home to their beloved pets.  And there I am, in the dark, like a fuckin' dork . . .  Crying.  




This little scene isn't THAT tear-inducing.  What happened was that right then it hit me -- I worried it was the last time I'd sit next to her in a theater.  Because, you know, I was rather Primed for Symbolism.  The lyrics were sweet, and when the lights came up, she turned to me with a big smile, and everything was still routine.

I dropped her off with her mom, and headed back to DC, stopping for powerbars in a supermarket (needed breakfast in a few hours before the race!), and FUCK if this damn song wasn't being piped in at the DC "UnSafeway."




I of course teared up, but you can't show weakness in a place like that. You'll be cold cuts.  But the song was now in my head.  I suspected it would be for the race too.  I got home, and between dinner, the movie, dessert, the LONG drive home, and Safeway, I realized . . . it was WAY fuckin' late.


I did the math on how much sleep I'd get:

Uh oh.

Race morning:

I made the trip (back) out to Leesburg.  I just BARELY got parking on the very top level of the parking deck by the start (protip for this race:  yes, they do have parking nearby, but that thing fills up FAST).  I then got in the hay-uge line to pickup my shirt/bib (and race pin!).  

After barely making it to the start line, I told myself that, no matter what, I had to treat this race as a long run with a bunch of friends, and just have Zero Competitiveness.  My ass would thank me.


If only my booty were as small as hers.  And as young.  And shat gold records.

I forget what a nice small feel Potomac River Running races are.  The Leesburg 20K is a well-attended race, but it just isn't so large that you feel you're in an absolute mob.  I knew that within a mile or so, we'd be well-lengthened out.


What, you'd prefer more of Bert and Ernie at a glory hole?

BANG! Off went the gun, and off we went.


I figured for this race, I'd have to run by feel.  If my booty started to hurt (which it typically would do after 3-4 miles), I'd be in deep trouble, and would have to walk/run the course.  So it seemed to me that slower was smarter.  

Based on the summer I'd had, that wouldn't be a problem.




Mile 1:  10:30ish

The first mile was crowded, but despite that I went faster than I wanted, for having NO idea what would happen to my body doing double the distance I'd been training at lately.  So of course, I sped up.  



Makes about as much sense.

Mile 2:  10:16.

"Well, this is BULLSHIT," I thought to myself as I ran.  I had a vision of what mile 7 would be like, with 5 more miles to go.




So.  Enough of THAT shit.

Dialing it back had a rather . . . humbling effect on me.  People were passing me like there were only 2 miles or so to go, instead of, you know, more than TEN miles.


I GET IT -- ON MY LEFT ON MY LEFT ON MY LEFT -- I GET IT

Interesting.  Humbling.  Ouch.

I made my way into an initial clearing, just trying to keep good spirits.  My farewell race!   Happy!  New life ahead!  Totally not going to finish last!  Maybe.


I like this pic because it looks like I'm leading, and distracts from the trivia that
I weigh more than the combined total of every other runner in this picture.

Starting about the 4th mile, there was a pretty significant (relatively speaking) climb, and just kind of sustained through mile 5.  I was still holding back, although (who I am kidding?) that climb was NOT fun.  But I kept smiling.

Those "Lovely Day" lyrics were creeping back into my head.


When the day that lies ahead of me
Seems impossible to face



Fuck.  Another climb.  Head down, short steps, lean forward.



When someone else instead of me
Always seems to know the way



Sing it, Bill.

We passed an exit sign with my daughter's new home street on it.  Ugh.  I'm going to miss her so much.  But this isn't the end of our relationship just because I'm taking steps not to ruin other lives.  She's in her senior year.  She's looking at colleges.  She'll still be my partner in (movie) crime, right?


Then I look at you
And the world's alright with me
Just one look at you
And I know it's gonna be
A lovely day

 
Yes she will.

Press on.  We were over the hill, and now I could make up some time on the downhill.

Wheeeee!

Fuck, you know what?  I'm not sure anything hurts THAT badly.  This isn't going that badly.  I'm smiling, thanking volunteers, and generally just having . . . fun.


George Takei approves


We came to the turnaround.  I was now in a position where I was closer to being finished than from the start.  We headed back.

Of course, it meant that the hill I'd just climbed and then ran down needed to be RE-climbed again.




