Monday, March 7, 2011

Post Oak Challenge: Part 2

To recap: We finished our trail run. Yay!

After cleaning up, we enjoyed a few hours in Tulsa for Abuelos and a visit to the local running store. We made it back in time to rest a bit before heading to night two of pasta dinners at the Lodge. Had some time to visit with our neighbors, as well. Such nice guys. Again, I love runners.

Pasta dinner did not disappoint the second time around. Lasagna was on the menu, including a very delicious vegetarian version. I was very well fed. Dessert was awesome. Randy Ellis spoke the second night as well, and this time talked about many of the runners who were there that weekend. (Including a woman who had brain cancer, previously. And a woman who was a breast cancer survivor. Think you can't do certain things? Well, you can. True story. So inspiring, what people overcome.)

After the dinner, we sat around and talked with many of the runners we had met previously. I cannot hit on the fact, again, that this weekend was set up so wonderfully. Especially if you were staying on property. It was awesome to spend an entire weekend seeing the same people, hearing their plans for their runs, and also getting to talk to them about everything afterward. Did I mention I love runners?

I was finally able to visit with Johnny Spriggs, the race director. He was so kind. As I mentioned in  Part 1, I had been in contact with him via email several times pre-Post Oak Challenge weekend. We really connected when he told me he has done Heartland before, and he had some really wonderful things to say about the event. Michele was able to talk to him some about pacing me during my last 17 miles of the 100 at Heartland, and he was just an all-around nice guy. His wife was very nice, as well.

Nickki, Michele, Myself, Johnny Spriggs
We also stopped to look at the race maps. All races for Sunday were out and back, so really the marathoners had it easiest, as we at least had mostly-flat to "rest" for many miles. The half marathoners (including Nickki and Michele) had a little less flat, and the quarter marathoners really got spanked by literally going down the hills, and then turning around and going right back up. Ouch.

Saturday Trail Map/Sunday "Troad" Map
We went back to our room and started getting settled in. I heard Nickki and Michele talking about something, and then Nickki said, "Hannah? Are you afraid of bugs?" I walked into the room, and I saw my newest roommate, a scorpion. Gross. Out. At this point, we turned back into the non-trail running wimps that we are, and Guy and Rick came to save the day. Gross. Gross. Gross.

Our Roommate
Despite the scorpion incident, I actually slept very well Saturday night. I woke up every 2 hours on the dot, but was able to get right back to sleep. I hadn't noticed too much soreness after the trail run, until I got up to the bathroom. I took a step and thought, "Oh crap. This marathon is going to hurt."

We got up and got ourselves ready for Day #2 of the Post Oak Challenge. We again debated based on the weather, as it was currently 56 degrees at 7am. What the heck? And 86% humidity. Ouch. I kept thinking I wanted a short-sleeved shirt under my outer layer, but they assured me a tank-top was the better choice. They were so right.

 Nickki and Michele joined me at the main Lodge to bid me farewell, despite their run starting later than mine. Such sweet friends I have.

Nickki, Myself, Michele. Matchy-matchy-matchy, all unintentional.

I told my friends Jenn and Scott that I planned to either PR or run myself so hard into "the wall" that I was reduced to walking the last 8 miles of the marathon. Obviously door #2 was the likelier event, given my current level of soreness.

We started off fast, as it was downhill. But, it was steep downhill. Very steep. Steep enough I was pretty sure I was going to fall. I talked with a woman from Iowa who had done the 25k the day before, and kept in pace with her for a while. She was feeling way stronger than I was, so I fell in pace with a woman named Laurie from Colorado. It is easy to make friends while running. We talked about marathons, about 100 milers (Laurie has paced several people through the Leadville Trail 100), and anytime anyone mentions any 100 miler, it causes me to geek out. I was giddy, and she was a fabulous person to keep my mind occupied.

The miles were clicking by, quickly. I think some of our miles were fast because there were so many big dogs roaming the route. They were unchained and not fenced in. What the heck, Oklahoma? Scary stuff. (Actually, the guy Nickki and Michele ran with was attacked by one of the dogs. Not terribly, but nonetheless, a dog got up on him. Scary.) I would occasionally look down at my Garmin, call myself a total dumbass for running the pace I was running, but ignored it and kept going. We hit our first half in 2:02:something. Wow. I was pleased with that (and scared for my life). Our previous few miles had slowed some (9:30-9:40) and I was questioning my sanity, but was positive about my stupidity. It was very very very muggy, very hot, very windy, but overall still enjoying the pain.

