Wednesday, September 21, 2016

2016 Mt Greylock Road Race

Not much to write for this one since it seems like we spent most of these two days in the car, even though I'm sure my brain will be able to find enough blah, blah, blah to bore the 5 or 6 people, other than that freak from Worcester, who read my blog. Most of the weekend ended up being stressful for me and boring for John. I felt like a failure of a mom by the end of it, but only briefly. I reminded myself that I'm going to fuck up sometimes and that I just have to learn from it all. That's the best I can do.

I was coming off of a high from the Millen Mile win and actually felt good the next morning. I got an easy and very slow 3.1 miles in the neighborhood. 2 miles with Chill and 1 mile with Phoenix. 8:13/mi pace. Just getting something in before we made the long drive over to Western Mass.

Todd and Kim Brown were kind enough to offer us accommodations for the night at their cabin in nearby Peru, Ma (never heard of it? Me, either) that was east of Pittsfield and south east of Greylock. Seemed like a much better idea than driving the nearly 4 hours over on Sunday morning or attempting to camp in that awful campground like last year. The next morning, the 3 of us would drive our cars to the top of Greylock and then Kim would drive us down the other side to the start of the race. What I didn't plan on was how stressful this would end up being trying to get to a race on other people's time.

The drive over ended up taking almost 5 hours! I stopped in Brattleboro, Vt at their Food Co-op hoping to find something for dinner, but the place was overly crunchy, even for me! I could hardly find a thing I wanted except some Vermont beers. Todd had offered us his gluten-free pasta when we got there, so I figured I'd have to just settle on that, even though almost any processed gluten-free food kills my stomach (go figure!). I did find some meatballs at this ridiculous store and brought those along. I actually like to have red meat the night before a race and rarely eat pasta anymore. I figured it would be fine.

John had napped most of the drive, but woke up after the hippy store stop and was instantly so over the drive. It was a LONG way to go through the middle of freaking nowhere. Pretty, but no thank you! I'm so sick of the rural shit and no cell service. Haha. We finally arrived on their street...but it turned out not to be their street. I had gone to the right street name in the next town over! UGH. Made the drive even longer because I had passed the correct turn 15 minutes before this. So I was frustrated, and John wasn't happy. I'm sure he was feeding off of me.

When we arrived, Todd and Kim greeted us and showed us their cabin that they had fixed up very nicely. We met their 3 dogs who instantly loved John.

I have to admit I was a little flustered with having to be social after that drive, but I enjoyed their company and had the gluten-free pasta that Kim made. I have to admit that it tasted good, but within an hour, my stomach was in knots. I just can't eat that rice pasta, I guess. I had brought John's leftover chicken fried rice from the night before so he was good, but I felt really bad because he went right from the long car drive to the couch. He was SO bored, and I felt so bad about it. I should have thought it through better that he wouldn't have much fun there. Even the awful campground from last year had a playground that he played on. There was just nothing for him to do, and it was almost dark by the time we arrived.

After dinner, I needed a little solitude so I retreated to my car for a beer. Todd and Kim aren't drinkers, so I didn't want to bring alcohol into their home. It was so nice and cool outside that I enjoyed just sitting out there for a little bit.
Got it at the hippy co-op. It's alright but nothing special. Sorry to make you all vomit over the old lady legs, but it's the only picture of the beer I took.

I got our bags out of the car and went back inside ready to be social again. I cooked up a meatball while we chatted. Todd had the next morning all planned out, and I was already feeling nervous about the timeline. It just didn't seem like enough time to me. It's hard sometimes doing things with people who don't have kids because they don't realize that I need extra time for TWO people, not just one. I was one of those people once, so I get it, so I should have been more vocal about needing extra time.

