Monday, January 13, 2014

avalon 50; running ultras(ick)

It's 2:00p on Friday and I'm on half a bottle of cough suppressant, three Mucinex pills, and laying on the fold-out couch with two cough drops in my mouth. The back of my neck is cold and I'm breathing out of  my mouth because I don't know how much Zicam nostril-spray is too much. I've got 14-15 hours to cross my fingers and try to kill as much of this cold-from-hell as possible. On the freeway that morning, on our way to San Pedro, Cas asked, "Will you be ok?" I don't remember what I answered with, or if I answered at all. So here on the lovely spring mattress I asked myself the same thing, "Will I be okay?"

In one of the other rooms Dave Emmons is throwing up what little he has left of stomach lining, possibly even a lung. Went to bed fine, woke up a wreck. I don't know which one of us has it worse; the one who's been sick for over two weeks or the one who got side slapped? I'll leave that up for debate.

I'm counting down the hours because I'm not really in the mood to do anything else. I start mindfully taking inventory of my body. My stomach is cramping but that was the least of my worries. I inhale and place my finger on where exactly I'm having trouble breathing. I've been avoiding answering questions like "Is it in your chest?" "Are you having trouble breathing?"
I pause... Do my usual "uuuuuhhhhhhhhh....." [shrug]

I manage a nap (more like knocked the fuck out with everything I took). I wake up to two men in the house fixing our heater. One older chap looks over at me covered in blankets and laughs.

"Oh, it's not that cold."

"Fuck off, dude!" I definitely didn't say that, but I thought it. I'm quite hostile in my head when I'm sick. I will later see this gentleman in a groggier state; he'll be handing me a coke in a Gatorade cup.
Cas mentions that I was sleep talking and coughing, definitely coughing. [shrug]

I doze off again. Dave probably throws up again. Jim and Mollie go for a walk, Cas lays down next to me and Liz is somewhere in her room with Dave. I'm in and out of silly dreams but I'm glad I slept a bit without coughing (wrong, as corrected by Cassie)
Jim comes home somewhere around 4:45pm and suggests we should head over to bib pick-up and avoid the masses. How bad can a bib pick-up of 400 runners be?
We take our drop bags and I shove some last minute bonk bars inside. We all walk over and leave Dave behind to finish his... cleanse. He's still undecided on whether he will be running tomorrow or not.
We do our thing; we chat, we sign, we pick-up, smile, pose, snap, post, walk back.
Liz picks up Dave's bib, just in case.

We get back and the crew makes pasta with red sauce for dinner. I go on the conservative side and prepare fruit with nuts and an avocado. I drink a Kombucha, take two more Mucinex pills, another swig of the cough suppressant (Lil Wayne would be proud), and spray each nostril three times with Zicam. Cas notices I'm not drinking water and luckily points this out but I still manage to forget. Liz notices again and then forces me to drink a glass. We say good night, I set 4 alarms and knock out, quick.

My first alarm goes off at 2:00am but I don't hear it. Cas calls out to me and wakes me up. "Why the fuck is my phone ringing?" (Again, hostile when sick)
I realize it's my eating alarm and I get up. I eat half an apple, a pear, half an avocado and a half of a Chocolate Haze PocketFuel. I go back to bed.
I wake up again at 3:45am. This time I heard my alarm. I stretch in bed and and wiggle my fingers and toes. I get up and slowly inhale. It's in my chest. I climb out of bed and I take a minute to find my balance. I think and reread through the texts Kara and Jack have been sending me. "Got it."

 I go to the bathroom and I start my race routine. I turn on Pandora to Jay Z and I start getting dressed. All uneventful stuff.I hear the others starting to wake up. Jim shuffles to the kitchen, grunts good morning and turns on the coffee maker. He had packed it last night, genius! This is my third ultra with Jim and his coffee packing/prepping had gotten progressively better. We're having Starbucks Christmas blend this morning, and I'm cool with that.
Liz comes into the kitchen and I decide this to be the perfect time to warn Liz,
"Lube everything up. If you question it, lube it. Underboob, boob, sideboob. Everything!"
Dave is still semi undecided if he'll be joining us.

"He loves an entrance, I wouldn't be surprised" Jim says.

I finish getting ready. I decide to spray Trislide in the living room and realize too late that it makes the hardwood floors ridiculously slippery.

"Ah shit, sorry guys. Watch for the TriSlide"

"What-Slide? What sex shop did you get THAT at?!" Ladies and gentlemen, Dave Emmons; dressed and ready to rock... mostly.

Of course Dave needs to have breakfast so we all head to the start, he'll catch up later.
We're walking down the street and that's when I notice it; I feel like I'm floating. My head sways back and forth and my knees feel shaky. The roof of my mouth is dry and it feels like I'm having trouble salivating. I don't voice this exactly, but rather I say, "I feel like I'm hung over."

