Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Brew to Brew 2011 (My First Ultra)

I am "officially" an UltraRunner!

I apologize for the delay of a few days in between Sunday's running and actually sitting down to blog about my experience at Brew to Brew. Sunday was a travel day home (ok, technically a running day with a relatively small amount of travel), Monday was sort of a daze, and yesterday it hit me that I finished my first Ultra, so I was too giddy about the experience to sit down and write a blog.

Brew to Brew 2011. A 44 mile (technically 43.5 this year) Solo or Relay run from Boulevard Brewery in Kansas City to the Free State Brewery in Lawrence, KS.

Brew to Brew. Get it?
As some mental preparation Friday night, I enjoyed both a beer from Boulevard, followed by a beer from Free State. Ok, who am I kidding? I signed up for this event many months ago, and ever since then I have been unable to have a Boulevard Beer without a Free State Beer. And they had to be in that order. And finished in the same day. It seemed to be bad juju to either split them up or drink them backwards. 

Saturday morning my husband ("my Scott") and I took our three little girls and dropped them off at Grandma and Grandpa's house, then we made the trek to KC with Coach Scott and Jenn. Picked up race packets, got really excited. (And nervous.) Went to dinner where I was silent and nervous and freaking out a little until Jenn gave me the green light to drink a glass of wine. Ahhhhhh. Much better. Two glasses later, I was really excited for what was to come on Sunday. Went to hotel, laid everything out for the event, had a terrible night of sleep. There are really cute pictures of our group from Saturday, but none on my camera (that is how abnormal I was based on nerves) and I got tired of waiting to get the pictures so I could put them in the recap. Hopefully I'll receive some of the pictures someday so I can add them to this post. Hint, Hint.

Nerves were back Sunday morning. Anxious about the distance. Anxious about the weather conditions. (High of 85 degrees with 35mph winds. With gusts much higher. Turns out, they weren't kidding.) Anxious, honestly, that I would hate Ultras. This potential disaster would royally suck since I signed up for my first 100 miler before ever having completed an Ultra of any distance.

Despite the nerves, there were jumping pictures to be had. Coach Scott and I had our "Team" picture together, despite us not being part of a Team. I'll add those pictures in, also, once I purchase from the photographer. (Can't buy digital photos online...have to send a check. Odd.) Coach Scott also joked that the reason I had to do the event solo was because no one wanted me on their team. Or maybe he was being serious...

We started off at 6am on the dot. The first several miles were weird. A set of stairs to go down. Rocks to climb. A rock wall that probably wasn't high for taller people, but that I thought would take me out. And then random hills with rocks. I guess were climbing up and down a Levee? All of that was much better when the sun was up. They weren't bad miles...just different. My plan to be very conservative and to take walk breaks every 2 miles was going beautifully. The wind was very strong, but the temps were decent.

Met Jenn at Station 2 (9 miles). She gave me a bottle of Accelerade which hadn't exactly been my plan, but the water was tasting nasty and I had already missed the first aid station on account of not understanding that it was an aid station. Next time I do this event, it will be really nice to "know" what I'm doing. Regardless, the Accelerade was a great change, and I also consumed a few crackers.

I think it was when I was near the half marathon mark where I felt really really not good about things. I let the distance get into my head. I had a random pain in my shin and I let that get to me. (It was gone 1/2 mile later and never came back....but it still messed with my head.) I realized I wasn't even 1/3 of the way done at 13.1 miles. Seriously got concerned about my ability to do an Ultra. Really, I think I just needed to have a moment, and to press through and keep going. I struggled with these thoughts for several miles.

I can't remember what happened when I saw Jenn at Station 4. Other than she said she'd see me at Station 6, I believe I put sunscreen on my face, and I think I had a PB&J at that point.

Coming up on Station 5, I saw my new friend Amanda. I met her the weekend before at the Dallas 1/2, and seeing her and getting a hug from her was a very welcome moment. I continued into the aid station, thinking it was actually station 6 and that I would be seeing Jenn again...sadly, no Jenn, and sadly was quite bummed to learn I was still miles away from station 6. Enjoyed my first boiled potato with salt, though, and it was truly as amazing as I had imagined it would be. Between seeing Amanda and eating that potato, I think that's all that got me through.

