Written by Ashley Moyer (Bear Mt 50 took place on May 3rd, 2014)
Where did the time go this year and how did May come up so fast? This has been by far my busiest semester ever. The classes were harder and required a greater workload outside of classes, I’ve been trying to stay on top of wedding plans (and failing – as I still need a dress!), trying to keep up with our new house, and of course, trying to maintain an adequate training regime.
There’s always time to run, I say – it just is a matter of discipline. Well, I’ve had discipline, and got in my runs, but not the high quality runs I envisioned on doing to prepare to defend my title at Bear Mt. Suddenly, it’s a week out – and its all or nothing, time to taper anyway.
The taper went well and I was feeling pretty confident early in the week. Went to my last class on Friday, and packed to hit the road with my fiancé David and his parents – who’ve always been such a great and faithful crew! But Friday afternoon – disaster stuck – the dreaded “p” word. I knew it was close, but I was avoiding thinking about it, mentally willing its arrival to come after Bear Mt. Perhaps I’m being a little dramatic, but the first 24 hours is the worst for me. To spare the unpleasant details, I’ll just tell you that its like being repeatedly stabbed in the gut with a blunt knife, and I don’t feel like eating or drinking. Not the ideal way to spend before a race, but in the last few years of racing – I’ve been lucky and races haven’t fallen near “the day”.
So, needless to say, my mindset going into the race was suddenly a bit more miserable. I’m a pro at ignoring things though – so it was business as usual. Went to dinner with the crew, and was in bed by 8. Alarm went off at 3:30 a.m., I had my usual pre-race bagel and got the shuttle to the starting line. The start was much smoother than last year – I even remembered to tie my shoes!
And then we were off! I settled in to a nice pace and watched my footing in the darkness. I started out in the lead, but was soon enough passed by who I later learned was Rory Bosio. I settled in with her in my sights and focused on ticking off the miles – I arrived at the first aid station at 4 miles in no time, and dropped my headlamp and quarter zip. The miles to the next aid station cruised by just as nicely – Bosio bounced in and out of my sights ahead, and when I rolled into Silvermine at 9ish miles, I was told she was around 3 minutes up. I switched out my bottle with a fresh one from David, and grabbed a gel.
Up to this point, I had noticed one major difference from last year – water. The course was a mess! Mud everywhere, and plenty of creek crossings. I soon gave up on keeping my feet dry. Somewhere after Silvermine, I started having some lows – my legs had little energy on the climbs and I knew I was slowing. I was caught by Rachel Pacquette (last year’s third place women), but repassed her as I moved quickly through AS3 at 14 miles, and I also caught a glimpse of first.
After this aid station it just kept getting worse. I went through many lows, and struggled with my unusually heavy legs and even heavier mind. I’d surge for a bit, and run well, and then I’d slow again. The climbs were harder and I was having pains in my hip and knee – I knew it wasn’t of big concern, just another gift of the time of month. I was truly miserable, and started wishing I’d pulled from the race before driving up here. What was I thinking to believe I was ready to run Bear Mt. again and successfully defend my title?
I rolled into 19 miles, and switched my bottle again, and grabbed another gel. David asked me how I was feeling, and I think I responded something like, “I shouldn’t be here.” Like the amazing pacer he is, he encouraged me and said he’d see me at the next one. I think what helped the most was seeing him already in running clothes and knowing he would be running with me soon. I had mentally been thinking of him as my “secret weapon”, once he started running with me, I’d be able to get away from my mind, have a buddy, and just run.
This thinking didn’t last too long unfortunately, especially when I hit pavement. For whatever reason, the course had a lot of changes – less climbs, and it was missing my favorite part on top of an exposed mountain top… But it certainly had more roads – which I would ordinarily have welcomed, since a bulk of my training took place on roads. However, as I fell into a decent pace with a plan to tick off some miles, a fire fell into my hip. I think the mud and technical nature of the trails – mixed with my already achy body, really irritated it. I pounded out the pavement towards the next aid station, and as it sloped uphill, I walked. When I reached the aid station, I sat down. Perhaps as a side note – it would help you to know that this behavior is very unlike me – I refused to take a seat for even a second at both of my 100 milers…
I told myself I was trying to stretch out my hip – but deep down, I already knew I was done. Could I suffer through? Yes. Should I? I couldn’t answer. From many of the races I’ve done, I well know that there are highs and lows and then there are highs again. But at this point, was it worth it to push my hip and legs into more pain for a finish, or to scrap it, learn from it, and recover quicker to come back to Cayuga with a vengeance? David and his parents arrived at this aid station while I was engrossed in my thoughts (they had a shuttle system in place for this aid station this year). David is absolutely great and he made me feel better about it all, and told me that hurting myself today for a finish would only set me further from where I needed to be for Cayuga.
So I got on the shuttle with his family and we headed home. I was frustrated and angry, disappointed and embarrassed, and overall humbled by the experience. I biked for a few hours on Sunday as cross training and had plenty of opportunity for reflection from this past weekend. First – I need to figure something out with my monthly friend, I can’t always be lucky. And second – well, with my last final done today and only wedding planning to do until June 1st – I’m going to earn my taper for Cayuga.