Monday, April 18, 2011

Zane Gray 50 - Just Hold On.

Joyous, jovial, pukey, relentless, magnificent, ouch, jagged, uneven, hard, shitty, dumb, amazing, wild, tough, rugged, ravenous, demeaning, wet, hot, pretty, inconsequential...all of these, I believe, accurately describe my Zane Gray 2011 experience.

Last year, I would have only used the positive adjectives. Going from the DNF in 2009 to the 3rd place female in 2010 felt awesome. The 2010 race, for me, went well. I remember feeling bad in the first 25 and feeling better in the last 25. Fast forward to 2011, and well, I remember really feeling shitty most of the day, except for a couple of stretches in the first 17 miles and about mile 17 to 28. 33 to 50 was a total sufferfest, but that's a story soon to come.

Days before
we headed up to Washington Park to escape the city. Myself, Alexander, friends Sabrina and Seth, their 5 children, their springy dog Bea, and John & Jessie dog (who showed up later that evening). After setting up, we spent a relaxing evening by the fire, followed by an equally relaxing day of adventures in hiking, trekking, and stream jumping. All the fun came to a small halt when John, Alexander, and I travelled into town for packet pick-up.

I felt
nervous, unprepared, uninterested, excited, apprehensive. I guess it's all par for the course, but for real, I could have used another week to prepare. I was bogged down with work/camping prep all week, and I didn't really give my mind the space to think through Zane. So, as I threw my stuff together the night before, I mainly felt unprepared.

was early. I tossed and turned, dreamed some crazy dreams. When the alarm went off, I gathered the entire family - John, Jessie, and Alexander - to the race start. Sorry guys. We left at 4:10 from Washington Park, but really, we should have left much earlier. As I was running up to the start at 4:52, I could hear "Paulette Zillmer & Dakota Jones" on the loud speaker. Shit! Luckily for me, I made it in time. Not so lucky was my stomach, as in a frantic rush to leave camp, I forgot to put things to eat near me. So, I had 2 pieces of gluten free bread and 1 mango-coconut water for breakfast. Mostly under 300 calories, which, I don't know if this was good or not.

Not my usual fare
would best describe how I ate while camping. Veggie dogs, veggie burgers, less fruit and veggies than normal and a general increase in processed foods. I'm a food purist, so I think in the end, my tummy was a tad upset with me.

5am guns, just a faint "go"
That's how RD, Joe Galope started the race, and I tucked in front of a pack (not the lead pack). The first 8 were alright. The climbs were already difficult, but I was saying to myself that last year sucked until mile 25, you'll be fine. Just hold on. "Just hold on" would be my somewhat mantra all day - meaning different things at various times. My light wasn't working, and I could hear anxious people behind me (which really annoyed me - if you want to go, just go ahead). In fact, I think I heard someone say "she doesn't even have a light." Thank you captain obvious, but please go ahead. I didn't say this, but I was thinking this. So grumpy so early...hmmmm. I'd better fix this. I stopped off to the side of the trail to tie my shoe, and what felt like 50 people passed me. See, they were more anxious than I was...I had patience, and my thought was "just hold on" I'll be seeing them soon.

8-17 mostly felt like shit.
My body was not performing in the way my mind was asking it to. I was climbing slow. On the upside, though, I would loose people on the slow climbs, but I was charging downhill (mental note, Mt. Ord repeats!!!!). So, there's another thing I was trying to say to myself - play to your strengths. Somewhere near the aid station, I saw, what I thought was the third girl, and I started feeling better. I think this was Sarah Dasher. She looked serious and determined, so I put my big girl pants on and told myself to suck it up. I could tell she was gaining on me on the climbs, but I would create a space on the downhills.

Washington Park - a little boost from the fan club.
Fully in race mode now, my strategy was to hold on to what I had and play to my strengths (heat & downhills). As I pulled into Washington Park, my entire crew greeted. Sabrina filled my pack, smiles from the children behind, a "what's up" from Nick and Jamil, hugs from John, and the most encouraging memory from my son Alexander.

"Mommy, I want to run with you," he said. "I will help you win."
I replied, "Buddy this is a long hard race." At this point, he took my hand and started running with me.
"Mommy, I want to help you win." Shit, I thought. This is downright cute, and I might disappoint this little guy. As we got to the falls, tear rolled down both our eyes. He because he couldn't continue, and I because, well, damn this was so inspiring from such a little guy. I needed to run a good race for him.

