Tuesday, January 6, 2015

"Running Is Not Something I Do", Lean Horse 2014, Race Report, Part 1

This is part one of Melissa's Lean Horse 2014 race report.  Melissa asked me to help edit her story, to reduce the length.  After a breathless first read and tearing up on the last several paragraphs. I advised her to just leave it be and let the words sing. They may be a little off key in places and raw in others but my-oh-my, that girl sure can hit the high notes! Her story soars. Part 2, 3, and 4 will be published on SMR over the next several days. Enjoy.

"Running is not something I do, it's more like something I am."
Melissa Budd
The weather forecast called for cold and rain.  At 18 C, humid and windy, this hardly seemed like the Lean Horse 100 I had known for the past 5 years.  Usually the daily high was between 30-35C and dry as a bone.  I suppose this was fitting as the Lean Horse 100 2014 was almost an entirely new course.    I was ready for an adventure!

As a teacher I’ve always treasured my summers, no marking, no lunch making and scheduling is minimal.   One of the things I most look forward to is  training for Lean Horse 100.  Running to me is not something I do – it’s more like something I am.  It is as much a part of my day as anything else, sleeping, eating, relationships….  At times, it is my comfort, my burden, my sanity.  I love the Paul Maurer quote below (The Gift - A Runner's Story) as it summarizes the rawness of running….
Running isn't a sport for pretty boys...It's about the sweat in your hair and the blisters on your feet. It’s the frozen spit on your chin and the nausea in your gut. It's about throbbing calves and cramps at midnight that are strong enough to wake the dead. It's about getting out the door and running when the rest of the world is only dreaming about having the passion that you need to live each and every day with. It's about being on a lonely road and running like a champion even when there's not a single soul in sight to cheer you on. Running is all about having the desire to train and persevere until every fiber in your legs, mind, and heart is turned to steel. And when you've finally forged hard enough, you will have become the best runner you can be. And that's all that you can ask for.        
"The best runner I can be" is not about PBs, PRs, or BQs. Don't get me wrong, I still run hard, give it my all on the hills, I push beyond what I think I can do. I love seeing how far I can go and feel grood when I improve my time. What makes me feel best however, is when I handle the stresses of running better than I did last time. I also love the feeling of losing myself in the run.

This summer I set out to train for Lean Horse.  I was excited about the new course and was looking forward to training with my running partner David.  David is one of the only people I know that doesn’t blink an eyelash when I ask him if he wants to go on a 40 mile training run on Saturday.  One of his best qualities is that he is always ready for an adventure.  

Unfortunately David, AKA my ultra-training partner, broke his collarbone at the beginning of July as he was making the transition to triathlons.  I suppose I could have been more supportive and not said to him, “serves you right….running is an angry mistress and will not put up with your cycling” but I’m a work in progress.   To David’s credit, he laughed and understood my disappointment.  He impressed me with how he maintained such a positive attitude while he was healing that I couldn’t help but to be inspired.  I know I would not have been so gracious and light of heart had it been me.
Without said training partner, I began to ramp up my mileage and quickly got to running 100 mile weeks.  I would run 8-15 miles 6 days a week (usually starting around 5am) and then one long run on the seventh day of 35-40 miles.  I did hills once or twice a week in the mornings with my great training partner Christine (who was battling with planters fasciitis  and ran way more miles with me than she intended to – but did it because she knew I was hurting for people to run with).  Scott Burton, one of the most well trained ultra-runners I know was wonderful with filling in many miles on those long runs that are so hard to do alone.  He, along with Tim Du kept me company and kept me laughing.  I also had a few special events to break up the regular training.  Scott organized the annual Slurpee run that David and I had done in the past, to include lots of people and 35 miles of fun and sugar.  I also did a few triathlons to switch it up a bit and found out I like swimming and am a pitiful cyclist!

By mid-August I was feeling strong, partially due to the fact that Christine kept telling me how strong I was (tell someone something often enough and they will start to believe it) and was anxious to get to South Dakota!

The ride down was great.  David graciously offered to drive down with me and be my crew. He wasn’t sure if he could pace me, but having someone on the course at every station, attending to all my running need was going to be a luxury I had never experienced.  I was sad for him that he wouldn’t be able to run but grateful for the company and the future help he would be giving me.
The pre-race meeting on Friday was filled with anticipation.  It was somewhat like a family reunion. This was my 6th year at Lean Horse, and seeing familiar faces is always a comfort.  I was excited to see Mike, Loren and Al (Mike and Loren were running the 50 mile and Al was running the 100 mile on a relay team).  The race director, Royce, told us about the new course, how beautiful it was and how excited he was to have us finally here.  He warned us of the longer climbs, the elevation change of 6000ft and the altitude (although South Dakota is over 5000ft above sea level, I’ve never had a problem with the altitude).   He also warned us not to “poop” directly on the trail (move off and cover with dirt), I guess there has been some issues with this in the past.  I wasn’t too worried about this request as I am not a “trail-pooper” and prefer solitude and cover when engaging in that activity.
The weather was cool, cloudy and very windy with a prediction of more cool weather in the morning and rain.  After Loren, Mike, Al, David and I had a quick supper at Subway (as a bonus, we had the privilege of  dining with Jeremy – who eventually won the race) – David and I retired to our rooms for a good night sleep.   In retrospect, I should have switched rooms with David.  His was at the back – very quiet and dark and on the inside.  My room was an outer room and I had trouble falling asleep due to anticipation and the sound of the relentless rain that gave me dreams of painful chafing and miserable cold.

Morning came quickly (although it was quick only AFTER I fell asleep – the time between when I got in bed and fell asleep seemed endless).  I got dressed, made sure I had everything I needed, had a bagel, a banana and a Coke, slipped on my rain jacket and by 5:20 am I was ready to go.  I was a little miffed when I heard  about what a good quiet sleep David had – but that didn’t last for long when I thought of how much help he was going to give me and that driving requires  more alertness than running.

We met at the Custer track.  Large lights illuminated the area and over 100 people were milling around nervously talking and laughing.  I met Brittney – a runner from Winnipeg who was doing her first 100.  Amazing that a young lady (early twenties) was attempting such a feat.  I asked her what her friends thought – she said most of them were impressed but thought she was crazy!  She told me her longest run was 45 or 50 miles….I felt a little inadequate and told her not to tell me such things!!  I was anxious to see my friends Peter and Yen – I knew they were signed up – but I didn’t see them at the prerace meeting.  Peter is from Texas and has a distinct southern drawl.  I heard him before I saw him (so I thought).  I walked quickly toward him and gave him a big hug.  I asked him how he was and said that David wasn’t running this year because of his accident.  He was smiling and nodding.  I called David over.  When David came over, he looked really confused.  I looked at who I thought was Peter, who was still smiling, and then made the realization that it wasn’t Peter.  Awkward!  “Peter” introduced himself as Bob.  He was incredibly gracious and said when a pretty lady comes over and gives him a hug – there is no way he would correct her.