Whatever.  I did my thing, grinding my way back up the hill.  I decided that about the point we went back DOWN, I'd try and reevaluate pace.

That put me around mile 9.  So, I'd decided to increase "speed" back to the mid-10 minutes per mile again, just to see how my body would react.  



I was now starting to pass some familiar faces/bodies as I picked up the pace.  Negative splits are for realz.  Mile 10 featured a slight slowdown for water/Gu, but no biggie.  I went right back to my "faster" (ha) pace, and the last 4 miles were just enjoyable.  I had the same PITA soreness I'd come to expect, but nothing debilitating.  Plus, hell, I was approaching mile 11 after having not really gone beyond 6 for the summer.  I SHOULD be a touch sore from the effort!

Anyway.  I pressed on.

Mile 11 was almost as fast as mile 2.  Humph.  So THAT race plan worked, at least.  



Good thing the "plan" was to get my ass kicked and finish at the back of the pack.



Finally, mercifully, because I really was feeling myself start to fade from miles 11-12, we'd made our way off the W&OD path, and back onto city streets to finish.  I actually think I saw a few folks I know from Instagram (not Twitter, of all things!), and also made some new friends via the pics.  Ok, fine, I picked up a few IG followers because NARCISSIST.

Boom.  Finished.  12.4 miles, just over 12.5 on my watch (tangents, smangents).  Negative split for pacing.  And if I'm going to finish out a course as a DC local, this was the race to do it.  Even if it was on the moon.

Time for a quick IG post from the parking deck, and then back to DC.  I needed to finish logistics (read:  sleep, eat take-out Chinese food, and convince myself that this was a good move, long term).



Race by the numbers:

Overall:  Bottom 30%

Sex:  Bottom 21%


AG:  Bottom 21%

Ask me if I care (spoiler alert:  I do, but also I don't).  I got to have a meaningful goodbye.




And now it's time for some hellos.

PDX, here I come.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

#PITAchat

Fine.  I'll admit it.  I'm not a huge fan of the #RunChat thing.  I don't like that they encourage people to reply publicly to their questions (as opposed to doing the less-public method of replying just TO them "@runchat A1: Yada Yada #runchat") -- my preferred way seems less spammy, and people who follow both me AND @runchat will see my answer anyway.  I've seen them request that people not do that, but screw that, I won't spam/advertise for them.

Anyway.  I have a Pain In The Ass ("PITA").  It isn't fun.

Which brings me to this . . . HEY, IT'S TIME FOR #PITAchat!

Welcome to #PITAchat folks! Make sure you answer all #PITAchat questions using the hashtag #PITAchat because otherwise you might not see all the other cool answers involving #PITAchat and then you'd miss out on more people who also use #PITAchat in the course of their #PITAchat!  #PITAchat

Q1:  Are you currently experiencing an inexplicable Pain In The Ass?  #PITAchat

A1:  Yep.  Almost immediately after finishing the North Face 50K, I noticed that (1) I wasn't healing up from a race nearly as fast as I'm used to doing, and (2) there was an unusually strong PITA that would NOT go away.   #PITAchat

Q2:  Where IS this pain?

A2:  It's in my left glute, but can sometimes feel a little like it's in the side/hip area. It's definitely a shooting pain at times, and I feel it even when I'm not running, at least sometimes. It's like a knife under the muscle of a glute, but I almost wonder if it is rooted AROUND it.

Q3:  Did you immediately take time off and rest it like a normal person? 

A3:  Ha ha! Don't be ridiculous. I of course ran on it a LOT! And then wondered why my training was going straight into the toilet!

Q4:  How long did you press through this pain?

A4:  The rest of April after my 50K mud-fest, then all of May. I then took a little bit of time off in mid-June.  I tried running the next day after the Lawyers Have Heart 10K, and ended up having to walk back most of the way because the pain was so strong.

Q5:  What did you do then?

A5:  Took off a TON of time in July, and slowly eased my way back into running.

Q6:  How slowly?

A6:  Like 2 mile runs slowly. While carrying my phone, which I would NEVER do, but hey, if I was going to run THAT little, and THAT slow, I was going to catch Pokemon on the Mall.

Yes I play Pokemon Go. #TeamValor 

Q7:  Did you ever figure out what was wrong?

