Going In: Ottawa to Happy Days
I run into Ottawa higher than I’ve been all day. It’s Beth Trecasa’s aid station, and they’ve gone over the top with the Greek theme. I don’t have time to enjoy it, but I certainly take note. Everyone is there, Robin, Rachel, Steve, Gwen, Lexi , Skinny Beast and Shelly. I tell them that I just had my first really bad patch, but I worked through it and I feel great. I tell them DB is in trouble again. We’re filling my Camelback and I’m grabbing bananas and saltines. I tell Robin that I’m a big girl, I have drop bags and I can take care of myself. Whatever happens, I tell her, stay with Darris. Please, stay with Darris, because I’ll be okay.
On cue, he comes in as I’m leaving. He doesn’t look good, but I know he has food here; noodles and candy and snack. And I know they’ll take care of him. We call out “I love you,” much to the volunteers’ amusement, and I head back out to the Buckeye Trail.
What more can I say? I adored the Buckeye Trail this year. My thoughts flashed back to DB with love and care, but I was finally enmeshed in my own race. I was hopeful he’d rally and even chase me down, but I thought no further than that. I sent him love and then blissfully drowned myself in the climbs, switchbacks and water crossings of the Buckeye Trail. Before long, I come upon Kyle and Dave. I’m told Kyle is struggling through a particularly ugly patch, and Dave is advising him to get some caffeine at Snowville.
“Experience teaches us …” I begin. I tell him I was just there. I want my friend to get kryptonited too. I don’t try to pass them; I know I need to conserve through here and having company is nice. We run together for quite a bit. Not long before Snowville, Kyle takes a fierce header on the trail. I stop to make sure he’s okay; they decide to walk it off. Now I have to pass, and I really miss the company.
I celebrate a small victory at Snowville; I have my first (amazingly delicious) Coke at mile 50.7. It’s nearly 17 miles later than the last two years. Go me. On to Blue Hen Falls. A little behind on the splits I’d like, but too early to debate minutes. I hit the road at Boston Store. It sucks. It’s like a ghost town. It makes me sad. I again practice NPIS (ed. note: fake a smile until it’s real!) and let loose with a huge holler, flashing the “international sign of the trail gangster,” my hand thrust in the air making the rock n’ roll sign. The lone officer sitting on the road salutes me. It’s a fun moment. I am further uplifted when I discover that the extra stretch of Towpath we had to run last year has been removed from the course, and I get to follow the traditional BT50K course and go directly to Pine Lane. I can’t believe I’m headed to Pine Lane already!
There’s a couple of road sections on the way there, and it’s warm. I walk a tiny little bit, then correct myself. There’s no real need for the walking, and my slow run is still faster than my walk.
But few experienced Burning River runners look forward to what’s next. Hot. Exposed. ROAD.
Out of Pine Line, it’s about a two mile section up a long black road with absolutely zero shade and several hills. On a twenty mile run, they’d be hills. At 5:30 in the afternoon after running for 12 hours – well, they’re still hills, but they’re somewhat more – defeating. Following that, you get less than a mile of trail before being spit back out onto 1.5 miles of the Bike and Hike. Or hot. exposed. road. Then, after feeling as if you’ve been brainwashed, you get to turn right, onto real trail, and finally go to Happy Days.
I contemplate walking but quickly realize the only distress is in my head. “HTFU,” I mutter. On the legitimately steep uphills, I pick out mailboxes that are about halfway up and force myself to run to said mailbox before a quick recovery walk to the top. By the time I’m done I’m crashing again. The kryptonite has been depleted and alarms are going off. I plaster on a smile and remind myself that I am running that entire damn Bike & Hike. No matter how much it sucks. My mind is fighting me; the angel is telling me to execute while the devil tells me I’m seconds away from overheating and ruining my race.
I pop on the imaginary iPod, cue up the cheesy new J-Lo song, and climb into the hurtbag. I give obnoxious NPIS smiles to the families enjoying their leisurely pre-dinner bike rides. I look around at the rock formations and pretend that I’m Katniss and Cato’s coming after me. No contest there. Cato didn’t run 63 miles this morning; he wins by a long shot. Hardly encouraging.
I tell myself that this is “practice” for the towpath sections later. If I can’t make it through this, there’s no way I’ll make it for three from Merriman to Memorial.
I honestly heard the Hallelujah Chorus when I finally saw the pie plate marking the turn. I waved to a memory of Steve and Rachel last summer and hauled my battered butt to Happy Days.
I was exhausted. Nothing was wrong, I was just … exhausted.
Darrin had dropped and was there with the girls; Lexi said we weren’t making a big deal of it. Heh. I don’t think I could have made a big deal about David Beckham being there at that point. Michelle and Terri welcomed me in and started taking care of the Camelback; Robin and Jay had my drop bag and started getting that sorted. Salty had arrived for the first time and I greeted her as excitedly as possible, which was likely insufficient. I’m eating watermelon and Terri notices some new lacerations on my back, these ones higher up. I know the Camelback’s been hurting me again, but I’ve had too many other things demanding my attention. Someone, most likely Robin, realizes I’m getting too hot. And what was awesome about it was that she didn’t say “Are you hot?” she said “You’re getting hot,” and I realized I was. Someone grabbed sponges and started squeezing water over my neck. Heavenly. Then they went for my back.
HOT DAMN, was I awake and screaming then.
Dave Peterman grabbed my hat and threw it in some ice water. It had been about three minutes and I had to get out of there, but something had to give. I didn’t have my second handheld stashed until Covered Bridge, but even my silver-skinned back – which now was simply skinned – had had enough.
“New plan,” I yelled to my crew definitively. “I need a water bottle!”
Robin produced a choice of two immediately; they weren’t handhelds, but it didn’t matter. What kind of miracle that she knew exactly what type of plastic bottle I could carry without a harness – and happened to have one? With a thick block of ice down the middle, no less.
Jay was unzipping pockets of the Camelback and I think about three different people shoved Clif SHOTS, toilet paper and Tums in my pockets and on my person at once.
Jay walked out of the aid station with me and I swung his hand for a minute. I wasn’t feeling sorry for myself at all. But that little moment alone with him when I was so exhausted helped me remember something very simple, but critically important. This was just running.