11 February 2013

I Turned 29.

I turned 29 a few days weeks ago. TWENTY-NINE YEARS OLD. Dang. It makes me wonder if I have any of those "if we're both single by the time we're 30..."-type deals out there. Speak now! Or forever hold your peace! Anyway, I'd been scheming of a way to celebrate living longer than I ever have before. Swim 2900 yards? Welllll, I'll let you in on a secret, I haven't been in the pool since July. Bike 29 miles? Eh, sounds fun but not exactly a challenge. Run 29 miles? Now we're talking.

Since my actual day of birth fell on a Tuesday, I decided to run on Sunday the 27th. I picked the Chubb trail because it's fun to bike on too, so if people weren't quite trained enough to run an ultra, they could ride some sweet singletrack instead and still be part of the celebration. I wrote an invitational blog post, made a Facebook event, and started packing in some long training runs. I found out that Jeff (of Alpine Shop fame and my teammate for the OGRE) turns...wait for it...50!!!! on January 30th so he decided to run 50km, which is 31 miles, so he would just start a little earlier with a road out-n-back and the run with the group from there.
route aka "the question mark then the lollipop"
Wellll, Sunday rolls around, and turns out the weather is not cooperating with anyone who wants to ride a bike. The skies are spitting rain, and the cold temperatures have created a thin layer of ice over any stationary surface. This includes parked cars. My heart sinks when I first look out the window - anyone planning to bike is out of luck. These are terrible conditions for biking because they would just tear up the trails. But the temperature is decent for running so I pack a few extra layers and drive out to the Lone Elk trailhead. But not without a stop at Walgreen's for some delicious AR treats...I kind of went overboard...please don't tell HolisticGuru....
OK, most of this is for LBL.
Arriving at the trailhead, I see Jeff already on his pre-run, but nobody else is in the parking lot. Granted, I'm early for once in my life, but WHERE ARE THE PEOPLE? As I start getting my layers sorted, cars start rolling in. We have a grand total of 12 smiling human faces and 1 smiling dog face. My Pfoodman teammate Maddie even shows up, ever the optimist with her bike, but decides to can in based on trail conditions. Smart move, chick! We all warn each other to be careful on the initial descent and then just, start. Running. 29 miles. Let's do this.
Jeff, Irwin, David, Mike, Mitch. Eric, Justin, TJ. Doug, Sunny, me!
Gunner's somewhere running already.
The first section, the "question mark", is super fun. The pace is a touch faster than I would personally take, but there's no harm in pushing limits on a fun run. And if I explode, I have lots of treats in my pack and in my car to nurse me through the remaining miles. So I just hang in, chatting away, enjoying the company of badasses running in miserable weather. Once we hit the climb up to the picnic table, the boys in front ascend like mountain goats and I take a slower "more disciplined" approach. Then it's downish to the West Tyson parking lot, where we see the first of many inspirational signs made and hung by the indomitable Carrie, Jeff's wife and my hero, who is sidelined with a knee injury otherwise she'd be out here crushing it too. I'm running with Mike here and he lets me tell just about the entire tale of my Kilimanjaro climb. We complete Leg 1 (see route photo), regroup at the picnic table, and then retrace our steps for Leg 2. About mile 10, I'm second in the conga line behind Eric, and I'm thinking I could really get used to this ultra-running thing. Trails are awesome! People are awesome! Life is awesome! Wheeeeee!

Towards the end of Leg 2, we meet up with Rudy who is on his cross bike! He hands me a birthday chocolate bar and it's delicious. I share it with everyone when we get back to the parking lot. I change my gloves and hat but everything else is doing okay. Jeff shares some signature mini-donuts and then we hit the trail again for about a half-marathon remaining. We see more signs that Carrie has posted and it's really fun to give Jeff a hard time about being old. Leg 3 is starting to get a little more difficult. For the first time I can remember, I don't really feel like eating. This is a new sensation for me. But I know that it's probably a beginning sign of bonkage, so about Mile 18 I cram down a powerful combination of Oreos and Nutter Butters and keep running.
My favorite sign!
The cookies do their job, but it's now my fitness that's on the ropes. I've only run more than 20 miles a few times in my life, and just once in specific prep for today, and it's starting to show. My training philosophy has evolved to favor more resting over more training and it's clear that I undershot my preparation by a few hours. Well, there's that lesson learned, and nothing left to do but gut out these last 9 miles. I'm not in horrible condition by any means, but walking the uphills becomes a necessity and my hamstrings exhibit their familiar tightness. I run a few miles by myself in this state which is actually kind of nice because as an endurance athlete, I've gotten good at struggling solo, and it almost wouldn't feel right to have a day without a little bit of uncomfortableness.
Who's just run 29 miles and has one thumb? THIS GIRL!
As I make the last climb up to the picnic table, Jeff, Mitch, and Justin are there waiting! How nice! We make our way down the Tyson climb for the last time and onto the flats where we catch David. The boys keep the conversation going, allowing me to hang on their words instead of my sore muscles. The last few miles are tough but we all gut it out and get 'er done. Bam! 29 miles with 3,900' of climb to celebrate my 29th birthday!
Hot-n-honey motivation!
I clean up super quick and head over to TJ's Wings where the post-run party is. I had boasted to people that I could eat 29 wings as well. I sorta stopped keeping count but I think I finished up somewhere around 20. Their hot-n-honey sauce is seriously. SO. GOOD. We order lots (I think 125+) of wings and more than one pitcher of beer. Our table is right next to the fireplace which feels amazing after being cold and wet for so much of the day. People seem to keep joining our table which is awesome. Carrie made "old people" masks for everyone and that is the last pic I'll leave you with!
Thanks, everyone, for an awesome birthday!
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  1. What a great way to celebrate your bday! I'm turning 40 (!!) this year, and I promise I won't be running 40 miles in commemoration. Wish I could've made it to run with (well, on the same day as...my only chance of running WITH you might have been if I skipped the first half and only ran the second half) you, but Bob's team bachelor party ended up falling on that same weekend.

    Happy 29!!

  2. Happy 29th! Birthday challenges are the best.

  3. That's a great idea! I think I may count my 50k in May as my 30th birthday run. Even though my birthday's in April, I think the extra mile makes up for it.

  4. I've been looking forward to reading about the birthday run! Glad to hear it was a good day!

    Oh, and I'm not shifting focus to other thing - just have some things in the mix that may keep me from racing this year :) I'll be back before too long! Maybe we'll finally get to connect at USARA in Indiana this year?