At mile 17 I stopped to use the bathroom. It cost me a lot of time, though I am not sure why. Maybe I just needed the break. I sent Laurie on, and told her I'd catch up. That didn't really happen for a while. I was still sub-10, until I caught Laurie at mile 19+, and that's when it all started to go downhill.

Mile 20 was my first mile over a 10/min mile. We came to a water stop at mile 22(ish?). I was not feeling good at all. They had pretzels, and I took a handful, and sent Laurie on. I told her I would be walking the rest of the way, and if not walking, I would be dying. She hesitated going ahead, but ultimately the walking was just to rough on her body. She told me to try to alternate walking and jogging, just to try to get there faster and off my feet. The world was spinning around me. I was at the worst possible place on the course to be weaving and not with it, as there was absolutely no shoulder on the road. I was walking on the white line at the side, cars whizzing by, and I really couldn't do anything about it other than to not close my eyes and lay down like I felt like doing.

The pretzels (and another gel) helped. So did chugging water. I wanted to keep walking, but I came up on a volunteer who had stopped traffic for me, and I felt like I could at least attempt to speed up, just for their sakes. So, I jogged, just to get through the intersection. Then I walked. A while later, I saw another volunteer who asked me if I was ok. I was around mile 22.5 or something, so I was pretty sure I was going to finish, even if it meant walking the rest of the way. I could see Laurie way ahead, and just kept her in my sights. Before we turned the corner to head toward the Lodge (mile 23?) we had yet another dog run in. I could see the guy ahead of Laurie about to get eaten by the giant beast, I saw him pass and he kept a lookout as Laurie passed the rabid mongrel, and then I realized there was no one watching to see if I got eaten. I decided to cross the road, pray that cars would drive by, and attempted a slow run. It was very helpful, and felt pretty good. Plus, it got me away from the dog a teeny tiny bit faster. (Seriously, Oklahoma. What is up with there being large dogs roaming around and freaking people out. Not ok.)

As soon as I turned the corner to head toward the Lodge, I knew it was uphill from there. Rather, rolling hills and then an enormous uphill. At this point, I knew that it was the perfect time to practice for my ultras. I walked every uphill and jogged the flats and downhills. It was fabulous mental training, and for that I am very thankful. I was even bargaining with myself and picking spots on the road, knowing I could stop running at those spots. Notice how there are no cute pictures in Part 2? That is because I couldn't take any. I was running too hard before I got bonkalicious, and at this point, I was way too woozy. I did text Nickki to tell her where I was, and that I'd be walking. I misspelled every word, but I think she got the point...that I wasn't doing well. My face was caked with salt.

I was still thanking every single volunteer I came upon the entire time, even when I was walking all crazy and seeing stars. Seeing them was amazing, as I don't think there was one spectator on the course. It wasn't bad at all, but it did make me even more thankful for those who had given their time to be out there for us. Dogs do not count as spectators, even if they do weigh more than me. 

By some act of God, I did end up catching up to Laurie after we turned onto the road at the Post Oak Lodge. This was where the hills went from rolling to just plain mean. There was even a sign that said, "The Hill from Hell". Laurie and I hiked up it, which was a welcome change for my quads, as I thought they would explode at any moment. They were not ok. But my glutes were ready for some action, and that is the only reason I made it up that bad boy. We finished all smiles, and with hand-holding. Yay!

(Barely) Survived the Post Oak Challenge. Happy!
I finished in 4:27:57. I was very pleased with the time, given the effort the day before, and the giant wall that spanked me into submission. I loved it. I went out too fast, I hurt, I came back and was able to finish. Though I knew there was no way I could drive home.

I am now a huge believer in recovery being an important aspect of any distance event. I was able to eat within 10 minutes of finishing (bring on that vegetarian chili again, yum!) and went from feeling like I couldn't drive, to feeling better and able to drive, to feeling really really awesome. I also discovered that I was first place in my age group. Even more fitting, though, was that I don't like the idea of "beating" I was really really happy when I realized I was also the only person in my age group. Love it.

All in all, the weekend was perfect (my only complaint would be the dogs). Perfect location, beautiful property, great place to stay, food was amazing, events were all well-run. I am very thankful to Johnny Spriggs and all of the people who were volunteers, who helped plan, who were involved in any aspect of the weekend, including all of the runners. We will be back, year after year. It was one of the most fun and enjoyable running weekends I've ever had. It is a fact, I haven't had that many...but this one was truly awesome.

And now, time to get mentally prepared for running another marathon in Oklahoma in less than 2 weeks! Fun, though - I know at least one of the guys running, because I met him at Post Oak. The running world is getting very very small. I think it is awesome.

Have a great week!