Running for me as of late has been on the up-tick. No real structure to it but fairly consistent. I still maintain my desire to remain in a condition where on any given day, I can wake up and run a marathon or 50K with little or no warning. The 9th Annual Run for Regis 50K was a perfect test to see where I was.
Weather a week ago was 22F. The trails were packed in snow and ice and the prospect of a great, wintry run were real. As the admin of the race's Facebook page, I spread the word for runners to prepare for that and get traction devices for their shoes, like screwing an old pair with sheet metal screws or many of the devices available in specialty running stores. It was looking to be a perfect setting for the race. As the day drew closer, the forecast changed by the day and within 48 hours, we were in the midst of a significant thaw and the snow was disappearing and rain falling from the sky. Waking up race morning, I couldn't believe the Weather Channel app on my phone: 61F. 61F!!!! It's mid-January in the snow belt of northeast Ohio!!! The hour-by-hour called for holding temperatures above 60F and a 100% chance of rain. MUD, mud, and more mud is what it should've said if it knew what 240+ runners were about to do. I was up by 3:30am, brewed my espresso, made my ritualistic PB&J for race morning, and headed on down to the Cuyahoga Valley National Park to volunteer at 6am and get runners checked in. 64F...that was the temperature down there when I arrived and still no rain. Well, after checking folks in and the race director's highly-anticipated (and raw, I might add!) pre-race chat, we were off. Most interesting was that no rain was falling and we actually got a beautiful sunrise breaking through the hovering clouds. "Mr. and Mrs. Meteorologists...you have made a big mistake today! This is not 100% chance of rain!"
The race was muddy...like shoe-sucking mud. I wore my 600+ mile Keen Wasatch Crest trail shoes that I screwed with sheet metal shoes over 4 years ago. Those shoes prepared me for my first 100-mile finish and were on my feet for my first ultra-marathon. I still expected some ice so I opted to wear them for safety and traction. Well, the age of these shoes were apparent and I was starting to "feel" too much of those screws. After completing 1/2 marathon into the race, I ran out to my car and swapped them out with a new pair of Brooks Cascadias with some seriously gnarly traction. Ahhhh....it was like slipping into perfect, comfy slippers...yet trail shoes that I'm about to cover in mud. (something told me grab them just before leaving home in the morning...soooo glad I did) Those Keen's ran their last mile and now, sit in the bottom of my trash can. I can proudly say they served me well.
Back on the course, hints of sunshine were peeking out from behind the clouds making me wonder if we'd go from 100% rain (forecast) to full sunshine. That never did happen but neither did the full sun. It did, however, stay in the 60s. I never thought sweat would need wiped away from my forehead at the Run for Regis...never thought I'd wear screwed shoes along with shorts and a short-sleeve tech-tee, either! As the trails wore on, I was hanging in there, pretty well. I had highs and lows as always. When the highs hit, I maximized them and tore up the course. In the lows, I persevered on "with a purpose." In those times, too, I repeated the mantra "I'm just thankful for the ability to run." Simple and true. Thankfulness is what I poured out all day long. Regis Shivers who the race is run in honor of died of cancer. We're all running in honor of him who can no longer run. If for no other reason, we should be thankful for that. I also walked with a few friends during day and caught up. Great conversation, great friends, and no care for what was on the race clock. I wasn't even wearing a watch as I did not want to focus on that. My plan was to run to the best of my ability and leave nothing on the course. But, I also believe in the value of friendship and at these races, it's often the only time I ever get to see nearly all of these people. It's worth a few minutes on the clock.
Returning back to the start/finish area with just over a marathon done, I refueled and headed back onto the course for the final 4.7 mile loop. That loop would bring me to the 50K distance a 19th time. 26 marathons and 19 ultra-marathons. The final loop was much shoe-sucking than the other loop but still many mud-baths out there. Lots of memories on that loop, too, from when I ran this event last year with my wife...we ran the half-marathon last year. During the final 3 miles or so, I couldn't believe the resurgence. I was coming alive again, passing folks on steep hills, charging down the trail as if it were dry. I was loving it and as my shirt read, truly "Running Happy." At the finish, the clock read 6 hours, 23 minutes, 53 seconds. Given my shoe change and occasional walks with friends, I was quite happy. A little while later, I logged onto my blog here to read through my past 50Ks (see lower right on this page) and was surprised to see that this was my fastest in about 3 years! BONUS!!! VERY happy about that! (I wonder what would happen if I actually trained?!?) :-) Today, I feel pretty good. My back is a bit achy which is no surprise given the 360 degree of movement on those trails through so much mud. But all in all, I feel great. A recovery run is planned for this evening.
There is one thing I didn't do yesterday that I regret. After the race director's chat, I stood before the crowd and read off names of runners who hadn't checked in. I had a captive audience that was waiting for the start. Throughout the race yesterday, I wish I had done something at that moment...I wish I could've pushed rewind and replayed those few seconds. I would've said this:
"While you don't have a wine glass to raise, I invite you to raise your water bottles to two toasts. The first, a toast to Regis Shivers. To him, his legacy, and the family he left behind. It's in his memory we run today. To Regis! Secondly, a toast to Tanya, our race director. For nine years now, Tanya has poured her heart and soul into this event. Thanks to her, we stand here today, ready to run her 'fun run' for Regis. To Tanya!" Thank you, Tanya. Thank you, also, to the family of Regis Shivers who were at the race and his wife who said a few words before the race. Your presence meant so much to so many of us. Thank you!
Here are a few photos from the day. It's not my typical spread of in-race photos, etc. etc. I left the camera and iPhone in the car for this one. If you're not a "foot" person...you might wanna shy away from the last one. :-) Hey! You know how much a spa mud treatment would cost me?! Deal!
|Photo courtesy of Mark Shelton|
|YUM! Best mud bath.....EVER!|