Tuesday, May 5, 2015

the mortal woman's journey to 50k

Faron text-messages me at 6:59 am... "the Sun Mountain 50k sign-up is opening at 7am today"
Knowing that these races sell out in a matter of hours, I wake myself up, get online and sign up for the race.  The race is May 16, 2015.  I haven't run since last August, while on a break from the PCT.  I scratched my entry to the Oregon Coast 50k due to ongoing plantar fasciitis and patellar tendonitis in both legs/feet that I had taken home as a souvenir for walking 800 trail miles during the summer.  I had relegated myself to the injured list and promised that I wouldn't run until January. It is now January.  I don't even have running shoes.  I buy a pair of Cascadias on line.  When they arrive, I do my first run, sometime during the first week of January:  I can barely run 3 miles.  I am gasping for air.  Holy hell.  How am I going to run 31 if I can't run 3?

Progress is slow.  I am living in Coos Bay Oregon which is hell for trail running.  There are few trails, and the ones that are available are short, waterlogged and/or plagued with rednecks/guns/ATVs.

 I resign myself to treadmill running after work.  Training is slow and painful.  I am working 80+ hours a week at a job I hate.  There is no time for anything.  I run anyway, committed to the training plan.  I hate treadmills, but this is somehow the only sane thing I am doing in Coos Bay, running in the gym at the community college, surrounded by 19-24 year old men lifting weights.  I run 3 to 5 miles for each run, about three or four days a week. My shoes are sparkling clean and this makes me sad. Oh well.  I am running.

Then, I get sick.  I can't breath.  I get well.  I get sick again.  Training suffers.  I get an inhaler. I quit my job.  At the end of February I take a trip to Pt. Reyes and friends in California, heal my body, heal my soul, heal my mind.  I stay at Charlie's cabin in Bolinas, just a few miles from my favorite trails in Pt. Reyes.  For the first time since I started training, I run 13 miles and feel alive.
I am a homeless, jobless professional on the lam.  I move in with Ryan and Julia.  They live in the woods.  There are endless logging roads and trails right behind their house!!  I am not employed.  I begin taking my running seriously after 2 months of denial about my upcoming race.  50k!  Now I am scared.  I begin to make my long runs longer.  I run 16 miles in the woods.  It is hailing and cold.  I am alone in the middle of nowhere.  I never see a single human soul out in Beavercreek, the old logging roads that are gated and overgrown with spring brush.  I realize that I could break an ankle and die alone out here.  I feel wild.  I like it.

I move to Yachats!!  Gem of the Oregon Coast.  I have always wanted to live here.  This is the heaven of trail running.  Cape Perpetua is perfect--  lots of good elevation, views, and endless miles of trails and forest roads to connect for long runs.  Faron comes to visit.  We run 23 miles up around cape perpetua.  I had been harboring a nagging something in my left leg.  IT band?  Hamstring?  SI joint niggle with radiating ache to left knee?  I can't figure out what it is, as it seems to migrate around.  I run the 23 with Faron anyway.  It doesn't seem to make a difference.  The pain is there and it doesn't get worse or better.  I decide that running is painful and all of the runners I know have pain somewhere at some time.  Pain is just pain.  It doesn't kill or maim.  However.  I also know that I had to scratch out of my last 50 k because I was too painful to really run.  I decide to take 10 days off.  I get acupuncture.  I am told by my Chinese Medicine doctor to eat red meat every day.  I am a vegetarian.  How am I going to do this?!

I begin eating meat.  Hamburgers, meatloaf, turkey sandwiches.  Rare Oregon Albacore.  Sausage pizza.  Every day.  I start to feel better!  10 days go by.  I cautiously get out to run.  I feel amazing!!

The race is now 12 days away.  I didn't get a second long run to fit into my schedule after Faron and I ran 23.   But I feel good.  My legs are fresh from the 10 day break and my runs feel mostly solid.  I wish I had a few more weeks to run, then taper, but alas, I am in my taper period now.  I am still eating meat.  I am trying to be good about yoga and also not run too much.  I am em excited about my race.  I will be slow, but I think I will finish.  I am a solid back-of-the-pack runner, I guess.  I will drive up to Winthrop next Thursday. We have a pack of runners, mostly Canadian, and we are sharing a sweet A-frame cabin before and after the race.  We will all celebrate some firsts:  Fiona will run her first 50 miler.  I will run my first 50 k.  Liz will (hopefully) run her first 50k.  Faron will run his second 50 miler (ok, not a first, but still cause for celebration).  I can't wait for the pain and agony and sense of accomplishment that we will share at the finish line as we drink beer and eat pizza and recount all the times we wanted to quit, but didn't.