A7:  What WAS wrong? Nope. Nor what IS wrong. It still kinda hurts, but not as much. I'm trying to do stretches, foam roll, and my personal weight trainer has been working with me on it. It's a long road back. Anyway, did I mention I like to play Pokemon Go?



Q8:  So will the Lawyers Have Heart 10K end up being your farewell to DC racing as a local?

A8:  SHUT YOUR FACE.

Q9:  Why did you stop using #PITAchat in all your answers after Question 1?

A9:  For the same reason you stopped using them in the questions. 





Q10:  It's time for a #PITAchat brag! What did you do that you're proud of lately?

A10:  Basically, I'm doing my best to Fix This. I have to if I'm going to run pain-free again.  I'm trying to stretch, heal, and be smart. So really, I'm trying to utterly break from what is my nature. I need to run long, and run again.




Sunday, June 26, 2016

2016 Lawyers Have Heart Race Report

The good news:  Short post.
The bad news:  Because I hate this race and am SO done with it.

I tried to protect my aching piriformis, still left over from the North Face 50K about 7 weeks earlier.  I wasn't SUPER psyched to do this race, but I love my team, and we have a great brunch afterwards, so I was most definitely IN.  I wasn't happy to do this as my last "DC race as a local," but I was going to give it a go regardless.

I have a love/hate relationship with this race.  The DC Lawyers Have Heart race has been the site of two of my fastest 10K times, including one sub-50 minute race.  But it seems like each year, it's marked with tremendous screwups/snafus, at least prior to the race.

I think they're geared towards making money for their cause, as opposed to putting on a smooth race.  That, or they cater to the (very) large law firms that supply the lion's share of their donations.  They don't give a whole lot about 5-7 idiot lawyers from a government agency who don't really raise a lot of money beyond their entry fees.

Just like many years previous, we fielded a team.  Every year, there's a screwup from the organizers.  The LAST time I did this race, they said I hadn't registered.  This year, I showed up for team packet pickup and, sure enough . . . no bibs, no t-shirts for our team.


Kinda verbatim, when I found out.

So, of course, I had to stand there while they re-registered us, and assigned us new bibs. Somewhere there is one HELL of a landfill just STACKED with unused extra bibs from this race, because they've had to duplicate so often.  So I just stood there, like an angry, bitter . . . mop (I hadn't had a haircut for some time).


That really IS a mop!  You can't unsee now, can you?

So.  Freaking.  Done.

The don't have a clue about putting on this big of a race for this many people, imho.



Anyway, a few days later, it was Race Day, and, thanks to a timely UberX driver, I was at the start line WAY early. So early, that I got a couple of nice pics of the Georgetown Waterfront pre-race:


Looking across the Rosslyn VA

The Kennedy Center

We lined up in our corrals, and I turned on my Garmin (along with every other Type-A running lawyer in DC).  Just then, a teammate/friend of mine (she doesn't want me to use her real name, so let's call her "Lori") stopped me and asked if I knew where our boss was. I didn't, and Lori mentioned she wasn't going to run this race too fast, as she hadn't been training and didn't want to risk injury. She fell back.

BANG!  Off went the gun, and off we went.


GET OUTTA MY WAY I GET MIMOSAS POST-RACE

I was a little too fired up for this race, particularly being hurt.  I looked down as I ran (you start under a bridge), and my Garmin said it was up and running.

Mile 0-1 5:40

Wait, what?  The Garmin warbled at me just over halfway to the mile marker that I'd run a mile, and I was all, "NOPE" but then I'd realized it hadn't made a satellite connection from under the bridge.  FUCK.

I do NOT handle mid-race snafus well.  But I hit "lap" on my watch as we hit the mile 1 marker, and saw I was going a too-fast-for-a-guy-with-a-sore-ass 9:34.

Mile 1-2 9:19

Well, this wasn't any better.  It was WORSE.  I was weaving way too much as well, but I guess I was just caught up in the crowd, and generally not being Smart.

Mile 2-3 9:19

Still cruising, still kinda happy that I'm not hurting worse.  Humph.  It sure had hurt worse on training runs.

Mile 3-4 10:02 (water/gu)

Along here, Lori actually caught up to me just prior to starting mile 3, and began to Chat Me Up.  I'm normally not a guy who talks/chats while running, and DEFINITELY not during a race.