Finally saw Jenn at the real Station 6. I think this was the station where I was really irritated by the long port-a-potty lines, as no one using them was even running. I am typically so happy-go-lucky and sunshine and roses, so this crabbiness was making me more crabby. Had some Pringles, applied sunscreen, had a few big pretzels. Switched out bottles, etc. All the good stuff. And came to terms with the fact that I was doing ok. I stopped at Station 6b (literally 1/2 mile down the road) and my post-baby bladder needed to be emptied a little more. And after those stations, I started singing to myself until I realized it was jacking with my heart rate. It can get pretty lonely out there.

There are so many things I remember, but can't remember exactly where/when they happened. For instance, there were beautiful old cemeteries that I didn't have the will to take pictures of, though I'll remember them in my mind forever. And a big, beautiful limestone house that was up on a hill and overlooked the river beyond the other side of the road. It was just gorgeous. There was also a river crossing, by boat. That was interesting. Here's a picture of me hiking up the hill on the other side of the river.

At Station 8, I got to see both Coach Scott and Jenn. This was the best thing ever because it mean Coach Scott was finished already - and took 4th place over all. Love it! Huge congrats to him. Reapplied the sunscreen. I'm sure I ate something. At this point, Jenn decided to jump in and run with me, since Coach Scott was available to crew. It was nice to have company. I believe I was around 9 miles from the end at this point. It was so so so hot.

It was during this leg that our friend Aaron caught up to us. He was running on one of the Joggers and Lagers (local running club) teams, and his humor was very welcome. There are many people who I will not forget from this first event, and he's one of them. I feel bad, though. It was slow going. Hilly, so lots of walking.

Made it to Station 9 and was greeted by Coach Scott carrying his Ultra Kit, my Ultra Kit (aka: a darling Lululemon Bag) and I realized then I still had a while to go before hitting the actual aid station. Got there, briefly saw my friend Candace who was the final leg for a J&L team, and changed into shorts. I never ever (ok, very rarely) run in shorts. But it was so hot, I was desperate. Was a good call. Temp was 92 degrees (gotta love record highs!) and the last leg took me a billion years to finish. Terrible wind, full sun, and between Jenn and I we went through three bottles of fluid...with more than a mile left before the finish. Definitely could have used another aid station during that time. But really, it was the fault of the heat, not the fault of the Brew to Brew people.

I struggled with an urge to throw up the last several miles. I was just hot. We got in a short rhythm of walking one pole, jogging three poles, walking again. But by the end, there just wasn't much of anything besides moving forward. I never felt like stopping, but I did feel like not wanting to run anymore. When we finally reached the bridge, I started jogging again, as the finish was pretty close. When I saw the place where I was to turn into the finish, I will admit, I did tear up. Didn't cry, though...didn't have enough fluid in my body to make any tears...

I love this picture, as it captured Coach Scott (in the yellow) and one of my most dear friends, Michele, cheering me in.

Felt rotten after, got my medal and a banana. Banana went down ok, PB&J that I attemped - yuck. Got to see my Scott finish his leg for the other J&L team. He was looking pretty rough. Everyone was looking pretty rough. It was just way too hot.  One of my favorite memories from this event was having so many friends around me. I was sitting on the ground, they were all standing around me. It is forever etched in my mind, and it was so special to have each of them there for me at the finish.

Cute medals for Solo finishers.
All in all, I loved it. I'm so happy that I finished and finished still wanting to do my 100 miler in October.  My soreness is mostly gone, but my left ankle is sore, like it was when I started running. It went away on its own last year, just a little tenderness and is a tendonitis, not a broken anything. I'm very pleased with how I recovered from the Ultra, as it really could have been much worse based on the conditions.

On our way home (after a quick shower and some Mexican food) I got this picture text from my friends and their new baby - it made my day:

David was cheering us on from afar!

The official results aren't posted, but my watch said 9:27:21. Brew to Brew is odd in that you can deduct time for waiting for the boat, waiting for trains, and I also get a 2min/leg handicap...but really, I was out there for almost 9.5 hours, so it is what it is. I've got nothing to compare it to, and I freaking finished! Yahoooooooo!

Giant thanks to Jenn for being the best crew chief ever. I know I will be very well taken care of at Heartland. Plus, she jumped in and ran at the end, so she's obviously also a great pacer! And to Coach Scott, who is now officially just my training partner, and not my "Coach". (Coach is now merely a formal term to differentiate him from my Scott.) And to my Scott, who is the most supportive husband in the universe. And to my parents and my sister for taking care of the girls so we could be gone. To every friend who logged miles with me and/or supported me and believed in me - you are all awesome - and you know who you are.

Great memories. Excited to continue on as an UltraRunner.