Tuesday, October 24, 2017

In the HURT box... Peacock 55.

Photo mahalos to Johnny Lingao

Done.  Check that one off the bucket list, "Complete something harder than childbirth."  Saturday I got to run (play, hike, crawl, jog, cry, tumble, walk, vomit a lot) in my first ever ultra marathon over rocks & roots & what-nots.  It was an experience that will not soon be forgotten, ever.  I went into it having done all I could control, like my long runs, night runs, hungry runs, no sleep runs, tired runs, back to back to back runs, you name it I attempted it.  But the things you can't control, the unknowns, were much bigger than I had anticipated.  Ironman has nothing on a 55+ mile trail run as far as I'm concerned. In my 30 Ironmans I think I only have 3 over 10 hours, so I knew I'd be venturing into unknown territory out there on the Waianae Mountain Range.  But I just felt so ready... so, so, so ready.  AND excited.  I have fallen madly in love with trail running (massive shocker if you knew me as a triathlete!)

So how in the world did it go?

Photo mahalos to Kana Yamamoto

The Peacock Challenge is a 2 loop course, roughly 55-57 miles depending on who's Garmin you look at (insert who didn't get lost or take a big detour to use the restroom in the bushes).  The year I had my great IM Louisville (a two loop bike & run course) my friend Pablo gave me a great piece of advice, "Don't be a first loop superhero." It was incredible advice back then and I used it as incredible advice again for Peacock... DON'T BE A FIRST LOOP SUPERHERO, BREE.  Luckily for me the first few miles are straight up and everyone sort of began them together in a single file line.  This was amazing, it was like running with 70 of your closest trail run friends.  I was able to cast my gaze out to the ocean as we climbed higher and higher, make new friends with Patty from Kauai who's run Western States (a secret bucket list goal of mine), and daydream...

Then we got to the runable section.  This is when the fun began for me.  Patrick and I sort of planned the first loop together, I've shared more miles with him than anyone so I figured we'd get along fine and the pace would be familiar.  We had 12 guys in front of us (give or take) and soon formed a little posse of 6.  It was seriously one of those moments you just hold back yet slowly release tears of joy.  Doing something you love, surrounded by inspirational people, among some of the best views running has to offer.  We kept it calm and cool as our little posse soon became just the two of us.  By the first big check point (Long Road, mile 17) we were in 3/4th place.  We weren't really concerned about placing, ultimately the goal was to finish...but I do have a confession I'll share in just a minute.

We just did our thing, talked our stories (I mean I talked his ear off), made sure to eat a bunch, and keep patient.  Then we got to the giant down hill (the hill we climbed up in the beginning).  I told Pat to go ahead, because I know if we stay together I'll try and keep up and land on my face.  Pat's biggest secret weapon in trail running is his downhill.  I mean it's insane, think flying.  Uphill and flats I can cruise around the trail with him okay, but downhill there isn't really a chance in hell for me or anyone I've ever met on planet Earth.  We came into the Start/Finish line aid station (roughly mile 27) in 1st/2nd place.  I was having a small asthma/panic attack.  I'm not really sure why the downhills scare me like they do but they do, I just picture myself flying over the side of a mountain or busting my face into a rock.  Even in triathlon I feared downhills on my bike and that same fear (since a bike crash down a hill) has never really left me.  Back to my story, Mikey was there with my inhaler that was empty.  I was sort of a mess but he kissed me goodbye and Pat and I took off for loop #2 together.  I was doing everything I could to get my chest and lungs to calm down, I didn't tell Mikey my inhaler was empty because he's a firefighter and I know he'd never let me out of there without calming my lungs.  Up the hill we went...

Pat and I did the check-in we do a little while later..."How you feeling, honestly?" Good as gold.  And he went on to win the thing in course record fashion. My legs felt strong, my mind was willing & able, but my lungs weren't too happy with me. By now it was getting really hard to eat anything because I felt as if I was trying to eat, drink, swallow, and breathe through just a coffee stirring straw.  I just began to cry up there on that mountain top by myself.  I had a pity party for one.  "All my hard work, my legs feel so good, why me?  Why are these my lungs?".  It was down right pathetic to think about it now that it's over.  I try really hard to never take life for granted or have reasons to be angry with God, especially when I'm actually super healthy compared to so many people all over the world.  I peed in the bushes, peeked out over the edge to a gorgeous ocean in the distance, and forced myself to get it together.  There was no doubt in my mind that I'd find a way to finish, but ultimately I wanted to find a way to feel better.  Okay, I know, I know...a 55 mile run, it's not supposed to feel pretty.  But I was in a dark place like I'd never been before.  And I was angry, really truly angry and sad.  Sad because my legs wanted to run, they had done all the work and felt so good.  And angry that I wasn't thinking straight on how to get a grip.  I decided to try a few things.