We got some good sleep, but it was still an early morning at 5am. I immediately noticed my stomach was bloated and not quite right. Uh oh. Time for coffee first thing! I found Todd busy in the kitchen making waffles. I've mentioned before that I'm typically anti-social pre-race, and today was no exception so I retreated out to the car where I made myself coffee on my stove in the quiet. I packed up our things and got John out and into the car about 20 minutes before our scheduled departure. At this point, I started to get really stressed out about the time and probably should have just left on our own and driven to the start. I don't think we would have had trouble finding a ride down, but I decided to stick with the plan. Go time came and went, and then 5 minutes later, Todd was ready and came out to the car and we left. I was stressing out big time by this point because this schedule put us at the start around 40 minutes prior to race time! I almost always arrive to races at least 1.5 hours and never under an hour prior to the start. I quickly google mapped how far it was to the start by just bypassing the mountain. 31 minutes. I called Todd on his cellphone as I followed him and told him I was really worried about getting to the race in time to get checked-in, warmed up and John to his ride to the top. Todd said not to worry, plenty of time. So I chose to continue on. The drive up the south side of Greylock was very gradual. We arrived and quickly hopped into Kim's car for the probably one of the scariest rides I've ever taken.

And I have taken some SCARY rides, trust me. Back in my hiking days, we hitchhiked in and out of towns every few days. Bryan and I even hitchhiked from the Lost Coast (after our thru-hike of the Lost Coast Trail in Northern California) all the way back to our car which was over 100 miles and took 5 different rides over 13 hours, and we still had a 3 mile hike for the final stretch to our van in the middle freakin' nowhere that had a flat tire. Haha! I've ridden in the back of a pick-up truck in the middle of the night with a guy who scared the shit of me saying his cousin had "butchered up them hikers at that shelter a few years back, and they just let him out of prison". I actually for a moment thought he was really the cousin himself and got ready to jump out of the moving truck if it didn't stop at our stop. The relief when it did stop. I've ridden with completely shit-faced people who were all over the road while passing a bottle of whiskey around (ok, I admit to taking some swigs); these same people wouldn't leave once we got where we were going and tried to hang out with us. We literally had to make a run for it and hide out in a building when they weren't looking. Hahaha. I've ridden in a boat on a trailer that almost tipped over as we drove through the Virginia mountains on a windy road. I hitchhiked alone a few times, once in Tennessee against my better judgement, but I was lucky and nothing happened. I can honestly say I've taken over 50 (probably way more than that) rides from complete strangers in my life, and most of them were really awesome people, but man, sometimes you're just hoping you don't die. And I'm not exaggerating. Haha. I don't do that stuff anymore and have no desire to do it again. I'm not that carefree 20-something anymore.

So anyway... (See I told you I could blah, blah, blah you all with a blog post that should have been 3 paragraphs long.) Back to one of the scariest rides I've ever taken. Todd driving down Greylock. He jokes about his wife not liking to ride with him up and down mountains on crazy roads. Now I see why! She was probably more scared than us. Todd flew down the auto road at an insanely fast speed, flying around corners, going over the yellow line and narrowly missing cars coming the other way. I was honestly scared to death. And this is when I learned how awesome it is having your 10 year old son with his own smart phone. In order to keep our minds off of our imminent death, we messaged each other the whole time at how scared we were. Haha. Todd knew we were all scared, but he seemed to be in control of his out-of-control driving, if that makes sense. And we didn't die!! I know! That was like a cliffhanger there, wondering if we made it out alive, and it looks like we did! :) The positive side to this near-death experience was that we arrived to the race with 45 minutes to spare instead of 40!

It still wasn't enough time, though. I checked in, found Mei and her husband, John, who was going to give my John a ride back up to the top. John had given John a ride up Ascutney, so he was in good hands. We had time before he left, so I waited in the porta potty line (big mistake). I ended up behind Jim Hoburg whose son had flown them from Moultonborough that morning. Took them about an hour! We should have joined them!! Moultonborough is only 45 minutes from our house. Not that we were invited, but the thought of all the time we wasted made me wish we had been.

I really needed to warm up and by this time, I only had 20 minutes before the start! John was still with me, so we tried to find Mei's car for him to wait by, but we couldn't remember what it looked like. I left John with my pack near where they said we were parked and did a quick mile warm up. When I got back to where I left John, he was gone, and my backpack was still lying there. I immediately had a surge of panic. I didn't know where he was! I didn't know if he had already left with John or was kidnapped. I was seriously in a state of panic. Ask Dave Dunham and Kevin Tilton. They witnessed my craziness as I ran all over the place trying to find Mei with less than 5 minutes to the start. I was pretty sure he had already left safely with John, but I couldn't start the race without knowing for sure. I had that adrenaline rush going on as I ran through the crowd. Then I spotted Mei. She saw the crazed look in my eyes and immediately calmed my fears by saying she had put John in their car herself and that he was on his way up the mountain. Oh my god. I can't tell you the relief. If you don't have kids, you can't know what this feels like. John was never a kid to run off or disappear, but there were plenty of brief moments where he was there by my side, then gone. Immediate panic before realizing he had just moved out of my view for a few seconds. I don't know how parents with runaway kids don't end up in the loony bin from anxiety. Haha.