In this case, it was because I was running so hard I couldn't breathe.

But I just let Lori run with me, and she talked.  A lot.  Like, from pre-mile 3 all the way to mile 6.  At first, I was sure it was going to make the race hellish.


TALK TALK TALK TALK TALK TALK TALK TALK TALK TALK

But it was along this stretch, as Lori talked to me, effortlessly, maddeningly, that I realized I was actually pretty grateful.  My ass was starting to . . . wait for it . . . ASSert itself.


C'mon, you kind of appreciate I went without an actual ass gif

I was hurting, and Lori was able to tell me fun stories/dirt/complain while I said insightful stuff like, "(wheeze) really?" "(puff) wow!" and (chokes back vomit) "FUCK FINISH THIS STORY AFTER WE CLIMB THIS HILL HOW CAN YOU TALK FOR THIS?"

Oh yeah.  New course this year.  The fast, speedy, out-and-back 10K was gone.  Now this course was pocketed with climbs, turns, and double-backs.  Not sure who designed it.


PROBABLY
Lawyers Have Heart Elevation Chart



Mile 4-5, 5-6 (9:48, 9:54)

These two miles had way more climbs in them, but I'm sure I was just slowing down from real, genuine ass pain, but Lori was happily just chatting me up, and I was happy to have my mind off of my ass.




We pressed on, and Lori didn't want to sprint in for mile 6 to 6.2, but I did, just to ensure I'd come in under an hour.  For the .2, I hit a sub-8 minute pace, and was happy to see I'd made it under an hour (not by much!).

The end of this race meant it was . . . time for brunch and mimosas!


I'M-A GET MAH BOOZE ON!


We had a few minutes to kill, so we did usual goofy race poses . . . 

"Act fierce" the photographer told us.  I don't think we quite hit it. Come find me on Instagram!
. . . and I added a couple of shots to Snapchat (add me! Tai_Fung) 

Best medal for this race in years. Worst. Course. Ever.

Snapchat made a filter for this race, not bad.

When the brunch was over, we bade our goodbyes, and that was that. It turned out that my daughter had gone to NYC with her mom and nobody told me they'd left, so I ended up being pretty bitter and hurt over the weekend because of that. But it ALSO had been a good weekend too. My son made the little league All-Star team, and also hit his first (little league) home run. Having a farewell race like this mixed in was bittersweet, but also a nice break from a weekend of daddy-ing and drama.

Plus, now that I'm leaving DC, I'm SO DONE WITH THIS RACE!


Monday, June 20, 2016

Father's Day

I've made no secret that for me, Father's Day comes with LOTS of baggage. There's a weird history there for me. Lots of ghosts and demons to fight off (which is troublesome for a guy who doesn't believe in either).

Longtime friends might recall that in 2013 I took a pretty decently long chunk of time to "go dark," re online stuff, as I had been in the middle of a personal shitstorm, and I just couldn't fake it online anymore. I needed the break. Something had to give, and it was online activity.

Then, yesterday, for Father's Day 2016, I just said, "why not," and (with permission) put him back out there.






THEN, all of this reminded me that I used to tweet about him a LOT pre-2013. I captioned the photos (screenshots from 2016 for calculating the TimeHop app). As TimeHop presents me funnier ones from earlier, I'll probably update this post with screenshots of those too. I think some of these are a hoot!



From April 4, 2012



From January 3, 2013



From May 4, 2012



July 19, 2012


It was right to avoid hyperdrama and stop with him, because real life is far more important than this online blogging nonsense that some people take WAY too seriously. But he's older now, and the decisions I've made in my life are MINE -- your opinion on them are irrelevant, because they work for me. I'm a RunBlahgger -- I don't do a lot of "DaddyBlogging" (apart from the HooWow Issues).

He'll be in Oregon ahead of me, but will be waiting to see me, and it will be hard to tell which of us will be more excited. His sister will remain with her mom in the DC area (see the bit above about my life being mine, and keep your opinions to yourself!). Life will progress. It will work out.

But, I thought it important to acknowledge him more formally, as I've made adventures with my daughter so prominent as we get into various shenanigans.

Happy Father's Day. Let's make sacrifices to atone for generational-old sins, and stop the cycle with this generation - they don't deserve the baggage (particularly in light of the national debt we're leaving them!). 

