Wednesday, November 08, 2006

A Journey Thru the Woods and Back

6:15 A.M. Saturday morning November 4, 2006 the sunrise spreads its warm rays over the tops of the trees and in the distance frosty blankets of dew shine like a thousand diamonds. The cold November air circulates through my lungs as my senses are awakening I look up to the heavens and think what a glorious morning to be alive. Is it destiny or fate that brings me to this very spot? Somehow I’ve managed to plunk myself at the start of the Stone Cat 50 mile trail race in Ipswich Massachusetts. I’m situated among a small cluster of 200 people as I gaze into the faces among the crowd I feel a deep connection because today we share one goal of running 50 miles. Just then the race director Jeff Washburn says go and I realize I have no choice but to get dizzy in the Bay State! The course also a marathon is a on a 12.5 mile lollipop loop within Willowdale State Forest. I think I experienced deja vu a few times throughout the day but I never got tired of the course, the loop was made up of winding and rolling hills on single and double track trails. Aid stations where set-up every four miles along the loop and manned with everything one can imagine literally a cafeteria in the woods (I highly recommend the grilled cheese and good) best of all the tons of smiling volunteers, a wonderful sight for sore eyes and legs. This is the stomping grounds for G.A.C the running club that is the wizard behind the curtain for Stone Cat. The club puts on one GRAND event with all the bells and whistles you would expect at bigger races. They are one hell of an organization, thank you for your support and dedication to the sport of running!

The first loop is a nice test drive and I get a good feel for the course at times there’s some congestion with the marathoners but it’s all good. I continually remind myself to go easy and let other runners pass mentally saying “relax and conserve energy and I won’t crap out on the forth loop” After about 30 minutes I start my run/walk strategy of 10:1 (run 10 minutes) & (walk 1 minute) tapering down as the day progressed 8-6-5 walking took the most discipline in the early stages but paid big dividends later on in the day. As I made my way back to the start my wife and daughter catch me finishing my 1st loop and bless there souls stayed for all four. One down three to go, at this point it’s all about eating, drinking and moving along from aid station to aid station! Part way through my third loop I hit a mental wall, battled some demons and walk away finishing strong to the start of the fourth loop. As I approached the best darn makeshift crew on earth of family members, my wife checked me over and got everything I needed for my final 12.5 miles, as for my brother I demand he run the last loop with me (later on my wife explains the look of horror on his face). How are you feelin Craig.he.hee? Hey what can I say you’re a natural pacer thank you for keeping me company and my mind occupied sorry I wasn’t much of a conversationalist. Once again my dad made an appearance at the last four miles ready to run along with us, me, my brother and pops slowly made our way to the finish. I managed to clock in at 9:56, but for me the day wasn’t about time or beating another runner to the finish line, it was about reaching dreams, discovering oneself, camaraderie, and finding that limitations can be overcome with a little hard work!

Ultra's are not only about going the distance but are about meeting new people and making new friends. Over the weekend I enjoyed the pasta dinner stories with Fred and Donna, had wonderful ride to the race with Gail and George Forshaw, Gail and I ran back and forth all day together watching her smooth stride keep me moving! Best of all I made a few introductions to a couple local ultra runners. James Duade, James and I have been emailing back & forth about SC, so it was great to finally meet him, he was also running his 1st 50, I was glad to see he ran a strong and fast race finishing in 8:50 - way to go! I also caught up with a fellow blogger Sherpa John; he was one of the smiling volunteers at the aid stations nick-named Fast Freddie’s CafĂ©. Please stop by his site and check out his many remarkable accomplishments and it’s all for a wonderful cause, over the next couple week’s he’s running JFK50 and is entered into the 2007 WS100 lottery. Best of luck John!

So my 1st 50 is in the books, now to find a good 100 in 2007, any recommendations = )

Dreams where reached and new dreams bloomed,
Blaze on and remember limits are only set by your mind,