Slowly runners start joining us from every house on the street. It's like a scene from A Westside Story. With how high I was feeling it wouldn't have surprised me if we all broke out in song and dance. We turn right and I hear my name called out. I turn to see Flo in a tank an shorts shivering a bit. We hug and my brain slowly makes a horrible connection of events. Last time Flo found me at a race was the Long Beach Marathon. I had been miserably sick and ended up having one of the toughest days out on that course. Flo, ended up crushing LBM by far.
Here I am: sick, and sure Flo is about to crush Avalon. How I handle my end of this little coincidence will be up to my mental game.

 We end up seeing a few more Coyotes and head over to check in. I don't know how they signaled the race to start but at some point I saw runners take off. We hugged Mollie and Cas, I think we even hugged each other, and we took off.

"See you in 50 miles...."

We start off how we usually do.
Myself, Jim, Liz and Dave have had many great long runs together. Dave and Jim usually lead the aggressive hikes while Liz and I follow and I like to take the downhills a bit faster while I watch Dave's feet and arms. We work well together on most occasions but today proved to be a bit different. I held back from the start and Dave wasn't too far ahead of me. I was trying to maintain a balance to breathing through my mouth and not taking the first four miles of uphill too fast. The last thing I wanted was a coughing battle while climbing. Jim and Liz started off strong.
I felt nauseous  and dehydrated. I remembered Chris Gilbertchans words, "You have HOURS before it starts getting shitty."
But what if it starts off semi-shitty?
I don't talk much. I stay looking down as I try to focus on my form. I do "The Jimmy" and focus on short strides with swinging arms. I can hear Jim and Liz chatting it up while powering through. No matter how quick I tried to get my turnover, I couldn't catch them. So, I conserved instead. I caught up to Dave and he didn't look so hot. We hit mile 4ish (only 46 more mother-fucking miles to go, excuse me) 

He'd made a decision. The climb flattens out and Liz falls back to check up on us. Dave is having a rough time, says he's heading back. He gives us a run down of the course, tells us what to watch out for. He waves, now there's three. 

We hit the first aid station and I'm still loopy. I can't fathom putting anything in my stomach so I ask for coke. A cute little Gatorade cup of coke is handed to me and it's the lad that fixed our heater. I now feel guilty about cursing him in my head. We take off. 

We make a friend in the early miles, Hector from La Mirada. He too loves the Nathan vapor pack and ran Zion with it on the entire time. He's friendly and says he recognizes me. I hardly recognize me right now. I smile. If anything I've been smiling. 

We spot our first buffalo and then our second. I'd like to blame Hector for ruining my buffalo selfie. If you really care to know how, you can ask me. (This was my Avalon goal, second to finishing, of course).

I notice my watch beeps to mile 7. 
Earlier in the morning I'd read a text from my friend Gabe asking for every miles with a 7 in it. 7, 17, 27... so on. It quite honestly pepped me up. I don't remember much between that and 17, oddly. I come to 17 and I'm struggling with myself. I pull Kate's words into mind. "Feel it, let it go."

I acknowledge that I don't feel 100%, that I'm a bit down but I want this. Jim and Liz's voice serve as a rope tugging me along. We get to the drop bag aid station at 19 and I eat some potatoes. I've been staying on top of salt and water, I think. Jim's been reminding me to eat and reminds me again here. I take a few pics at the aid station and realize I didn't put my phone on airplane mode. I have a blast of notifications from a picture Josh posted on Instagram asking for F3 to send me some love. I immediately feel a surge of energy as I read through Gina, Bill, Doug and other's dropped love. I post an aid station picture up to IG, put my phone away, and we're off to a climb. Liz explodes in energy and I'm just doing "The Jimmy" again. 

"Focus on form, focus on form, breathe"

We catch Flo coming down hill as we're climbing and he looks solid. I let out a HOWL and high five him. I'm coming to life. 

By now I think I've sweat out most of the drugs. I make it a point to stay on top of nutrition, water, and salt. It warmed up quick so I salt every 30 minutes. We head into mile 25 and this is the first spot I remember thinking clearly. Jim lubes up one of his feet and we set our for a three mile loop. We reach the marker jar, Jim takes a picture, then we head back. I come up with some strategy (because I'm thinking now) but I don't remember what it was. We're moving well and we pass five people on the way back. We reach the aid station again, I wash my face and we head out. We know it's a climb back up but now my head is 100% in. I take surge of the climb and move ahead. I'm singing some song I just made up and Jim joins in with a chorus.
I notice Liz is behind us. 
"Where's your head Liz?" ...nothing. 
"How low are you Liz? What's the thought process."

I mention not thinking about the finish, that's too far away. Focus on getting to the next aid station. 
We finish the climb and start our downhill into 35. We all hit the looney stage together. We're laughing and joking coming into the aid station. We grab our drop bags and begin to prepare. I grabbed the Bonk Bars that I stashed last minute and I pick up my arm warmers and gloves. 