Sunday, April 10, 2016

2016 North Face 50K Race Report

The North Face 50K ("TNF") was supposed to be a redemption race for me. I'd worked SO. FREAKING. HARD. to get through the winter without eating EVERYthing. (ok, fine, I DID eat everything, but I was ok about keeping up with training while I stuffed my face). I'd even taken a much-needed rest in December after my disaster struggles with the Rosaryville Veterans Day 50K, but I was being kind of good in getting myself ready for this coming race.




I just thought I'd done everything RIGHT (for once?) this time:

1.  Six days earlier, I'd taken it easy at the Cherry Blossom 10-Miler (my last time doing that race, at least as a "local"). It was, as I said during the race, a nice warmup for 31+ miles in a mere 6 days.  Plus, you know, gale force winds and cold, so "take it easy," was more like, "HAHAHAHA WTF AM I GETTING OUT OF BED FOR?"

2.  I wasn't hurt. 

3.  I knew THIS ultra course pretty well and liked it. The hills didn't scare me, nor did the "teardrop" portion where you stack miles in between the out-and-back section.  I didn't think this would be the time or place to finally break a 6 hour 50K, but I knew I'd do way better here than last year, when I ran it (as a surprise) on one reliable knee, and eventually wilted, an under-supplied mess, in the heat.

Mind you, I still WANTED it to be hot. Heat could easily be dealt with by just bringing more Tailwind. Last year was only my second ultra, so while I'd over-supplied for JFK, I erroneously under-supplied TNF 2015 and paid for it. 

I was ready this time. The singletrack and steep/sharp hills were going to feel what a fully-ready Tai could do to them. Payback is hell.


MUWAHAHAHAHA (also, can I dig in your trash can?)

I was almost cocky, which should have been my first warning sign that I was doomed.





I watched the weather.  There was discussion of (wtf?) SNOW. After surviving the pretty epic cold spate of Cherry Blossom, I was absolutely DONE with cold like this for a race. And yet, more rain. It. Kept. Raining.  It rained during the week.  It rained the day before the race.  It rained race morning.

Rain has a rather curious (and well-known) effect on the ground, and your ability to achieve traction, particularly in those rare (read: not rare at all) cases where the ground is made of dirt:


I'M SURE MY YAKTRAX WILL BE FINE HERE

At this point, I'm just going to skip describing what a mud bog it was and recommend two blogs to you. If you do nothing else, at least go THERE and look at their pictures.  This was fucking nuts.  I'm halfway mad they didn't cancel the race, but maybe that's because I knew how fucked I was even before I started.



Photo courtesy of The Turkey Runner herself!

If, despite having the option to read two better written reports than mine, and see FAR more detailed pictures, you're still here, then thanks (and sorry?).  Each woman does the conditions far more justice than I could, and they each have WAY better attitudes about the race than I do.  I didn't realize it, but this race would mark the start of a really down running period for me. 



Back to the race. Mistakes abounded from almost the minute I left Capitol Hill DC to drive out to Sterling, VA. First, I put the wrong destination in my GPS, and didn't realize it. I put in the race START, instead of the shuttle bus location, which was farther away. By the time I noticed my mistake, I pulled over along highway 7, more than 30 minutes into my drive, to reset the destination. The rain had seemed to abate, but I knew everything about this was bad. I even had trouble Googling the address of the shuttle buses, because my hands were shaking.  I wasn't excited.  I was nervous, and a little scared.

I should have just DNS'd this. I knew it from the night before. But I wasn't hurt. I just didn't want to go out and GET hurt. I should have taken the DNS. But Pride was fucking with me. I knew I could do the distance, and deep down, I was hoping the ground wouldn't be as bad as I'd seen on social media (Super Hokie had done numerous practice runs and posted pics of the trail).


This was a race to channel #TeamNotGettingUp

I got to the start and just shivered. I was absolutely shaking. I didn't have trail shoes, and it felt like YakTrax would be ineffective against fresh, wet mud. I'd also worn some old track warmup pants, lotsa layers up top, and an old North Face beanie hat (branding!).

