Sometimes you work and plan and plot, but something comes along that negates all of that work – and it’s very disappointing.
Full disclosure: Ashley did all of the planning for last weekend’s trip. I was a poor travel buddy. She was the best travel buddy.
The plan was to volunteer all day on Saturday, and then run 23 miles on the Sheltowee Trace on Sunday.
Saturday’s weather was amazing – clear blue skies, sun shining bright.
Sunday’s weather was a washout with some serious storms on the horizon.
We decided it would be unsafe for me to complete my run in those conditions. I had to skip it, and it was very disappointing. Not only would it have been a beautiful, challenging run, it was also a very important run. But it’s more important to not get hurt alone in the woods where there are bears.
I talked with Doug, and we made a few adjustments to my training. Nothing too bad. He is really confident in the training I’ve put in so far (as am I), and the lost 23 miles is pretty much just going to be a mental thing at this point. On to the next!
Ultramarathon perspective: Behind the volunteers’ table.
Saturday was an amazing day to be a volunteer. The weather was fantastic, and the race was exciting. We were manning the fourth and final aid station for 50k racers at the inaugural Yamacraw 50k/10k in Big South Fork, Kentucky.
I was hoping to be inspired and to learn some things by working at such a late aid station, and I was not disappointed. People are in all sorts of disrepair at that point, and I wanted to hear the questions they asked and the problems they had so I could anticipate for myself what types of issues I might run into. Here are a few things I learned:
1. DON’T be a Donnamarie.
(I had typed primadonna, but it was autocorrected to Donnamarie. I let that happen.) Nearly 100 people came through our aid station. One or two of them acted like they were the bee’s knees. Not because they needed help, but because they thought they were something special. Don’t be that guy/gal. It’s annoying.
2. DON’T try to keep up with anyone. Run your own race.
The first person to drop out of the race did so at our aid station, and I had a little time to chat with him before he was shuttled away. He admitted to some missteps he had made before hitting the trails that morning. Chief among them perhaps was not being prepared for the rigors of a trail race, let alone an ultradistance effort. He had never run further than a half marathon, and had done no trail races. He admitted he tried to keep up with one of the front runners for about 7 miles, at which point he was done in. He still made it to mile 24 somehow, but couldn’t make it any further.
3. DO be nice to the volunteers.
Ask questions, but don’t get upset by the answers if they aren’t what you wanted to hear. Sometimes volunteers know as little about the course as you do.
Actual conversation, many times over
Runner: How many miles until finish?
Me: 10 miles.
Runner: My Garmin says I only have 8.
Me: (what I wanted to say) Then why did you ask me?
Me: (what I actually said) Let me show you on the map…
Runner’s shoulders fall in despair.
Which brings us to…
4. KNOW THE COURSE and be aware of where you are.
Toward the middle and end of the pack, a lot of runners asked at which mile marker they were and how many miles they had left. We were located at mile 24, and runners still had 10 miles to go. I hated to tell them that, and they hated to hear it. Why not study the course before you get out there? You can’t really rely on your GPS watch a whole lot in the woods, but at lot of the runners thought they could. They also wanted to know exactly what to expect of the trail after they left our station. Well, we came from Evansville the night before, knew nothing of the area, and had never been on the trails. We didn’t know those kinds of details. We learned them as best we could from the locals, though, and relayed the information as best we could. Sometimes that was good enough, sometimes it was not.
As I move through the final 17 days of being a regular runner as opposed to an ultrarunner, I have some things on my mind. Chief among them are:
- Learn the Gnaw Bone course (I have maps printed out…now to study them!).
- Dial in my nutrition (dates alone won’t get me through 6,000+ feet of elevation and 31 miles!).
- Get my hair cut.
This weekend, we’re headed to Louisville to run the Kentucky Derby Festival miniMarathon (it’s a half marathon. I don’t know why they want to call it mini.). I’m looking forward to it a lot. It was my first half marathon three years ago, so it has a special place in my heart. This year will be particularly special since I get to run it with Ashley.
This week and the next, I’ll still be working at the gym, but pulling back slightly – beginning to focus on getting my legs in shape, but not having them be sore or tired in a few weeks. Also, making sure that the food I eat is clean! We got some Oreos to snack on last weekend (hurray for vegan junk food!). I need to finish them as quickly as possible so I don’t eat them longer…that’s how that works, right?