15 miles to go seems so incredible. We're feeling good. 
I can feel some blisters but nothing I can't push out of my head. We're off again and I think about how we spent too much time at this aid station. I stash that away to remember and fix for future events. 

We discuss what's up ahead. Jim is the planner who looks at elevation maps everyday. I'm the one who shows up with a relative idea of what might go down that day.

My watch beeps and I looks down at mile 37. Best mile so far. 
There's a of cars passing by and most of them ask if you're doing good. I was warned by Kara about the pick-up trucks who offer runners a ride towards the end. 

Mile 38: I take off a bit on a down hill. I hear a car back and before I can realize what's happening I see Liz inside. Jim handles the conversation. 

Now there's two.
We're running at a great pace when I hear Jim yelp. He just popped the blister at the ball of his foot. He's limping a bit then settles into a fast walk. I stay slightly ahead, setting some kind of pace.

At mile 41 I look back at Jim and yell, "Single digits!"
Every time I turn around Jim smiles back enthusiastically. I don't know how much of this is pain but I definitely don't ask. We do some run/walk but I can almost feel his entire energy in pain. 

The next 5 miles we spend passing runners, even with the blister/foot situation. People don't look too hot. 
At the top of 46 we see the sunset and Jim smiles. 
"Those fast guys... they're missing this."

I'm at the top of a mountain with my friend and training partner. Endless hours of training, climbing, cursing and sleep deprived Thursday mornings can be summed up to this minute at the top, looking over Avalon.

I start running. 
Avalon ends with a screaming downhill of 3-4 miles. I decide not to hold back and take it as it comes. I pull out my flashlight and take off. I feel the air against my face and how my arms flow. My turnover is solid and I feel incredible. I look down at my watch and I see 7:30-8:00 bouncing around as the pace. I smile because  the watch beeps at 47 (last 7 in this race)
3 miles is nothing until...
I feel a blister on my left foot pop. 
Raw skin rubbing again my sock. The sensation is quite incredible, really. I pull back a bit but decide to see how hard I can push. I keep passing runners who are painfully coming down. I greet them all and start to see street lights. I see people cheering as I turn left and I hear Cassie's voice in the darkness, "Is that Jacette?"

I wave and the cheering gets louder. I take my right turn and I see more people, hear more cheering. I feel absolutely amazing and I keep hearing my name from various places in the darkness. Who's here?!

I make out voices and faces. I stop twice before finding the finish line as Derick has to nearly lead me through it. I get my medal, all my hugs and some cookies (or 10). 
I can't stop smiling and I can't believe so many people are still here. Dave pops up, Liz, Gwen, Lisa, Cameron, ABC comes in for a hug. 

Every single person there at the finish made it that much sweeter. 
I had prepared myself for a lonely victory and instead was welcomed to what my hazzy mind made out to be a parade. A pack of Coyotes, sticking around till the end. 

Jim came in to the same celebration and warmth.

Avalon, done. 

Sunday, January 5, 2014

shadow casting

I always had a hard time sleeping. I knew that at any given point one thing or another would interrupt any kind of real rest, real comfort. There was no security besides making sure that my feet were covered so that nothing would get to them. There was a night-light of some sort but I was torn between hating the dark and having them be able to see me while I slept. "Do I leave it on? Do I leave it on?" 
I slept next to the window because that's where my bed was and really I never considered moving it. I would listen to the house wind down and the doors close, then the silence. Then there would be waiting for the seconds to pass. The minutes, then the hours. The window tapping was probably the worst, except for the one time I forgot about  my feet and I could very certainly swear they had been touched. 
If I could guarantee my parents had fallen asleep I would make a run for the TV room. I'd bring a blanket to cover my feet and turn the TV on without the volume. Infomercials to fill my tiny little brain. Where do all the bad things go when the sun comes up? What box to they melt into and why is there nothing underneath my bed when I get my parents to look?
My grandmother said I needed to pray more, and so I did. 
I would have my own rosary and feverishly hold on to the beads so I never lost track. I would murmur all the Hail Mary's and Our Fathers under my breath in perfect Spanish. I would pray for everyone on this planet who had no one else to pray for them but I never prayed the bad things away. Why would I leave that out?

I don't remember praying for the glass to stop breaking or for the bruises to cease. The mind of a child is molded by a plethora of things and people and events and moments. I can see where every bruise used to be and though it doesn't burn anymore, I know exactly where it used to. 

"pray for us sinners,
now and at the hour of our death"

I can feel the shards of glass and sometimes I feel like there's something at the window. The screaming manifests itself in neighbors and strangers but there's no longer a night-light in my bedroom. 

There's this intense beauty in shadows; though you need light to cast them. 

 "Hail Mary, full of grace
the Lord is with you."