Plus, you know, road shoes. They worked fine for me the year before, because I was only dealing with singletrack, dirt paths, and even some regular gravel/rocky roads. Not a big deal, really. However, from the moment I arrived in the starting village/camp, I just had the biggest sense of foreboding. So I did what seemed natural:

I hid in a portajohn.


HA HA GAWD I AM FUCKING HILARIOUS

No, seriously.  I did.  I just kind of . . . went inside one, stood, and shuddered (there was no line, I've never seen one for a TNF race, I'll give them that).  At first, I took off my track pants and outer sweatshirt, and kinda prepped for the race.  Then I decided I was too cold, and that I needed to re-change back.


When they announced the Wave 1 start (I was in Wave 3), I was STILL in the can, trying to figure out how long I could stay in there.


Who, me?  I'm just scenery.

Then, I made the mistake of actually looking down INTO the portajohn.


WHOOPS NEVERMIND TIME TO RACE KTHXBYEEEEEE

Anyway, HONK went the airhorn!  Off we went, and things almost immediately went badly, in the sense that they went very, very well.  


START MAKING SENSE, TAI

The very early miles were mostly comprised of wet grass, some paved paths, and almost gravel-ly type trail.  It was sloppy and wet, but it wasn't terrible.  I still had my little cutoff sheet with me (lots of lessons learned), and I was cruising.  This had a long term bad effect on me, i.e., it meant I would NOT say, "Fuck these conditions," and walk back to the start.


BYE FELICIA

It was interesting.  I was glad I'd left my track pants on, because there were brambles and prickly shrubs/whatevers that just pulled/hooked onto my pants.  I was grateful I didn't have on shorts, but the terrain wasn't the worst.  It wasn't easy, but it was still kinda doable.  That covered all of like 3-5 miles, tops.

But, as we started to get into deeper woods, though, the mud started to get way thicker. The ground had NOT dried out at all.  Now, the hills I had looked forward to, and hoped to use to my advantage, were instead proving to be a MAJOR fucking problem.  I literally went down one WITHOUT moving my legs.  I just kind of held them in position, and (slowly) slid down.  

The mud was astonishing.  The grass was slick, the trail was wet with mud, and I just kind of did a "controlled falling" as I ran/trotted along the trail.  Unfortunately, I ran pretty amateurish.

Well, this is pretty muddy, but maybe if I stic-SPLOOSH SPLAT FAIL

Ok, not THAT bad.  But I was forced to kind of run in a zig zag fashion, as I was perpetually falling, from one side to the other, as I tracked along the twisty singletrack. 

I swear, if I'd thought of this at the time, I might have screamed this out while running.

At this point, it became rather clear that I should have brought (and worn) trail shoes:


This GIF, but "trail shoes" instead of "Prenup."

By now, it's obvious I've made a HUGE mistake doing this race.  And then, just as I was settling in for a LOT of unhappiness, along came none other than . . . DEAN KARNAZES!  Who, fortunately, didn't remember me from our interesting meeting at this race last year.

Maybe he didn't recognize me.


OH HAI IS THIS WHERE WE GRAB OUR ASSES??

No, there was no assgrabbing at this year's race (neither self grabbing or squeezy-squeezy).  Instead, I had a much more interesting way of greeting Dean this year.

I fell on him.

SRSLY DEAN BIG FAN HOW YOU DOIN?

Not kidding.  He was trying to pass me, and we exchanged greetings.

It went something like this:

Me (in front, look back to see):  "Hey! (slips) Dean Karnazes! (whoa, slip) Looking (eek) great!"

Dean (eyeing me cautiously, again, just like last year) "Thanks buddy! (effortlessly starts to glide past me) You're looking grHUURRRRK"

Because, right about then, I slipped in mud (again), arms went flailing for a tree trunk or something, and instead ended up reaching for Dean's glorious, tree-trunk like hammies.

I brushed against him as I went down, missed his legs, and kind of ker-splatted down. He slowed to make sure I was ok (just my pride!), and I waved him on watched him fucking FLEE from my presence.  So, basically, it was gonna be one of THOSE races.

So.  Fucked.

Things at this point just started to go from bad to worse.  Seriously.  Things went to hail.

Not "hell."  HAIL.


Is that . . . hail?  What the fuck was I thinking?  I was WARM a few hours ago.  In a fucking BED.

Really.  It began to, not-kidding-what-the-fuck-is-next, HAIL on us.

