Monday, September 22, 2014

Cleveland Rocks

Take 170 runners, a few dozen volunteers, a bunch of friends, relatives, and puppy dogs, and put them in a park in Cleveland on a sunny Saturday, and what do you get?  If you're lucky, you get the awesomeness that is the North Coast 24-Hour Endurance Run.  This past weekend, I was one of the lucky ones. 

I flew into Cleveland on Friday, promptly got picked up by someone I'd never met (it's okay, mom, I know him from the internet *cue spooky music*), and since my roommate for the evening (another "internet person" mua-ha-ha) wasn't in town yet, we drove to Edgewater Park so I could see where the race would be the following morning.  Situated on Lake Erie, it's quite a pretty park.  Flat, green, with a gentle .9 mile loop that we'd be running on for a few (million) hours.  

Photo courtesy of Jen Goellnitz

After we walked around for a bit, Eric drove me to see the house from A Christmas Story.  Who knew! It's real, and it's in Cleveland.  Weirdness.  Then the Windsor contingent showed up at the hotel, so I had Eric drop me off and I went inside to meet Lori, Anja, and Julia.  Lori's the one who talked me into the race in the first place.  Crazy lady. 

Dinner that night was pizza back at the park with some others who knew each other from previous years, but who, I believe, all originally met on - you guessed it, the INTERNET.   I love saying that, it just cracks me up.  I know it's still serious that you shouldn't just go off with random strangers, but come on, These are runners.  It's all good.  ;-)   

Angela, me, and Lori
After pizza, Lori, Anja, Julia, and I walked a loop of the park, then headed back to the hotel for some sleep.  Somehow Lori and I ended up walking to the store and buying a six pack, but I'm not sure how that all came about.  I'm pretty sure we went to the store for a hairbrush.

The next morning came quickly - fortunately I woke up when Lori did, because I'd accidentally set my alarm for 6 pm instead of 6 a.m.   Don't blame it on the six pack, I only had one and a half. (Drinks. Not six packs.) 

We got dressed and went out to the lobby for breakfast, and I just could not eat.  I think I had two bites of a muffin and thought I was going to throw up.  Not the best way to start the day.  I hitched a ride to the park with Mary and Brett, anxious to get things started.   

In a blink, all the tents and tarps were up and it was go time.  I lined up at the back of the pack but then moved forward to find Julia, who I knew would be walking the event. I wanted to walk the first lap before I started my run/walking.  Julia and I ended up finding this goof-ball guy named Harvey and I was just laughing and talking and I think I ended up actually walking the first 4 laps instead of just one.  Ooops. 

Harvey, me, and Julia
Picture courtesy of johnnydajogger

After that, I said my good-byes and started my run/walking.  I was drinking a lot of water, but not eating much, and my stomach wasn't too happy.  After some gentle prodding (thanks, Laura), I got better at eating, but my stomach still wasn't happy.  Looking back, I realize that I was drinking TOO much water, and things were just sloshing around.  At the time, I didn't know that, and the stomach upset plus a raging headache landed me in my tent, near tears, after about 16 miles.  I felt like a complete wimp, and I was feeling weirdly moody, doing so many laps on my own after having been talking and laughing through the first hour of the day with Julia and then Harvey.  I let myself have a short pity party, got some pills for my headache and a Ginger Ale for my stomach, and got back out there (again with Laura's help - THANK YOU LAURA!).   

I walked for a bit, ran some, and was feeling ok overall but  my feet were starting to bother me. Stopped by the foot care tent and got fixed up and was back at it.  I can't remember what time it was when I hit marathon distance, but by 7:30pm I'd hit 50km (31 miles), and I stopped to take a break and let Facebook know I was officially an ULTRAMARATHONER!  WHOOT!  (Hey, Facebook cares, ok?) 

After that, it was mostly walking.   And some sitting.  With a little help from my friends, I hit my goal of 60km around 10:30pm and decided to take an extended break. I was tired, not feeling well, and my feet hurt.  Everyone else was still going strong (or at least not complaining too loudly) so I just hid in my tent and tried to sleep.  It drizzled off and on, then the storm came and that's when I discovered that my tent was not waterproof.  Fun!  Actually, I shouldn't complain - it did keep me relatively dry, there were only a few puddles around the edges (and in my shoes) and at least it kept the wind off.  I got up around 5 and checked my phone for awhile, putzed around, and then realized that I smelled so bad, I ought to be arrested.  Since I figured I was done with the race, I went to the bathrooms and got myself cleaned up with some "dry shower" wipes and put on my jeans and flip flops and the race shirt.  When I got back to my tent, I picked up my timing chip, intending to turn it in.  Somehow, I ended up putting it back on my ankle instead.  I guess part of me wasn't done. 

A while later, Lori woke up and needed to go to the bathroom, so I walked with her.  She was in pain and not feeling well, but after using the bathroom and grabbing a drink, somehow we found ourselves walking on the path again, doing the familiar loop around the park.  After a few laps, I'd hit 40 miles and Lori was near 65, so we kept going till she was there.   With 20 minutes to go in the race, we crossed the timing mat for the last time, Lori still in her rain poncho from the night before, and me in my flip flops. 

Lori - 73 laps, 65.8 miles!
Me - 46 laps, 41.4 miles!

We turned in our timing chips and got our medals (though the woman didn't give me one at first, probably because I was wearing jeans and did not smell like I'd been in the trenches all day and night) and headed back to pack up.

I'm leaving out so many things, but there's just so much.  Meeting "The Doctor," who is in his 70s and has done 219 ultras. , and could swap quotes from "The Princess Bride" with me.  Meeting Angela, the most adorable 13 year old ever, who was doing her first ultra and ended up with nearly 60 miles by morning, never losing her positive attitude and helping  nature.  The AMAZING volunteers who always seemed to have whatever anyone needed (how did they KNOW I wanted grilled cheese RIGHT THEN??).   Our crew - virtual strangers to me who became SO important through the day and night and never asked for anything in return, not even kindness, which I'm sure at times I forgot to give them.  Tank, the cutest puppy in the world, that put a smile in my heart when I couldn't manage one on my face.  Watching people run at an 8 minute pace after having been up all night, running and running, and running.   The crazy guy who was doing weird exercises and jumping rope all day and into the night.  The awesome porta potties with MAGIC LIGHTS that always seemed to smell ok and be clean, even though they were being used by 170 runners a full day and night.  

It was amazing.  And even though Lori and I both said "Never again" on our last laps around the park, by the time I was at the airport Sunday afternoon, I was already planning next year's trip.  

I.  Can't.  Wait.  

From left, front row: Eric, Chris, Mary, Angela & Baby, Angela
Back row: Me, Lori, Anja, Julia, Nelson, George 

Harvey and "The Doctor" - photo courtesy of johnnydajogger

The beach & Lake Erie

More beach

Snickerdoodles from Vegas!

Jen caught me actually running!
Photo courtesy of Jen Goellnitz

Eric and his "sweater" - you'd let this guy pick you up from the airport, right?
Photo courtesy of Jen Goellnitz