Saturday, September 20, 2008
A lady named Buffy....
Oh folks, folks, folks.
Today was the Birkie (short for Birkebeiner--large international cross county ski race ending in Hayward, Wisconsin, and for the past few years has been open and used for a marathon relay race and an open half-marathon at the end of September.) I signed up for the Half-marathon. Once word spread a month or so ago that TWO of the Shell Lake teachers were going to run this, our Superintendent said to both of us "Are you crazy??? That course is a monster." So, I naturally jumped online to find an elevation map of the course and compared it to others I've run in the past. It looked challenging, but managable. Those of you who have been following my blog know I've been out doing "hill" runs to prepare.
before I really jump into a rundown of the day, let me share another "post title" I contemplated using.....
"The cross country course from h-e-double-hockey-sticks!!!!"
Upon studying and preparing for this course, it basically was broken down into three sections in my mind.
Part 1, about 5.5 miles
Part 2, just shy of 4 miles
Part 3, about 3.6 miles
Because at each of these places, there was an aid-station, water, energy-drink and Cliff-shots (along with some moral support by the spectators---THANK GOODNESS!)
I already had the game plan of just "going easy" and keeping my pace reined it for the first part since it appeared to have "rolling hills" for the duration. And I hit the 2-mile marker averaging about 10:15's. Then, I just stopped looking! The race definitely was already starting to be challenging and threatening to kick me in the butt!!!
I think around mile 4, my mind already started wandering to what I was going to blog about tonight and how I could POSSIBLY describe this course, because the elevation map DOES NOT do it justice!!!!
So...here is goes........ imagine going to a stadium, and running the blasted BLEACHERS, NON-STOP for a duration equivalent to equal 13.1 miles!!!!! Up and down, up and down, STEEP up and "better-hold-back-otherwise-you're-going-to-do-a-face-plant" down, and then more up and down, and up and down.
By the time I was running through mile 4, I was already walking all the up's and TRYING to run all the down's. Ya know...."gotta use the downhills" mentality. BUT, those were some drastic descents!! And face it.....when I came coasting into the first aid-station, I tried to sweet-talk some of the Marathon-RELAY participants to add me to their team so that someone could take over for me. Too bad that I didn't have any takers.
However, now comes time to explain the title of this post. SHORTLY after the aid-station, while walking up yet ANOTHER climb, and yet MORE people slowly peetered past me, I hear yet another set of tired-but-trying-to-do-my-best feet coming up behind me. And when the words escaped her lips that were actually going through my head, I knew there was at least one other person on this course feeling and thinking the EXACT same thing I was! This is WORSE than a monsterous course---this SERIOUSLY is the cross-country race from the worst, evilest depths possible!
After walking that climb together, and both attempting to jog the downhill that followed, a short couple hundred meters later, we both found ourselves walking the next climb together, AGAIN. So....introductions were made. Buffy meet Amy, Amy meet Buffy. And after yet ANOTHER set of walking the climb and attempting a jog down before for the next climb, not only did we settle of introductions, but we also made a PACT! --- We would BOTH finish this monster even if it meant we would be crawling to the finish!!!!
At this time, we were well into Part 2 of the course. We tried to share our thoughts and TRIED to keep them positive (chuckle), but the aches and pains were talking control of our minds!!! A hint of a cramp was nudging on her right calf, and a hint of a blister was starting on my left heel. THAT RIGHT THERE was an eye-opener for me at what these constant up-downs were doing, because I have NEVER gotten a blister while running before. NOT EVEN with new shoes!
SOMEHOW we found ourselves strolling in to the 2nd aid-station; each grabbing a handful of water cups and gatorade cups. She chatted with a couple of ladies whom she appeared to know---she lives local to the race. And after about a minute or so, we were off again. Mind you....the word "Off" was equating itself to a mental-toughness approach of self-talking to our legs to start moving again! *grin*
Sure....I can grin now, and I guess we even chuckled a couple of times about how ABSOLUTELY crazy we were to be out there on that course.....
Anyway..... Buffy's cramp was starting to spread through her entire right leg, and my blister was definitely at a stage where it was MORE noticable. We knew we ONLY had about 3.5 miles left to go, and we examined our time at this point. The good news: EVEN if we WALKED the rest of this race, we would manage under 3 hours, and NEITHER of us cared any more about our times. We just wanted to finish.
