Friday, August 26, 2011

Howl at the Moon

I have very good reason for waiting "so long" to update you all about my 8 hour ultra. Am I going to tell you That is for another post. Here I am though, I actually skipped going to the high school open house so I could be home this evening. Free evenings with "nothing" to do are a rare happening so I decided to go for it. High school will carry on and I am still a good parent : )

As I mentioned in a previous post I traveled alone to my race. I was the only one from my area crazy courageous enough to tackle this feat. Which is fine, cause, if it ain't your thing....we don't want you there anyway. However I was not alone at all once I got there. My wonderful hometown of Muscatine, IA has a running group that is top notch. Since I race there often and proudly claim them they include me in their group even though I haven't lived there for *gasp* 17 years. In the past there has been a large group of them to travel & participate in Howl. This year there was only a few of them. We all still banded together & represented the club well. They did a great job of helping & taking care of me, the "baby" of the group.

I got set up right away with my camp. I had to borrow a tent (thank you Kathryn & Julia) since I don't own one. In fact, I had not slept in a tent since my Army basic training/AIT days. I tried to once, back in '97, while on a camping trip with the youth group. But the frogs were SO LOUD, I could not sleep at all & ended up sleeping in our van. I am happy to report that I survived this night just fine. There wasn't a frog in earshot : ) Aside from a little trouble getting to sleep I slept like a baby.

Then we lounged around camp, enjoying each others company.  Forgive the Packer's wasn't mine.

Baby Howl: the night before the big race, they allow participants & really anyone to go out & complete 1 loop of the course. It's just for fun. You can walk or run. They have a finishers prize for everyone. I actually ran, well....lightly jogged my loop. Only because I wanted to calibrate my ipod to my pace. Everyone else walked. We had fun and wished we could have counted that loop to our final mileage the next day.

Then we mosey-ed on into town for supper. We found a Monicals. None of us had ever eaten there before, but it looked pasta-ish so we decided to try it out. I ordered the ravioli and had quite the celestial out of body experience because that was the BEST ravioli that I had EVER HAD!!!! No lie. The white cheese filling, the mozzarella & cheddar cheese melted on top and with BAAAACON and tomatoes! It's no secret that I love food, but man, eating that was a whole new experience. It was sort of like, excuse me while ravioli & I have a private moment here. I'm drooling now just thinking about it.

After a good nights sleep we were all up at the crack of dawn to get ready for our 7 a.m. start. Here I am bright eyed & bushy tailed, ready to go.

Fast forward 8 hours & here I am at the finish. Even I scratch my head a little at the realization that I am always smiling....doesn't matter if I'm getting ready to start or just finished a grueling 8 hours. If I'm in that running mind set, I'm smiling. Further proof, that running just makes me happy. Not that any of you question or doubt that.

My race started out slow. To go back & correct myself from a previous post, each loop is 3.29 miles. I felt sluggish my first 2 loops. Starting slow (by that I mean a 9 min. pace) is not a bad thing, especially when you have 8 hours to go. I was still finishing my loops in under 30 minutes so I wasn't complaining too much.

Goals: So I have different stages/levels of goals that I keep in mind. Yes, this is one of those things that I think about during 8 hours of running. There is my perfect goal: that I finish all of my laps in under 30 minutes. That would be flippin' awesome. That would mean I would complete 16 laps and 52.64 miles. That would match the course record. Yes, I reason with myself I CAN DO THAT!

The thing about goals is that they change. Quite honestly because I mentally make most of them, no one knows if I'm going to reach them or not. It's just a personal accountability thing. Or a big fat dream. Hey, nothing wrong with dreaming. I wrote a poem years ago about dreams. I should go look that up. My goal eventually changed through out the day from breaking the course record, to finishing at least 40 miles (my original stated goal), to at least finishing more miles than I had last year. I knew at the very least I could reach that bottom goal. For now though I was fixated on goal #1.

