It has been some time since I have contributed here. Time spent questioning, re-grouping and this weekend relishing in the small successes. Big events occurred, such as where I was Co-RD for the Inaugural Operation Endurance on Fort Benning, GA on April 30th. My family and I had the pleasure of hosting John Pyle and his lovely wife Toni over the course of the event and for a recovery day the day after the race. John is phenomenal, and as an active duty service member I appreciate his efforts more than he will ever know for him running EVERY event with our national colors and keeping Ol’ Glory flying for us. I look forward to experiencing many more events with John and Toni and following his progress next year when he takes on the immense undertaking of running across the country from coast to coast and finishing this trek out with, in my opinion, one of the hardest 100’s in the country (because of the heat), the Key’s 100.
In between I restricted my training to focus more on immediate tasks at hand that are work related. Faster pacing and less mileage…ailment after ailment has seemed to plague me. Crack a rib, plantar’s fascia that requires a sleep boot, pulled hamstring…all just annoying enough to keep my confidence off-center. Add in some weight gain of about 30 pounds of mass from my racing weight and it is like a dark cloud that I couldn’t get away from. I found out that I enjoy binge eating when I things aren’t going my way. Ironic, why have I not ever noticed this before? Could it be that with trying to deal with getting my life re-prioritized, training differently than my norm and feeling apathetic about it all is causing it? Chances are high that they are. Thankfully I know how to re-gain control and can put it all back in check. However, I am even more thankful for the awesome event I got to partake this weekend as it got me back into the “fight” mode. I want to run again, I am ready, it is time.
Columbus State University (CSU) ROTC team recruited me to run with their team. To be honest I was a little worried that I would be able to hang with these youthful, some freshly Commissioned, some soon-to-be Commissioned Officers. I truly did not want to be the anchor holding the team back. We got started at 6am and I was the 5th runner of an eight runner team. Out of the gates everyone took off fast, every runner, on every team, and knowing what we had ahead of us there were a few of us that were raising the red flag before the 3rd leg was started to try to slow down because as the heat kicked in, it would crush the souls, and physical ability of the athletes. By the time I got to run my first leg it was already 82 degrees. 7.8 miles in 58:50 is fast, but really right in the window I wanted to be at. After my leg it appeared that the teams started to settle into the paces well.
By the time of my second leg it was 97 degrees and the humidity was unreal. Ice in my hat was a lifeline and I was able to nail my 2.8 mile leg in 21:25. Right on pace again. I handed off to my relief and then went up the road to provide water and support as necessary for her leg. This is where I learned that there were a few runners on the team that refused to drink while running and one that wasn’t eating at all. I was also the only one that was using ice to keep myself cool on my legs. Time for a change of strategy…though some learn better through pain. Ahhhh…pain…the best and fastest learning curve tool in existence.
My third leg was 4.2 miles and it was twilight when I started. Still 86 degrees out I opted to run it with my handheld bottle and roll without ice. Good call as I made is through this leg in 31:50. Everyone was falling in with a routing of solid nutrition, hydration and monitoring their state. Team rules such as “peeing twice before your next leg and reporting off-colored urine” were staple…take me to my fourth leg please.
This leg was odd in so many ways. I ran without a shirt for the first time ever (it was 3am and I was not worried about being seen without it in rural Georgia at 3am. I started this leg at a Dollar Store. While waiting for my runner I was poking around and noticed the ice machine open, full of ice…and I was out of ice for my cooler. No cameras, no way to tell if I had taken the mere 1 bag I needed or not. My conscience could not do it though. Instead I went around and used the restroom in the wood-line and then went and grabbed my Ipod (which I NEVER run with unless I am on a treadmill). This proved to almost be a very painful mistake and had it not been for my handheld I would have been mauled by 3 very protective pit bulls about 3 miles from my hand-off. Thanks to my headlamp (which I also rarely run with) I saw the white one coming at me and then starting screaming “Bad DOGS! GO HOME!!!” while squirting my bottle at them and running backwards down the road to remain facing them. If I had stopped they would have surrounded me as the other two brown pits were already moving to flank me as I focused on the white one. Thankfully I made it through this 7.1 mile leg in 56:20. Then crawled in the van and went to sleep…
Quiz…what is the one thing I did wrong in the previous paragraph that would cause someone serious issues on a stage or relay race?
Answer…failure to eat…
Yes folks…I made the rookiest of rookie mistakes. I did not eat before I went to sleep. I slept with my feet elevated and I drank my handheld plus two bottles of water but with no calories in and nothing to help keep the water I killed myself. My next leg was run right as with was warming up. I started off great, though I felt tight at first. Halfway through the 7 miles the bottom fell out. I HAD to walk. My sub 8 minute pace was reduced to a 9:30+ by the end of this leg and it was too late for me to do anything about it. After I stopped I started cramping unbelievably bad. I have dealt with legs, but knew the abdominal cramping was a huge issue. I spent the next 5 hours eating and drinking as much as possible. I knew I had no glycogen in my muscles for fuel and that my brain would continue to win, forcing a slow pace so I could fuel off fat, but that I could get some glycogen in my system and get my hydration up enough to hopefully fool my body for the last 4.7 mile leg I had…in the blazing heat of the day. BTW…leg 5 was 1:06:53.
I was so thankful to finally get to the last leg but was worried about whether I would make it or not. The cramping had only subsided merely 15 minutes before I started it and it was once again 96 degrees or so. My awesome team knew I was hurting bad and kept me iced every mile. While I had to walk at times I muddled through this leg in 43:37. I was never so glad to get in the truck and drive down the road to help out the other team members on their leg as I was on this one.
After some running around and linking up with both Abi Meadows (who we were privileged to host and send on her way on Wednesday as a solo runner) and my family we finally headed to finish line. At times the team had lost confidence, became apathetic, but the great thing about doing this as a team was that we could off-set each other and keep our heads up when the going got tough. The icing on the cake though, was that we took third place for the military teams. Very awesome for a first time team. I also got to experience the brutality of the shadeless course so I can better handle the trek solo in the future…next year??
A special thanks to my team, Rowdy Pickles, which consisted of Freddie Connor, Jerry White, Loraine Solis, Nicolas Merva, Seth Prosser, Zachary Wiehi, Stephen Waynick for allowing me to be a part of this race and giving me the best, most memorable Memorial Day I have ever had. More thanks to MSG Moore for driving our team, Marissa Prosser for her outstanding crew support, Abi Meadows (aka the beerfairy) for the three beers I stole from her and the use of her vehicle to get us to the finish line. Lastly to my wife, for meeting us at the finish line and enjoying a weekend with me that turned out to be the best time I think we have spent together yet. I love you Amber…