1) I forced in a bunch of calories on the side of the trail thinking that might help.  It absolutely back fired.  From about mile 45 on it was just a big puke fest.  2) I did some yogi breathing thing.  Trust me, I felt dorky and hoped nobody was looking.  I pretended to be my little sister Brooke (a yoga instructor) and do some breathing moves, some lion thing I learned in one of her classes, another pose to open my chest, I even did those arms to chest moves that I laugh at when I see yogi girls doing them.  I don't think that worked for me either.  3) I prayed.  My mom always told me to just pray.  Just pray away.  So I prayed all kinds of things and thanked God for all kinds of things.  4) Just keep moving forward.  Number 3 & 4 worked for me because I did indeed tick off the last 10-12 miles.  Once back to Long Road (about 10 miles from the finish) I saw Mikey and just began crying.  I ran those 3 miles (wait, change that to slow jogged those 3 miles) all the way to him.  I told him I needed a hug.  In that moment I found out what kind of Ultra Runner I'll be to my crew!  Of course you've seen or heard horror stories of athletes yelling at their crews and being all shades of mean out there.  I am happy go lucky right into a crybaby, not a giving up crybaby, just one who can't control her passion and sometimes the fire comes out in the form of tears.
Photo mahalos to Mikey Brown

At this point in the race we are allowed to have a pacer join us. I didn't have one (don't worry, I will for HURT100), so it was okay for Mikey to walk along side me.  He did for about 15 minutes.  Here is where it got complicated.  He wanted me to stop.  To just rest. He could see I wasn't good and thought if I just stop my lungs would chill out and I'd be okay.  But what he forgets and I drive him nuts about is my inability to stop.  When I stop my anxiety rises and that makes my lungs worse.  I admit my anxiousness is a problem, I'm working on it.  I was having flashbacks of Ironman Malaysia at this point. I had an asthma attack on the bike and fell over on the side of the road.  I sat there for 40 minutes and the medic said I could only finish if I ride with someone to make sure I'm safe.  So yes, I biked side-by-side totally illegal in racing to the bike finish and with that same person all marathon long just to be allowed to finish an Ironman.  Mikey and I went up that hill laughing and smiling, I needed him so much in that moment and realized how wonderful it will be during HURT100 to have a good pacer to help you through the loops of hell and out of the hurt box.  Then Mikey decides he's going to just finish the final 10 miles with me.  No.  Absolutely no.  I mean, I love him and all but there was no way I was going to trust someone who hasn't been training to get up that hill and over that mountain then down the backside.  I told him once we got to that pink flower (there was a flower bush up the road) then I was going on my own.  And off I went...

It was sheer hell.  Coming into the race I had visions of winning it.  Since quitting triathlon I pretty much let go of all goals to win things and lose things.  I just wanted to do things and experience things-pressure free.  But there was something about this race that I wanted to accomplish and it was to take on a challenge greater than one I'd ever known.  Hence the reason I now cross "doing something more difficult than childbirth" off my bucket list.  This was the biggest thing I'd ever set out to do.  I put my heart and soul into preparing for it and enjoyed every single moment of the journey towards it.  Not to mention Freddy has been an absolute source of encouragement to me.  He has been so kind to me since my first trail race, welcoming me into the HURT ohana, and when I went off course at Triple Trek he was the one that told me it's not a big deal, to let it go, I have Peacock.  I wanted to win it to express my gratitude, as if his kindness and belief in me meant something.