On laps 3 & 4 I really got my groove on. I was sailing along and moved my pace up to a solid 8 minute mile. I even grabbed an apple and happily munched while I headed out with such liveliness. I was at this point, ahead of where I was wanting to be. When I passed by the start/finish I saw the big clock that showed a count down of the 8 hours. I was not only under my 30 minute per lap goal, but I had an extra 15 - 20 minutes to spare. By this point I had roughly finished a half marathon distance. I know that I can handle that distance on any given day with my current general fitness level. Just walk out the door and run, no problem.

PUBLIC ENEMY #1: the heat. By this point and as I headed into laps 5 & 6, some things were beginning to wear on me. I began to feel my pace slow back down to the 9 then eventually 10 minute pace. First off, which I think was the bigger of the two factors, was the heat. Although it really wasn't too terribly hot. The temps hovered at 83 degrees. The sun though was out full strength. There was very little to no shade out on the course. This effected me a lot because I do almost all of my training/running in the predawn hours. I had a lot of hot, extremely muggy temps that I ran in this summer, but not much of it was in the sunlight. I was well aware that my core body temperature was up and I was in essence overheating. This is a key factor where running can turn dangerous. I was extremely proactive though and took in a boat load of fluids. I took full advantage of the aid station half way through the loop and always stopped at camp each time around.

I don't think I stopped for any more than 5 minutes during the whole 8 hours. Those stops were always at base camp. I grabbed chunks of ice and shoved it down my shirt, front & back. Another chunk to rub along my face and suck on while I headed back out again. I drank a lot of ice cold Gatorade and water. It was so cold that I could instantly, but only temporarily, feel my body temperature plummet back down. That always brought on a massive brain freeze. It was worth it though.

Heading out into lap 7 I was really hurting for some relief. Yet, I continued to push on. This got me thinking about why else I was struggling. That would be my lack of training miles. I already touched base on this in a previous post. Yes I ran a half and full marathon this past spring. Yet, as of the end of April when I ran that marathon, I had not run any more than 9 miles up until Howl. You don't have to be a running genius to know that is not enough training miles for what I was wanting to accomplish. I am fully aware that my natural running talent can only take me so far. So it was beginning to all crumble around me. I wasn't too far into lap 7 when I realized that I was not even really "running" but shuffling along in a bit of a daze. My body was screaming for relief. I initially tried to push along, but realized I was making it worse. I came to a complete stop then made a bargain with myself. Walk this lap, get back to base, fuel up really good, take in a dose of ibuprofen and then head back out. So that it was I did.

It took me almost an hour to finish that loop. My pride was hurting a little, I had a lot of mini mental battles going on within me. But I knew that is what I had to do. I tried to just enjoy the moment. I sang out loud, I encouraged other runners, I smiled at each person that I passed. Really, if I can't enjoy it, even the dark, down, hellish side of it all then I should pack up & just go home. Once I got back to base I took a mucho grande dose of ibuprofen (1000 mg) and took extra time to refuel & rehydrate. So I guess, I have to retract my previous statement of 5 minutes, I probably took 15 at this stop. I was determined to push on.

Laps 8 - 11 went much better. Much to the credit of my little bff ibuprofen. I was still fighting the heat effect on my body. Yet I ran each of those loops, but at a much slower pace. By now I was settled down into a 12 minute pace. Normally, for me, that is a painfully slow make my skin crawl pace. Yet at the time I felt like I was chuggin along at a good pace. It literally was the best my body could put out at the time.

Mantra: By now I was deep into the mental aspect of doing what I do. I was beyond just running and not thinking about it. My body was on auto pilot, but my mind was digging deep and thinking everything imaginable in terms of my running. A few things kept me going. If pain is weakness leaving the body....I have A LOT of weakness. I was, in fact, in a lot of pain. My body hurt in so many different ways and was SCREAMING for relief. Yet, I refused to give in to the notion of just stopping. I didn't even entertain the thought. At my pit stops I never sat down. Oh no, big no - no. I was literally on my feet those whole 8 hours.

