I planned a route to mimic, as closely as is possible, the Stonecat loop. Which starts with an uphill less than a mile in :-) So, we routed it up the trail that climbs up Mt. A., then out to Mountain Road, across to the quarry, along the Quarry, and down by the ecology center to the river. From there, the route followed the river for a ways before climbing up to the back Highland Green Road, where we took the long route back to Highland Green road and then back home along the powerlines. It isn't an easy loop, with a fair bit of short ups and downs and some technical singletrack, but with the dirt road, there's some relief, although it's definitely easy to run too quickly along that stretch.
I lead the first loop, attempting to go out at a fairly easy pace while keeping the boys (and Sara :-)) happy with the pace. It was fun catching up with Ian, Nathan, Jim, Blaine, Mary Beth and Sara as we ran along. Mindy, Val and Rick were a bit behind us. I must admit that right off the bat, I didn't feel great. My legs felt a bit heavy and I've got a bit of a cold that wasn't helping. Thank goodness for the arm sleeves - they're very good nose wipes :-)
Ian had set up one of his tables in the backyard, which became the aid station, stocked with all sorts of deliciousness. Yum! I had a cookie at our first stop, and then we quickly headed back out. I think I ran a bit too fast on this loop, trying to keep up with the boys but still felt decent as we rolled back into the yard around 12.5 miles. Jim stopped after the first two loops, and Ian had pulled ahead, so it was down to three - Blaine, Nathan and I together - for the 3rd loop. I was still feeling OK, fueling decently and trying to drink more water, on Ryan's insistence. It was cool so I wasn't all that thirsty, but I certainly was still sweating. Nathan pulled ahead around the dirt road on this loop, but Blaine and I had a good run back into the yard. Blaine was happy with 19 miles, so now it was down to only 2.
Nathan nicely waited for me for this 4th loop - I took a bit of time to go into the house and pee and talk with Sam - and then we were off. I let Nathan pull me along, realizing that I was tiring a bit, but with just enough energy to follow along closely. I really appreciated his company and help out there - thanks Nathan! But again, he pulled ahead on the dirt road and was gone in a flash. And then things went bad - right around 23 miles my hips decided it was time to seize up. Ouch! It was a slow shuffle for those last few miles. I was in a bad place. I was ready to be done. I was feeling down. Why was I doing this? In fact, I walked into the yard, stopped my watch, sat down and told Ryan I was done. He didn't fight me, just asked what I needed. At that point, Mary Beth poked her head out - everyone was smart and was inside in the warm kitchen after finishing up their run :-) - and asked what was up. I told her my hips were killing me, and soon after, Mindy came out and told me that when she'd had trouble with her hips on their last few training runs before Haliburton, that Advil had really helped. We talked it through a bit and I agreed to give it a try. Then, despite a very long aid station stop, I did get up and head out. I just held the thought in my head that I could always take one of many cut-offs and get back home if necessary.
I was alone out there, and a bit cold, and I admittedly walked pretty much all the uphills, but I managed to keep going, along the course, just putting one foot in front of another. And amazingly, I actually started to feel better! Thanks Mindy! What a good suggestion! The Ibuprofin really did help. I wasn't setting any speed records, but I was moving forward. I did stop to stretch at the Quarry, and actually contemplated taking the shortest route back from there, but realized that was just plain dumb. So, I picked up the pace instead :-) Yes, to 10:30 pace but still. I actually felt fairly strong those last few miles, but damn, if I wasn't glad to turn down Munroe and then stop the second I hit the fence at the edge of the backyard! But there, I had done it. 31.2 miles. 5:49 with all the stops. Done.
Many thanks to Ryan and John for holding down the fort while we were out running. Sam had a great time coloring and playing Candyland with John, and Ryan cooked up pancakes and all sorts of goodies. And thanks to everyone for coming to join in on the fun! I use the term loosely to describe the running but it was great to catch up with everyone ;)
Lessons learned: Don't try to keep up with the big boys early on in a long run, and add Ibuprofin to the bag for Stonecat, just in case :-) Oh yeah, and I can run a 50k as a training run. Who would have thought it? But now, I think it's time to taper!