I got to the final aid station (6 or 7 miles from the finish), told them I was in a world of hurt and they knew, I guess everyone it at that point?  I asked how my friend Pat was doing, I just kept hoping he was still holding that beautiful lead and enjoying his run.  They told me he is flying home to the finish.  That gave me comfort.  Then I told them I hadn't been able to eat or drink for the last hour.  A man name Steve (I'll call him my guardian angel) told me it's okay. He said this is so normal, our metabolism shuts down at this point in the run in order for the blood to carry oxygen to our muscles and not so much for digesting.  *Note, it went something like that.  I dried a sip, threw it up,  tried a bite, threw it up.  I asked if I take absolutely nothing else the entire rest of the way to the finish would I be okay?  He assured me, yes.  Of course, yes.  Then he road his mountain bike along side me to the next turn off just to make sure I don't get lost (does everyone in the trail running community know of my horrible sense of directions out on the trails?).  I smiled at him, I was so thankful for him, for the 5 minutes of company but mostly for the reassurance that I would be fine 6 miles with nothing in my belly.  My legs still felt really good, I decided the last 6 miles I'd just count blessings and focus on the good stuff...starting with my legs.  My legs were making it 55 miles feeling this well, that's good news on the way towards my first 100.
Photo mahalos to Johnny Lingao

I finally got to that big down hill.  I stood at the top, looked out over the edge, smiled and took a big deep breath...let it out...then went down.  I tried not to entertain falling thoughts to keep my anxiety from making me a worse mess.  My lungs were still pretty tight but I knew I was so close now, if I could just get to the finish Mikey would be there and CPR or whatever else would happen.  It's nothing new for me at finish lines, but I had to get there.  With about a mile to go I was passed by racer #66.  I kept seeing him out there, he always had a big smile.  He passed me and told me he saw no girls coming.  I closed my eyes for a second. I cried.  Maybe I could still win the thing.  Then I shut that out of my mind.  I know anything, anything, anything is possible at any point in a race.  Even finish line passes.  And both girls near me (Amanda and Shelby) are amazing runners and they certainly looked better than I felt when I saw them out there.  I opened my eyes and there was Mikey.  I'm not making this up!  He was there.  I know most girls would be all, "Ahh, so sweet!!".  Not me, I was annoyed.  He clearly came to find me, worried as all heck.  That I appreciate because he knows me better than anyone how stubborn I am to the point of stupid.  Back to be annoyed, I told him, "Mikey, I literally have just enough left in me to make it to the finish, if you fall in those slippers I don't even have the strength to carry you down this mountain and I'm not waiting up for you.".  He took like a champ, just cheering me on, "Go, baby go".  And down I went that final mile with him not too far behind me.
Photo mahalo to Johnny Lingao

Running into the finish line was so amazing  High fives all around, the stars were just peeking out, and the HURT ohana and Freddy was there to welcome.  A tear stained face, first girl across the line and 4th overall, I ran right into Pat, he had won, I was so happy for him, to see my training partners work totally pay off.  We both just hugged and cried like we did on the finish line of our first big race (Hilo to Volcano) back in January when we began this entire HURT100 dream. It is all becoming so real that 100 miles is about to happen.  I'm ever so thankful for this moment in my life.  It really is the time of my life I'll cherish forever.
Mikey Brown capturing our racing-must-haves...

Mahalos to Mikey for being the greatest support crew for Pat, Justin, and I over the weekend.  You truly saved our lives (when the car nearly crashed into us!), you were like a dream house wife with your cooking, grocery shopping, and crew support at the aid stations.  And thank you above and beyond for understanding my goals & dreams then believing with me (even if that means you run down a mountain in slippers behind me). To Patrick, I can't thank you enough for letting me chase you on so many miles and always showing up when I need some motivation, you're always so appreciative of the places we get to run and it reminds me to never take any of this for granted.  To Bike Works for constantly being a source of support in every mile we need to tackle.  I am so thankful to have you part of my HURT100 crew!!  To Jesse for making my psoas feel better and keeping my legs happy to run.  To Kainoa for sharing miles on the bike next to me and loving me like only a son can.  To Brooke for watching Kainoa when I need help for this super long runs that I used to tease you about...I love you, sis.  To Pro Compression socks and SOS rehydrate, the two must haves I take on every single run.

Photo mahalo to Johnny Lingao

Finally, last but certainly not least... far from least...Freddy.  Mahalo Freddy for putting on a beautiful race, so full of opportunity to face your biggest fears, biggest challenges, yourself, and yet experience something so awesome.  All of your volunteers made this experience one to remember as well.  SO MANY good people out there when we were needing them in our corner.  And to Shelby and Amanda, thank you for sharing your trail life with me and the podium.  I have admired you from a distance (across the Pacific) and can't wait to take on HURT100 with you...

Happy Running,
Bree xo