I smell DNF . . . or maybe still that portajohn

We trudged/slid/progressed, and even at-times ran.  But my pace was going from bad to worse.  At one point, I ran into SuperHokieGirl who I knew from the CUCB VIP dinner.  This was her first marathon, except she was jumping right to the 50K point.  She was moving along far better, having come out to the park for practice portions of the trail. We chatted a bit, and I stopped at an aid station (one I swear I almost went down vertically) to reach.


THIS IS ME NOT HAVING FUN.  I don't care that it's a screenshot.  Not paying for this debacle.


She went on.  I caught up to her somewhere prior to Great Falls (which is roughly the 13 mile mark), and saw her a couple or few more times as we made our way around the teardrop portion of the course.  She was on-pace to not be swept, something that had been a concern of hers.  Hell, what I could see during the race, she was going to do great.  

Meanwhile, I was faring about as expected:




We passed through Great Falls (where my overall time was now in full deep-shit mode), and headed off to the teardrop portion.  This section was rocky, but was way less muddy (I think we gained elevation here?).


Again, not my style to use screenshots.  Again, Zero Fucks Given re this race.


I pressed on, missing Jesse ("Fuller Runs Far"), who was on the receiving end of my first ultra-ass-grab last year, and did my best to push-push-push through the loop and back to Great Falls.

Along the way in the loop, I got the (great!) news that my son's little league game was cancelled due to rain, so I had that edge/pressure taken off (if you're a REALLY longtime follower of mine, you might remember that I used to tweet about him as late as 2012-13, but stopped in mid-2013 until recently).  

Regardless, this made things a lot more relaxed.  I had done the "out" portion of this mud fest.  I'd done the loop.  Now all that was left was the "back" portion, and I had hours to go, upwards of 4 hours from the time I was back at Great Falls.

Fuck it.  Not.  Getting.  Hurt.  I took time to change socks out of the trenchfoot-esque conditions my old ones were in, throwing them away.

I chatted with a rescue squad guy at the aid station which I switched socks, discussing my daughter's plans for possibly being a future EMT, or Physician's Assistant.  This guy, an older fireman/rescue guy, was in the mood to TALK.

And you know what?  I talked back.  It was nice.  We just kinda . . . shot the breeze for a while.  Maybe in a way, I was hoping he'd say, "Hey, you're an ok guy.  Want a ride all the way back to the start so you can punch whomever gave the go-ahead for this race today?  And then we'd have a great laugh and drink beers, while fitting me for a shiny red helmet.


Shutup it could happen.

I finally stood up, and headed back to the land of mud and failure.  I knew the way back was going to fucking SUCK, and I wasn't in any mood to deal with it again.


That crown fit like my North Face beanie.

In less than ONE mile, my shoes (and, therefore, my new socks) were fucking SOAKED.  All that time I'd spent relaxing/chilling were for naught.


This GIF really should be the thumbnail for this entire entry.

The next few miles in the mud, much, and well, the fucking epic shit just generally sucked the donkey balls.  Time was bleeding off way faster than I'd anticipated, as I was reduced to essentially fast walking the whole way.  If I tried to run, I would just spend more time recovering from slips.  It was actually EASIER to walk.  All of a sudden, I wasn't seeing this as an easy stroll so much as a desperate need to press on, and keep pressing.  This wasn't fun.  It wasn't before, but now this was REALLY not fun.

Anyway, I've got X miles to go and . . . wait, how many minutes left?

At one point, I came upon an older, cheery guy.  He was literally WHISTLING while he made his way with/near me to the next aid station.  I was in disbelief.  I came upon him (I was fast walking quicker than he was running), and . . . he offered me ibuprofin.  

I declined.  After all, I was projecting calm, and not at all like I was going to arrive 5 minutes after the cutoff and be FUCKED OMG THIS WAS ALL FOR NOTHING.

Hey, no drugs for me, old-timer.  Har har! Age, amirite?!

I made it deeper into the woods, falling frequently, grabbing the poor limbs of trees (not Dean Karnazes' legs this time) to break my fall, and generally just trying to keep myself Moving Forward.  A woman behind me saw me fall, and . . . she offered me ibuprofin.

