Friday, January 9, 2015

The Pistol Ultra Relay

Peer pressure gets me every time.  Race peer pressure is especially hard for me to turn away from.  This is how I found myself on a relay team for The Pistol Ultra Run.  One morning after a run, I was minding my own business enjoying my banana granola pancake and next thing I know I've agreed to do this race.  You'd be astonished how often this happens to me.  Or maybe you wouldn't be.  At this point, I think Mark actually expects it.  

How often do you see a giant cow covered in lights?
The race was in Alcoa, TN.  It was a 50k relay, 50k, 100k and 100 miler. Yes, people actually run 100 miles for fun.  It sounds crazy to me.  But I actually know a couple people who have completed 100 milers.  I felt a little bit like a slacker at the race because I was doing the shortest leg of the relay - 9 miles.  Sure 9 miles is a respectable distance, but maybe not when you're standing by a lady who will run 100 miles in the next 30 hours!!  

Heather organized our team.  She was the lead Pretty Pistol.  Of course, it didn't really take much to convince me and Gail to participate.  There were two other teams we knew from our running group.  And we had one crazy friend running the 50k.  It was really a great group of people to run with.  They are supportive, funny and positive.  

The night before the race they had a mandatory pre-race meeting followed by a pasta dinner.  It was a great time for us to connect and chat about the race. More than half of our group have had recent injuries.  No one was planning to have their best run ever.  It really was just going to be a day of no pressure running.  

This was my first ultra experience.  I've heard that ultras are a lot different than half and full marathons.  Often in a half or full marathon people are focused on their time and trying to set a record. Everyone seemed to be more relaxed.  You would think that people who are about to run crazy long distances would be nervous and less friendly, but the exact is true.  Everyone I met was super friendly, relaxed and genuinely interested in just completing their race.  

Jeff Galloway was the speaker at the pre-race meeting.  He ran 11 miles of the 50k and then hung out for several hours after.  He was so kind and engaging.  I loved getting to chat with him. And as the last runner on our team, I had plenty of time to talk to him and have my picture taken with him.  I was thankful to have a couple less miles than my teammates, but it was hard to stand around all day and wait for my turn to run.  I had just had my gallbladder removed about 2 1/2 weeks before the race, so I planned to just take the run easy.  But I was anxious to get started. 

The course was absolutely beautiful.  I love races with water on them.  And this course runs beside Pistol Creek (hence the name).  Gail ran the first couple of miles with me.  I felt strong.  But about half way I started to get tired.  I could definitely feel the effects of only running twice in December.  It's amazing how quickly your body forgets how to breath effectively.  This is about the time that I caught up to Roy, who was running the entire 50k. 

Roy is someone who was born to run. He runs long distances and runs them fast.  At speed sessions he breezes past me on his cool down laps when I'm on my hard laps. But he had been off the better part of 2 - 3 months from a couple surgeries.  His only goal was to complete the 50k.  I was so happy to get to run the second half of my relay race with him.  What I learned from this is if Roy has been off due to an injury and he gets a 25 mile head start then I can keep up with him for 5 miles!  

When I ran my first 5k, I had already decided to run a half marathon.  It took me a few half marathons before I would commit to running a full.  After my first full, I knew I'd want to do at least one per year.  I've flirted with the idea of doing a 50k.  It is a bit of a challenge to find a road 50k.  While participating in the 50k relay, it became very clear that I want to run this 50k next year.  See you in 2016 Pistol 50k!