The relief was great, but it was only 2 minutes to the start. I had just wasted so much energy and immediately felt that tiredness you get after an adrenaline rush. Now, I was so worried about my race! How the hell could I race in this state I was in. I guess I was going to find out. And with that the race started.

This was one of those moments I was really glad I knew the course, and I actually had a plan in place for it. I was able to immediately refocus and get right into race mode. Phew. I had written last year's splits on my arm so I could use them to help me run this year much faster. In 2015, I didn't realize how "easy" this race was. The elevation profile is deceiving and implies a constant steep climb the whole way, so last year, I went out super easy for the first 5 only to realize that it somewhat flattens out so you can fly up until the last half mile. I finished the race with a lot left in the tank and had one goal for 2016. To run it much faster.
2015 splits as my guide
The race starts with a decent climb, and Jamie Woolsey went out ahead of me as expected. I really wanted to go out hard for the first mile, so I quickly passed her and got a decent lead in hopes that she would push herself to stay with me. Miles 2 and 3 are steep, and I planned to cut my pace way back and hoped Jamie would push her pace to pass me just after the first mile. Like I said before, she's really good at the steep uphills, so I wanted to be behind her for these two miles to pull me along and keep me at a good pace. It went just as planned. Hit the first mile in 7:25, one second faster than 2015. Perfect.

Jamie caught up pretty quickly and passed me. She was moving pretty fast and got ahead of me by about 15 yards for this mile. Mile 2 is a huge kick in the ass after the quick first mile. My goal was to run it at a similar pace to last year, but it ended up being the only mile slower than last year at 10:01 compared to 9:55. I actually didn't like this at all and picked up my pace until I was running directly behind Jamie for the 3rd mile. The 3rd mile is also steep, but not quite as bad as mile two, so it was quicker at 9:19, 6 seconds faster than 2015. I was really pleased with this because I knew from here on out the grade would start to ease up to allow some speed. I am not good at steep uphills, but flatten those out a bit, and I'm good. The rest of the race would be like this.

Knowing that mile 4 would be the start of the easier grade, I pushed the pace and passed Jamie pretty easily within the first quarter mile. I thought she would stay on my heels, but much to my surprise, she dropped way back and never caught back up. I didn't let up, though, since my goal wasn't to win; it was a better time!. I just kept cranking away to maintain a comfortable lead and hit mile 4 in 8:48. 22 seconds faster than last year! Yes!! And I was feeling really good. Knowing the grade would continue to get easier from here on out until the last half mile kept me in a good mindset. My quads were feeling the burn, but it was that good burn. Not the burn they felt at the NH 10-Miler. I knew I had this in the bag by the time I came through 4 and just focused on running fast.

Mile 5. Even easier. Came through in 8:44. 23 seconds faster than 2015. Unfortunately, though, at this point, I started getting stomach cramps (never eating gluten-free pasta the night before a race again!). I've run through them before when they were mild, and fortunately, they were mild enough for me to take my mind off of them. I continued on at a really good pace. Mile 6. 8 flat. 8 seconds faster than 2015. Mile 7. 7:05. 13 seconds faster than 2015.  Just past the mile 7 point, the course turns to head up a steeper climb to the summit. This seemed to last forever. Both years, I got .7 on my watch as opposed to a mile. I think that was pretty much the consensus. Knowing that it was less than a mile kept me going. As I came up on the last little climb and turn to the finish, someone yelled out that if I pushed it I could break 1:06. That was enough motivation to get me through the last .7 at an 8:35 pace as opposed to 8:55 from 2015. When the clock came into view it said 1:05:51. I don't know how many races this year I've finished just over that next minute mark, but it's been way too many. It wasn't happening today. I gave everything I had to come through in 1:05:57. 1:41 faster than last year!! And first woman to boot!
Not a great finish picture, but it's the only one!