I have to give Buffy ALL THE CREDIT IN THE WORLD! Her right leg was in a constant-tense stage, with short MASSIVE cramps coming on-n-off, and then she informed me that her left leg was starting to do the same. She said numerous times...."I'm sorry---you just go----I'm sorry----I don't want to hold you back." *chuckle*......and seriously......the whole time she's walking, I'm thinking...."Buffy-lady, ya gotta slow down or I'm not gonna make it! I'm on empty and going on fumes!"
And then........IT appeared!!!!!! IT being........."B*TCH HILL!" Seriously---no joke, that is what the hill is called on the course---in all printings, pamphlets, and brochures!!!! And....now I know why! I don't equate that hill with ANY "race" course. I equate that hill with what is known as HIKING in my mind! Holy buckets!!!!! It was probably about 200 meters long, and 1000 Bleacher stairs HIGH!!! (chuckle). We just took it one walking step at a time; Buffy doing an "ape" stance climb (she needed to keep her legs from cramping and she couldn't keep her feet 'normal' or her calves would cramp) and I was doing the "place-hands-on-kneecaps-aiding-my-legs-to-get-up-this-hill!!!"
With about 1.5 miles left, there was a "surprise-self-serve" aid station that had been used at the turn-around point for the 5K'ers earlier. We took a short stop, grabbed some water and filled up on a Cliffshot (BOTH of us a bit unsure if we wanted to risk messing with our stomachs). However, for about the next half mile, we both were feeling a bit stronger. Heck, we even managed to run longer than 200 meters, too!
Finally----the happy "1 mile left to go" sign appeared! The end was so close----we were at 2 hours 35 minutes, so we were WELL under a pace to finish by 3 hours. And then.............the sign "5K to the finish" appeared. We BOTH had a moment of PANIC!!!!!! WHAT!?!? 5K!?!?!? We just passed the 1-mile marker---what?!?!?!?! THEN----as we examined the course, we put two-n-two together. The 5K'ers had come up a DIFFERENT path at the start, so that sign was telling them to take THIS path to the finish.
And then......a little bit of joy when we heard the first blaring of the music, telling us JUST how close we were getting. I was already close to emotional tears just because I was SO READY to be done moving my legs and just STOP!!!! I saw the finish line before Buffy, and I shared as much moral support as I could be get her to the finish because her legs were just about gone! And then........YEAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH! 2 hours and 51 minutes after starting, we FINALLLY could stop!!!! (A FAR cry from my Half PR of 2 hours 11 minutes)
Unfortunately, Buffy's legs gave just about everything they had to get her to the finish line, and then the extreme cramping took control. I wasn't much assistance, so thankfully her husband and friends stepped in to get her water, bananas, and anything else they could to help her out. And me.......I just stood-----done-----thankful----not many other emotions than ....."numb."
Then I hear...."AMY!!!!!".......holy buckets! It's Keri and Pam who ran the 5K earlier. I was NOT expecting them at all! I completely thought they would have taken off LONG before I strolled into the finish. But when I saw them......every joyous, emotionly spent fiber of my body gave in, and the tears came! I think I scared them (SORRY GUYS!!!!!!!!!!!!), but I was just SPENT! I was SO thankful to be done; it was SUCH a mental race!!!! MUCH more mental than physical for me! AND---what's worse---I just now am realizing I didn't ask either of them how they did on their 5K! I SORRY GUYS!!! (again)!!!!
I did manage to hunt down Sarah (the other teacher running the Half---her FIRST EVER Half, mind you!!!) and she amazingly finished under 2 hours 15 minutes! WOW! HOW INCREDIBLY AWESOME!!!!!
So...there ya have it! I chit-chatted just a little bit with Buffy afterwards while she was still fighting the cramps in her legs. I also shared my blog addy with her because I had told her what I was going to title this baby. HECK! If it weren't for her, I really might have dropped out of my first race ever. I am SO THANKFUL to have crossed paths with her. I think we both know what we each were to each other----we needed each other or that race would have been even MORE non-manageable!
However, the final clincher of the day!!!! After all those blasted hills, we needed to walk up yet ANOTHER hill to get back to our vehicles!!!!!
If I don't see another hill in my life......well.........I don't think I need to say anymore......