Head secured, back in the game.
17-25, I was just trying to hold on. I think at this point I was in 3rd. I had two women behind me - close behind me. I could hear them on the climbs talking. I held on...barely.

At 25ish (where ever that evil, misleading aid station was), I saw Jeremy and we chatted it up for a tad. I was feeling good for the first time ALL day!! He said he ran with Diana Finkel for a while, and well, I was on a mission to do the same. I ran strong all the way until about mile 30. I was eating, hydrating, and replacing electrolytes ALL day. Everytime I had a problem, I tried to fix it. I stayed on top of the nutrition game, but who knows what happened. At mile 30 I became violently hungry and started feeling nauseous at the same time. I forced down 3 gels, 2 salt tabs, and 1 ginger chew in about 10 minutes of walking. I told myself to hold on - this will pass. Well, 3 miles later I felt the same...unable to really run the way I wanted to...I ran downhills, walked uphills and flats. I came into 33 dreading the rest.

Mental Breakdown at the Fish Hatchery
No part of me wanted to continue. I was done. I heard that Dakota Jones dropped, and I thought, "I should too." Everything was in my favor to drop - I get the rest of the day to spend with family and friends, they don't have to worry about following me around, and I can stop suffering. Good idea, Paulette. But I remembered Leadville, Javelina, and Coldwater. I don't want to be that person. I regret every single one of those drops. Being too much in the moment of suffering and pain makes you really make rash decisions.

I went through the motions like I was continuing the race. Filling packs, grabbing calories, etc. Just hold on. As I was leaving I said good bye to family and friends, and I started sobbing. John grabbed and hugged me, and I said "it's just been a hard day." The "It'll be okay," was affirming, and a took off trying to choke back the tears.

Nothing was pretty about this. Almost puking, crying, sitting on rock contemplating the distance back to 33, thinking about dark things and demons from my past, really wondering if I am "cut out for this," dragging my legs uphill, etc. I slowly made my way. At some point, Chip caught up with me. I was dead, done, toast, etc, but hearing the misery in his voice helped me. His "come on Paulette" really helped. I followed as much as I could. I was 100 yards+ behind him for a while. Just holding on - it was ugly, but somewhere in the last miles of 33-44, I decided that I would finish.

I started thinking about the kids. What would I be showing my son if I just quit? For him, this was so easy, so matter-of-fact. Like a big, "duh mommy, you'll win." Then there was the Redden kids. They were excited to come to the race to - what if I bowed out, took the easy road home - how would this look? Sounds goofy to say, but I really did it for the kids.

Thank you Sabrina.
At 44, I filled my pack, grabbed some saltines, and picked up Sabrina, and we were on our way "home." I started feeling great! I mean not great enough to run at breakneck speed, but I had some pep in my step at times. You see, somewhere between mile 33-44, I kicked a log so hard that the top of it came off. Instant trauma to my big toe made it really hard to run downhill. So, we took it nice and easy. Run/walk/chat/repeat. Having her company was an amazing mental boost. I was happy to just finish, so really, I had no desire to pick up the pace. People passed, and I could care less. I was just holding on. About 100 yards from the finish, I saw someone who said the finish was 100 yards...I couldn't believe it. I was going to finish. Thank you Sabrina - without her, the last 6 miles would have been really tough. It was like a walk in the park!!

Couldn't wait to get back to my sleeping bag.
John and Alexander greeted me, and I was all smiles in the end. It was over, I did it, I held on. This year's finish was much more rewarding than last year's. Last year's felt easy by comparison. This year felt like I was running a 100! After a quick change, we headed back to the campsite where I would spend another stinky, showerless night! LOL!

I don't know what went wrong. Was it the race week nutrition? Was it camping with lots of little ones? Was my racing fuel sucky? Was it my training? I have no clue. I have things that I would do better next time - eating better race week, less camping stress (fun to do without the race, but I think it was stressful for the race), and training better on hills? I think there my list, but then again, Zane could have been a fluke. I've been training hard and keeping a difficult everyday schedule between family, friends, and hobbies, so perhaps my body is just adjusting. Many other, more talented runners had similarly crappy experiences at Zane, so perhaps the comos were out of whack! Next year, I hope to battle the demons better, realign the cosmos, and return to fight the good fight!

Thanks again to everyone (little, big, and four legged) in my camp - you kept me going more than you might know!!

I'll add some picture when I get home!