Thursday, May 17, 2012

5/17/12: D-Fitz Guest Blog Post!

The moment you have all been waiting for has arrived!  Dylan is so awesome that he not only ran 50 miles with me but also wrote this hilarious write-up of the race.

Before getting to Dylan's award-winning prose, I will preface by saying that Dylan is far too humble, overstates my abilities, and understates his own.  Without further ado, enjoy:

As a long time reader and fan, it is an honor to be guest blogging. And as a fan of Will, it is an honor to be able to say that these crazy races are as hard as you would have imagined. Also tons of fun! But mostly really really hard. Except for Will, who was remarkably unfazed by my pedestrian pace. And I do mean pedestrian, as I will discuss.

This was my first ultramarathon and some of you might be wondering: why run 50 miles? I know that I wondered this exact question as a support crew member. Marathons are fun, but I was eager for a longer challenge. 50 kilometer races may seem cool, but they are for pretentious runners that just want to run slightly more than a marathon. This left me with one choice: go big or go home! But not too big, because 100 mile races are stupid crazy.

The race began like most races do – fighting off the excitement in order to keep a sustainable pace. We ran around some beautiful cross-country ski trails in the Southern Kettle Moraines and I lost all track of time and mileage. The temperature began around 60 degrees and didn’t increase too much. The pace began around 9 minute miles and slowed down considerably. Will wiped a single bead of sweat from his head.

After the ski trails, we entered the Ice Age Trail on which we ran west for a long time, turned around, came back, ran east for a long time, turned around, came back, and then finished. As we headed out west, I still felt great and was really enjoying my first trail race. We met our support crew at mile 24 after about four hours of running. Although my heart and lungs felt strong, my quads were starting to struggle from the constant rises and falls of the trails. My original plan was to get through 30 miles comfortably, struggle to make it to 40, and then find my way to the finish line. Unfortunately, this flawless plan had several flaws. First, it was harder to get through 30 miles than I had envisioned. Second, it was much much much harder to get through 40 miles than I had planned. Third, it was harder to get through 50 miles than I had imagined. Go figure. Will jogged easily.

I really struggled from miles 30 through 37. There are several hills along this section, my quads were really hurting, and my lower back began to tighten up. I knew that my legs didn’t hurt enough to threaten the race, but my back left me wondering whether or not I’d be able to finish. I tried to stretch a few times, but the tightness remained. Will yawned.

One of the many great things about running with Will is that he can serve as my running guinea pig. During this stretch of the race, I took in a lot of fluids and food and ended up feeling stuffed. Lucky for me, Will knows about stomach problems and diagnosed an S-Cap for me that really did help a lot. With the stomach problems taken care of, I could focus on the leg and lower back pain. My mind attempted to wander, but it was in vain as my thoughts kept returning to the realization that I was crashing and burning. But that didn’t seem to do it justice. I was hindenburging. Will took a single deep breath.

Mile 37 was akin to paradise. The support team was there and I got some crucial support: a pep talk from Hillary and a lower back rub from Rachid. This really did help boost my confidence and end my back tightness and the next few miles went really well and I was ecstatic to turn around at mile 40 and begin heading closer to the finish. Will shrugged his shoulders.

At this point, every step was getting us closer to the finish and I knew that I’d make it. Easy. 10 miles to go and we are getting into single digits. Wait a minute, isn’t that still 20% of the race.? Shut up brain! Just keep running. You’ll make it. Am I going crazy? Or am I just hindenburging. Will thought about eating races like this for breakfast.

Why am I doing this? Well, for the fans of course. During a painful Boston Marathon in 2010 in which I went out way too fast (it’s so much fun to run with Will that it’s hard to slow down), I really struggled and had to walk at a few points when my leg cramps were hurting the most. Each time I started running again, I got really good support from the fans. As it turned out, the night after the race, I had a dream in which I kept running because “I gotta do it for the fans!” I may not have fans, but I do have a support crew! Will thought about his blog readers.

The support crew arrived again in spectacular fashion at mile 43. It was really great to see them again to get a boost of motivation and back support before heading on our way. At this point, we were walking up every steep hill and most aid stations tended to be along road crossings. As a result, we would leave the aid station to boisterous cheers, run about 20 feet until we got into the trees and out of sight, and then start walking up the hill. Will thought about doing a training run later that afternoon.

We again hit the hilly section of the course from mile 43 to 47. The thoughts and songs that ran through my head during this section showed that I was improving. When we ran this section of the course from mile 33-37, all I could think of was the fact that I was hindenburging. On the way back, I kept singing “hurts so good/come on baby make it hurt so good/sometimes running don’t feel like it should.” At least it was a good pain at this point. In addition, Will and I also had a few rounds of “Higher and Higher” that are sure to keep any fatigued athlete montage-ing their way to the finish. Will sang AC/DC and “Higher and Higher” while I kept the pace slower and slower.

Coming out of the aid station at mile 47, I knew that in just a few short miles – about as long as the longest race I would have done in high school cross country – I would arrive at the finish. It was actually really fun to run this section. Despite the pain, knowing that I’d finish 50 miles did put several smiles on my face. I don’t know what pace we were running, but it was definitely slow enough to get a few smiles in. Will smiled because he loves running.

As we got closer to the finish, fans started appearing in small groups along the trail and I eagerly peeked around every corner hoping to see the finish. Finally, the finish arrived! I was moving so slowly at this point that I didn’t so much reach the finish line as it arrived at us. It was great to see the finish and the support team there with joyful smiles and hilarious signs. I definitely appreciate their support. And I hope they appreciate the fact that I did it for the fans.

In the end, we made it back to the dual start/finish area. As the bird flies, we technically traveled 0 feet. As crazy people run, we traveled 50 miles. All in all, it was a great day! But that’s the last time that I ask Will for directions.

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