A couple of facts I've known for awhile have become more dominant of late: my ability to deal with heat and humidity has never been good, but of late, it has become worse. After having suffered through a miserable Texas summer and fall in which my energy and ability have plummeted to record lows, I have been relieved to feel a runner's high once again as the temps have dropped. A 50 in Oct at Cactus Rose, 70 in Nov at Big Cedar, 40 in Dec at the Circus, and then in Jan 62 at Bandera have all been above the level of my limitations. I have high hopes that Rocky 100 in Feb, and Tinejas 100k in Mar will also occur at a reasonable temp, but I know enough now to abandon the attempt if the temp rises. So, I seem to be able to run any damn thing I want... as long as it's not hot. With that understanding, I registered for the 50 at Goodwater. I wasn't planning on 50 miles today, but I need a run and the 5am start is attractive. The Marathon starts hours later and I don't feel like waiting. it's already understood, if the weather becomes non-joe-friendly, I'll pull the plug and wait for the rest of the family to finish the 16 miler. I have options.
The cloud covered sky at 5am casts everything darker than dark, and the fog cover lake saturates my clothes with humidity soon after. This is not a good omen. Without a quick cooling breeze or a rapid drop in temp, I may already be done. The evil conscious on my shoulder begins talking to me immediately: 'what they hell were you thinking? - signing up for this'. But, its early and I'm still strong enough to ignore the evil bastard.
Water bottle loaded with Tailwind and side-pocket with gels and bloks, I follow the pack of 15 people. Without a clear leader, Nancy moves out front and stays there til she misses a turn. When she does, all of us go by, and I lockup with 3 others and pull ahead. I carry my headlamp low in my hand. I feel I see much better and trip a lot less if I simply take the headlamp from my head and put it in hand. As rugged as it is and as slick as the wet rocks are, a minor slip could have disastrous results very quickly, so its important I see everything well. We're not running very fast, but all of us are moving efficiently, staying as constant on the descents and turns as we are on the straits and flats. I'm having fun with this, but I can already feel the wetness on my clothes and skin.
Our foursome loses the others quickly. I check behind me a few times for lights, and there are none. At the first water station. Joe and Randi stop while Chris and I don't. Minutes later, Joe catches us and passes, then Randi catches on and I back off. I need to be careful now and not get caught up in their rhythm. Michael catches me next and we both find the others standing mid-trail, uncertain about the trail. I roll past, thinking to solve the question by going a little further. As Michael and I pass a bathroom, we find an arrow pointing right, so we go right. We don't realize right away, but we went the wrong way while the others behind us, made the right choice. They tried to get our attention, but we miss the call, and kept on going the wrong way... til we bumped into Nancy coming from the opposite direction. We know instantly when we see her, but don't know how until we go back the way we came to the missed point. Turns out, our entire pack missed a turn just before the bathroom and cut the course, and by running the out-n-back, we accidentally fix what we missed. So, of our original 4-pack, 3 were gone ahead, and I'm now with Michael, Nancy, and another woman. We reach the aid station by the dam next, cross the dam, and another mile of paved road, which sucks the soul right out of me. Michael and the other go ahead, as I soak up the suck from the road, and Nancy falls back with me. She runs here all the time and knows the route, so I stick with her for a bit, especially after my recent mishap. It's not til we we're back on trail when I pull ahead and go alone for the first time today.
Its interesting how something so simply as a minor detour can screw with my natural rhythm and knock me completely out of what was so easy prior to the hiccup. I suddenly realize how tired I am, an uncomfortable chafing under my arms now exists and irritates, and more than a few body muscles start talking in a very unfriendly and demanding tone: 'my neck hurts', 'I feel bloated', 'my toes throb'. My legs suddenly realize the rocks are slippery and uneven, so I begin slide off and torque awkwardly. They begin to announce every tendon and muscle activation, yelling: 'hey Asshole - back the hell off', 'you should walk', and 'dump the debris out of my shoes NOW!' I try to ignore them, even try running longer, but they will not be denied, so I'm walking when M.J. catches me. I decide to hook on and run with her, hoping to silence the critics, but it doesn't last long, as I stagger-bonk down to the body complaints once more. 'Its a hill anyway', I use as my excuse, but it's total bullshit which I swallow whole. Last I see M.J. she's on the other side of a draw and not that far, til I figure the draw is tucked in a lot further than I assume and she's actually already a good damned long way ahead. I'm pissed now and for no good reason whatsoever. Logic and reason are getting their asses kicked by emotion and petty feelings. Fuck this! I start running again... for a hundred yards, and then a power outage. I try again... with the same result. Ok, so lets try to work with what I got, so I come to terms with a walk/run/stagger/crash/burn and repeat that seems to go surprisingly well.
Crossing over one pretty good-sized riser, I come up on a family, and as much as they yell at their little girl to step out of the way, she continues to run down the center of the trail away from me. I cant get past her so I slow to a walk behind her. They are apologetic and tell me more than a few 'sorries', but its kind of funny and I tell them 'its no big deal'. 'It aint like I'm moving fast' and it does make me laugh, so its good - right?! Its right about there, the trail finally decides to quit being a nasty bed of rocks, as if my laugh chases the rocks and leaves behind a sweet smooth surface. The trail is covered in grass and moss of different types and shades of green, translucent in the light mist. The trail straitens out too, going for long stretches of strait and flat. Hell, if I only had agreeable legs, this could be run, but my walk/run continues, more walk than run. I get to the 5mi-from-the-finish aid station, and they have a chair, so my body tells me to sit in it. I have a tall drink of coke while I eat a banana and they remove my trash, which is all I have left of my food. I ate everything and as much as I've fed myself, I suspect my legs didn't get a single calorie, all of it going to power my emotions.
I check my GPS for time and distance. Neither have changed in the last hour... it seems. More likely, it's only been a few seconds, but each time I check, the changes are minimal. My emotions which are now in charge start playing some sort of weird logic game with all this, which is funny, because emotions work logic like a 3-year-old. I quit checking the GPS after a bit because I cant understand what I read. Marathoners start passing and I know most of them, so I talk with each as they flash by. I havent seen any other 50 milers since MJ going in the same direction as me, but the lead 50 miler does pass me going in the other direction on his 2nd loop.
The sun has come out, been out for a bit, but I just realize it. I hate running in the heat, and this empowers my legs to completely cave: 'were walking this bitch in from here', and I dont even argue. The river crossing is so glorious, I walk proudly right out into the middle and stop. This water is damned cold. My legs begin to tingle, so I continue on across, but even this doesn't bust me loose, so I keep walking.
I dont see the 2nd 50 miler til I'm inside 2 miles, but there aint that many 50 milers and only a few in front of me. Then I begin to see all of them, the ones I ran with, and all the others. I thought they were behind me. I see Chris, who I ran with for the first 8 miles and both he and I are confused by this fact. Only thing I can figure is, besides the little hiccup we did, which was such that I would have seen the others, is maybe we ran something extra somewhere in the dark, because everybody is in front of us and very few passed. The more I think about it, the more I think it must be so, not that my thinking is all aces right now: duces maybe!
Somewhere between me getting turned around and the last mile, I decided I was NOT doing the 2nd loop, which locked in the WALK status. It's rather easy to walk in, announce my decision, and then sit to wait for Joyce and the others. I'm happy! I'm done! I'm sitting in the shade drinking a cold beer, sandals on my feet, dry clean clothes on my body, and nothing to do or think for just long enough to convince myself: Life is Good