Wednesday, September 21, 2011
Reach the Beach: Mission Accomplished!
We drove up to Paul's place on Lake Winni on Thursday evening...making the traditional stop at D"Angelo's on the way. We arrived at the cottage around 10:45PM and proceeded with finding out usual sleeping spots for the night. I sleep out on the screened porch with my sleeping bag. Captain Bill announces the winner of the music contest where we each try to guess who provided which song for the RTB motivational music CD. Then, Bill introduces each runner as they come up to sign their waiver. Each year the intros grow in length. It's all good fun!
This year Bill added a new award...The Rise of the Phoenix! It was a bid of a gag to sort of acknowledge my return from the near dead to run on the team this year. Fittingly, I was first runner up for the award as they actually gave it to Tim for having a bruise on his foot! Funny guys! Ironically, Tim was not able to finish the race the next day due to re-injuring the foot. I have a feeling he's a shoe in for the award next year too!
After a poor night sleep due to hurricane like winds, I readied myself for the big day. The ride to Cannon Mtn was uneventful. It was raining a bit, but clearing was expected. We checked in and hung out while our first runner prepared to start. Goat and I ran into our good friend Larry Mo who was running on another team. We took group photos and goofed around.
After the start, our Van drove to the first transition area and waited for our turn to run.
We ate lunch and killed some time decorating the van and checking out the other teams decorations and costumes. At the start, a young guy dressed as a toilet was assisting with pre-race warm-ups. Go figure!
Flo started us off around 6pm and we were on our way. Flo is solid and steady every year. Goat was second man up and ran a strong leg, then Pete was off and running. I was next...my first competitive run in a year. What would happen? I was nervous and very self-conscious of my awkward stride. I did my warm-up routine and felt OK. It was dark out, so I had my headlamp and mandatory neon vest with flashing lights. I took the hand-off from Pete and started down the road with any easy short stride with pretty decent turnover. I was running alone and was happy not to be in a crowd. I plugged along and wondered how long I could keep it together. This was a 5 mile leg (my longest of the 3). After about a mile, a decent runner passed me moving along with relative ease. I didn't even try to match his stride. The hills came quickly and I passed some folks moving slowly on the uphill. Yes, I passed a few! Unbelievable! The downhills were pretty painful and I was very tentative with my leg. I ran as hard as I dared. It was a tough leg, but I managed to run it at about 8:10/mile pace...not bad considering the hills. Two people passed me and I passed about 7 I think. I was very happy with the effort. The stride was still off, but at least I could run. It felt so good to be back out there!
Jane and Stan finished off their legs, and then we headed back to the cottage for a couple hours of sleep. Then, it was off to the next transition. We ran all night long. My second leg was just after sunrise. It was 3.7 miles. The first half mile was steep downhill and then it was fairly flat the rest of the way. Once again, I was tentative on the downhill. A young guy went blazing past me just after we got the hand off, and I was bummed to watch him stride so effortlessly. I just chugged along and passed a few nice ladies along the way. I tried to encourage everyone I passed. After awhile I noticed the young guy was holding steady about 100 yards in front of me. I wondered if I could catch up to him. Step by step I reeled him in just like the old days. At about the halfway mark I passed him. He was slowing quite a bit, so I just plowed along. I finished the leg with an average pace of about 7:30/mile which was much better than I had planned. Cool!
We pressed on through the day taking catnaps where we could. I wondered if I would be sore or what type of energy I would have for the last leg. It was getting warmer and I wanted to go home. Goat gutted out 3 great legs...I've never seen him run as well. Everyone seemed to be running well, but we all wanted to be finished with it.
My last leg started off flat. My stride took awhile to get settled, and I wondered how long it would stay stable. I passed a few people, but was having a hard time running into the wind. My stride puts a lot more stress on my calves and I was getting fatigued. I pressed on hoping to break 8min pace. I passed more people and kicked it in as best I could. I think I managed 7:45 pace for the leg, and was all smiles at the finish. Mission accomplished! Life was good!
Captain Bill did the usual thing at the finish giving each of us our shirts and medals. A few of us went down to the beach. I walked in the water a bit and watched Stan and Pete dive into the frigid waves (maximum shrinkage!).
We drove home and I wondered if this would be a launching point to further running improvements or whether I would consider it an accomplishment and turn my focus elsewhere. Hmmm...only time will tell. Another one was in the books. Great job Captain Bill and the Red Eye Runners! Love you all!
Tonight I ran the 3.7 miles at reservoir 6 as hard as I dared. My pace felt stronger and steadier than the last time I had run it with Goat. My time was under 29 minutes resulting in an average pace of 7:45/mile. It blows my mind in a way. How could it be so hard? I used to float along at that pace with minimal effort. I could run at that pace all day! Why is it so hard? Nevertheless, I was running and I did show improvement. A few months ago, even this pace seemed unimaginable. I guess I need to be patient and keep working it. It will come!
Thanks for reading and for all your support. It's been a great ride. A lot of ups and downs in the past year. I can't believe it's almost the one year anniversary of my accident. Here's to moving forward!
Enjoy the upcoming weekend!