Ahem.  I'm fine.  WHY WOULD ANYONE THINK I NEED PAINKILLERS I AM FINE I FUCKING SAID
A woman blew past me.  As cheerfully as I could, I said, "Wow, I wish I was moving as great as you this late in the race!"  She said, "Oh, I was hurting pretty badly back there, but this guy gave me some ibuprofin."

I WAS NOT A MERRY MAN.

After the 26/28ish mile marker (whatever that aid station is), I was now convinced of my deep-shittedness re the OVERALL cutoff, and was focused on getting the hell forward as much as I could.  I ditched my track pants finally, figuring that they were slowing me down from being caked with mud and being soaked.  I pressed on in shorts.

But I'd forgotten, back when I threw away my track pants, about the brambles and prickly bushes at this point in the race.  Which I now I had to run/traverse back through.

OH YEAH.  THEM.

I don't remember much about passing through the branches, other than just pressing on impatiently, and occasionally getting tagged as runners ahead/behind me pulled and released them to "sproing-oing-oing" backwards and forwards into my legs.  Ouch.

By the time I started to come out of the mud and brambles, I figured we had just about 2 miles left.  I had become part of another small "pod" of runners, except we were all walking.  Everybody was Spent.  We'd used up so much from navigating through the muck.  Here and there, we'd run, but it was almost perfunctory.

One guy was a medical student from mid-Virginia.  He said he ordinarily would have just bailed on the whole race with the weather, but he'd told too many people he was coming here to race and couldn't back out.  I also ran with Jackie, from IG's "The Ultra Life."  We talked race plans, scaling back, and even a little bit of burnout.

Finally, we hit what was about the 1.5 mile mark, and we all generally agreed we would make the cutoff for the finish.  It was time to trot, and at least finish at more than a crawl.

Ok, hi everybody, I'm-a die now.

I finished, and ran into my friend Kim, of Kim Runs Miles with Smiles.  She was there to cheer on friends of hers who'd (long ahead of me) finished.  Suffice to say, I was embarrassed, both over my finishing time, and appearance.

She was the first person to notice.

Notice what?

My legs.

They were streaked with blood.  Scratches.  Prickly brambles were STILL STUCK IN THEM.  
I handled the news cheerfully.




So fucking gross.  So now I was embarrassed and hurt, stung by who dafuq knew WHAT, and I was miles from my car.  I chatted with Kim, and fortunately got a little therapy when Super Hokie Girl and Turkey Runner arrived and joined in.  Everyone else seemed really happy over their finish, and it was a nice reminder to see how pleased they were with the milestone.  They were happy.  They were laughing over how ridiculous the course conditions were. They had perspective.  I wish I'd talked with them longer, but I was still conflicted over how to feel after the race, and excused myself to the beer tent.


I'll get better.  I will.

While I drank, I started to remember that what I'd done was survive ridiculous obstacles over 31.5 miles (TNF is just OVER a 50K), and that I was in one piece.  Maybe it wasn't THAT bad that I'd done the race.  It really HAD been a tremendous challenge, and I'd beaten it.




I was suddenly SUPER aware of the cold.  As I sat, I cleaned up some of the blood (with, of all things, beer), and picked foliage/prickiles out of my legs.




I wasn't kidding!

The shuttle bus wait/trip back to the parking lot was ridiculously long, and I was seriously FUCKED up.  I was shaking badly, crushed mentally, and wasn't confident I would be super good for a drive back to DC.  So I turned on the car, ran the heater, talked on the phone for a bit, and eventually started to feel human again.

I know I should be proud to survive and finish that fucking course.  But I had focused so hard in the winter on being healthy, not hurt, and assaulting that race.  Instead, I held on for dear life (and to Dean Karnazes' legs).


No wallowing! 

I didn't realize it, but I definitely strained something during the race.  My left piriformis/hip (and glute) were still screwed up from either falls or just repeatedly doing splits and near-falls for 8+ hours.  In the coming weeks after this race, I would soon find out that I wouldn't just bounce back from a bad race like I had in the past.

Race by the numbers:

Overall:  Shit
Sex:  SHITTIER
Division:  Portajohn.

I think I just need time. I need time and distance away from this race. Maybe down the road I'll start to think, "You went out into utterly atrocious conditions, ill-equipped, and finished what you started. It's all about time.

Distance runners specialize in that.