I know you all think I am some superstar, immortal running goddess. (what?!??! you don't). Ok, so let me rephrase, I know many of you stand in awe of what I do. It may come from just not understanding my stupidity passion about running. It may come from having a deep respect for me and what I accomplish...doesn't matter if I run 3 miles or 300. I have my people that I stand in awe of, that are really just everyday humans. I've come down a long hard road to understand that I am that to some of you....even though I'm just an everyday human. I'm not even #1 yet some of you help me feel like I'm of Olympic quality. THIS is what helps move me and push me through my long hard miles.

I also thought on my family, my children. You know, I've labored and done much harder grueling work giving birth than running for 8 hours. If I can push out & give birth to 6 babies naturally, by golly I can certainly complete this race. I had a few mental moments were I had to slap myself silly and straighten myself to get back on track and keep pushing on through the miles.

After lap 11 there was roughly 30 minutes left. At that point they open up the out & back course. It's a little 1/2 mile loop that you can run as many times as you want. They give you a little straw or Popsicle stick to mark for each loop you complete. I really....REALLY wanted to quit at this point. I had at least reached that bottom goal. Yet that was still not enough and I knew that if I did not leave without giving 110% then I would forever regret this day at that moment. (There is a deeper psychological issue here that explains why I am this way, will have to save that for anther post). So I pushed on and ran until I had no more time left and I felt like I could not take another step.  I had finished 38.19 miles for this year's Howl at the Moon.

That is when you know you have had a good run/race. If you finish without an ounce left in doesn't matter how far or how fast/slow you ran or if you were first or last. You ran your BEST for that day and that time and that MAKES YOU A WINNER!

Once I got back to camp I was literally ready to collapse.  My body temp was still soaring.  Having used every ounce of energy I felt weak, light headed & ready to pass out.  Yet mentally I was all psyched out, smiling & laughing with the group.  I finally felt I deserved to sit & relax a little bit.  Forgive my un-lady likeness in the picture.  I should have crossed my legs & tried to look dainty & feminine.  Really though just trying to not pass out was taking all my energy.

We finally got showered, ate some fried chicken & fixings and enjoyed the award ceremony. At Howl at the Moon it's all about your personal goal and what YOU accomplished for the day. Yes, they figure out & announce who accomplished what, but they also do a great job at making sure everyone is a winner.  I got a medal for reaching my goal.  When you sign up for the race  you  have to put down a race goal.  You could be a real smart alec and put 1 mile and it would guarantee you to be a winner in that area.  I had put 40 and so in that aspect I didn't reach my goal.  When the race director announced it he said "if you ran as many miles as you put down or if you got close or HECK IF YOU RAN YOUR HEART OUT come get a medal!"  So I did.  I also placed 3 in my division of Open Female (age 40 & under).

I knew from last year that there was ANOTHER Carmin Peterson (note she does spell her name with an "i" where mine is a "e", but it's said the same). So we found each other and had our picture taken. Her boyfriend joked that "great, if one Carmen Peterson isn't enough....there is TWO!"

I went back to camp and with the great help of my Muscatine Running Friends we got all of my stuff packed up into my car.  Just in the nick of time.  A storm was rolling in.  Literally as I pulled out the first few drops of rain began to come down and within a few minutes a big storm came rolling through.  They took this picture about 5 minutes after I had left. 

Thank for bearing with me in this rather lenghty report on Howl at the Moon. I try to keep my words to a minimum when I post. This was just so big though I had to get it all written down.  Even as I re-read through this before hitting post I can think of several things I meant to tell you about.  I will just have to save it for future posts.  A lot of this all flows out into my running in general so I can always tell you about it another day. Personally, if a single person doesn't read it, then at least I have it here for me. I will leave you with some words of wisdom from the officials at the Howl at the Moon.

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