I’ve been trying to finish this blog up for several days, but in my advancing years, nothing happens as fast as it used to. I turned 50 on August 1st and decided to commemorate it with a 50 mile run. As the run would be without Supercrew Jeanne, I figured a loop route that had a few opportunities to get water. I read somewhere about a person than did a similar birthday miles run and on each mile, reflected on the corresponding year in their life. While that is cool, I wasn’t doing that, there’s too much better shit to think about.
My plan was for a 5:30 AM start, but I woke up with an unsettled stomach and didn’t want to start out a whole day of running looking for a bathroom. It was close to 6:00 before I headed out the door and was met by a deer, in the middle of the street, just in front of the house. Our backyard is on the deer superhighway through the neighborhood but I usually only see the tracks through the garden and notice the leaves missing. Despite my delayed start I still ended up making a bathroom stop at mile 2. If my legs gave me as much problems as my stomach does, I would quit running.
|It certainly is.|
The first 10 miles took me from Dallas to Independence. I really didn’t have much of a goal time, other than giving people some rough estimates of where I might be at a given time. Still, I like to get the early part of long run done on a schedule, as you never know what can happen later. I was pretty steady and on pace through Independence but my stomach still wasn’t cooperating. I really got lucky on the weather, it was overcast and in the 70’s the whole day. I’m sure if it had been hotter, the nausea I battled would have been much worse. I made a quick bathroom stop and water refill at the McDonalds in Independence, (they are good for something) and then headed towards the Buena Vista Ferry.
It’s 10 miles to the Ferry and then another 12 to Salem before I had any reliable places to refill water. I stashed a bottle of Infinit, a bottle of water and a granola bar at the ferry. At about mile 15 I had my only real moment of doubt and truth. My stomach was really unsettled and I was already establishing a recognized pattern of not fueling enough. I didn’t trust eating much more but knew that if I didn’t, the next 17 miles could get pretty ugly. I thought through the option of heading back, that would put me back in a town in 5 miles, I could rest, have a bathroom available, regroup and if I felt up to it, figure out a different remaining 30 that was closer to towns. I knew that as I was thinking about this, that the further I continued to run the more difficult the decision would be. 5 back vs 17 forward would soon be 10 back or 12 forward. I don’t ever remember making a definitive decision to march forward, but I never decided to turn around and go back and gradually the decision was made for me.
The last 3 miles to the ferry I actually started feeling much better and ran really well up the hill to Buena Vista. I found my stash, refilled my empty bottle (I used 2 handhelds for the next 15 miles) and forced myself to eat the granola bar. Crossing the ferry had a no turning back feel to it, if for no other reason that it was just as far to turn back now.
|The Willamette as seen from the Buena Vista Ferry|
The five miles from the ferry to Liberty hill also went really well, my stomach was still bothering me but it wasn’t getting any worse and I was figuring out about how much I could feed it without it revolting and was getting myself into a pretty good head space dealing with it. In this stretch through the Ankeny Wildlife Refuge I saw a mink which was really cool. I also saw a mother hawk feeding two fledglings out of the nest. They were sitting on a telephone pole just above me watching mom hunt.
I had driven Liberty Hill a few weeks ago. I knew it was about 2.5 miles from the bottom to the top. I knew there were some pretty steep spots, but when driving it I remember telling myself, “you’ll only be half way at this point, don’t blow yourself up on the hill, walk the steep parts and run the not so steep parts”. I never really felt like I was on a “not so steep part”, and laughed about how different a hill seems from a car vs running it.
The downhill into Salem was rough on my legs. I was closing in on 30 miles and my quads were really sore the whole downhill and continued to hurt once things flattened out. I had a convience store picked out to refill bottles but still had plenty left for the last 4 miles into downtown.
|Looking back down Liberty Hill|
I was getting pretty ragged, running really slow and hating running on sidewalks and having to stop for traffic lights as I came into town. I had planned on stopping at Alcyone, where my daughter, Jewelia, works for some coke and a light lunch. I really didn’t feel like eating when I arrived there at mile 35 so I asked for some turkey and some avocado on a plate. I wish I had thought to take a picture, the plate was beautiful, looked like a plate of sushi. I ate as much of it as I dared and probably drank more coke than I should have to compensate and was on my way.
I walked through downtown to let my food settle a bit and also so I could stop at Gallagher’s Fitness and say hi. They were really supportive and encouraging, and with a little Coke in my system I made pretty good time up and over the bridge and through West Salem. Jerry Mullins was going to try and run the last several miles with me and we had a pretty good plan for how to meet up. I gave him a worst case and best case scenario for where I’d be at 2:30 and then as a back up plan, I’d text him from Holman Park (mile 39 for those not familiar with the infamous Holman Park). I hit my worst case scenario spot exactly at 2:30, which considering that was based on starting a half hour earlier than I did, felt pretty good, but I didn’t see him there. I also didn’t see him at the Independence highway turnoff, or at the cemetery. I was now convinced that I’d see him at the golf course, take my last break, eat my last gel, fill up my water bottles and be ready for the last 8 miles. He wasn’t there. I took a quick break, filled my bottle and took off, not knowing what might have happened but resigned to finishing it on my own.
|Back across the Willamette|
I was trudging down Rickreall Road when out of nowhere, I heard footsteps coming up behind me. I don’t know how far behind me he started at the golf course but it took 2 miles of fast running for him to catch me! It was awesome having company for the last six miles. I was going really slow by this point, and I even messed up some math and had myself convinced that it was going to be close to 5:00 before I finished, which now seems ridiculous that I could have thought that, but we’ve all had that happen after enough miles. Jerry and I parted a half mile from home. It was only at that point that I realized I’d been wrong on the time. I was going to finish very close to the time I had targeted, which was 10 hours.
As I walked up the driveway I noticed a bag hanging on the front door that said Happy 50. Just as I was thinking how nice that was, it occurred to me that I hadn’t thought the finish through very well. I had no house key. We have a remote keypad for the garage door, but when I lifted the lid for it, I noticed that the red light that is supposed to light didn’t and sure enough.....the battery was dead in it. A walk around the house confirmed that yep, it was locked up tight everywhere.
I sent a text to Jeanne, seeing how close to home she was, but she was still 40 minutes away at least. So, I tried to make the best of it. I filled my bottle from the garden hose, sat down on the front porch and took off my shoes. Took a picture of my feet and posted them on Facebook. I was starting to get really cold and was really hungry. To kill a little more time, I decided to investigate the birthday bag. It was from Julie and Jerry Mullins and it was a big tub of blueberries! I started eating them like crazy, and then thought, I’ve had an upset stomach all day, this is fruit, and I’m locked out of the house for another half hour. So I let discretion be the better part of valor and stopped eating. I was soon rescued and in a warm shower. We were going to go out for dinner that night, but I just didn’t feel up to it, so Jeanne’s mom brought some dinner over and we had a little birthday party at home.
I’ve spent a fair amount of time thinking about birthday miles. Realizing that at some point it would start requiring the whole day to complete it, and the feeling that with the advance of age and the increase in miles, that time will sneak up pretty quick. I tried to predict or set a goal for myself on how long I could keep running my age in miles on my birthday, but decided that so much of that is starting to be out of my hands and rests with fate, that it’s best to just be humble and grateful for each healthy year.
|The obligatory feet photo|
I have completely replaced my disappointment with not being able to attempt my Run Across Oregon with anticipation for Le Grizz 50 Miler in Montana October 12th. I don’t know how much of the “Grizzly Bear Country” warnings are marketing and how much is real, but it does add a level of excitement to the whole idea.