As soon as I finished, I immediately felt the stomach turn and thought I was going to puke, but it just as quickly subsided. I kept walking past the finish and down into the parking lot to catch my breath. My car was right there so I decided to peek in to see if John was there. I had told him to sit in the lodge, but that he could sit in the car, too. He wasn't in it, so I turned around, briefly talked to a few people then made my way to the lodge where I found John sitting on one of the couches.

We didn't really stay long on the summit. I wanted to get lunch in town and head home for John's sake. He was so bored and had gotten no exercise. I felt so bad by this point since I'm usually really good about making sure he's taken care of.  So I didn't cool down at all. Just no desire anyway. A lot of people were running down, but that wasn't an option for me. I met Paul Fillon from the FB beer page in the lot since he was parked nearby. He had brought along some really good beers, and can you believe this?!! I declined an offer for one!! I hadn't been able to eat anything really with my icky stomach, so I knew just one beer would go right to my head. I did not want to drive down that auto road not completely sober. We were headed for lunch and beer in town anyway. By the time we left, Paul had drawn quite a crowd with his beer. haha. The drive down was much less scary this time around. I know how to drive down mountains, and I have a standard, so it was a piece of cake and no harm done to the brakes.

We drove down into North Adams to have lunch at Public eat+drink where we had had dinner with Michael Narcisi the year before. I wasn't actually hungry due to the sour stomach, but I needed to eat. We got there right as it opened, so we were one of the first two tables; I was psyched because it would mean a quick lunch. I was shocked to find NOTHING local on their draft list, but plenty of good stuff in bottles. I had two beers I'd never had before, and they were both excellent.

I ordered a brie burger and John got chicken fingers. Figured it would be super quick. The place filled up fast, and I noticed that all of the tables started getting their food. I had a feeling the waiter had messed up my burger and put it in as med-well instead of med-rare. Sure enough, I was right (one of those waiters who didn't write anything down; I could never do that when I waited tables). I honestly don't care and would never send it back. I prefer med-rare, but med-well is fine. It was the TIME it took to get it that bugged me, but it was what it was. I still left him a 20% tip. We enjoyed our lunch and then left.

I made a quick stop by Bright Ideas Brewing to pick up some crowlers. Their beer is EXCELLENT. I highly recommend it if you ever find yourself in the North Adams area. It's my favorite beer label yet, too!!

The drive home wasn't nearly as long or bad. I did cringe when John's dad called him on the phone, and I heard John say, "It was really boring." Eek. Not really something you want your coparent to be told knowing how selfish he thinks your racing is. And I suppose he's right in this case. It just wasn't a good weekend for John, and I really did feel like a bad mom. John slept most of the way, and we were back by 5pm. He was so excited to be home. The race ended up being awesome, but the rest of it just sucked...for both of us. If I do Greylock again next year, I'll definitely do things differently.

It's just so hard figuring out how to draw the line sometimes to make sure we're both happy. And, yes, I agree. Racing is selfish, but when I don't do it, and I'm stuck isolated and running in the neighborhood all weekend, I get antsy and then down and then unmotivated. Really like a downward spiral all weekend, no matter what I do to try to make up for it. I think my racing is a worse addiction than the beer. I really do. To me, that means something else is missing. I think a huge part of it is the lack of close friends, and now, I'm down another one. Just can't keep them, and now I don't even want them, so I'm not doing myself any favors there. A lot of that came from living the military life, unfortunately. I finally made some true best friends in Texas, and when I had to leave them, it killed me. I couldn't bring myself to get very close to anyone again after that because everyone always left, including us. I still haven't been able to get out of that mode much. "Don't get too close, Leslie, because you always have to part and it hurts too much." My job is also a factor. I love my job, but I'm at the lowest level of EMT, and I feel like I'm more skilled and educated than that. (Geez. Not sure where I'm going with this. Thinking out loud.) I know I need to make a change in my life. I can feel it. I'm just biding my time while John is young because I'll never get this time back with him. Only a few more years before he won't want to hang out with me much anymore. It's what I remind myself of when I get like this. This is only temporary, and I'm doing it for my son. I won't regret it. I know I won't. I just have to make the best of everything right now. If that means fueling my racing addiction, then so be it. On to the Seasons 20K!!

And today's song choice... It's actually one of my running songs on the treadmill. It speeds up.

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